Archive for the ‘Covert Ops’ Category
This weekend my father actually asked me what I thought Big O was gonna do to respond to the hacking of our elections. He continued in the same breath to ask if we were going to take out Russia’s grid or something like that. My first thought was to say “Noooo” and to then explain to him how that might go all kinetic real quick like on us if we did. My response to him yesterday will be the genesis of this blog post today for you all. Since everyone seems all hot and bothered as to how we will respond and not giving Big O the benefit of the doubt that he actually reads the PDB’s and thinks about them, I will boil it all down to what I would do against Russia and Pooty to thread the needle and not cause an escalation.
I would undertake the review on what exactly happened with the IW/DISINFO/PSYOP/Hack that took place for the election. This is important to not only understand what happened, but to understand just how much damage was done and what actions it took to set that into motion. From this you can assess the response level you need and in this case it has been rather speculative as to what really went down. This I also really point at the whole argument that the election machines in key states may or may not have had some supply chain tampering going on. So far I personally have seen no evidence that there was enough of an investigation to rule this out.
I would look at the capabilities we have and the intelligence we have collected on Putin. Intel such as a good psych profile and anything on his wealth/business structure. With both of these I would seek to discern what would hurt him personally, not so much the country. I would also use the psych profile to determine in red teaming out what his responses would be to certain scenarios. In essence I would perform a game scenario simulation to get the best results for us and start to build a plan(s) on those.
I would, knowing that this attack was personal for Pooty, and given his nature (much like Trumps really) I would perform the following actions;
- Attack his finances. All of the dirty ones first.
- Attack him with whatever kompromat we have (CIA/NSA) in the same leaks style that we saw from the elections (See news today about Tillerson for a cue)
- IF we have the assets in place both digital and “other” I would work to counter ongoing efforts in Germany and France as well as other places where we know he wants to do the same thing politically
These are the things I would do in parallel to assessing the damage to our forward capacities regarding the ShadowBrokers recent tease. IF all of those exploits on there are real, then all of them have been compromised and burned. Any operations that may have used those tools are burned and any future use of them has been burned. It is my opinion that the new events with the ersatz “Boceefus” account is just Pooty and the GRU saying “Try anything and you will fail” but that is only one dimensional thinking frankly. It is time to go beyond bits and bytes and also use HUMINT.
Just this guys take…
I had some Tweet conversations this morning that led me to a need to make yet another post on the DNC hack debacle. @Viss and @mr0x20wednesday both struck up a conversation after I posted a link to the NYT article on the consensus that is growing within the government that Russia carried out the hack. The consensus building is coming from assessment by the CIA while the FBI has initiated an investigation into the hack and the subsequent dump of data to Wikileaks and to the web via the wordpress account for Guccifer2.0. It is important to take note of the previous statement I make here about who is “assessing” and who is “investigating” and that is something people in the general population do not quite grok much of the time. The FBI attempts to prove things in court and the CIA generates analysis and assessment to help leaders make decisions. These are two different things and I want you all in INFOSEC to understand this when you start to have conversations about spooky things like the hack on the DNC and the subsequent possible propaganda, psyops, and disinformation campaigns that may ensue.
I recently wrote a more irreverent post while I was in a more Hunter S. Thompson state of mind concerning American politiks and the mess we are in, but the core idea that Russia carried off this hack and the actions after it still hold true for me. Many of you out there are reacting more like how I reacted when the Sony attack happened and once again I also find myself asking the same questions and having the same concerns over attribution versus solid evidence. There are many issues at play here though that you have to take into account when dealing with an action like the Sony or DNC hacks where information warfare or “cyber war” are concerned. Most of the considerations you have to make surround the classification of much of what you might get in the way of evidence to start with never mind about the circumspect nature of attribution that is being released to the media. At the end of the day my question to the FBI was “Show me proof” which is their job right? FBI is part of the DOJ and should be leading to charges right? Well, none were proffered by the Obama administration, some sanctions were laid on DPRK but no charges, unlike the wanted posters for the Chinese agents that the FBI laid out for hacks and thefts of data. There is a distinct difference here and that is evidence that can be presented in a court versus attribution and analysis by companies like FireEye and Crowdstrike. True, both those firms can prove certain things but primarily, as you all know out there, attribution is hard to prove so it really stops at analysis, more like the intelligence agencies content and mission.
