Krypt3ia

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

Archive for August 2013

Book Review: An Introduction to Cyber-Warfare: A Multidisciplinary Approach

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cyberwarprimer

IJPFRH CPAGP EIIL!

CYBER CYBER CYBER!

CYBER CYBER CYBER! or “CRY HAVOC AND LET SLIP THE DIGITAL DOGS OD CYBER WAR!”” is often what you hear from me in a mocking tone as I scan the internet and the news for the usual cyber-douchery. Well this time kids I am actually going to review a book that for once was not full of douchery! Instead it was filled with mostly good information and aimed at people who are not necessarily versed at all in the cyberz. I personally was surprised to find myself thinking that I would approve this for a syllabus (as it has been placed into one by someone I know and asked me to read this and comment)

The book really is a primer on IW (Information Warfare) and Cyber-Warfare (for lack of a better nomenclature for it) which many of you reading my blog might be way below your desired literacy level on the subjects. However, for the novice I would happily recommend that they read the book and then spend more time using ALL of the footnotes to go and read even more on the subject to get a grasp of the complexities here. In fact, I would go as far as to say to all of you out there that IF you are teaching this subject at all then you SHOULD use this book as a starting point.

I would also like to say that I would LOVE to start a kickstarter and get this book into the hands of each and every moron in Congress and the House. I would sit there and MAKE them read it in front of me *surely watching their lips move as they do so* There are too many people in positions of power making stupid decisions about this stuff when they haven’t a single clue. I guess the same could be said about the military folks as well. We have plenty of generals who have no idea either.. That’s just one man’s opinion though.

As we move further and further down the cyber-war road I think that books like this should be mandatory reading for all military personnel as well as college level courses in not only IW/INFOSEC but also political and affairs of state majors as well. We will only continue down this road it seems and it would be best for us all if the next wave of digital natives had a real grasp of the technologies as well as the political, logical, and tactical aspects of “Cyber”

I have broken down the book into rough chapters and subject areas as it is within the book (mostly) It really does cover more of the overall issues of cyber-warfare and methods used (not overly technical) The modus operandi so to speak of the actual events that have taken place are laid out in the book and give you a picture of the evolving of IW to what we see today as “cyber-warfare” I will comment on those sections on what I thought was good and what I thought was derpy of course, I mean would you all have it any other way?

IW (INFORMATION WARFARE) RUSSIA

The authors cover early IW with the Russian saga’s over Georgia and Estonia. There is a lot in there that perhaps even you out there might not know about the specifics of the incidents where Russia is “alleged” to have attacked both countries at different times with different goals and effects. Much of this also touches on the ideas of proxy organizations that may or may not be state run that were a part of the action as well as a good overview of what happened.

In the case of Georgia it went kinetic and this is the first real “cyber-warfare” incident in my mind as cyber-war goes. I say this because in my mind unless there is an actual kinetic portion to the fighting there is no “war” it is instead an “action” or “espionage” so in the case of tanks rolling in on Georgia we have a warfare scenario outright that was in tandem with IW/CW actions.

OUR CHINESE OVERLORDS

Ah Chairman Meow… What book on Cyber would be complete without our friends at the MSS 3rd Directorate huh? Well in the case of this primer it gets it right. It gets across not only that China has been hacking the living shit out of us but also WHY they are doing it! The book gives a base of information (lots of footnotes and links) to ancillary documentation that will explain the nature of Chinese thought on warfare and more to the point Cyber-Warfare. The Chinese have been working this angle (The Thousand Grains of Sand etc) for a long time now and there are more than a few treatises on it for you to read after finishing this book.

The big cases are in there as well as mention of the malware used, goals of the attacks and some of the key players. If you are out to start teaching about Chinese electronic/cyber/IW then this is a good place to start. Not too heavy but it gets the point across to those who are not so up to speed on the politics, the tech, or the stratagems involved.

ANONYMOUS/SEA/LULZSEC

Anonymous, as someone on my Twitter feed was just asking me as I was writing this piece, is also a part of this picture as well. The idea of asymmetric online warfare is really embodied by these groups. The book focuses more on Lulzsec and their 50 days of sailing but it doesn’t go too in depth with the derp. Suffice to say that all of them are indeed important to cyber-warfare as we know it and may in fact be the end model for all cyber-warfare. How so? Well, how better to have plausible denyability than to get a non state group to carry out your dirty war? Hell, for that matter how about just blame them and make it look like one of their ops huh?

