Archive for the ‘Financial Warfare’ Category
IJPFRH CPAGP EIIL!
CYBER CYBER CYBER!
CYBER CYBER CYBER! or “CRY HAVOC AND LET SLIP THE DIGITAL DOGS OD CYBER WAR!”” is often what you hear from me in a mocking tone as I scan the internet and the news for the usual cyber-douchery. Well this time kids I am actually going to review a book that for once was not full of douchery! Instead it was filled with mostly good information and aimed at people who are not necessarily versed at all in the cyberz. I personally was surprised to find myself thinking that I would approve this for a syllabus (as it has been placed into one by someone I know and asked me to read this and comment)
The book really is a primer on IW (Information Warfare) and Cyber-Warfare (for lack of a better nomenclature for it) which many of you reading my blog might be way below your desired literacy level on the subjects. However, for the novice I would happily recommend that they read the book and then spend more time using ALL of the footnotes to go and read even more on the subject to get a grasp of the complexities here. In fact, I would go as far as to say to all of you out there that IF you are teaching this subject at all then you SHOULD use this book as a starting point.
I would also like to say that I would LOVE to start a kickstarter and get this book into the hands of each and every moron in Congress and the House. I would sit there and MAKE them read it in front of me *surely watching their lips move as they do so* There are too many people in positions of power making stupid decisions about this stuff when they haven’t a single clue. I guess the same could be said about the military folks as well. We have plenty of generals who have no idea either.. That’s just one man’s opinion though.
As we move further and further down the cyber-war road I think that books like this should be mandatory reading for all military personnel as well as college level courses in not only IW/INFOSEC but also political and affairs of state majors as well. We will only continue down this road it seems and it would be best for us all if the next wave of digital natives had a real grasp of the technologies as well as the political, logical, and tactical aspects of “Cyber”
I have broken down the book into rough chapters and subject areas as it is within the book (mostly) It really does cover more of the overall issues of cyber-warfare and methods used (not overly technical) The modus operandi so to speak of the actual events that have taken place are laid out in the book and give you a picture of the evolving of IW to what we see today as “cyber-warfare” I will comment on those sections on what I thought was good and what I thought was derpy of course, I mean would you all have it any other way?
IW (INFORMATION WARFARE) RUSSIA
The authors cover early IW with the Russian saga’s over Georgia and Estonia. There is a lot in there that perhaps even you out there might not know about the specifics of the incidents where Russia is “alleged” to have attacked both countries at different times with different goals and effects. Much of this also touches on the ideas of proxy organizations that may or may not be state run that were a part of the action as well as a good overview of what happened.
In the case of Georgia it went kinetic and this is the first real “cyber-warfare” incident in my mind as cyber-war goes. I say this because in my mind unless there is an actual kinetic portion to the fighting there is no “war” it is instead an “action” or “espionage” so in the case of tanks rolling in on Georgia we have a warfare scenario outright that was in tandem with IW/CW actions.
OUR CHINESE OVERLORDS
Ah Chairman Meow… What book on Cyber would be complete without our friends at the MSS 3rd Directorate huh? Well in the case of this primer it gets it right. It gets across not only that China has been hacking the living shit out of us but also WHY they are doing it! The book gives a base of information (lots of footnotes and links) to ancillary documentation that will explain the nature of Chinese thought on warfare and more to the point Cyber-Warfare. The Chinese have been working this angle (The Thousand Grains of Sand etc) for a long time now and there are more than a few treatises on it for you to read after finishing this book.
The big cases are in there as well as mention of the malware used, goals of the attacks and some of the key players. If you are out to start teaching about Chinese electronic/cyber/IW then this is a good place to start. Not too heavy but it gets the point across to those who are not so up to speed on the politics, the tech, or the stratagems involved.
