Archive for the ‘Disinformation’ Category
All of the hand wringing and whinge-ing over the possibility that Russia has hacked our completely insecure election systems has my bile up… Well that and it seems I am lactose intolerant and ate whole ice cream last night. Anyway, back to INFLUENCE OPS and their use globally. The article above from the Boston Globe really set me off this weekend. All of these guys in the corridors of power all hand wringing over the possible fact that Russia has been messing with our political process makes me want to fly to Washington and bitch slap people. This type of activity has been going on forever and it is not just Russia pulling these strings even today. If you take a look at the actual history of the world you will see many players playing the same games with or without the benefit of Wikileaks and computers both then and now. This is not new people and for fucks sake wake up and realize that the US playing the “hurt” card in this game is really quite absurd in the grand scheme of things.
Now once you have taken a little trip down history lane with those links I just provided, then I want to ruminate on the whole problem today of the hacks on our democratic systems. See, as a former pentester and now a blue team guy I often ran into places that just did not have a clue about security. Still today there are many places that are very clue free and that also includes our government and those bodies that comprise our election systems. Seriously? Seriously those election systems were not even being monitored? You are shitting me right that the alleged Russian hackers used Acunetix to scan and then just SQLi dumped shit right? …
And no one saw a god damned thing…
It’s hardly INFLUENCE OPS when all you need to do is run a shitty tool and just take what you want with a script kids. So really, stop with the hurt and surprised bullshit Congressman and Senators alike! Put on your big boy and big girl pants and get the fuck over the fact that someone would have the audacity to fuck with our already fucked up election cycle anyway! As to Putin’s comment on the subject recently ‘‘It doesn’t really matter who hacked this data from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign headquarters,’’ I agree, it doesn’t really matter because the fact of the matter here is that her actions alone concerning the BleachBit of her server days after it’s public disclosure should be enough to show us all just what fuckery is afoot without Russian intervention to begin with. What the paradigm change here is is that we now don’t have to send plumbers to Watergate’s to break into file cabinets to get the data. All one needs to do now is fucking Acunetix an IP and then run SQLi map to fuck with a national election and that is just fucking sad.
At the end of the day I for one don’t care who hacked the shit, what I care about is that there is enough evidence to show that even with out information/influence operations that there’s some crooked shit going on. The problem is that this is the default state of our governance and election system so one tends to just become complacent about it. The hack on the election here and now, with the fate of the world in the balance so to speak, with Führer Trump or Grandma Nixon only makes it all the more piquant for the hungry news media but in the end means a choice between two terrible shit sandwiches to those paying attention here.
We are all fucked either way.
The Panopticon and Testbed
Recent stories online have got me to thinking again about the internet and it’s effects on just about everything. Specifically though of late the idea of how the internet is being used in efforts of control and observation of course have been at the forefront of my mind. Since the revelations of “Snowman” came out just about everyone has had to face the facts that I and many others were saying all along, primarily this; “The internet is a massive and accessible form of control” We are living digitally in a panopticon.
For a long time after the revelation that the MAE West was split and a NARUS STA6400 was placed inline, I have been saying that we all were being surveiled in a driftnet approach to intelligence collection. Some considered me a tinfoil hatter but the reality is that the government has long been using the net as a means of intelligence gathering. Now though there has been a paradigm shift from not only using the internet as a means of surveillance but also as a means of control over the populace.
One way of controlling a populace is with the use of disinformation. What got me thinking about this though today was an article about how the recent online threats made by alleged hackers against Emma Watson turns out to maybe be a marketing stunt. Evidently a site was set up with a countdown to the release of nudes like those recently dropped by hackers in the “Fappening” The twist here is that in the end the site was just a shill to manipulate people by clickbaiting them and then using that traffic to make money possibly off of ads. There may be other designs behind this site and hoax but it sets a precedent that people should be paying attention to.
In the world of APT (Advanced Persistent Threats) and SE (Social Engineering) this is a common tactic. You bait the user with something that they just have to see and get them to click on something to infect themselves whether that be a file or a website or a link to one. This particular incident is in fact a form of disinformation just like the tweets coming out of ISIS/L trying to scare people into actions or behaviours. In this case the behaviour or action served the purposes of the creators to potentially make quite a bit of money from traffic to a particular site. In other instances this can lead to the compromise of corporations, governments, and end users to steal data such as confidential information or credit cards.
On a grander scheme though you can see the geopolitical actions of disinformation at play with every nation that has available internet access. If you look at the twitter streams and pages of Russia you can see manipulation going on in such cases as the last ill fated Malaysian airliner that was shot from the sky. In fact, the Russians have a very active online Trolling campaign that they use to manipulate people that sometimes is poor enough to just see right through. In other instances the information that is being used is not so easily determined to be skewed or false.