So where does that leave us with regard to the DNC hack? Well, the attribution data presented first off may only be a portion of what Crowdstrike may have. Other portions may in fact have been classified or asked to be held back by the government (I’d say pretty likely here) and may some day be revealed. If the Sony hack is any indication though of this process, not so much. I am still unaware of any real conclusive evidence of Sony’s hack being DPRK but like I said, the US government sanctioned DPRK over it. It is not likely the government and the president would do so without some more solid evidence but one must consider “sources and methods” when dealing with international intrigue like this right? Don’t like that? Well, get used to it because you are going to see more and more of this as we move into the golden age of nation state hacking and covert action. There will be things you John Q. Public, will never know and will be classified for a good long time. Just take a stroll through the Spy Museum in the cyber war section and look at some of those code names. I bet you haven’t heard of some of them and at least one of them, some of us, were VERY surprised to see on that wall already.
But I digress…
At the end of the day though I have to go with previous experience, Occams Razor, and a sense of Cui Bono concerning the DNC hack/dump/manipulation. Some may argue that the GRU and KGB (yes, once again old agencies don’t die, they just change names 😉 ) would not be as sloppy as to leave the breadcrumbs that are being found by Crowdstrike and others. I would remind you to look at at the last big operation that we busted in the US by the KGB as well as the recent posting of selfies by a KGB graduating class as examples of “everyone fucks up” For that matter, shall we mention our own CIA’s debacle with the Pizza Hut? Every agency screws up and every hacker does too. Humans and human nature insure that things will get messed up, there are no perfect operations. In this case the assets involved likely had access to the DNC as well as the RNC but decided to use this data to influence the elections in a manner that they could get away with it easily. This is the nature of spying, politics, and geopolitics, take a look at the history of the CIA and dirty tricks in the politics of South America and then picture it if they were doing the same (hint, they are) today in the cyber age.
That’s right kids, there have been other dumps and hacks. Perhaps some of those too were the US? Think about it.
Russia and Putin have been gerrymandering elsewhere, money and influence operations have always been around. Now consider yourself to be Putin and you have an operation that gave you easily funnelled information to the likes of Julian Assange and Wikileaks! Even more enticing, the fact that you all know that attribution is hard to prove in hacking! What do you have to lose if you are Putin or anyone else? So, if you look at how this plays out, and what more may play out come October, who, what nation, would have the most to benefit if we actually had trump in office?
Think… The answer is ANYONE who would like to take America down a peg and have more possible influence on world politics.
If you look though at the rhetoric by Trump you can in fact see that the big dog in the room would be Putin though. Just think about it! How much more power and sway would Putin have if Trump were in office and dismembers NATO? Come on now kids, think about it. Ask yourselves “Cui Bono?” here. So stop the quibbling about the attribution and the finger pointing. Take the analysis by the CIA and others as well as the eventual data the FBI comes up with and start looking to how can we fix the problems here? There are so many problems though that I too get disheartened. The political system is broken, the information systems are not properly protected, and we run headlong into creating more weaponized code? It is enough to make a man drink.
Ooh good idea…
There is so much talk about the leak by Wikileaks of the DNC emails (20k) which is only a partial dump I think in the end. Much of the Tweet stream is going on about how this is likely the KGB (No, I will not call them FSB) and how this is bad in so many ways. The DNC dump Friday has been fun to go through from the perspective of laughing at their hubris and gawking at the people involved, the money, and the fuckery. However, once you get past all the schadenfreude you start to realize just how fucked we all are.
First you begin to realize just how dirty and full of fuckery politics is to start, that is if you aren’t already jaded about this shit. Then you realize the proportions of the fuckery when you see proof of some of the things that go on via the leaks from the DNC’s and Hill’s toilet server and you think
“What the SHIT?”
You take a shot of whiskey and crawl back into your lizard brain for a while to get away from it all.