Anonymous, as someone on my Twitter feed was just asking me as I was writing this piece, is also a part of this picture as well. The idea of asymmetric online warfare is really embodied by these groups. The book focuses more on Lulzsec and their 50 days of sailing but it doesn’t go too in depth with the derp. Suffice to say that all of them are indeed important to cyber-warfare as we know it and may in fact be the end model for all cyber-warfare. How so? Well, how better to have plausible denyability than to get a non state group to carry out your dirty war? Hell, for that matter how about just blame them and make it look like one of their ops huh?
Oddly enough just days ago Hammond wrote a piece saying this very thing. He intoned that the FBI via Sabu were manipulating the Anon’s into going after government targets. This is not beyond comprehension especially for places like China as well. So this is something to pay attention to. However, this book really did not take that issue on and I really wished that they had. Perhaps in the next updated edition guys?
OY VEY, the “GRID” this is one of the most derpy subjects usually in the media as well as the books/talks/material on cyber-warfare out there. In this case though I will allow what they wrote stand as a “so so” because they make no real claim to an actual apocalypse. Instead the book talks about the possible scenarios of how one could attack the grid. This book makes no claim that it would work but it is something to think about especially if you have an army of trained squirrels with routers strapped to their backs.
It is my belief that the system is too complex to have a systematic fail of apocalypse proportions and it always has been so. If the book talked about maybe creating a series of EMP devices placed at strategic high volume transformers then I would say they’d be on to something. However, that said, the use of a topological attack model was a good one from a logical perspective. They base most of this off of the Chinese grad students paper back years ago so your mileage may vary. So on this chapter I give it a 40% derp.
All in all I would have liked to have seen more in the political area concerning different countries thought patterns on IW/CW but hey, what can ya do eh? Additionally I think more could have been done on the ideas of offense vs. defense. Today I see a lot of derp around how the US has a GREAT OFFENSIVE CAPABILITY! Which for me and many of you out there I assume, leads me to the logical thought conclusion of “GREAT! We are totally offensive but our defense SUCKS!” So much for CYBER-MAD huh?
I would have also like to have seen more in the way of some game theory involved in the book as well concerning cyber-warfare. Some thought experiments would be helpful to lay out the problems within actually carrying out cyber-war as well as potential outcomes from doing so more along the lines of what I saw in the Global Cyber-Game.
Well, in the end I think it is a good start point for people to use this in their syllabus for teaching IW/CW today. It is a primer though and I would love to see not only this end up on the list but also the Global Cyber Game as well to round out the ideas here. To me it is more about “should we do this?” as opposed to “LETS FUCKING DO THIS!” as the effects of doing so are not necessarily known. Much of this territory is new and all too much of it is hyped up to the point of utter nonsense. This is the biggest problem we have though, this nonsense level with regard to the leaders of the land not knowing anything about it and then voting on things.
We need a more informed populace as well as government and I think this book would be a good start. So to the person who asked me to review this..
Rvy taes eha qgcq tlmbvq tqsix. Px iiuz ytwtqn cvzl dek. Yxi dtf fq wjzbbuk. Yahpv moi riagk lbrzy mop hm xte bdibuk. Mnm o tty aulu gchd fqsrrv rvy, mnm o uhvv iiuz filr, mnm gfflsze hcl dusi, mjmsx lzqn cflla, aulu uvm vyf oo hyx jed. Awr yx dmxl bazel, e nelcdbuk emrzv. Ubx te fwce simvn cgxu xte mcfk vj fhn qrk hrp ootvk as sies phb e xioh.
- Turner: Do we have plans to invade the Middle East?
- Higgins: Are you crazy?
- Turner: Am I?
- Higgins: Look, Turner…
- Turner: Do we have plans?
- Higgins: No. Absolutely not. We have games. That’s all. We play games. What if? How many men? What would it take? Is there a cheaper way to destabilize a regime? That’s what we’re paid to do.
- Turner: So Atwood just took the games too seriously. He was really going to do it, wasn’t he?
- Higgins: A renegade operation. Atwood knew 54/12 would never authorize it, not with the heat on the company.
