Krypt3ia

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

Archive for the ‘2018’ Category

Defeating Disinformation

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This tweet came up in my feed this morning and it got me thinking. There has been a lot of talk about how disrupting or denying the sources of disinformation could put a stop to it altogether. I for one have not been a proponent of strictly technical solutions to this because they never will work fully and while you can play whack a mole with fake news or disinfo operations, it will always propagate with those who have the cognitive bias and dissonance. What I mean by that is that the mind virus that is fake news or disinformation is just that, those who are disposed to it will propagate it if not create it out of whole cloth for their own reasons be they financial, cultural, or psychological.

While it has been shown that if you give those predisposed to these narratives, the truth once or twice they do not come to the conclusion that they are in fact falsehoods. In fact, the studies thus far have shown that you must repeatedly bombard those individuals with the truth (truth bombs heh) until they actually accept the truth. So, unless you can force these individuals to accept “truth” via other channels than the disinformation feeds, you will have little luck in stopping the disinformation from doing it’s harm and being magnified by those predisposed to their belief in them.

So, what I am saying here is that once again, the technology will not be able to stop the false narratives. The technologies today short of a truly Turing compliant AI that is plugged into the internet as a whole, will not be stopping the disinformation never mind those campaigns of falsehoods by the likes of an Alex Jones because they will be passing them in email, news sites, comments in sites, texts, tweets, over the phone, over the air, …everywhere possible. The reliance or thought of reliance on technologies alone to save us from all this kind of warfare is patently naive. The psychology of why disinformation works and how these things propagate WITH the technology is where we need to focus. More so we need to focus on the psychological aspects in relation to how we might leverage technologies to get the truth into the right minds with repeated viewings is key. Alas though, I fear that this is not what many in the technology space are considering and are relying on algorithms instead of focusing on the animal behind the keyboard. Until we do this I am afraid we are quite doomed to failure.

I also began to parse this tweet out a bit as well on the hacking versus the disinformation campaign. It is quite clear that the hacking and the dumps of information were at some level laced with disinformation but not as a whole was the hack a part of the disinformation campaigns by the GRU. While “not getting hacked” is a good start, the real problems came from other sources and in fact when I looked at the DC leaks stuff and the claims I did come up with some gold that the data did not come from the Clinton Foundation, but instead was DCCC and DNC only to the contrary of what Guccifer 2.0 wanted people to believe.

So yeah, the information being hacked surely added to the mix of disinformation out there but it was not a main contributor to it. Overall, the problems of disinformation rely much more on the psychology of the tribes at play now and the cognitive issues we have within them than the hacking ever did. It turned out at least in the Clinton campaign there was no real “there” there to latch on and make her look even worse with an expose of wrongdoings. The most we got was that they were treating Bernie poorly but really, that was it.

Where were the Benghazi revelations?

Where where the revelations that she and others were running a pedophile ring out of a pizza parlor in DC?

Where was the absolute proof that Clinton had ordered the murders of a number of US citizens and in fact was funneling monies around to places like Panama?

Oh yeah, there were none and this is the reason why the others out there including the GRU and the SVR were creating those narratives on Twitter, Reddit, and elsewhere for those predisposed to those mental virus were living and ready to echo the message to others. When the day comes that we see a dump of information that has been tampered with well enough to detect forensically, then we can parse that out a bit and prove out that a hacked dbase was the cause of disinformation like some of the DC leaks stuff tried to be. Other than that, the two roads do not meet in my book.

The technology is the amplifier but the humans behind the keyboard are the real engines here.

K.

Written by Krypt3ia

2018/07/16 at 16:58

Posted in .gov, .mil, 2016, 2018

2018: Active Measures and Hybrid Warfare Possibilities

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With 2018 just hours away I thought I would add to the cacophony of posts on what you might see in the year to come, but in my case this is the black swan edition of NATSEC for the new year. There will be in my opinion no way that the Russian’s up the ante on active measures and hybrid warfare on the United States in the next year especially since there will be elections for Congress. Elections that will likely lessen Russia’s grip on the country if the Democrats can actually be a majority and control the possible investigations that are ongoing today.