Now consider the whole debate over climate change. Take a look at the “Climategate” incident as well as all of the players involved both government and corporate that have had their hands in the manipulation of public opinion. It’s not just governmental and not just criminal but now a common practice of corporations and I would say has been so since the invention of Advertising and the primacy of Madison Avenue. I suggest you all go watch Mad Men again but not just to watch the unspooling of Don Draper’s life but how the advertising business works.
PSYOPS on the other hand were more military in origin but then the age of Advertising came along again and started using their precepts as well. In the case of PSYOPS online they are often used by military and government but never count the corporate entities out of the game. Recently it came to light that Facebook carried out some manipulation of it’s users in a program that wanted to see just how much they could change their moods. This experiment was also alleged to be affiliated with the military as well due to funding so you can start to see how it’s a win/win for Zuck right? Manipulate your user base to get them to be pliant and click on ads all the while being a potential pawn in a larger war for hearts and minds for the military?
As I mentioned above this type of warfare is being carried out on Twitter by the likes of ISIS/L as well as the USA. In the case of the US they are trying to troll ISIS and their possible base into “Turning Away” from radical jihad. With both of these cases you can see just how ISIS does this a lot better than the US. However, I would then point you to the chickenhawks all on Fox and other news sources decrying that ISIS is a fundamental threat to the US. Unless you pay attention and do the due diligence reading you may miss that the Pentagon says that ISIS is not as much of a threat to the US (via terrorism) than the current Khorasan group that is an AQ offshoot.
It’s easy to lose the truth between all of the shouting here online and off. Just how much is PSYOP to get a groundswell of support from the likes of the populace and their representatives in Congress is anybodies guess. I for one though think that there is a lot of this going on but too many people focus on the governmental and should start thinking about corporations that now feel empowered to carry out these kinds of campaigns because they have the money and the will to do so.
*cough BIG TOBACCO and OIL cough*
The New (old) Dystopia:
So what it all comes down to for me is that we all need to be more mindful of this kind of manipulation. Remember too that it was the likes of HB Gary that were offering platforms to automatically manipulate people via social media for intelligence gathering as well as other desired effects. The dystopia kids isn’t just from surveillance but also PSYOPS and DISINFORMATION that manipulates people into actions desired by those carrying them out. In the case of the 4chan hating alleged hackers of Emma Watson’s pictures? Well, I am sure there’s a bank account somewhere with more money in it. I also can assume that there are some people having a real laugh about it as well. What’s more, these people also are feeling very smug because they got all of you to click on a link and do the work for them.
Just remember to vet what you read kids and be mindful that the internet is an open forum to manipulate you as well as your traffic.
gaiuaim ioi dui pln!
The “Darknets” You’ve all heard of them. Some of you out there may have traversed their labyrinthine back alleys. However, have you ever thought that someday the darknet would be just as legitimate as the “clearnet” is today? With the recent bust of DPR and the Silk Road there has once again been great interest in the “Deep Web” and this interest was sparked once again for me too. It seems that the darknet is the new black once again and people are flocking to it just like onlookers at a traffic accident. Others though seem to be aiming to use the darknet technology (TOR and hidden services) to support free speech and to pass information as a legitimate whistle blower.
Still Mos Eisley but….
I loaded up TOR & Tails and took a trip once again into the digital Mos Eisley. It is still dark and full of crazy things and if you go there you too will see black market items, services like Assassinations for Bitcoins, and run of the mill blogs. You can (allegedly) buy just about any kind of drug in quantity just as easily as buying/mining bitcoins and paying for your drugs with them. All anonymously (once again allegedly as you can see from the DPR fiasco) via the Onion hidden services and backed by other services from anonymous email on TOR to bitcoin exchanges. However one can now see other sites out there that aren’t so black market oriented as well.
One such site is pictured above. The New Yorker decided post Ed Snowden’s revelations, that it was a good idea to put their new “secure dropbox” on the hidden services. This is a legit site that has been talked about on the clearnet as well as in the media a couple months ago. This is one of the first more legit sites I have seen out there that is offering a secure means to talk to reporters using the security that others on the darknets are using to carry out illegal activities. I have yet to really look at the site’s security but overall I see this one site being the key to showing others out there how the darknet can be used for something other than crime. Of course then again, if you ask the Obama Administration even this site could be considered illegal or an accessory to illegal leaking I guess. It’s really a matter of perspective.