- Turner: What if there hadn’t been any heat? Suppose I hadn’t stumbled on their plan?
- Higgins: Different ballgame. Fact is, there was nothing wrong with the plan. Oh, the plan was all right, the plan would’ve worked.
- Turner: Boy, what is it with you people? You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?
- Higgins: No. It’s simple economics. Today it’s oil, right? In ten or fifteen years, food. Plutonium. And maybe even sooner. Now, what do you think the people are gonna want us to do then?
- Turner: Ask them.
- Higgins: Not now — then! Ask ’em when they’re running out. Ask ’em when there’s no heat in their homes and they’re cold. Ask ’em when their engines stop. Ask ’em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won’t want us to ask ’em. They’ll just want us to get it for ’em!
- Turner: Boy, have you found a home. There were seven people killed, Higgins.
- Higgins: The company didn’t order it.
- Turner: Atwood did. Atwood did. And who the hell is Atwood? He’s you. He’s all you guys. Seven people killed, and you play fucking games!
- Higgins: Right. And the other side does, too. That’s why we can’t let you stay outside.
The Geopolitics of Fossil Fuels
Since the discovery of fossil fuels (oil and the derivative of gas from it) we have had a real love affair with it. Though it was tough to get out of the ground and then refine into a usable product we decided that it was the best alternative to keeping our lights on and our cars running. Since then, the resources have become the aegis of foreign and domestic policies globally, and likely will continue this way until the last drop of fuel is burned by some car somewhere. It’s these policies that I believe are driving the recent attacks on oil and gas firms within the Middle East recently. There may be some tit for tat as well, and maybe a warning to certain players, but, overall, it seems to me that a game is being played. Of course, all the games have been being played in the region of the Middle East because of the need for fossil fuels, anyone who says otherwise I think, well, is delusional.
Whether or not you are a “tipping point” believer, in general, we have seen over the years many instances where the Med has affected and still affects today, the price of gas and thus, the cascade effect prices on just about everything because we are dependent on the gas to move things, to grow things, to.. Well you get the point right? No gas means no economy really today. So, this is an imperative and those countries seeking to gain access to said fuel resources would not be above trying to get a competitive edge over others, never mind the possibilities of gaming the owners of the resource from the start right? Add to this the pressures today of the instability in the region (and really, when has it ever been really steady?) and you have quite the motive to use espionage to get that advantage and deny others the access they too desire.
It’s with this in mind that I have been sitting back and watching the events with Saudi Aramco and RasGas with some interest. I have been reading the news reports as well as the malware assessments and cannot help but see a parallel with the movie “Three Days of the Condor” from 1975. The story line moves along the lines of an analyst finding an unsanctioned plot to overthrow a government in the Middle East over oil. This film stuck with me since seeing it as a kid in the 80’s and I have quoted it before in posts on other things. This time around though, I think we are seeing some more direct actions by persons unknown, to manipulate the playing field where oil or fuel resources are concerned..
Albeit with a modern twist for today.
Spygames with Malware
At least two types of malware are alleged to have penetrated Saudi Aramco and RASGAS in the last month or two. Not much is known about them, though Shamoon aka W32.Disttrack seems to have been pulled apart a bit by Symantec. Not much has been really made in the press over these attacks and those attacked have been quiet as well. Both RasGas and Saudi Aramco though, made statements that none of their production or distribution systems were affected by the malware, a claim that they have not really backed up with facts I might add. However, as far as we can see thus far, those statements are overall true because there are no reports of system breakdowns in getting the product to and from the companies collectively.
As it would seem from the analysis thus far of Shamoon, the malware seems to be the run of the mill data thievery type that is almost COTS in a way. The more interesting bits seem to be around the “wiping” feature that was written into it. Why the malware was made to wipe the MBR is a bit of a mystery to me and seems rather amateurish in a way that leads me to believe either someone is playing it very smart, or, they are just malicious.