Of course even if there weren’t an election coming the Russians and possibly others would still continue to stoke the active measure fires because it serves their ultimate purpose of making the US inert politically on the world stage. The whole point of these actions is to divide us and to lessen our ability to counter Russia in their global machinations. Overall, it is likely to be a wild ride next year and this primer may help you comprehend what might actually be happening.

Definitions

Active Measures Definition: (Russian: активные мероприятия) is a Soviet term for the actions of political warfare conducted by the Soviet and Russian security services (Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, KGB, FSB) to influence the course of world events, in addition to collecting intelligence and producing “politically correct” assessment of it.

Information Warfare Definition: Information warfare (IW) is a concept involving the battlespace use and management of information and communication technology in pursuit of a competitive advantage over an opponent.

Propaganda: Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

Kompromat: kompromat. Literal meaning. compromising materials. In Russian politics, Kompromat, literally “compromising material”, is damaging information about a politician or other public figure used to create negative publicity, for blackmail, or for ensuring loyalty.

Hybrid Warfare Definition: Hybrid warfare is a military strategy that blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare. … There are a variety of terms used to refer to the hybrid war concept: hybrid war, hybrid warfare, hybrid threat, or hybrid adversary (as well as non-linear war, non-traditional war or special war).

The Players:

I want you all to consider that it will not only be Russia playing “Patriot Games” *wink wink* with us all in 2018, but also the other players who likely will be part of the larger picture here. Russia is a given, but as we have seen of late, the GOP seems to be playing much of the same cards that the Russians have against us in the last couple years. The GOP has taken their playbook and augmented it with Trump’s particular brand of crazy as well. Ultimately we have gone through the looking glass because the Russian’s active measures worked. We are now in a “post truth” and “alternative facts” universe which has caused many unable to parse out the reality of things to just either shut down or buy into their narratives whole hog.

  • Russia: will continue to attack reality and cause more fissures within our people and our government.
  • GOP: Will adapt the Russian and Trumpian playbook as well. They have done plenty of dirty tricks in the past, but now, they are armed with a tactical info nuke.
  • Third Parties: China, Iran, others, all will have their reasons to continue and extend the fissures and use them to their advantage.

There are many players who may want to get in on this game to serve their own purposes. Remember this as you try to sort all of it out as it happens.

Attacks

So I am going to throw out some scenarios or attack models here for you to consider. Some or all of these may happen in 2018. Maybe none will happen… Who am I trying to kid here! In any case, consider these as possible attacks and you may even see variations on these themes.

Sub Operations: HYBRID WAR

As we have seen a recent uptick in this activity already, and I am not sure of our SOSUS capabilities anymore, we have to consider that attacks may come from these little sub visits. Now, if you are up on your sub history, the Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) was one of the subs that tapped RU comms. As we have tapped post SORM traffic, the Russians are likely doing the same with the fiber that is on the bottom of the ocean as well. These kinds of listening operations are pretty standard, but consider now that the Russians have stepped this up might signal more possible scenarios. By shaping traffic, cutting traffic, or injecting things into it, the Russians could have quite the little advantage.

  • Subs intercepting (tapping) traffic
  • Subs ability to leave a dead mans switch or active kinetic measures to cut cable
  • Subs tapping allowing to add data to streams and or advance hacks

Hacks and Disinformation Operations: INFOWAR

The hack on the DNC servers was a pretty standard affair using phishing mails and then exploitation of the systems therein once they got a foothold. What data was exfiltrated though, and how it was parsed out and weaponized was the old new trick the US could not foresee evidently. The Russians have been carrying out this kind of warfare for years on Estonia and Ukraine as well as other countries that they feel the need to destabilize. We saw a fair amount of this in our election cycle in 2016 and you should expect more in 2018. In fact I would hazard to say that the operations are already in progress and data is being collected even as I type this.