Once you have ruminated on all of this then you start to ponder on the motives and the actions taken by the actors here. They hack Hill’s server in the disused crapper and then DNC’s systems? Or was it the opposite? What is the motive here? Is this a hack by some kids to upset the political apple cart? Or is this something more? Is this a nation state? The attribution firms are in high gear promoting their theories but this time I will go with what Crowdstrike is selling.
Pooty and his funtime band are doing a number on us is my vote too and fuck are they pulling a whammy using our own political fuckery to destabilize all the things. This has been the hack that I would consider to be an outright CIA styled destabilization operation, the kind that you would find material online on (think South American fruit and sugar) with a cyber cyber twist. Even Nixon, who pulled this kind of shit with the plumbers and Watergate would be envious right? The only difference here is that Nixon got caught. Pooty is not gonna get caught because of the nature of hacking, attribution, and cyber cyber cyber.
Once you start to look at it as a destabilization operation against the US then you have to look at the possible goals here. The US is on a five front war? How many fuck fronts is it now anyway? We are precariously teetering on the edge of failing empire, and we have these nitwits (both party candidates) running for office, both of them now tainted beyond redemption. Hillary with bathroom servers, no malware protections, and not even the forethought or ability to hire people to help them secure her shit properly? Then she goes on to consider their machinations safe for fucking un-encrypted classified email?
Then we have Trump, with his.. Well.. His everything. He is the worst candidate I could ever think of and yet here we are, he is the RNC candidate. We are well and truly fucked. I can only imagine the security posture of his systems but gee, no one has hacked him.. Have they? If they have no one has leaked anything… Yet. I am sure his servers are full of dirty shit too.
Ok, so yeah, here we are in July and November rapidly approaches. We have Trump as the official RNC candidate for ORANGE CAESAR which scares the living fuck out of me, and we have Hillary, the lady who flouts all security measures for ease of use…Wait… Shit, that really is everyone ain’t it? HELL that is most of corporate MURICA! God dammit we are so fucked!
Anyway, Hill goes on to mishandle CLASSIFIED information and skates on it while frankly others have been pilloried for less. Truly people, with the leaks so far and just the epic fuckery of the race, I am just crawling into that lizard brain more and more with the help of a good grain alcohol. The problem is I keep coming back to lucidity and then hear/see/read the news and end up chugging the shit again to make it go away!
The sad thing is that what we have seen is just the tip of the shitberg. Trust me, wait till October when the real revelatory emails show up. It’s called and “October Surprise” and fuck it’s gonna make Hunter’s worst drug and loathing fueled nightmares seem tame in comparison. Think about it people, Pooty and the KGB are easily, handily, fucking us all over with the cudgel of our own hubris and lack of due care.
All the while these fuckheads are crafting all our dooms with malware and cyber cyber cyber WAR that would make Dr. Strangelove weep in ecstasy. While they argue over surveillance as good and crypto as bad they really don’t comprehending any of it. If it weren’t true it would make one hell of a farcical film. Unfortunately for us it is true, and it is happening today. We the people are the ones being fucked over by their collective business as usual in so many ways.
This isn’t over kids…
Put your helmets on and wait for October for the last of the dumps. I am fairly certain some shit will come out and in the end MURICA will begin it’s 2nd empire with an orange, small handed, orangutan at the helm of this country. Hunter was smart to have left because if he were alive now he would be reaching for the shotgun all over again in much more despair.
PS.. I have written about possible motives recently… You might wanna take a look.
In the past I have written about “The Ghost In The Shell” referring to current incidents online and the future of network warfare. I mostly wrote about the anime show’s prescience with regard to the fact that many of us in the business of computer security it seems gravitated to it because of those very scenarios in the first place and a certain cool factor to them. Of course all of that was science fiction and it could not happen in the real world could it?
Well, once upon a time the idea of a plane flying in the air or a submarine for that matter were pure SCIFI and now we take them for granted. So it is too with some of the ideas put forth by G.I.T.S. where online culture and warfare are concerned. If you are not familiar with the G.I.T.S. franchise I suggest you go to Amazon or Hulu and watch them all. If you are familiar with them, then you might have the same “Ah ha!” reaction that I did watching the evolving story of the Sony hack.