I can’t be sure which…
While the method of wiping is not as exotic as the so called “wiper” Shamoon corrupts the MBR of the system and game over. I have not seen in any of the data so far (via googling) a means of triggering the wipe sequence on Shamoon though. One wonders if it’s just timed out or is there some trigger if it is detected or tampered with? Also, it is interesting to note that the name “Shamoon or Simon” is from a folder listed in the malware as well as the fact that this was targeted to the “Arabian Gulf” as the wiper module alludes to as well. So, this seems to have been a targeted attack from these bits of data and the fact that it’s penetration out in the wild is low from what I have seen online. It is likely that this was initiated by a directed phishing attack at the companies afflicted and worked it’s way through their networks. Networks by the way, that may not in fact have been separate from the ICS/SCADA networks, which it seems may not have been directly “affected” because the payload did not include any attacks on said systems. The only fallout would likely come from a PC getting wiped which could easily be re-imaged or replaced with a working copy.
Still.. What was the goal here? What data was taken? In the case of both Saudi Aramco and RasGas, a look with Google (Google Fu) shows that both companies had quite a bit of data hanging out there to exploit and use in an attack. Today though, most of their data has been redacted, but, you still can get some cached copies of interesting tidbits. Given that they were loose before, one might imagine that they were a rich target environment for the malware to ex-filtrate all kinds of documents to the C&C server. It would take a lengthy investigation as to their market placement and any potential deals ongoing to give some more context I think, but doing so would be an interesting diversion to understand these attacks a bit better as to motive though.
The Possible Players in Shamoon/Wiper/UNSUB Malware Attacks
With all that said, then who would be the likely players here? Is this nation state? Is it corporate espionage and acts of attrition in an ongoing oil war? It’s hard to say really. One source indicated to me that perhaps it was a move by Russia to give the hint to Iran on some internecine plot over power plays in the region. I personally think that the whole “cutting sword of justice” claim that they took down Saudi Aramco is bunk but hey, maybe a cabal of hackers did this to… Well do what? Perhaps there is more yet to be dumped online in a pastebin to give us the proper scope here. Overall though, it’s been really low key and not much has come out like I said on what was taken, what was done, and the damages to the systems/companies involved.
So where does that leave us regarding who did this? Well, pretty much where we stared, with supposition and guess work. Was this nation state? This is an interesting question. If it was nation state, could it have been a fledgling group, like say, the IRGC and it’s cyber hacking group recently formed? Would Iran benefit from such attacks? All good questions and something we should all ponder. However, the most interesting point there might in fact be that since the Stuxnet genie was let out of the bottle, it was only a matter of time before actors like Iran would make their own variants and loose them upon others. In the case of Iran though, they too seem to have been hit with the same if not similar malware in recent days as well, but, this does not presuppose that they didn’t have a hand in it.
All in all, there just isn’t enough information to nail down a culprit or culprits.. But, it does show us a precedent that we should all worry about just as much as we should over certain instances of attacks against pockets of ICS/SCADA implementations. What I am talking about is blowback from attacks.
Blowback usually refers to consequences coming back on those who took the action in the first place. Here though, I am not only referring to those who carried out the malware attacks, but also on the rest of the world in certain scenarios like this. By attacking systems such as these, one could in fact cause market fluctuations depending on the markets and their jittery-ness. In the case of the oil business, we have seen great changes in prices due to not only the control over the oil and it’s price by the cartels (Saudi) but also how the countries are feeling about their markets and the state of affairs in the world. If you start tinkering with companies of this kind and by the product of destroying infrastructure (or the perception of such) you will be affecting the prices at least for those companies directly. What if though, you were to hit more of them at the same time and cause not only damage but the “perception” of insecurity within the system of oil/gas production and distribution?
This time nothing much seems to have happened, but one can only say this because there isn’t much information out there as to what really took place on those systems and networks. What if this played out another way, with much more press and obvious damages? This would be worse and might occur the next time whether or not it was intended by the programming of the malware. This all of course depends on the scope of the attacks and with that you have to wonder about nation state vs. non state actors here. The difference being, that a nation state may attack a wider variety of systems and companies as a precursor to war while the non state actors may just be looking for information or to hobble a competitor. Both however, could have unforeseen blowback from their actions.
