Krypt3ia

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

Archive for the ‘Digital Epidemiology’ Category

Malware Wars!… Cyber-Wars!.. Cyber-Espionage-Wars! OH MY

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Flame, DuQU, STUXNET, and now GAUSS:

Well, it was bound to happen and it finally did, a third variant of malware that is ostensibly connected to the story that Mikko Hypponen posted about after an email he got from a nuclear scientist in Iran has come to pass as true. The email claimed that a new piece of malware was playing AC/DC “Thunderstruck” at late hours on systems it had infected within the labs in Iran. I took this with a grain of salt and had some discussions with Mikko about it offline, he confirmed that the email came ostensibly from a known quantity in the AEOI and we left it at that, its unsubstantiated. Low and behold a week or two later and here we are with Eugene tweeting to the world that “GAUSS” is out there and has been since about 2011.

Gauss it seems had many functions and some of them are still unknown because there is an encryption around the payload that has yet to be cracked by anyone. Eugene has asked for a crowd sourced solution to that and I am sure that eventually someone will come out with the key and we will once again peer into the mind of these coders with a penchant for science and celestial mechanics. It seems from the data provided thus far from the reverse R&D that it is indeed the same folks doing the work with the same framework and foibles, and thus, it is again easily tied back to the US and Israel (allegedly per the mouthiness of Joe F-Bomb Veep) and that it is once again a weapon against the whole of the middle east with a decided targeting of Lebanon this time around. Which is an interesting target all the more since there has been some interesting financial news of late concerning banks and terror funding, but I digress…

I am sure many of you out there are already familiar with the technology of the malware so I am leaving all of that out here for perhaps another day. No, what I want to talk about is the larger paradigm here concerning the sandbox, espionage, warfare, and the infamous if not poorly named “CyberWar” going on as it becomes more and more apparent in scope. All of which seems to be centered on using massive malware schemes to hoover data as well as pull the trigger when necessary on periodic digital attacks on infrastructure. Something that truly has not been seen before Stuxnet and seems to only have geometrically progressed since Langer et al let the cat out of the bag on it.

Malware Wars:

Generally, in the information security sector, when I explain the prevalence of malware today I often go back to the beginning of the Morris worm. I explain the nature of early virus’ and how they were rather playful. I also explain that once the digital crime area became profitable and firewalls became a standard appliance in the network environment, the bad actors had to pivot to generally tunnel their data from the inside out home through such things as a firewall. This always seems to make sense to those I explain it to and today it is the norm. Malware, and the use of zero day as well as SE exploits to get the user to install software is the the way to go. It’s a form of digital judo really, using the opponents strength against them by finding their fulcrum weakness.

And so, it was only natural that the espionage groups of the world would turn to malware as the main means of gaining access to information that usually would take a human asset and a lot of time. By leveraging human nature and software flaws it has been a big win for some time now. I was actually amused that Henry Crumpton in the “Art of Intelligence” talks about how the CIA became a very early adopter of the network centric style of warfare. I imagine that some of the early malware out there used by spooks to steal from unprotected networks was CIA in origin and in fact that today’s Gauss probably has some relatives out there we have yet to see by people who have been doing this for some time now and we, the general public had no idea.

Times change though, and it seems that Eugene’s infrastructure for collecting data is creating a very wide dragnet for his people to find these infections and then reverse them. As we move forward expect to see more of these pop up, and surely soon, these will not just be US/UK/IL based attempts. Soon I think we will see the outsourced and insourced products of the likes of Iran and other nation states.. Perhaps we already have seen them, well, people like Mikko and Eugene may have at least. Who knows, maybe someday I will find something rooting about my network huh? Suffice to say, that this is just the beginning folks so get used to it.. And get used to seeing Eugene’s face and name popping up all over the place as well.. Superior showman that he is.

An Interesting Week of News About Lebanon and Bankers:

Meanwhile, I think it very telling and interesting as we see the scope of these malware attacks opening up, that not only one or two countries were targeted, but pretty much the whole of the Middle East as well. Seems its an equal opportunity thing, of course the malware never can quite be trusted to stay within the network or systems that it was meant for can we? There will always be spillage and potential for leaks that might tip off the opposition that its there. In the case of Gauss, it seems to have been targeted more at Lebanon, but, it may have been just one state out of a few it was really meant for. In the case of Lebanon though, and the fact that this piece of malware was also set to steal banking data from that area, one has to look on in wonder about the recent events surrounding HSBC.

Obviously this module was meant to be used either to just collect intelligence on banking going on as well as possibly a means to leverage those accounts in ways as yet undetermined by the rest of us. Only the makers and operators really know what the intent was there, but, one can extrapolate a bit. As terror finances go, the Middle East is the hotbed, so any intelligence on movement of money could be used in that light just as well as other ways to track the finances of criminal, geopolitical, and economic decisions being made there. Whether it be corporations or governmental bodies, this kind of intelligence would be highly prized and I can see why they would install that feature on Gauss.

All of this though, so close to the revelations of HSBC has me thinking about what else we might see coming down the pike soon on this front as well. Cur off the funding activities, and you make it much harder to conduct terrorism huh? Keep your eyes open.. You may see some interesting things happening soon, especially given that the Gauss is out of the bag now too. Operations will likely have to roll up a bit quicker.

Espionage vs. Sabotage vs. Overt Warfare of Cyber-Warfare:

Recently I have been working on some presentation stuff with someone on the whole cyberwar paradigm and this week just blew the lid off the whole debate again for me. The question as well as the rancor I have over the term “Cyberwar” has been going on some time now and in this instance as well as Stuxnet and Flame and DuQu, can we term it as cyberwar? Is this instead solely espionage? What about the elements of sabotage we saw in Stuxnet that caused actual kinetic reactions? Is that cyberwar? If there is no real war declared what do you term it other than sabotage within the confines of espionage and statecraft?