So what about other sites? What would you out there use the darknet for that is not “illicit” but requires some security and anonymity? I can foresee other sites popping up perhaps in the arena of free speech or even political movements that might like this model to pass their ideals on. I honestly think this is a turning point for the darknet. Of course this is all predicated on the darknet being “secure” after the revelations from the Snowden Archive of late. It seems the NSA is really trying pretty hard to de-anonymize anyone they want to and would love to have it just not anonymous at all. Well, let me re-phrase that.. Have them THINK it’s anonymous while it is not so much to the NSA.
Other sites out there include an online Koran as well as all kinds of other non criminal sites that are.. Well.. Kinda goofy or fringe. I think that perhaps now things might shift as the technology becomes easier to manage making it easier with global connectivity for us all to hang up a shingle in the darknet.
Time will tell though I guess…
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Face it.. We are all PWND six ways to Sunday
Every frigging day we hear more and more about how the NSA has been emptying our lives of privacy and subverting the laws of this land and others with their machinations. It’s true, and I have been saying as much since the day Mr. Klein came out of his telco closet and talked about how the NARUS system had been plugged into the MAE West back in the day. We are all well and truly fucked if we want any kind of privacy today kids and we all need to just sit back and think about that.
*ponder ponder ponder*
Ok, I have thought about it and I have tried to think of any way to protect myself from the encroachment of the NSA and all the big and little sisters out there. I am absolutely flummoxed to come up with any cogent means to really and truly protect my communications. Short of having access to the NSA supercloud and some cryptographers I don’t think that we will not truly have any privacy anymore. If you place it on the net, or in the air. We have reached in my opinion the very real possibility of the N-Dystopia I have talked about before in the Great Cyber Game post.
As the pundits like Schneier and others groan on and on about how the NSA is doing all of this to us all I have increasingly felt the 5 stages of grief. I had the disbelief (ok not completely as you all know but the scope was incredible at each revelation) Then the anger came and washed over me, waves and waves of it as I saw the breadth and scope of the abuse. Soon though that anger went away and I was then feeling the bargaining phase begin. I started to bargain in my head with ideas that I could in fact create my own privacy with crypto and other OPSEC means. I thought I could just deny the government the data. I soon though began to understand that no matter what I did with the tools out there that it was likely they had already been back door’d. This came to be more than the case once the stories came out around how the NSA had been pressuring all kinds of tech companies to weaken standards or even build full back doors into their products under the guise of “National Security”
Over time the revelations have all lead to the inescapable truth that there is nothing really anyone can do to stop the nation state from mining our communications on a technological level. Once that had fully set in my mind the depression kicked in. Of late I have been more quiet online and more depressed about our current state as well as our future state with regard to surveillance and the cyberwarz. I came to the conclusion that no matter the railing and screaming I might do it would mean nothing to the rapidly approaching cyberpocalypse of our own creation arriving. ….In short, we can’t stop it and thus the last of the five stages for me has set in. I accept that there is nothing I can do, nay, nothing “we” can do to stop this short of a bloody coup on the government at large.
I now luxuriate in my apathy and were I to really care any more I would lose my fucking mind.
OPSEC! OPSEC! OPSEC!
Speaking of losing one’s mind.. Lately people all have been yelling that OPSEC is the only way! One (the gruqq) has been touting this and all kinds of counterintelligence as the panacea for the masses on these issues. Well, why? Why should we all have to be spies to just have a little privacy in our lives huh? I mean it’s one thing to be a shithead and just share every fucking stupid idea you have on FriendFace and Tweeter but really, if you can’t shut yourself up that is your problem right? No, I speak of the every day email to your mom telling her about your health status or maybe your decision to come out etc. Why should the government have the eminent domain digitally to look at all that shit now or later?
If you take measures to protect these transactions and those measures are already compromised by the government why then should you even attempt to protect them with overburdened measures such as OPSEC huh? I mean, really if you are that worried about that shit then go talk to someone personally huh? I know, quite the defeatist attitude I have there huh? The reality is that even though I claim not to be caring about it (re: apathy above) I actually do but I realize that we no longer have privacy even if we try to create it for ourselves with technical means. If the gov wants to see your shit they will make a way to do so without your knowing about it. I fully expect someday that they will just claim eminent domain over the internet completely.
Fuck OPSEC.. I want my government to do the right thing and not try to hide all their skirting of the law by making it classified and sending me an NSL that threatens to put me in jail for breaking the law.
Fuck this shit.