Oddly enough just days ago Hammond wrote a piece saying this very thing. He intoned that the FBI via Sabu were manipulating the Anon’s into going after government targets. This is not beyond comprehension especially for places like China as well. So this is something to pay attention to. However, this book really did not take that issue on and I really wished that they had. Perhaps in the next updated edition guys?

THE GRID

OY VEY, the “GRID” this is one of the most derpy subjects usually in the media as well as the books/talks/material on cyber-warfare out there. In this case though I will allow what they wrote stand as a “so so” because they make no real claim to an actual apocalypse. Instead the book talks about the possible scenarios of how one could attack the grid. This book makes no claim that it would work but it is something to think about especially if you have an army of trained squirrels with routers strapped to their backs.

It is my belief that the system is too complex to have a systematic fail of apocalypse proportions and it always has been so. If the book talked about maybe creating a series of EMP devices placed at strategic high volume transformers then I would say they’d be on to something. However, that said, the use of a topological attack model was a good one from a logical perspective. They base most of this off of the Chinese grad students paper back years ago so your mileage may vary. So on this chapter I give it a 40% derp.

WHAT’S MISSING?

All in all I would have liked to have seen more in the political area concerning different countries thought patterns on IW/CW but hey, what can ya do eh? Additionally I think more could have been done on the ideas of offense vs. defense. Today I see a lot of derp around how the US has a GREAT OFFENSIVE CAPABILITY! Which for me and many of you out there I assume, leads me to the logical thought conclusion of “GREAT! We are totally offensive but our defense SUCKS!” So much for CYBER-MAD huh?

I would have also like to have seen more in the way of some game theory involved in the book as well concerning cyber-warfare. Some thought experiments would be helpful to lay out the problems within actually carrying out cyber-war as well as potential outcomes from doing so more along the lines of what I saw in the Global Cyber-Game.

OVERALL TAKE

Well, in the end I think it is a good start point for people to use this in their syllabus for teaching IW/CW today. It is a primer though and I would love to see not only this end up on the list but also the Global Cyber Game as well to round out the ideas here. To me it is more about “should we do this?” as opposed to “LETS FUCKING DO THIS!” as the effects of doing so are not necessarily known. Much of this territory is new and all too much of it is hyped up to the point of utter nonsense. This is the biggest problem we have though, this nonsense level with regard to the leaders of the land not knowing anything about it and then voting on things.

We need a more informed populace as well as government and I think this book would be a good start. So to the person who asked me to review this..

Put it in the syllabus!

K.

JIHADI’S HOLD LEGION OF DOOM CON CALL!! WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

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fednet

AZIJ XXRZ HMCKIDACVA GZ UZZW!

The Legion of DOOM!

Yesterday the camel’s back finally snapped in my head after reading a post on Harper’s Magazine entitled “Anatomy of an Al Qaeda Conference Call”  which the author called into question the whole story that was put out by the Washington Times and their “anonymous sources”  The paper claimed that Ayman Zawahiri and all the heads of the various jihadi splinter groups got onto their polycom phones and their SIP connections to have a “concall” as we say in business today.

You all may remember the heady headlines in the last couple weeks where the mass media picked up on this story and began scribbling away on how the so called jihadi “Legion of Doom” dialed in for a sooper sekret meeting to plan the end of our Western Civilization. Now, I am sure some of you out there have seen my screeds (140 chars at a time more so recently) on just how we get played too often by the media and the government on some things but this, this is just epic stupid here. If you or anyone you know believed any of this claptrap coming from the media please seek psychiatric attention post haste.