So to catch you all up, Sony it seems got hacked. Not just hacked, but utterly hacked, penetrated, compromised, whatever adjective you would rather use all of them applies here. Suffice to say that Sony was taken down in such a way that absolutely nothing electronic should be trusted within its environment whether it be a router, switch, desktop, laptop, server down to USB sticks. The hackers had complete control over what seems to be all of their infrastructure and for an indeterminate amount of time.
The adversary, once gaining access began to plunder all of Sony’s secrets, ex-filtrating them out of their networks to the tune of one hundred and eleven terabytes of data. This is an astounding amount of data to take and one has to wonder just how they got it out of there. I mean, did they move it on TB drives? Did they FTP that out? What? You also have to wonder just how long that would take if they were being sneaky about it. It also begs the question of whether or not the attackers had to be sneaky at all because perhaps Sony had not learned it’s lessons from previous attacks and just was not watching traffic at all to see the immense amounts of data leaving their domain.
It gets worse though for Sony… If that were even conceivable to many. The adversary then inserted a special feature to the malware they were using to compromise systems with to destroy the MBR section of hard drives on systems that were infected. This poison pill was then activated when the attackers were done to perform the coup de grâce that would take Sony down hard. As it was described the malware changed the login screen for all the users and then the game was on. Sony knew something was up and then systems went BOOM. Or did they? I am not too sure on this fact because I have not seen much out of Sony as to what happened next.
The net effect here is that Sony cannot trust anything and anyone potentially within their walls and had to shut down their whole network. They handed people pens and pencils and continued working as best they could as they called in Mandiant to perform the incident response for them. Meanwhile, the adversary had made contact with Sony either with the screen change (see below) or other means to say that they had that 111tb of data and laid out terms of what they wanted to not let it out on the net. That was around Nov 24 and it’s now December 6th. Since then there has been two data drops by a group calling themselves the GOP (Guardians of Peace) One drop was small, around a gig and the next was 27 gig. Within those files were found great swaths of Sony data that included numerous SSN’s and personal data for people who worked with or for Sony. In short, it’s a nightmare for all involved really.
Then things got… Weird.
Suddenly Variety (the Hollywood trade rag) was reporting that Sony thought that their adversary was in fact the DPRK and Kim Jong Un. Why? Because Sony was going to release a film that KJU did not appreciate. That film is called “The Interview” and it’s a comedy whose premise is that two Hollywood types are invited to DPRK to interview KJU and are asked “humorously” to whack KJU by the CIA.
Eh.. It could be funny. I really don’t think it would have nor will be but that’s just me. I am not a big fan of the two major stars of the film and of late Hollywood has mostly been the suck anyway, but yeah I digress…
So yeah, Variety is reporting that DPRK hacked Sony and with Mandiant being signed on HOLY CHINA! We all in INFOSEC began popping the popcorn and waiting on Tao to start talking about where DPRK touched him. It was and is still, rather unreal. The modus operandi for some of the hacking does match what DPRK has done before with wiper malware, or shall I say “has been attributed to have done before” and attribution as you all know is hard. However, the data kinda looked like maybe it was possible but with the lens of time it seems less likely that it was a nation state actor especially if the reason for the attack was in fact over this movie.
Since the advent of the DPRK theory, this whole story has just become a media frenzy about “CYBER CYBER CYBER WAR PEARL HARBOR BE AFRAID!!” The reality though seems to be a bit different from the popular media fallderall in that the GOP has all along said that this attack was in response to Sony’s bad practices and they needed to be taken down for them.
The Laughing Man Effect
This is the juncture where the Ghost In The Shell comes in and a certain arc in the story line from the Standalone Complex. If you are a fan you might remember the series of episodes concerning “The Laughing Man” In these episodes we are introduced to a hacker who appears from nowhere and begins a campaign of attacks against corporations for their misdeeds. In particular one company that was colluding in surveillance and stock manipulation but I will leave all that to you to watch.