Then there is the whole issue of the use of “Cold War” to describe the whole effect of these operations. Now we have a possible cold war between those states like Iran who are now coding their own malware to attack our systems and to sabotage things to make our lives harder. Is that a war? A type of war? All of these questions are being bandied about all the while we are obviously prosecuting said war in theater as I write this. I personally am at a loss to say exactly what it is or what to term it really. Neither does the DoD at this point as they are still working on doctrine to put out there for the warriors to follow. Is there a need for prosecuting this war? It would seem that the US and others working with them seem to think so. I for one can understand the desire to and the hubris to actually do it.

Hubris though, has a funny way of coming back on you in spectacular blowback. This is my greatest fear and seemingly others, however, we still have a country and a government that is flailing about *cough the Senate cough* unable to do anything constructive to protect our own infrastructure even at a low level. So, i would think twice about the scenarios of actually leaking statements of “we did it” so quickly even if you perceive that the opposition has no current ability to strike back.. Cuz soon enough they will. It certainly won’t be a grand scale attack on our grid or telco when it does happen, but, we will likely see pockets of trouble and Iran or others will pop up with a smile, waving, and saying “HA HA!” when it does occur.

The Sandbox and The Wars We Are Prosecuting There by Malware Proxy:

Back to the Middle East though… We have been entrenched in there for so so long. Growing up I regularly watched the news reports about Lebanon and Israel, Iran and the hostages, Iraq, Saddam, Russian Proxy wars via terrorism, Ghadaffi and his ambitions as well as terror plots (which also hit close to home with the Lockerbee bombing) You kids today might think this is all new, but let me tell you, this has been going on for a long long time. One might even say thousands of years (Mecca anyone? Crusades?) So, it’s little wonder then that this would all be focused on the Med.

We are conducting proxy wars not only because of 9/11 but also economic and energy reasons as well. You want a good taste of that? Take a look at “Three Days of the Condor” a movie about a fictional “reader” for the CIA who stumbles on to a plan to disrupt governments in the Middle East to affect oil prices and access. For every person that said the Iraq war and Afghanistan wasn’t about oil, I say to them look at the bigger picture. There are echoes there of control and access that you cannot ignore. Frankly, if there wasn’t oil and money in the region, I think we would have quite a different story to look on as regards our implementing our forces there.

So, with that in mind, and with terrorism and nuclear ambitions (Iran) look at the malware targeting going on. Look at all of the nascent “Arab Springs” going on (albeit really, these are not springs, these are uprisings) we have peoples who want not to live under oppressive regimes not just because they aren’t free to buy an iPhone or surf porn, but they are also oppressed tribes or sects that no longer wish to be abused. All of this though, all of the fighting and insurgency upsets the very delicate balance that is the Middle East. Something that we in the US for our part, have been trying to cultivate (stability) even if that stability came from another strongman that we really don’t care for, but, who will work with us in trade and positional relevance to other states.

In goes the malware.. Not only to see what’s going on, but also to stop things from happening. These areas can be notoriously hard to have HUMINT in and its just easier to send in malware and rely on human nature to have a larger boon in intelligence than to try and recruit people to spy. It’s as simple as that. Hear that sucking sound? That’s all their data going to a server in Virginia. In the eyes of the services and the government, this is clearly the rights means to the ends they desire.

We Have Many Tigers by The Tail and I Expect Blowback:

Like I said before though, blowback has a nasty habit of boomeranging and here we have multiple states to deal with. Sure, not all of them has the ability to strike back at us in kind, but, as you have seen in Bulgaria, the Iranians just decided to go with their usual Hezbollah proxy war of terrorism. Others may do the same, or, they may bide their time and start hiring coders on the internet. Maybe they will hire out of Russia, or China perhaps. Hell, it’s all for sale now in the net right? The problem overall is that since we claimed the Iran attack at Natanz, we now are not only the big boy on the block, we are now the go to to be blamed for anything. Even if we say we didn’t do it, who’s gonna really believe us?

The cyber-genie is out of the cyber-bottle.

Then, this week we saw something new occur. A PSYOP, albeit a bad one, was perpetrated by the Assad regime it seems. Reuters was hacked and stories tweeted/placed on the net about how the rebel forces in Aleppo had cut and run. It was an interesting idea, but, it was ineffective for a number of reasons. The crux though is that Reuters saw it and immediately said it was false. So, no one really believed the stories. However, a more subtle approach at PSYOPS or DISINFO campaigns is likely in the offing for the near future I’d think. Surely we have been doing this for a while against them, whether it be in the news cycles or more subtle sock puppets online in social media sites like Twitter or Facebook. The US has been doing this for a long time and is well practiced. Syria though, not so much.

I have mentioned the other events above, but here are some links to stories for you to read up on it…

  • PSYOPS Operations by the nascent Syrian cyber warfare units on Reuters
  • Hezbollah’s attack in Bulgaria (bus bombing) in response to STUXNET and other machinations
  • Ostensible output of INTEL from Gauss that may have gotten HSBC in trouble and others to come (Terrorism funding and money laundering)

All in all though, I’d have to say that once the players become more sophisticated, we may in fact see some attacks against us that might work. Albeit those attacks will not be the “Cyber Pearl Harbor” that Dr. Cyberlove would like you to be afraid of. Politically too, there will be blowback from the Middle East now. I am sure that even after Wikileaks cables dump, the governments of the Med thought at least they could foresee what the US was up to and have a modicum of statecraft occur. Now though, I think we have pissed in the pool a bit too much and only have ourselves to blame with the shit hits the fan and we don’t have that many friends any more to rely on.

It’s a delicate balance.. #shutupeugene

Pandora’s Box Has Been Opened:

In the end, we have opened Pandora’s box and there is no way to get that which has escaped back into it. We have given the weapon framework away due to the nature of the carrier. Even if Gauss is encrypted, it will be broken and then what? Unlike traditional weapons that destroy themselves, the malware we have sent can be easily reverse engineered. It will give ideas to those wishing to create better versions and they will be turned on us in targeted and wide fashions to wreak as much digital havoc as possible. Unfortunately, you and I my friends are the collateral damage here, as we all depend on the systems that these types of malware insert themselves into and manipulate.