Let me tell you here and now and agreeing with the article cited above, that the “LOD” did not have a skype or asterisk call to plan our downfall. At the most they likely had a meeting of the minds in a chat room somewhere within the jihadist boards out there or had a server set up somewhere for them all to log into an encrypted chat. I lean towards the former and not the latter as they usually lack subtlety online. Though, given the revelations from Mssr “Snowman” I can see how the prudent Ayman would want this to be on it’s own server somewhere and for people to authenticate locally and encrypted on a system that does not keep logs… But I digress…

Suffice to say that a group of leaders and minions thereof got together for a chat on <REDACTED> and that they talked about plans and ideas (from hereon I am going to coin the term ideating) for the destruction of the West and the raising of a new global caliphate. Does that sound familiar to you all? Gee, I can’t seem to put my finger on where I have heard that one before. … So yeah, there was a meeting, there were minions, and there were plans but here’s the catch; NOTHING WAS SAID THAT ALLUDED TO A REAL PLAN! No, really, there wasn’t any solid evidence that prompted the closing of the embassies all over. It was a smoke and mirrors game and YOU all were the captive audience!

As you can see from the article cited there seems to be a lot amiss with all of this now that some reality has been injected into the media stream of derp. Why was this all brought to you in the way it was put out there by the media? Was it only the demented scribblings of one reporter seeking to make copy for his dying paper? Or was there more to it? Was there a greater plan at play here that would have the media be the shill to the duping of the public in order to make them see say, the NSA in a different light in these times of trouble for them?

Makes you wonder huh?

DISINFORMATON & OPSEC

So yeah, a story comes out and there are “sources” sooper sekret sources that are telling the reporter (exclusively *shudder with excitement*) that the Great Oz of the NSA has intercepted a LIVE call with the LOD and that it had scary scary portents for us all!

WE. ARE. DOOMED!

That the NSA had help prevent a major catastrophe from happening because they had the technology and the will to listen in on a conversation between some very bad dudes like Ayman and the new AQAP leaders plotting and planning our cumulative demise.

*SHUDDER*

The truth of the matter though is a bit different from the media spin and disinformation passed on by the so called “sources” however. The truth is this;

  • The “con call” never happened. There was no set of polycoms and Ayman is not a CEO of AQ.
  • The fact is that Ayman and many of the other “heads” of the LOD were not actually there typing. It was a series of minions!
  • The contents of the “chat” were not captured live. There was a transcript captured on a courier that the Yemeni got their hands on and passed it on to the Western IC. (So I have heard, there may in fact be a chance they captured the stream using this guys acct) the Yemeni that is, not so sure it was us.
  • As I understand it, there was nothing direct in this series of conversations that gave any solid INTEL/SIGINT that there was a credible threat to ANY embassies.

There you have it. This has been WHOLLY mis-represented to the Amurican people. The question I have is whether not there was an agenda here on the part of one of the three parties or more.

  • Right wing nutbag Eli Lake
  • The “anonymous sources of intel”
  • The “anonymous sources handlers”

These are the key players here that I would really like to get into the box and sweat for a while. After the madness was over and sanity let it’s light creep into the dialog, we began to see that these so called sources were no more or less better than “CURVEBALL” was during the run up to the Iraq war. In fact, I guess you could say they were less effective than old curveball because we did not actually go into another half baked war on bad intelligence this time did we?

Another question that should be asked here is why was this information leaked in this way to the press on an ongoing operation that I would say might be pretty sensitive. I mean, you have a channel into a chat room (or *cough* con call as the case may be har har) that you could exploit further and yet you decide to close all the embassies and leak the fact that you have closed said embassies because you intercepted their sooper sekret lines of communication?

*blink blink*

Holy what the Hell? What are you thinking POTUS and IC community? Oh, wait … Let me ideate on this a bit….

  • The intel community is in the dog house right now because of the SNOWMAN FILES yup yup
  • So a WIN would be very very good for PR wouldn’t it? I mean you don’t have to hire a PR firm to figure this one out right?
  • HOLY WIN WIN BATMAN! We tell them we foiled their plans using sooper sekret means that the public hates for infringing on their “so called” rights and we can win hearts and minds!

Could it be that simple?

All joking aside though, think about it. Why blow an operational means of watching how the bad guys are talking UNLESS it was never something you really had access to in the first place right? You could win all around here (though that seems to be backfiring) IF the Yemeni passed this along and it was after the fact then how better to make the AQ set abandon the channel by saying you had access to it?