What happens though is that The Laughing Man takes on the corporation and through hacking exposes them for what they had done as well as effects their bottom line greatly financially as well as damaging their reputation. It was the spectacular nature of the hack though, on live TV in this future Japan that got others completely obsessed with the Laughing Man and what he had done. If you have not seen the series there is a box set of just the episodes that concern the Laughing Man you can watch.
The story line though sparked with me because it showed the great asymmetric power of this kind of warfare that could be carried out by one person. One person with the skill sets to do it, could affect the bottom line of a company at a distance as well as anonymously. This is a powerful thought and one that in today’s society is much more of a reality than ever before and it is precisely because of technology. This idea I personally now call “The Laughing Man Effect” and in tandem with meme’s could spell real trouble for the world today. We have seen this already taking place with Anonymous and their various wars against injustice or just for the lulz as we saw in LulzSec. In fact, I would claim that HB Gary would have been the first instance of the Laughing Man Effect and it just took the Sony incident for it to solidify in my head.
Now consider the meme. Meme’s are ideas or images that catch fire with people and are passed on rather like cognitive malware. Anonymous was a meme as well as means of creating and delivering meme’s on the internet. Born of the 4chan boards where meme’s are born every second, some dying on the vine while others catching fire, Anonymous caught on once they went after Scientology. The reality is that Anonymous lit this fire and now GOP has taken up the notion ostensibly and acted upon their personal desires of retribution much like Anon’s did on Scientology.
If the GOP is in fact a real group or person with an agenda to destroy Sony then I believe that their idea has come from Anonymous(s) successes. I also think that if they do really exist as a group then they have learned from Anonymous successes and failures. So far GOP has been pretty cagey with their use of dead drop email accounts and the use of various servers around the globe to send email to reporters. Which, if they are not caught right away, will give them more power of the meme as the David who slew Goliath.
In the end, I believe this to be just the meme taking root in the collective unconscious spurred on by the likes of Anonymous, Snowden, Wikileaks, and the Occupy movements. We live in a time where the small can in fact easily take down the big with technologies that we all use and often times do not secure properly. In the case of Sony it seems that they neglected a lot and got burned badly by doing so. If that is the case then who’s to say when the next big corporation is taken down by another person or persons with an axe to grind or a valid grievance?
The meme is catching and the Laughing Man Effect may be a real concern for the governments and corporations of the world. The more flashy and catchy or perhaps just downright motivational the more chance that others will follow. This is the nature of the meme and it’s ability to propagate so quickly and effectively in our hyper connected world. If you just look at all the media coverage of the Sony incident and then look at all the armchair detection going on around it you can see how this one too has sparked the collective imagination and curiosity.
Future State Electronic Warfare
So here it is. What some have been fearing and perhaps not getting across well enough is coming to pass. In our connected world it is easy to take things down and burn them. I the case of Sony they will come back sure. If you look at their stock the last few days as revelations surfaced, their prices took a dive but then went back up. Perhaps the real world just doesn’t understand the ramifications of what has happened here. However, the fact remains that Sony was completely decimated on a technical level to start. This is an important point that should be thought about.
That Sony was likely hit by an insider is highly probable. Was that insider sent in or actively recruited? Are they someone who just did this because they felt abused? I guess time will tell on these questions but insider attacks have always been a problem and they won’t go away. How do you really protect against that without making life harder for end users? Much more, how do you protect against insider attacks without alienating workers as they are watched every second of the day as they work to insure they aren’t setting off an attack? It’s a vicious cycle really.
Alternatively, how can any company expect to defeat a determined attacker anyway? The dreaded APT’s have had it easy and still do to a large extent but even after we all have learned our lessons, it will still always be a surety that a determined attacker will get you in the end. With that knowledge then what do you do? Do you just accept that fact like something akin to the AA credo of “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change” or do you fight harder? It is a never ending battle.
What Sony can teach us though now is that the idea of this kind of warfare is out there. Ordinary people are feeling empowered to take on corporations and governments with the aid of the very technologies they use to carry on daily business. Technologies that are now commonplace and we cannot do without. This is a scary thing to many in power and it’s been made all the scarier when things like the Sony hack happens so utterly and completely well.
Welcome to the future of online/electronic asymmetric warfare kids.