It is certainly evident as I stated above, our government here in the US is unable to come up with reasonable means to protect our systems. Systems that they do not own, Hell, the internet itself is not a government run or owned entity either, and yet they want to have an executive ability to shut it down? This alone shows you the problem of their thinking processes. They then decide to open the box and release the malware genie anyway… It’s all kind of scary when you think about it. If this is hard to concieve, lets put it in terms of biological weapons.. Weapons systems that have been banned since Nixon was in office.

The allusion should be quite easy to understand. Especially since malware was originally termed “Virus” There is a direct analogy there. Anyway, here’s the crux of it all. Just like bioweapons, digital “bioware” for lack of a better term, also cannot be controlled once let into the environment. Things mutate, whether at the hand of people or systems, things will not be contained within the intended victims. They will escape (as did all the malware we have seen) and will tend to have unforeseen consequences. God forbid we start really working on polymorphics again huh? If the circumstances are right, then, we could have a problem.

Will we eventually have to have another treaty ban on malware of this kind?

Time will tell.. Until then, we all will just be along for the cyberwar ride I guess. We seem to be steadily marching toward the “cyberwar” everyone is talking about… determined really to prosecute it… But will it get us anywhere?

K.

Attribution: Fingerprints vs. Ballistics and Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning

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The Problem

In the present day where the word “Cyberwar” is all the rage, and governments as well as private sector entities are seeking to cash in on the power grab that is mostly information warfare as the Chinese actually call it (信息战) too many are forgetting a core problem to the picture. This problem, is “attribution” as it has been termed in the community. To attribute an attack to an individual, government body, or group, is something that to date, has not been discussed as much as I would like to see with regards to all of the cyberwarfare talk as well as any other inferences with regard to forensics and geopolitical ascription to acts of “war” as this is has been labeled by this terrible terminology that we have latched onto.

Nomenclature aside, there are issues around trying to determine definitively where an attack has really come from because of the nature of computer systems, varying countries that they reside in, and the potential for the actor to be anyone from nation state to individuals of a collective privately, or a single determined individual. It is my contention that “attribution” can be very hard to prove in a court of law, never mind that a country may in fact be ready to wage war against another on the grounds of what is taken to be the truth of where an attack originated from and who the actors really were. There are too many variables that may never be one hundred percent certain to be basing any of these decisions on in my view, unless one has hacked back into the core final system that originated everything and that is rarely the case today.

So, where does this leave us? How do we even attempt to attribute an attack to any one person, government, or group? Can we ever be certain of any of this information? Can we base an aggressive action against a nation based on any of it?

Fingerprints and Ballistics

Some would approach the problem of attribution of digital attacks on the methodology that began the criminal forensics process we have today. Fingerprints were the first forensic model for determining who really may have created a crime if the evidence did not consist of an eye witness attesting to the fact that “they did it” Ballistics soon followed once guns began to have lans and grooves bored into the barrels to allow for more accuracy. Both of these examples leave telltale marks on the bullets or objects to determine which person or what gun were the arbiter of whatever crime was committed. Today though, we do not have the same narrow confines of data to examine as both of these examples allow for.

Code is the medium of today and while there are certain ways to tell if code was written in the style of a person or written on a particular computer, for the most part, these do not allow for absolute certitude as to who the actor was that created the code, nor for that matter, who used said code to effect an outcome (i.e. attacks on systems) conclusively. All one really has in most cases, are pieces of code, that, with the right coder, may in fact look like anothers, or, all attributions have been stripped from, or, lastly, copied directly from open sources and then tweaked. All of these scenarios allow for a great lassitude on determination conclusively on source or origin.

Digital Fingerprints 

With all that said, the digital fingerprints are there, and with luck someone can determine if the coder was sloppy and forgot something. Interestingly, much of this was out in the open and talked about with regard to the Stuxnet infections in Iran. Once the code was audited, there were many subtle clues as to who “may” have written, and in fact there were potential red herrings left in the code such as “mytrus” and other tidbits that may in fact just been placed there to mess with those seeking to perform forensics in hopes of finding out who did it. To date, many think that the US and the UK did the work, planned the operation, created the code, and implemented it, but, there is no conclusive proof of any of that is there?

Suffice to say, that everyone does make mistakes, but, with the right amount of diligence, it an adversary can make it incredibly hard code wise, to determine who did the writing. On the other side of the coin, the digital forensics arena also looks at the network and hardware side of the equation as well. Many attacks today are not directly coming from the home systems of the adversary, but instead they are coming from proxy machines that have either been rented or, more likely, hacked previously. This too can be heavily obfuscated and be something of a problem to gather information from if those systems reside in countries unfriendly to the attacked parties. One would likely have to hack into those already compromised systems and then attempt to gather intelligence as to where they were being controlled from and by. This is of course if the system wasn’t already burned or, as in many cases, the logging had all been removed and thus there were no logs to see.

From this perspective, yet again, there is a great amount of doubt that can be injected into the picture of just who attacked because of the nature of the technologies. Unless the systems are live, and in fact the adversary is either still using them or was exceedingly sloppy, it could be very hard to in fact prove conclusively any one actor or actors carried out and attack even from the digital forensics side of the house. This leaves us with a problem that we have to solve I think in order to truly be able to “attribute” an attack even tentatively to anyone. One cannot only rely on the technologies that are the medium of the attack, one must also use reasoning, psychology, and logic as well as whatever the forensics can allude to as to the attacker. This is very much akin to the process used by CIA analysts today and should be the SOP for anyone in this field, because the field is now truly global as well as has been brought into the nation state arena of espionage and terrorism, never mind actual warfare.

Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning

First off, I would like to address Inductive and Deductive reasoning in this effort as one of the precepts core to these attribution attempts. By using both of these in a rigorous manner, we can attempt to shake out the truths to situations that may in fact seem clear on the face of them, but, once looked into further may be discounted, or at the very least questioned. Much of this lately has been the hue and cry that APT (Advanced Persistent Threat’s) are all pretty much originating from China. While many attacks have in fact been attributed to China, the evidence has not always been plainly clear nor, in many cases, has the evidence been anywhere in the open due to classification by the government and military.

