OPM: WHO? WHY? WHAT? ERMEGERD CHINA!
OPM: Voted Most Likely To Be Hacked
Have any of you ever read an OIG report out there in cyber land? Well you should if you are interested in the security of your data and that data is held by any government entity. In the case of the OPM (Office of Personnel Management) it seems that numerous times the OPM was told by the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) that their security measures (FISMA) were lacking, to be nice about it. Others might use harsher words and frankly, after reading sections of the 2012 report on their security I want to have a full out Trourettes attack. Suffice to say that the OPM was not doing what they should have been. Have a read through on this document from 2012 and look at the big FOUO statement at the bottom of the pages from the FISMA assessment. This was easily downloaded from the OPM’s site through Google.. If this was meant to still be FOUO, well, there’s another fail for you.
Screen-shots courtesy of @SynAckPwn
You could also just take a gander at the recent hearing in the Senate on this debacle at C-SPAN where the IG basically drubs the OPM for not following recommendations made on security for quite some time. You also get to see the management of the OPM flounder as they try to look like they are at all intelligent about security, it’s actually painful to watch. Clearly though watching these turkeys flap on how security is hard and takes ‘decades’ (Archuleta) gives you a sense of how new the idea of security measures that are common today are to them. This hack was just a matter of time and I had to laugh when they also said that they had detected the attack and that the New York Times and others were wrong about it actually being a vendor on site doing a presentation that sparked this IR for OPM. Oh well, the IG was right and and now an indeterminate amount of personnel now have their data somewhere ostensibly in China in the hands of what we are being told is the PLA.
So today I decided to take a looksee at OPM online and this is where I got that Google dorked file I liked to from the IG. Anyway, their systems give up quite a bit of info when you query them with FOCA:
Now if you really want to make a concerted effort you could use all that intel to Google dork more and likely come up with plenty of data to target them further but it’s my guess that the adversary already did this. Or, they just sent them a phish campaign based on some of the data they got from Anthem and got their toehold.. No.. Wait.. Sorry, I forgot that OPM had been compromised over a year!! Oh well there goes that little theory.. Nope nope.. It’s just because they suck at security. There was much more out of FOCA but ya know, I don’t want to add too much more fuel to the conflagration now do I?
*wink wink nudge nudge SAY NO MORE!*
NO REALLY, CHINA
I know what you are thinking, you are saying to yourself; “They always blame China!” and yeah, we kinda do but that is not wholly unwarranted really. China has it’s hack on and there are many reasons why they do. Most of it has to do with their perceptions of war that have been guided by Sun Tzu since he wrote his treatise on warfare. Others out in the security community might scoff at the overuse of Sun Tzu (I know Brian) but when you are talking about the adversary actually being China, well you kinda have to take this into account. I mean, they aren’t that much for Von Clausewitz as they are for Sun Tzu in their doctrinal leanings. I have written about this before so I will not overburden you here with it all. I do want you to understand though the reasons for these things though and to that end I want to refer you to the video at the top of the page. Please go watch that now and then come back here… I’ll wait.
Ok after watching that video let’s talk about why OPM and what use the data is to the Chinese. It is more complex than just using possible SF86 form responses for targeting people to become spies. It does seem at this point that the SF86’s also were taken but let’s just go with the notion for now the they only got the databases of employee records such as names, addresses, social security numbers, and the like. What would the PLA want with this? Well, for that let’s step back and look at the Anthem hack for instance. Anthem held a lot of records for those federal employees as well and if I were a Chinese spook org looking to target people for more exploitation this would be a good dump to have right? For that matter any spy worth their salt would want that data to help them target names, addresses, emails, etc to use in further phishing attacks right? Think about it this way, in INFOSEC and pentesting what is the first thing you do? You do a footprint and you gather OSINT. Well in this case they got more than OSINT, they just took the whole catalog internally by hacking specific targets that were data rich.
Of course not only China would like this stuff but from what we are being told (as well as data being passed to others in the world of secret ioc and ttp squirrels) this was China. I am of a couple of camps here on the China thing. I have seen the Chinese actors and I have seen them used as a scare tactic by political movers. Whether or not it was in fact China really matters to the larger geopolitical sphere of things and that this was a hack of a government system with data that is rather important, I have to say that understanding who did it as well as we can is kind of important. Other hacks, meh, I don’t care. You have to either decide that China has done everything or they have been a convenient excuse for hacks that have happened. I am in the middle and will reside there until I have some data to prove things either way.
That the data has not turned up for sale so far is kind of a clue though that this is not going to be your average Ukrainian hacker team looking to abuse credit. Just as the data in the Anthem hack has not turned up either show’s you that this data is being used for other, more geopolitical purposes. Who is stealing the data really and who has it in their hot little server somewhere is the question that has yet to be answered though. Sadly, until such time as some LE or spook agency lets loose that they found it in the hands of some foreign national we will never know the truth of it. Gee, maybe we can just get a PLA hacker to defect huh?
What you can expect more though is that we will be seeing a rise in hacks on the military, the defense base, the government and anyone and everyone in private companies that got a clearance for their outsourced government work. This is what the data will be used for and the fruit of this won’t be seen for some time I suspect. This is today’s espionage made easy because people and organizations fail to understand nor care about the security measures that they should be implementing. This is a constant cry among the INFOSEC community but hey we never seem to really learn and I would blame that more on our physiological makeup than anything else really. We just aren’t wired for this stuff as a whole. So when we get together as societies or organizations we spectacularly fail because as they say; “None of us is as bad as all of us”
Right, so back to the China thing. If you take the time to understand their doctrine for information war (战争) you get a good idea of how this kind of espionage is exactly what they would be doing to further their goals. Goals mind you, that may not be all about kinetic warfare but instead winning the battle without firing a shot. I would suggest if you have the time and the inclination read the book I linked by Hagestadt and then get your hands on everything you can about this subject. You see, we won’t be seeing this go away any time soon and as Sun Tzu said “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”
Don’t just read the words.
“There is great disorder under heaven, and the situation is excellent”