Insider Threat SNOWDEN:
The insider threat has always been and always will be the bigger of the threats or so the aphorism goes. In reality it certainly seems to be the case in the Snowden affair and the NSA is still stinging from it as I write this. Snowden leveraged his administrative access where he could and used technical and social means as well to gather the information and access he wanted to ex-filtrate out of Ft. Meade. Since Snowden was so successful and the NSA and IC has been blindsided by the ease of the attack and their stunning lack of controls the government and IC has been re-thinking their security around insider threats. Since much of today’s technology allows for ease of access and people tend to be the weakest link in the security chain (on average) the NSA is looking to more proactive controls against this type of exploit. Since they failed logically and technically to stop an insider attack I assume that they are in a real bind trying to assert control over not only the data they house but also the custodians of that data and architecture as well.
The Insider Threat Has Always Been The Largest:
Since the dawn of time the insider threat has always been a go to if possible in waging war against anyone. The Trojan Horse for example is the greatest use of the “insider” by placing outsiders inside and making the opposition the method of their own doom. Insiders though are commonly traitors or spies (sleeper or other) inserted or bought to work for the opposition to gain access inside the confines of the sanctum. In the case of hacking and digital malfeasance this often times takes the shape of an insider who feels they have been wronged in some way and either steals IP or destroys operations within a company or org to cause great damage. What has come to light though over the years and now has been brought to the fore are the psychological and social cues or traits that make a person more likely to be an insider threat.
In the case of espionage the recruitment of spies really is the tale of an insider threat. What makes someone become an asset for a service like the CIA? Within the IC (CIA) a lot of time was spent on the psychology of recruitment and handling of assets. MICE was the standard by which the CIA handled recruitment and handling up until recently when a new paradigm was put forth (RASCLS) which is much more reciprocal instead of just carrot and stick. Where all of this touches on insider threats though in the common vernacular of INFOSEC is where the motivation lies for someone’s actions. In a paper put out recently called “Inside the Mind of An Insider” the focus is on technologists and insider attacks that they have or may carry out and their personal motivations as well as proclivities to do so within the tech sector. I however would assert that this take is only a sub header within the larger umbrella of motivations and actions that an insider whether or not they are a spy or just an aggravated tech worker would have or carry out.
in the paper (cited above in picture at top) the writers lay out the “six characteristics” that coincidentally make up much of the same ideals and motivations that you will find in a recruit-able asset within the IC sphere. In fact, I would assert as well that if in fact Snowden were at all contacted by an outside security services to do what he did, these motivations would have been leveraged within him as well. What it all comes down to human nature. We are all subject to wants and desires as well as feelings of being under appreciated or not appreciated at all in our daily lives. This makes anyone potentially an insider whether they self activate or are handled by someone.
Countermeasures And Technologies:
The NSA though has been working on some technical means of detection and deterrence of an insider attack where other logical means have failed. These consist of programs that monitor behaviour patterns of users and access as well as I can only assume their outside activities such as internet access, browsing, and comments on sites. Can such programs really detect accurately the mind of a person and their motivations to lock down on them as a potential threat? I am sure that the technology is getting much better at this heuristic behaviour detection so sure but I don’t think it will be infallible however. I also suspect that it will also mark people as bad actors when in fact they may never even entertain the thought of actually carrying out some plan against the NSA or whatever company that might employ such tech. I would also assume that the people at the NSA will be undergoing more frequent and rigorous Poly sessions as well as perhaps psychological profiling which does not bode well for many I think who want to feel as though they are part of a team. Generally the job is stressful enough when you cannot talk about anything you do and are always fearing that you might slip at some point and give away information that you shouldn’t. The psychological stress of cleared life is hard and this will all just make it a little harder in the post Snowden world.