Then we have the CYBERWARZ!! Oh yeah, the gubment, the military, and the private sector all have the CYBERWARZ fever. I cannot tell you how sick of that bullshit I am really. I am tired of all the hype and misdirection. Let me clear this up for you all right here and right now. THERE IS NO CYBERWAR! There is only snake oil and espionage. UNTIL such time as there is a full out kinetic war going on where systems have been destroyed or compromised just before tanks roll in or nukes hit us there is no cyberwar to speak of. There is only TALK OF cyber war.. Well more like masturbatory fantasies by the likes of Beitlich et al in reality. So back the fuck off of this shit mmkay? We do not live in the world of William Gibson and NO you are not Johnny Mnemonic ok!
Sick. And. Tired.
I really feel like that Shatner skit where he tells the Trekkies to get a life…
Awaiting the DERPOCALYPSE
All that is left for us all now is the DERPOCALYPSE. This is the end state of INFOSEC to me. We are all going to be co-opted into the cyberwarz and the privacy wars and none of us have a snowball’s chance in hell of doing anything productive with our lives. Some of us are breaking things because we love it. Others are trying to protect “ALL THE THINGS” from the breakers and the people who take their ideas and technologies and begin breaking all those things. It’s a vicious cycle of derp that really has no end. It’s an ouroboros of fail.
RAGE! RAGE! AGAINST THE DYING OF THE PRIVACY! is a nice sentiment but in reality we have no way to completely stop the juggernaut of the NSA and the government kids. We are all just pawns in a larger geopolitical game and we have to accept this. If we choose not to, and many have, then I suggest you gird your loins for the inevitable kick in the balls that you will receive from the government eventually. The same applies for all those companies out there aiding the government in their quest for the panopticon or the cyberwarz. Money talks and there is so much of it in this industry now that there is little to stop it’s abuse as well.
We are well and truly fucked.
So, if you too are feeling burned out by all of this take heart gentle reader. All you need do is just not care anymore. Come, join me in the pool of acceptance. Would you care for a lotus blossom perhaps? It’s all good once you have accepted the truth that there is nothing you can do and that if you do things that might secure you then you are now more of a target. So, do nothing…
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par·a·noi·anoun1.Psychiatry. a mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personalconflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing todisturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission.2.baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others.Also, par·a·noe·a [par-uh-nee-uh] Show IPA .Origin:
1805–15; < Neo-Latin < Greek paránoia madness. See para-, nous, -ia
Paranoia , the Anonymous intelligence division (self described) published a dump of data ostensibly taken from Bank of America and TEK Systems last week. The information presented seems to show that BofA had contracted with TEK to create an ad hoc “Threat Intelligence” unit around the time of the LulzSec debacle. Of course since the compromise of HB Gary Federal and the revelations that BofA had been pitched by them to do some contract work in the disinformation business it only makes sense that BofA would set up a threat intel unit. The information from the HB Gary dumps seemed to allude to the fact that BofA was actively looking to carry out such plans against those they perceived as threats. Anons out there took great umbrage and thus BofA was concerned.
This blog post is being put together to analyze the data dumped by Anonymous and to give some perspective on what BofA may have been up to and to set some things straight on the meanings of the data presented by Paranoia. First off though I would like to just say that I think that generally BofA was being handed lackluster threat intel by a group of people with intelligence background. (for those names located in the dumps their LinkedIN pages showed former mil intel work) This of course is an opinion formed solely from the content that was available online. There may have been much more context in formal reports that may have been generated by the analysts elsewhere that was not open for the taking where Anon found this dump. The daily and monthly reports found in the database showed some analysis but generally gave rough OSINT reports from online chat logs, news reports, and pastebin postings. There seemed to be a general lack of product here and as such I have to wonder if there ever was or if perhaps those reports never made it to the internet accessible server that anonymous downloaded them from.
B of A’s THREAT INTELLIGENCE TEAM
Since the leak of their threat intelligence BofA has been recruiting for a real team it seems. A Google of the parameters show that they have a bunch of openings all over the place for “Threat Assessment” It makes sense since the TEK Systems team may in fact be mostly defunct but also that they likely would want an in house group and not have to pay overhead on consultants to do the work for them. TEK’s crew as well may have been the problem that caused the leak in the first place by placing the data in an accessible area of a web-server or having passed the data to someone who did not take care of it. Either way it looks as though BofA is seeking to create their own intelligence apparatus much as many other corporate entities are today. The big difference though is what exactly is their directive as a group is to be.