There are many “secret squirrels” out there and they all pretty much squeek “CHINA” all the time. Unhappily, or perhaps unfortunately, these same squirrels end up being the ones talking to the news media, and thus a juggernaut is born in the news cycle. It just so happens that there are many other nation states as well as other actors (private/corporate/individual) that may well be the culprits in many of the attacks we have seen over the years as well. Unfortunately, all too many times though, a flawed inductive or deductive process of determination has been employed by those seeking to lay the blame for attacks like ghostnet or ghost rat etc. Such flawed thought processes can be shown by examples like the following;

All of the swans we have seen are white, thus, All swans are white.

This has pretty much been the mindset in the public and other areas where attacks in the recent past have been concerned. The attacks on Google for instance were alleged to have come from China, no proof was ever really given publicly to back this up, but, since the media and Google said so, well, they came from China then.. Right? While the attack may have in fact come from China, there has been no solid evidence provided, but people are willing to make inductive leaps that this is indeed the truth of it and are willing to do so on other occasions where China may have had something to gain but proof is still lacking. The same can be said with the use of deductive reasoning as well. We can deduce from circumstances that something has happened and where it may have originated (re: hacking) but, without using both the inductive method as well as the deductive with evidence to back this up, you end up just putting yourselves in the cave with the elephant trunk.

Psychology and Victimology

Another part of the picture that I believe should be added to the investigative process on attacks such as these, is the use of psychology. By using the precepts of psychological profiling as well as victimology, one can take a peek into the motivations of the attacker as well as the stance of the victim that they attacked into account on the overall picture. It is important to know the victim, their habits, their nature, and background. These factors can often lead to insights into who the adversary may in fact be. While the victimology paints the picture of the victim, it also helps flesh out the motives and possible psychology of the aggressor as well.

Of course one need not be a board certified psychiatrist or psychologist to perform a vicimtology in the way that we need to within the confines of determining who may have hacked a client. Many pentester’s do this very thing (though perhaps not enough today it seems) by profiling their targets when they are preparing for a test scenario. The good ones also not only look at what the target does, but also how they do it. They also look at how things work logically, as well as every other aspect of the business to determine how best to attack and what would have the most effect to replicate what an attacker “could” do to them. This is a key also to determining who may have actually attacked as well as why they did and this leads to another part of the puzzle, that of motives.

In trying to determine who attacked one must look at the motives for the attack. These motives can also show you the lengths that the attacker was willing to take (i.e. creating custom code and other APT style attack vectors/methods) to effect their end state goal. If there seems to be no real reason for their attack, and they have not stated it in other ways (like Anonymous and their declarations of attacks) then we are left to come to grips with seeking the reasons as well as what they took/destroyed/manipulated in the end. It is important to look at the whole picture instead of focusing on the minutiae that we in the INFOSEC field often find ourselves looking at daily in these IR events.

Hannibal Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?

The Pitfalls of Attribution Theory

Another part of the picture that must also be assessed is that of the mindset of the assessor themselves. Today we seem to have quite the echo chamber going on with the likes of Beitlich and others concerning China and APT activities as I alluded to earlier. The media of course has amplified this problem threefold, but, the core problem is that we as investigators are sometimes easily tainted by the echo chamber. Thus I put it to you that the precept of “Attribution Theory” also play a key role in your assessments and that it can be a pitfall for you. In Attribution theory, one must also take into account such things as the motivations of the person doing the attributing. This means that even if you are a consultant in an IR, you too can allow your own leanings to sway your findings in such an endeavor as trying to determine who hacked whom with leading evidence but no definitive proof thereof.

Motives are key, motives of the assessor, motives of the victim, and motives of the adversary. One must take these all into account and be as impartial as possible and mindful of these things. It is my contention today, that all too often people are all too available to the idea that “China did it” is the go to assessment of a so called “APT” attack, especially so when APT is one of the most misused acronyms today in the information security field. It is just behind the term “Cyberwar” in my opinion in fact as one of the most misused and poorly constructed acronyms or terms for what is happening today.

In the end, one must take a step back and see the bigger picture as well as the minutiae that comprises its total while not being too easily swayed by our own bias or conditioning. I suggest you acquaint yourselves with these ideas and use them when involved in such cases where APT and Cyberwar are concerned.

There will Always Be “Reasonable Doubt”

In conclusion, I would like to assert that there will always be reasonable doubt in these cases. Given now that we are considering actions of war and legislation over attacks and counter attacks within the digital sphere, I would hope that those in government be made aware of the issues around attribution. I cannot conceive of going to war or launching missiles over a digital attack on some system somewhere. The only way I can see this actually becoming kinetic is if the attack is in tandem with boots on the ground or missiles fired from a distinct area of a foreign power. Unfortunately though, it seems of late, that governments are considering such actions as hacking the grid, as an acceptable trigger to kinetic response by the military. This for me is all the more scary given what I know about attribution and how hard it is in the digital world to determine who did what and when, never mind from where.

Presently I am working on a framework of this whole process model and will in the near future be presenting it as well as other aspects of determining the attribution of attacks on companies and systems at a conference in Ireland. It is my belief, with my partners in this presentation, that given more subtle cues of psychology, as well as sociological and historical inference, one can get a greater picture of the attacker as well as the motives for an attack if they are not openly stated by the aggressor. Of course none of this will eliminate “reasonable doubt” but, as CIA and other intelligence analysts have proven with such methodologies, one can make a more solid case by looking at all aspects surrounding a person, case, or incident to determine the truth.

K.

Written by Krypt3ia

2012/05/18 at 19:15

Rumblings On Stuxnet’s Potential for A Chernobyl Style Incident at Bushehr

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A source called me over the weekend and alluded to some intel concerning the Bushehr nuclear plant with regard to Stuxnet. Of course you all out there are probably sick of hearing about Stuxnet (especially the infosec/IW community) but, I thought this was interesting and should drop a post. My source says that certain people in the know are worried about the whole stuxnet operation from the point of view that it was released into systems that, to the creators of the operation, were not completely understood. That is to say that Iran, being as hard to get intel on, may have had configurations or issues that the creators and implementors of Stuxnet did not account for and could indeed have caused a larger catastrophe with the malware.