Whether you call it an “insider threat” or a spy, saboteur, or insurgent the same psychology applies. People are motivated by things that are personal to them. Desires they have for money, power, or fame as well as a myriad of other reasons for their actions. To attempt to detect and deter this activity will be quite the undertaking and hard enough in the classified world. Now imagine that you are not a cleared individual but instead an corporate employee, how are you going to feel about such activities and programs attempting to tell whether or not you might turn on the company and damage their servers? I somehow doubt that many corporations will undertake the threat modelling here for insider threats as seriously as the NSA but I can see where some might want some insight. We already have things like Websense and IDS/IPS/SIEM tech that follows traffic but with the advent of the likes of Facebook, how long will it be until they offer a service that tracks users behaviour and sells it to your security department? If companies are sufficiently worried about their insider threats then they will begin profiling and putting in countermeasures.
Welcome to the brave new world…
THE SNOWDEN AFFAIR:
Since the revelations began and the man without a country odyssey started all of our lives have changed at a fundamental level regarding our digital and private lives. The now million plus document trove is being parsed out by Glen Greenwald and others for the public to get a look into the inner workings of the state surveillance apparatus much to the consternation of the IC as well as the government and the dismay of the public. However you look upon Mr. Snowden and his choice you have to admit that the information does lend an insight into the great potential for abuse of the apparatus that the NSA has put together no matter what they may tell you they are doing or not doing to protect us. You see the point is no matter what alleged safeguards and altruism may lie within the apparatus and it’s employees it’s still ripe for abuse that will never see the light of day because it’s all classified and codified by the government. This is the point of the exercise as I see it from Mr. Snowden’s point of view and the aegis behind his doing what he did. Of course from day one darker minds would make assertions that there were darker geopolitical machinations at play and this was all just a dastardly plan to destroy us as a country. Of course as the passion play played out it was first China, the go to country for all our woe’s of late (APT etc) but as time wore on and Snowden found a perch in Russia, it’s now “clear” to some in the government that the plot was in fact Russian all along.
Mike Rogers has been the bell ringer on the idea that Snowden from the get go was in fact a handled and groomed asset by a foreign power. His most recent bellowing without any real evidence is that Snowden was in fact an asset for Russia from the start and furthermore that all of this was done to damage the US and seek primacy once again on the international stage. Of course as I mentioned already Mike cannot offer any evidence and he alludes to “secrecy” of the data but in reality until you have proof that you can emphatically state and present the people it’s all just wild speculation and a form of conspiracy or propaganda in and of itself. While it is possible that Snowden was from the start an asset of the
KGB FSB, the evidence thus far for motive, methods, and follow through are somewhat thin and I cannot go on the record as thinking he was handled from the start by Russia or any other nation state. The fact that Snowden ended up in Russia at Sheremetyevo may in fact be because of the machinations of Assange and Wikileaks brokering the deal to get him there and then to get him allowed into the country not as a plan all along. There is more evidence to say that this is in fact the case then there is of any KGB FSB actions.
Using the paradigm of “Occam’s Razor” here let’s run through the possibilities on whether or not the claims being made by Mike Rogers and others out there that this was a carefully planned operation that cultivated Ed Snowden to become the largest leaker in history.
- Ed Snowden is a naive individual who became through a sequence of events, an administrator within the IC networks and began to see things he thought were illegal and immoral
- He used his knowledge of hacking and technologies to accumulate data through his own administrative access and social engineering
- Once he saw the data he decided to leak all that he could and after seeing what happened to Manning made a plan to go to a country that in all the spy novels is easy to infiltrate and ex-filtrate out of
- The NSA itself had poor OPSEC and threats from insiders were poorly covered thus making this possible (proven to be the case)
- The NSA could not even keep track of internal access and exploitation (proven to be the case)
- He contacted the press and was turned down by some until he met Greenwald and Poitras who then planned with him how to release the data and to firewall Snowden off
- While in HK it became clear he could not stay there once the NSA/USA/UKUSA and other apparatus began working in the background to extradite him
- Poitras, Greenwald, and then Wikileaks ex-filtrated Snowden out of HK and to Russia where a brokered interim solution of the airport no mans zone was at least possible
- Snowden is a prize for the
KGBFSB after the fact from not only an intelligence perspective but also a political one that thumbs its nose at the US (a win win for Putin)
- Edward Snowden was a carefully orchestrated long term asset by the
KGBFSB trained by them to infiltrate the NSA and then use his domain admin/root access to steal them blind, exploiting their logical and technical vulnerabilities who they then ex-filtrated to HK and to Russia as a smoke screen for their own operational cover
- Snowden was handled by
KGBFSB for years while coming up the ranks as an UN-credentialed cleared individual clearly taking advantage of the US’ lax clearance and oversight process post 9/11
- Snowden was in contact with Russia from the start and is a consummate operator perhaps even a cleverly created cutout sleeper agent
- Once gathering all the data Snowden then passed it to Russia for them to digest and then leak to the world to cover their own operations and shame the US
- Snowden is now a hero of the state in Russia and will get a hero’s treatment with access to all that Russia can offer in the post Soviet Oligarchy (inclusive Anna Chapman visits)
Hmmm is it just me or does the razor only really cut one way?