Right…

How better also to try and get a PR win by alluding (ok lying lying lying with pantalones on fire!) that you had compromised (you being the NSA and IC here) said channel! I guess overall the government thinks that the old axiom of “A sucker born every minute” still applies to wide scale manipulations of stories in the media to sway thought huh? Oh and by the way, if any of you out there think this is just too Machiavellian I point you to all those cables dropped by Wikileaks. Take a look at the duplicity factor going on in international realpolitik ok?

Political Wag The Dog

It seems after all once all the dust has settled that either one of two things happened here;

  1. Eli Lake did this on his own and played the system for hits on his paper’s page
  2. Eli Lake was either a witting or un-witting dupe in this plan to put out some disinformation in a synergistic attempt to make the IC and the government look good on terrorism in a time where their overreach has been exposed.

It’s “Wag The Dog” to me. Well, less the war in Albania right? I suggest you all out there take a more jaundiced eye to the news and certainly question ANYTHING coming from “ANONYMOUS SOURCES” on NATSEC issues. It is likely either they are leakers and about to be prosecuted, or there is a cabal at work and DISINFORMATION is at play using the mass media as the megaphone.

Sorry to sound so Alex Jones here but hell, even a clock is right twice a day.

K.

 

The Global Cyber Game

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globalcybergame

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The Global Cyber Game:

I had been meaning to write about this before when I had originally read the text but things got in the way as usual (work, more work, some more work after that, Defcon/Bsides) Now though I am in a space where I can reflect back on this paper and write about it here for you all to see. The Defence Academy (UK) put this together to describe how we might approach “cyberwar” on the level of game play or game theory. They constructed a board and began to set to the task of creating game play and tactics given certain scenarios in the cyber world. (see image of game board below) You can actually play this game if you create a board from this design and work within the rules of game theory but this is not why I find this treatise so important.

globalcybergame1

What I find most interesting is the actual scenario’s that play out within the game play as well as the end game status that the paper puts it all down to in the end of N-Utopia and N-Dystopia. As one can gather from the inherent meaning of the words, N-Utopia means that we all work out our problems globally and work on bettering society (which in the Nash equations is the best play) or we end up with N-Dystopia, a Balkanization of the net, and warfare that scales all levels up to kinetic and will be the death of us all. Can you guess where I think we are right now on the N-scale? Yes, you’d be right to lean toward the N-Dystopia area. In fact I would even like to see that idea rendered in a new way with an older iconography, that being the Doomsday Clock analogy. Perhaps someone can take that up online and create one for the cyebrwarz eh?

Power Dimensions:

What must be taken into account in the great cyber game is that all of this is centered around power plays. The use of information as power, the use of information to effect actions vis a vis “power” and the varying types of power that are being wielded by the players. This paper covers this idea pretty well and should be required reading for anyone looking to study cyber-warfare along side Clausewitz and other more well known pieces of doctrine. Some however may already be familiar with the ideas of hard and soft power but let’s take that into the electronic warfare arena which is a bit harder to scope today.

  • Hard power
    • Overt threats and rewards
    • Kinetic action
    • Coercion
  • Soft power
    • Cooperation
    • Co-Option

Both of these types of dynamic play off of one another and work in tandem. There actually is a whole spectrum of power plays that can be derived from these basic premises but I will not go into all that here. To date I have seen an abundance of hard power tactics being employed on the game board and I fear that that seems to be what the governments of the world have locked on to as their aegis. I would love for more to try the soft power tactics and methods but I am too much of a realist to hope that it will ever really happen.

The game play today that we are all seeing unfold before us is the hard power of Stuxnet or the ramping up of every piece of malware and 0day conceivable being purchased by the US government or others in an effort to be superior when the battle comes. That is though when they are not using those said same exploits in the darker games of realpolitik that they are prosecuting now. As I see it now we are hurtling towards a massive cyberfail of our own making and the real cost of the bad play will be economies around the world and other collateral damage that may not be an apocalypse as we currently understand them to be.

The power dimensions portion of this paper is quite enlightening and you should broaden the scope of how those plays are made with information and the internet. One must understand the playing field as well as the weapon you wield. This is the main problem I have of late is that all too many people and governments are not understanding the game play, the field of play, nor the tools they are using (pieces) well enough to play the game well. This makes not only for bad play, but in this game there are real world consequences for us all when some government or actor does something immensely stupid.