This is now making the rounds quietly in certain areas of the media, but, I want to call your attention to this article that I found on payvand.com. In it, a nuclear expert speaks about the potential for a nuclear accident due to the design specs of the reactor at Bushehr and the fact that the Russians reported that they were removing the nuclear material from the reactor recently.

From: Dr. Sadeq Rabbani, Former Deputy of the Nuclear Energy Organization

The Russians claim that they were obliged to remove the fuel from the Bushehr nuclear reactor in order to replace a part that was installed during the time the Germans were managing the construction of the plant. It should be noted that according to the contract with Russia for construction of the Bushehr plant, the Russians replaced all inner parts of the reactor and presented a new design. In the German model, a vertical design was used, but the Russians adopted the horizontal model. This means that the created problem was not related to the inner parts of the German-designed reactor.

So the Russians were paid for the construction of the Bushehr reactor and have also changed the design. Now the problem is whether the Russians were wrong in their design. It is unlikely that the Russians were wrong in their design, because this is not the first plant that they have constructed, and their experience is valuable.

There remains only the Stuxnet virus that Iran denies has been able to affect the Bushehr facilitates. So, if we assume that the Iranian authorities are right, the Russians are playing with us by delaying the launch of the Bushehr plant, and want to continue to delay launching it.

My source, who has connections with various people in the know, says that there is a higher potential that since the German design and build was overtaken by the Russians, that they may in fact have introduced flaws within the system that “could” lead to a Chernobyl style event if something like Stuxnet had infected other PLC systems. Of course this is a blanket concern with malware on the level of Stuxnet anyway is it not? Of course, Stuxnet was particularly targeted to the Siemens systems for enrichment but, there is always a chance of undesired effects to potentially other systems.

This is not to say that there have been or are other systems that have been compromised by Stuxnet… That we know of.

Ostensibly, Stuxnet was aimed at the weapons facilities but, one must not think that the weapons facilities and the nuclear power program were kept apart by a firewall, for the lack of a better term. I am willing to bet that the two are connected both semantically as well as functionally, and in that, the systems that play a key role may have too. IF Stuxnet travelled to the Bushehr systems, what ‘could’ be the import here? Just as well, what would the design of the reactor play as a part to hastening a large nuclear accident?

The article above goes on to say that Dr. Rabbani does not believe that the design and implementation of the Bushehr reactor is likely to cause an issue. Others though have been saying the opposite. Including my source. All that is really known at this point are the following things;

  • When Stuxnet hit Iran claimed that they were just fine! However, reports internally at the nuclear facilities and universities proved otherwise. That the malware was running rampant and they were trying and failing to exterminate it.
  • The design and implementation of the nuclear reactor had been started by the Germans (Siemens) and then stopped for many years. Then the Russians picked up where the Germans left off. It is possible that the design changes and or builds on to previous versions could have flaws in them that might make for vulnerabilities.
  • The Russians have removed the nuclear materials and the program is steadily losing ground to delay.

All in all, the unforeseen circumstances of malware like Stuxnet may indeed have caused issues at Bushehr, or, they could have been a calculated thing. Perhaps this is just Iran being careful out of paranoia as fallout from the incident. In either scenario, we win out in that the programs are being delayed. However, the worry that my source intoned was that they may not have considered the possibilities of collateral damage and just how bad they could be if the reactor had gone online and melted down. Of course, this is after seeing everything that is happening in Fukushima, so it’s on many minds.

My source went on to ask the question; “This would have to have a presidential order wouldn’t it as an operation?” The answer to that is yes. It is also quite likely that this operation was set forth by the previous administration (Bush) and, well, we know just how well thought out that presidency was huh? To my source, I say be careful in speaking about this. To all of you out there reading this I say keep your eyes peeled, there’s bound to be more fallout.

K.

Anonymous #HQ: Inside The Anonymous Secret War Room

with 7 comments

John Cook and Adrian Chen — Dissident members of the internet hacktivist group Anonymous, tired of what they call the mob’s “unpatriotic” ways, have provided law enforcement with chat logs of the group’s leadership planning crimes, as well as what they say are key members’ identities. They also gave them to us.

The chat logs, which cover several days in February immediately after the group hacked into internet security firm HBGary’s e-mail accounts, offer a fascinating look inside the hivemind’s organization and culture.

  • Sabu
  • Kayla
  • Laurelai,
  • Avunit,
  • Entropy,
  • Topiary,
  • Tflow
  • Marduk
  • Metric
  • A5h3r4

So, Hubris/A5h3r4/Metric have broken into the inner circle of at least one cell of Anonymous. I say cell because I do not think that these users are the actual full scale leaders of Anonymous, instead, as I have said before, there are cell’s of Anon’s that perform operations sporadically. These folks, if the chat transcripts are true, are the ones just behind the HBGary hack and at least one of them, with the Gawker hack.

Once again, I will reiterate here that I think Anonymous is more like a splinter cell operation than anything else. There is an aegis from the whole as an idea, but, they break off into packs for their personal attacks, or whatever turns them on. They coalesce into a unit when they feel moved to, but, they do not overall, just get together and act without direction on the part or parts of leaders.

The example below of the transcripts for #HQ show that these characters though, are a little high on themselves after the hack on HBG… And you know what happens when you don’t pay attention to the hubris factor. You get cocky and you get burned. As you can see below, some of them are at least nervous about being popped or infiltrated.. Those would be the smart ones…

04:44 <&Sabu> who the fuck wrote that doc
04:45 <&Sabu> remove that shit from existence
04:45 <&Sabu> first off there is no hierachy or leadership, and thus an operations manual is not needed

[snip]

04:46 <&Sabu> shit like this is where the feds will get american anons on rico act abuse and other organized crime laws
04:47 <@Laurelai> yeah well you could have done 100 times more effective shit with HBgary
04:47 <@Laurelai> gratted what we got was good
04:47 <&Sabu> if you’re so fucking talented why didn’t you root them yourselves?
04:47 <@Laurelai> but it could have been done alot better
04:47 <&Sabu> also we had a time restraint
04:48 <&Sabu> and as far as I know, considering I’m the one that did the op, I rooted their boxes, cracked their hashes, owned their emails and social engineered their admins in hours
04:48 <&Sabu> your manual is irrelevent.