My take on the whole affair is that Snowden was not a paid/cultivated/handled asset of the
KGB FSB nor do I think that he was aided in any way by Russia in carrying out this leak/exploit. What I do think is that he is naive but also that what he was seeing, what we are all now seeing today in the news made him feel that the accumulation of power in a central secret body was anathema to freedom and the American ethos. As we have seen in the news there have been many things that the government has allowed, even shall we say promulgated, that are clearly violations of the US Constitution no matter the inveigling that might occur by those in power as to it’s legality. So I for one can see why someone like Snowden might do what they did outside of their own propensities for spy novels and a sense of right and wrong.
The realities are that no matter the attestations by those running the programs and their need to use them, there is always a chance of their abuse and subsequent burial of the facts through classifications and National Security letters as we have seen these last years. Were egregious abuses happening and are they still today? I am sure there are some, after all this is nothing new and all you need do to confirm that is Google “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” or look just to recent history with the Plame Affair to see how abuses can and have happened. So is it really outside the pale for someone with a conscience and perhaps an overactive imagination to think that great wrongs are being committed in all our names? I think that while there may have been no abuses “may” I also think that the capacity for abuse and the infrastructure to hide them is easily seen within the current architecture of the IC apparatus of the NSA and their programs. After all, if you want to ask about the idea that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, I ask you to tell me just exactly how you feel every time you go through a TSA checkpoint at the airport today.
Finally, I would also like to touch on the idea that the governments own hubris and now embarrassment is firing the boilers on this whole blame game that Snowden is in fact a handled asset of the Russians. I think that the NSA/USGOV and IC community feel the sting of their inadequacies as they have been laid bare for all to see. You see, Snowden did not carry out some 3l33t hacking here to gather the data. He used common techniques and vulnerabilities within the NSA and other government IC bodies to steal data and put them all on a USB stick and then walk out with them. It’s a simple trick and the top of that list is actually just socially engineering people for their passwords within the confines of the most secretive and secret IC shops in the world. Now that has to sting a bit wouldn’t you agree? So there is shame all around here on the part of the government and it puts them all in a weak position tactically. The reactions of all those at play seems to be more along the lines of dialogue from a playground spat rather than state or spycraft and it’s sad really. As the immortal words of GW Bush can attest;
“There’s an old saying in Tennessee – I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.”
To me, it seems that Snowden just did what he did because of a myriad reasons that also include a certain amount of self aggrandizement. However, I can point to things in our own history and to popular media that may explain why someone might do something like this on the grounds that they think it’s illegal, immoral, and against the tenets of the USA. While POTUS is right about how important these types of programs can be in the war on terror and the every day intelligence gathering that every country needs to survive, it should also be possible to have some level of oversight to disallow for abuses of power to happen and happen with great frequency due to over classification. These are fundamental changes that should occur but the reality is that the very nature of the work being done and the culture within it’s halls will stoip any real progress being made. In the end nothing will change and the NSA will continue to collect all the data it can like a giant hoover-matic for later sorting and use.
Having grown up in the era of Nixon though, and other revelations like Iran Contra, I for one not only know that these things will continue to happen but that they have in the past and should be in our collective consciousness. Unfortunately many do not remember and the only entree into such ideas may in fact be cinema… I leave you with this scene from “Three Day’s Of The Condor”
Not everything in cinema is just fantasy…
“scr hrw lgihr kzpzz cwl nci pjwt”