Cyber Games Today:

So what are we seeing today that has me worried? Well, we have the cybergames with Stuxnet and other malware to start. I liken the release of Stuxnet as skin to the release of a biotoxin or virus that eventually will be re-worked or manipulated into a more fearsome weapon. These are not one use tools, they are in fact re-usable and re-tune-able. Once these things are out there is no controlling them and with the idea of Stuxnet you have something that was used against one target but could affect hundreds more in friendly countries if they had the same configuration.

Another cybergame being played today is the new surveillance state that we find ourselves in. It seems in the case of the US we have people who are interpreting our Constitution to suit their needs under the rubric of protecting the homeland. This cybergame is all about information and the power dimension of controlling it. I have been watching this Snowden affair unfold and frankly I am frightened of the capabilities that the NSA has but I am much more scared that they claim that they are protecting us while a Snowden subverts the very systems they are saying cannot be misused. This particular cybergame when looked at, show’s all of the hard and soft power dimensions at play with the media and the law. This should also be brought into the cyber game play as well.

Yet another cybergame going on is within the public/private sector and I call the “Patriot Games” What I mean by this is that we have non state actors playing rolls of asymmetric warriors online to effect whatever change they see fit. A certain un-named clown for one is a primary actor in this space and really started the trend in my opinion. The cybergamers here are vigilantes nothing more and nothing less and may or may not have an effect on the grander scheme of things on the net and in public policy. For the most part however, these players are on the hard power end of the spectrum and thus just mostly come off as thugs.

Lastly, the cybergame that seems to be the one with the most chance of playing in the larger space is that of Anonymous. Anonymous has been able to leverage many players into semi cogent action and could in the future have a real effect on policy and other dimensions within the cybergame play. The only reason that I place Anon into this game is because of that mobilizing force that they seem to carry. If motivated and able to be cohesive enough this group could affect the greater games being played and have on a microcosmic scale thus far in recent history.

In all, the games that are being played, and they are games, all serve as a means to an end for those paying attention to understand and perhaps help those in the seat of power how not to play the game at all. Our petty squabbling on the internet is just that. The reality is that the net is important and much of our lives today require it to run smoothly but if the net were to go down permanently our society would not utterly collapse. We would survive and we would re-build. The question then becomes would we have learned from it and do things better the next time around?

Cyber-Utopia and Cyber-Dystopia:

The idea of Cyber-Utopia is a far fetched one in my mind and probably many others out there. This would be a great thing if we could make it happen but given the petty nature of our.. well nature.. We will only see this ideal wash up on the rocks and sink into the ocean rather quickly. In the Cyber-Utopia we all work together, we cooperate, and we work towards a better day. … And I just don’t see this happening barring some kind of alien intervention frankly.

Cyber-Dystopia though I am afraid is already the case in many respects. We are seeing an almost Balkanization of the internet today as it is never mind the games being played in reality with Stuxnet and cyberwar. If the N-Dystopia comes to pass we will find ourselves at war with each other constantly in a “cyberworld” much like the episode of STOS “A Taste of Armageddon”  where all warfare is carried out via computer simulations and only the casualties report to be disintegrated as a means to balance it all out. Today though we will see attacks on economies as well as infrastructures to effect “war” (economic, political, or other) on our enemies and the real world costs will have to be measured in profit loss or perhaps even actual loss of human life.

The cyber-dystopia though is more than just an outcome of war. It is the outcome from our own inabilities to work with each other and our ability to rationalize warfare through a non apocalyptic destruction of life. It will be a tit for tat war of attrition that will not lead to any clear victories and certainly not elevate our societies in any way and that is the sad truth of it. Ladies and gents we are already in the dystopia. We just may not understand that yet.

Understand the game:

So, I leave you with the paper: The Global Cyber Game pull it down and read it. Learn from it, play the game if you like, and spend some time thinking about it all. We are on the cusp of another evolution in our society that we have seen repeated in every other evolution we have had. We create something, then we weaponize it. Perhaps if more of us understand it and the pitfalls we can prevent the N-Dystopia from becoming any worse.

K.