[snip]

04:51 <&Sabu> ok who authored this ridiculous “OPERATIONS” doc?
04:51 <@Laurelai> look the guideline isnt for you
04:51 <&Sabu> because I’m about to start owning nigg3rs
04:51 <&marduk> authorized???
04:52 <@Laurelai> its just an idea to kick around
04:52 <@Laurelai> start talking
04:52 <&Sabu> for who? the feds?
04:52 <&marduk> its not any official doc, it is something that Laurelai wrote up.. and it is for.. others
04:52 <&marduk> on anonops
04:52 <&Sabu> rofl
04:52 <@Laurelai> just idea
04:52 <@Laurelai> ideas
04:52 <&Sabu> man
04:52 <&marduk> at least that is how i understand it
04:52 <@Laurelai> to talk over
04:53 <&Sabu> le sigh
04:53 <&marduk> mmmm why are we so in a bad mood?
04:53 <&Sabu> my nigga look at that doc
04:53 <&Sabu> and how ridiculous it is

[snip]

04:54 <&marduk> look, i think it was made with good intentions. and it is nothing you need to follow, if you dont like it, it is your good right
04:55 <&Sabu> no fuck that. its docs like this that WHEN LEAKED makes us look like an ORGANIZED CRIME ORGANIZATION

My observations though have always been that the groups would be infiltrated by someone and then outed. It seems that this may indeed be the case here if the data is indeed real. It seems to me that a certain j35t3r said much the same before, that he could and did indeed infiltrate the ranks, and had their data. Perhaps J has something to do with this? Perhaps not… Still, the principle is sound.

  1. Infiltrate
  2. Gather INTEL
  3. Create maps of connections
  4. Report

It would seem also that these guys are liminally aware of the fact that their actions can be seen as a conspiracy and that the government will not only get them on hacks potentially, but also use the conspiracy angle to effectively hogtie them in court. Let me tell you kids, there is no perfect hack… Well unless the target is so inept as to have absolutely no logging and does not even know for a very long time that they had been compromised.. Then the likelihood of being found out is slimmer, but, you guys popped and then outed HBG pretty darn quick.

I am willing to bet there are breadcrumbs.. And, those said breadcrumbs are being looked at by folks at some three letter agencies as I write this. You see kids, you pissed in the wrong pool when it comes to vindictiveness. I agree that HBG was up to bad shit and needed to be stopped, but, look at the types of things they were planning. Do you really think that they are above retaliation in other ways than just legal? After all, they were setting up their own digital plumbers division here huh?

Anyway… Just sayin…

Back on topic here with the Backtrace folks and the logs. I have looked at the screen names given and have come to the conclusion that they are all generic enough that I could not get a real lock on anything with Maltego. I had some interesting things pop up when you link them all together, but, overall not enough to do anything meaningful. The other issue is that Maltego, like any tool using search engines and data points, became clogged with new relational data from the articles going wide. I hate it when the data is muddied because of this.

So, yeah, these names are not unique enough to give solid hits. Others though who have been re-using nicks online as well as within the confines of Anonops, well that is another story. I just have this feeling that there are larger drift nets out there now hoovering all you say and do on those anon sites, even if they are in the .eu space. I still have to wonder if any of those IRC servers have been compromised yet by certain intelligence agencies.

One wonders too if China might also be playing in this area… How better to sow discontent and destabilize than to use a proxy like Anonymous for operations?

For that matter.. How about the CIA?

NSA?

Think on it… Wouldn’t Anonymous make a perfect false flag cover operation?

For now, I am going to sit and watch. I would like to see the full chat transcripts though. Now that would be interesting.

“May you live in interesting times”

Indeed.

K.

//SIGINT FOR ANALYSIS: DD0S: CHINA/S.KOREA/WORDPRESS “So Ronery”

with one comment

THREE stories in the news recently have me pondering the tit for tat nature of what may be Kim Jong Il’s mostly impotent attacks against the outside world. It would seem that Mr. “ronery” may have been a little miffed of late because South Korea decided to float balloons laden with leaflets over into the Northern side after the Middle East began to protest against repressive regimes.

I laughed til I cried when I saw this on the news, poor Kim Jung! What’s even more hilarious is that I have also heard that the South Koreans also put KJI’s image on the pamphlets because it is a crime to destroy or defile any image of the “dear leader” So, the North Koreans must have fits and starts when these balloons start coming down! Net net though, the information makes it to some in the closed country, and one hopes that they are seeing what is happening outside in the real world… At least a little.

Post the balloon launches (Feb 25 2011) we are now seeing some interesting things happening on the internet that may in fact be KJI and North Korea acting out against everyone, especially the South Koreans. Both attacks on the face of it, may not be related, however with a closer look one may see that they could very well be related;

WordPress traces 2nd DDoS assault to China

Shock

By John Leyden

Posted in Enterprise Security7th March 2011 12:27 GMT

Free whitepaper – The Register Guide to Enterprise Virtualization

Blogging service WordPress suffered a further series of denial of service assaults on Friday, days after recovering from a particularly debilitating attack.

WordPress.com, which serves 18 million sites, traced the vast majority of the attack traffic of the latest assault back to China. Analysis pointed to a Chinese language site as one of the principal targets of the attack.

This as-yet-unnamed site is blocked by Chinese search engine Baidu, prompting speculation that the attack might be politically motivated. However, a closer inspection of events led WordPress to conclude that commercial motives were probably behind the attack, TechCrunch reports [1].

Separately the French finance ministry has admitted that it came under a sustained and targeted attack in December, targeting files related to the G20 summit that took place in Paris two months later. More than 150 computers at the ministry were affected, the BBC reports [2].

Paris Match magazine, which broke the story, quotes an anonymous official who told it: “We noted that a certain amount of the information was redirected to Chinese sites. But that [in itself] does not say very much.” ®

Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/07/wordpress_ddos_reloaded/

South Korea Probes Internet, GPS Disruptions

South Korea is investigating the latest high-technology assault against it. The attack targeted government computers and users of the GPS navigation system. It came as South Korea and the United States hold an annual military exercise that North Korea calls a prelude to an invasion.