One of the problems I have with the Paranoia analysis is that they take it to the conspiratorial level and make it out to be some pseudo CIA like entity. The reality though is that from what has been shown in the documents provided, that this group really was only tasked with OSINT and threat intelligence by passive listening. This is a key difference from disinformation operations and active participation or recruiting of assets. I will cover this in more detail further on in this post so suffice to say that what BofA was doing here was not only mediocre but also not Machiavellian in nature. The argument can be made though that we don’t know the whole picture and I am sure Paranoia and Anonymous are leaning that way. I cannot with what I have seen so far. What I see is an ad hoc group of contractors trying to create an intelligence wing as a defensive maneuver to try and stay ahead of incidents if not deal with them more effectively should they not be able to stop them.
Nothing more.. Nothing less.
Threat Intelligence vs. Analysis and Product
All of this talk though should be based on a good understanding of what intelligence gathering really is. There are many variations on intelligence tasks and in this case what is clearly seen in the emails and documents is that this group was designated as a “Threat Intelligence” collection group. I have written in the past about “Threat Intelligence” and the misnomer many have on the idea that it is some arcane CIA like pursuit. One of the bigger problems overall is perception and reporting where intelligence gathering is concerned. Basically in today’s parlance much of the threat intelligence out there in INFOSEC is more around malware variants, their C&C’s and perhaps who are running them. With the advent of APT actors as well as criminal activity and entities like Anonymous the paradigm of threat intelligence has come full circle back to the old school idea of what it is from the military sphere of operations.
Today’s threat intelligence is not only technical but also human action driven and this makes it even more important to carry out the collection and analysis properly in order to provide your client with the information to make their decisions with. Unfortunately in the case of the data from BofA we see only sketchy outlines of what is being pasted online, what may be being said in IRC sessions, and what is in the news. Nothing overly direct came from any of the data that I saw and as “product” I would not be able to make much of any decisions from what was presented by TEK Systems people. What is really missing within the dump from Paranoia was any kind of finished analysis product tying together the information in a cogent way for the executives at BofA. Did TEK actually carry this type of activity out? Were there actual reports that the execs were reading that would help in understanding the contents of the raw intelligence that was being passed on in emails daily and monthly? I cannot say for sure. What I did see in the reporting (daily threat reports as well as monthly) were some ancillary comments by a few of the analysts but nothing overly structured or productive. I really would like to know if they had more of an apparatus going on here as well as if they plan on creating one again with all of the advertised positions in that Google search above.
Threat Intelligence vs. HUMINT
This brings me to the whole issue of Threat Intel vs. HUMINT. It would seem that Paranoia thinks that there is much more than meets the eye within the dump that makes them intone that there is a HUMINT (Human Intelligence) portion to the BofA program. While there may well be some of that going on it was not evident from any of the documents I looked at within the dump files. HUMINT would imply that there are active participants of the program out there interacting with the targets trying to recruit them or elicit information from them. With that kind of activity comes all of the things one might conjure up in their heads when they think on NOC (Non Operational Cover) officers in the CIA trying to harvest intelligence from sources (assets) in the field. From everything seen that was posted by Paranoia this is not the case.This operation was completely passive and just collecting data that was in public view aka OSINT. (Open Source Intelligence) Could BofA be seeking to interact more with Anon’s and generate more personal data other than that which the Anon’s posted about each other (DOX’ing) sure but there is no evidence of that. Given the revelations with HB Gary though I can see why the Anon’s might be thinking that they are likely taking more robust non passive actions in the background elsewhere though. Overall I just want everyone to understand that it’s not all cloak and dagger here and seems that Paranoia has a flair for the dramatic as a means to get their point across. Or, perhaps they are just living up to their name.
My assessment in a nutshell here of the Paranoia BofA Drop is as follows:
- Paranoia found some interesting documentation but no smoking gun
- TEK systems did a mediocre job at Threat Intelligence with the caveat that I am only working with the documents in plain view today
- BofA like any other company today has the right to carry out this type of activity but they need to make sure that it’s done well and that it isn’t leaked like this
- If more documents come out showing a more in depth look at the OSINT being collected then perhaps we can change the above findings
- BofA needs to classify their data and protect it better on this front
- Paranoia needs to not let its name get the best of itself
All the drama aside this was a ho hum really. It was funny seeing all the analysts taking down their LinkedIN pages (really, how sekret squirrel is it to have a LI page saying who you work for doing this kind of work anyway? SECOPS anyone?) I consider those players quite burned and assume they are no longer working on this contract because of it. All you analysts out there named, you are now targets and you are probably learning SECOPS the hard way huh? I guess in the end this will all just be another short chapter in Encyclopedia Dramatica and an object lesson for BofA and maybe TEK Systems.
For everyone else.. It’s just LULZ.