  • Hacks on news systems
    • Insert fake stories to cause chaos and to delegitimize the org
    • Cause chaos and uncertainty (broadcast primarily but also news sites like CNN’s page)
  • Hacks on EAM systems (Emergency Action Message) There have been recent hacks on these systems by hackers but imagine a nation wide alert set by Russia?
    • Cause panic
    • Cause DoS on telco and other systems
    • Spur over action by government and populace
    • BGP re-routes
      • Ability to disrupt news
      • Ability to disrupt C&C
      • Ability to insert data into C&C
  • Leaks
    • More governmental leaks
    • Personal leaks (kompromat)
    • Leaks of doctored documents (Disinformation Operations)
  • Trolls armies
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • News sites
    • Comments sections
      • As we saw on the Net Neutrality comment site, these attacks can be leveraged against any public comment topic. So imagine it being used on the White House site (that is if the Trump admin hadn’t basically killed that function already)
    • Radio commenters
    • AM/SW radio broadcasts

HUMINT/Asset Recruitment

Ah yes, one of my favorite categories… As an old school guy who was around before the computer was so ubiquitous, this form of espionage was the thing. Of course the NSA had signals intel, radio, bugging, etc, but good old human assets can do quite a bit and should still be a thing. Today I would say that in tandem with the active measures attacks that we have seen and will see in 2018, you can count on more human assets being activated. These can be trolls that are real people who take on personae online as well as players within the system who have been recruited or turned.

  • Asset recruitment of GOP players
  • Asset recruitment of proxy group individuals
  • Kompromat use

Kinetic Attacks by Proxy Operations

Kinetic attacks are not as likely but given that things are getting out of hand, and may get even more out of control, I thought it prudent to add this. What I mean by kinetic attacks by proxies is simply that the actors could incite groups and individuals to violent action. We saw in 2017 the Nazi (alt-right) movement’s rise and in that, we saw violence perpetrated as well as at least one death by a Nazi running down a protester. This type of activity is standard operations really in the history of espionage and active measures both by Russia and by the US. If you doubt the US has done such things you should look up our interventions in South America in the past.

  • Insert proxy actors to actualize physical attacks
  • Use groups like KKK and others to initiate more kinetic actions like bombings and confrontations
    • Cause over reaction on populace part
    • Cause over reaction by local and federal governments
      • Over reactions like martial law or other types of crack downs
      • Likely to cause further surveillance tactics and programs

Digital Attacks That Lead To Kinetic Results

And the attack du jour of late, the cyber attacks that cause kinetic effects! Honestly there is no evidence of there being a possible wide scale attack being carried out successfully on the US grid, but, there is always a chance. Of course smaller scale attacks in regions could be possible and carried out to great effect. The effect I speak of would be to perhaps hinder voting, but more so to sow chaos and uncertainty in the population. If you strike the right balance, you could even tailor an attack to lead people to a certain political actor as they run a narrative that gives assurance of reciprocity etc.

I know, now it’s sounding all Manchurian Candidate huh? Well, look at Trump and what happened and then think about it again. He has been pretty much using the Russians playbook that he was given by Putin so it’s not so inconceivable.

  • Power: Power goes down
  • Water: Water stops flowing or becomes tainted
  • Telco: Cells go down
  • Media: No news in an emergency with any of the other situations people will freak
  • Internet Infrastructure (as mentioned above in attacks on cables) No communications, freaking populace

Well, those are some of the scenarios I can foresee. I am sure there will be plenty of others that I could not even imagine today. Suffice to say that we will be under attack again with more vigor specifically by the Russians and the GOP in hopes that they will keep their seats. All of us just need to strap in for the Krazy Ivan to come. Just remember to be judicious in your consuming of media and always think before you freak.

Happy New Year!

K.

 

Written by Krypt3ia

2017/12/29 at 22:19

Posted in .gov, 2018, Infowar