Fifteen million South Koreans logging online Monday received an alert from the country’s Internet Security Agency. It instructed them to download a vaccine program to thwart a foreign online attack against Web sites of key government agencies and financial institutions.

Officials Monday said the government is trying to figure out who ordered the attack on the Internet sites last Friday and Saturday. Targets included the presidential Blue House, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the National Intelligence Service, South Korean military headquarters, the U.S. military forces in the country and several other agencies.

They were hit by what is known as a distributed denial of service attack. It was done by overloading targeted sites with Web page requests from about 80,000 personal computers infected with malicious software.

Suspicion as to who masterminded the attack falls on North Korea. But Park Kun-woo, a spokesman at Ahn Lab, a leading South Korean maker of security software, says there is no clear evidence Pyongyang orchestrated this one.

Park says nothing is certain at this point because malicious computer hackers tend to disguise themselves in various ways. It is clear, he says, however the attack did not originate in South Korea and was dispersed via a number of countries.

The National Police Agency says the attacks were routed through computer servers in numerous places, including Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, Russia, Taiwan and Thailand.

Internet security companies say, as of Monday, more than 100 of the so-called zombie computers that were used to carry out the online attack have seen the contents of their hard drives erased by the malware that the computer owners unsuspectingly downloaded.

This incident did not last as long as a similar disruption over five days in July 2009, but it targeted more Web sites. Officials have said the 2009 attack was traced to an Internet protocol address in China used by North Korea’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

Other attacks also have been traced to China.

Experts say North Korea has an Internet warfare unit that targets South Korean and American military networks.

Also Monday, the South Korea Communications Commission confirmed that interference to Global Position System signals on Friday came from a location in North Korea that was pinpointed as the source of a similar disruption last August.

The incident reportedly affected GPS receivers in military equipment and mobile phones as far south as Seoul. It also took place, as was the case last August, while a military exercise with the United States was under way here.

The U.S. military command in the country is not confirming whether the GPS jamming disrupted the exercise. A spokesman says as a matter of policy, the command does not comment on intelligence matters.

The Yonhap news agency quotes a South Korean defense official saying the GPS disruption did have a slight effect on military artillery units.

Now, WordPress was attacked around the same time as the South Korea attacks. However, the linking factors for me are twofold:

1) Both have Chinese elements

2) Both are aimed at political targets (wordpress has said that there seemed to be a foreign political nature in the attacks)

While N. Korea does not have an infrastructure in house to set off attacks, they do indeed have connections with China and certain Chinese telco/internet backbone providers that they have worked with in the past on such occasions. While the attacks seem to be a bit more wide spread as attacking systems go, both would be timed in such a way that tips me to believe both are the work of North Korea. So far, no one has really made this connection that I have seen in the news as yet, but, it’s not such an outlandish idea.

Now, KJi has nukes, and he has all kinds of other weapons of war, but, he seems to be lacking in one area, “cyber” as the press might put it. Since his regime is SO repressive that they have no infrastructure, it is likely that any such programs would be run out of the south of China. North Korea likely has many programmers/military types working in the south China area at facilities that are Chinese run working on cyber war capabilities. Were N. Korea actually to get its own infrastructure I have no doubt they would be read to go. That they don’t at present is only a small stumbling block.

It is also well known that the Chinese and others will easily rent out bot-nets for the work as well as be paid for information/cyber operations of this nature. So, the attacks are really only cogently linked together here from their connections to pissing off N. Korea. Frankly, I am kinda surprised the attacks didn’t also have some Facebook DD0S as well…

All in all though, the DD0S did not do permanent damage anywhere and for me, just seem to be more a cry for attention on the part of Mr. Ronery…

Sad panda.

K

Abo Yahya and Metadata Cleaning

with one comment

I recently came across the site above through some searches and I have to say that it kind of surprised me as to the contents sophistication in the hacking/security area. This Abo Yahya is adept at understanding the security intricacies needed to prevent easy detection online (using TOR) and seems quite plugged into the hacker community with videos from a European hacker conference to boot. What really struck me though is the above picture where Abo talks about the metadata problem and how it was used to capture Dennis Raider.

Abo goes on to talk about a script to remove the data from word docs as well, which I guess has been on the minds of some and has been used in tracking the files that the jihadi’s are making. One wonders if the doc files are the only ones he (Abo) has worked out or have they done so with say PDF files? All I know is that there are many more files than just doc files out there that can be used to track you all. However, there is much more to learn isn’t there? Now it seems that Abo and Song of Terror have plans to teach the ways of hacking and information security.

The site goes on to show tutorials in linux command line as well as the flavors of Linux including video tutorials. It would seem that they have been paying attention quite well to the security communities posts and chatter about how to be secure online. Abo also brings out the old jihadi crypto program (mujahideen secrets 2.0) and does a little how to on encrypting all their transmissions. All of these files and programs including a tutorial sweet by GIMF are available for download in various places.. All of which I assume, will give us all the chance to check the metadata and see what they might offer in leads as to who made them.

Meanwhile, there was an interesting little passage below Song of Terror’s video on Linux basics…

Peace be upon you and God’s mercy and blessings be upon you

After reading the topic to Brother, “the grandson of bin Laden,” may God preserve him for a script Rapidleech
The fact was the subject of a great and a quantum leap in the world of Jihad in the era of fighting jihad
In squares, in particular the field of media jihad there is no secret to you delete thousands of links to movies jihadist pretext of combatting terrorism. Here, a modest contribution to me for how to publish links rapidly and participation comes after reading the topic to Brother, “the grandson of Bin Laden,” more than once since the beginning has not sunk in but please God I understand that after you apply some examples so I would recommend reading the first issue of the brother by watching this video

So, Bin Laden’s grandson called all of this a quantum leap in jihad huh? Well, in a sense it is really.. They are learning…. However, just how much can they learn and does anyone really think that they can be as “secure” as they need to be to not get popped? I mean, with all the warning and hand wringing that we in the security community do about the lack of security in the general populace, just how much actually works? All too often the security is lacking in all quarters and I am sure that these guys too will also fail when it comes right down to it.

… And in the case of Abo.. I already know who he is in real life I think… And where he lives… How you ask?

Metadata.

So, what I have learned from this site is that there are certain factions that are more learned about hacking and security. They are now making inroads into the jihadi forums and in fact, this site is directly linked to the alfaloja boys. The very same site that was hacked and brought down by CAUI efforts on the part of certain governments. I guess they took from the incident a certain fear of being popped and recruited more people with the help of Song Of Terror I assume. Of course though, just as the security community posts things or creates software/hacks and releases them, they only serve to allow for follow up and obfuscation due to it being in the open. In the case of this site and others that are showing how to hack, we too now know exactly what they are up to and how we can turn that around on them.

Additionally, one of the nice tasty bits that Abo left for me was a hash for mujahideen secrets:

15738D22AC6EACF1F54CC155BDE72D368F81AB2525DD2F64733A36E31D8B137E

Which I put into Maltego and began some searches…

I have to do some more tweaks to searches with Maltego here, but, you can see where this program is being mentioned, served out, and talked about. All of these sites make nice launch points with Maltego and some Googling to further explore who is using it… If I can’t read what you’re saying kids, I can at least know WHO YOU ARE. Funny how those little features that make something more secure can be used against you huh?

Anyway, for those interested.. Here is the data using Maltego on the site and its connections. Maktoobblog is a Yahoo site and this particular one is out of the UK. Perhaps soon Yahoo will get wise to the site…

I see you Abo…

inetnum:        77.238.160.0 - 77.238.191.255 org:            ORG-YE1-RIPE netname:        UK-YAHOO-20070216 descr:          Yahoo! Europe country:        GB admin-c:        KW3969-RIPE tech-c:         KW3969-RIPE status:         ALLOCATED PA mnt-by:         RIPE-NCC-HM-MNT mnt-lower:      YAHOO-MNT mnt-routes:     YAHOO-MNT mnt-domains:    YAHOO-MNT source:         RIPE # Filtered organisation:   ORG-YE1-RIPE org-name:       Yahoo! Europe org-type:       LIR address:        Yahoo! UK Ltd 125 Shaftesbury Avenue London WC2H 8AD London United Kingdom phone:          +44 207 131 1495 fax-no:         +44 207 131 1213 e-mail:         kwoods@uk.yahoo-inc.com admin-c:        DR2790-RIPE admin-c:        IG1154-RIPE admin-c:        NA1231-RIPE mnt-ref:        YAHOO-MNT mnt-ref:        RIPE-NCC-HM-MNT mnt-by:         RIPE-NCC-HM-MNT source:         RIPE # Filtered person:         Kerry Woods address:        125 Shaftesbury Avenue address:        London address:        WC2H 8AD phone:          +44 020 7131 1000 fax-no:         +44 020 7131 1213 e-mail:         kwoods@uk.yahoo-inc.com nic-hdl:        KW3969-RIPE mnt-by:         YAHOO-MNT source:         RIPE # Filtered

Follow The Email

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As you all know, I have been using Maltego for some time now but I thought that I would just drop a dime on how I do love the connections it can make for you when you are using it for intelligence gathering. With the new V3 Maltego (CE) you have a lot more latitude in data connections and in making ties between entities or in this case emails from entities, to make a more coherent patter emerge. In the case above, you are looking at the root address I started with. tough13_sam@hotmail.com is an old address for Samir Khan, the alleged “creative director” if you want to go all advertising speak, for the Inspire jihad magazine that came out in May/June.

By using Maltego and Google searches I was able to harvest not only the main email that he was using for his now defunct site “inshallahshaheed.wordpress.com” which is, “inshallahshaheed@gmail.com” but also other interesting tidbits like a xanga account on which he mentions his AIM account as well. Though most of the data that is able to be gathered is older 2004-2008 area, it still can be useful in the context of mapping jihad, or at the very least, mapping out just what social connections he had before going underground (aka heading off to Yemmen to head up Al Malahem) Using the Maltego tailored to just look for email connections to and from, you can get a good idea of not only where he was posting online during that time, but also with whom he was talking to potentially.

Many of the email addresses that came up with this search were also posters to a muslim bulletin board islam.tc. So, they are good hits on my scale of probability that they had traffic with Samir. Now, it would be interesting to follow through further and spike out all the connections for each email. This would make for some HUGE maltego maps, but I would hazard a guess that you would begin to see a pattern in the traffic to specific sites and of course patterns of behavior between individuals. Quite interesting…

Reminds one of a certain Gibson novel doesn’t it?

Anyway, by using this tool you can get a sense of your targets behavior and analyze the traffic that can be found between sites and parties. By looking at the macro-verse view you can see just how these sites and people are connected and in the micro view, you can get details of site domains, users, and other pertinent data that you can use to get a quite full picture of the inner workings of online jihad. However, just on the macro side of gathering email addresses that have had connections between them, you can start to give law enforcement a picture that they can use to start connecting the dots.

In the case of ol’ Sammy, it seems that after his sites kept getting knocked offline (inshallahshaheed was one I reported to Google about 2 years ago) he finally wised up and stopped posting so openly. He then went off to Yemmen to head up their media department is what I am hearing. So just where he is online now is a mystery. It is likely though that he is still posting online to boards and working on sites like al-faloja or ansaaar.com, all of whom now are taking more care about being secure.

Another tact I took the other day was to use the “phrase” search of Maltego and put in the sig for Majahden 2.0, the encryption program that the jihadi’s have been using to encrypt email/comms. This turned up quite a bit of traffic between parties when using the “entities” search parameter.

This initial search has given me a group of users to target from there to get email addresses from and any and all data I can from this tool. Rather nice really. So at least if you can’t read what they are writing, you can at least see that they are using the program and who they are conversing with! Of course there is a lot of data to sift and this can be a rather manual process in tracking down leads, but, at least this is targeted research as opposed to trying to read all of their comm’s on the bulletin boards and make connections.

I just wish this program weren’t so dang expensive…

CoB