What all of this says though, is that Pandora’s box has been opened. All the players are now taking the field, and many of them may not be ready to play a proper game… Shamoon did it’s thing, but it seems to be more a brute force tool than an elegant piece of code and a slick plan. The blowback though is yet to be determined.
Cosmo: Posit: People think a bank might be financially shaky.
Martin Bishop: Consequence: People start to withdraw their money.
Cosmo: Result: Pretty soon it is financially shaky.
Martin Bishop: Conclusion: You can make banks fail.
Cosmo: Bzzt. I’ve already done that. Maybe you’ve heard about a few? Think bigger.
Martin Bishop: Stock market?
Martin Bishop: Currency market?
Martin Bishop: Commodities market?
Martin Bishop: Small countries?
In a previous post I wrote about the nascent “Anon Analytics” group that had popped up claiming that they were going to out corruption in corporations by using OSINT and inside leaks/whistle-blowers. On the face of it, I thought this was a good idea and said as much in the post. I had caveats though that they confirm their information and that they be above board. I received a response from Anon Analytics thanking me for the article and that they had found it interesting. I however, had failed to read the disclaimer on the first report by Anon Analytics and as such, this is my mea culpa as well as another warning to Anon that they need to keep things above board here.. Lest they become just as bad as those who they are claiming they are outing for misdeeds.
I was alerted to an article from Finance Asia that called them on the fact that within this disclaimer, they are making the statement that the assumption must be made that the “Partners, Affiliates, Consultants, Clients, and other related parties” hold “short” positions in the securities profiled in the report. Which means that all of the parties named there will profit from shorts due to the data being released and potentially causing the stock to plummet and fail.
Say.. Isn’t that what got us all into this fix today with the markets and the banks in general?
Yes, indeed, that is the case and this statement within their disclaimer alone causes me to pretty much rescind my previous statements about any kind of approval for these efforts by Anon Analytics. Really, this is the pot calling the kettle black and then throwing feces to boot. This is not how you rectify malfeasance! Frankly, this could just then be considered only a machination to make money off of the use of information warfare (disinformation as well) to profit and manipulate the markets.
.. And as far as I know, this is rather illegal…
Look, what I said before about being above board with this effort still stands. If you want to right wrongs then you cannot use this effort as a potential piggy bank as well. At the present time, I cannot confirm all of your data from Chaoda however, if you look at the news following the reports release, you can see how you affected the market and the stock. The cause and effect may or may not have anything to do with your report in fact, but, time will tell if there are any real arrests in the whole affair concerning Chaoda. If there aren’t and nothing can be conclusively proven, then what has really been done to the company? Some losses yes, and, by your statement, those around you will profit.. Potentially.
If you want to make a difference, you cannot be a party to profit from information warfare that you are generating.
It All Started With Anonymous and Wikileaks
The Chinese have an aphorism “May you live in interesting times” It’s a bit more of a curse than it is an aphorism, but, the gist is that they are not wishing you a “good time” It has been feeling pretty “interesting” this last year and I really have to say that it all stems from Anonymous’ and their ignition of the nascent feeling today of powerlessness on the part of many. Whether it be their personal lives, or perhaps by looking at the whole of the world through the instantaneous news cycles that today’s technology has afforded, in general, people are not feeling as though they have much control over their daily lives.
I would have to say that much of this has its genesis in 9/11 and the post 9/11 world that we have come to be in. Security has become the operative word for some excesses by government to use its powers (self created) Case in point, the ability to spy on anyone deemed to be a threat without a warrant. The knee jerk reaction to 9/11 has allowed for a fear based response that has set some pretty scary precedents these last 10 years. Add to this the bank scandals, the recession, the fallout from Fanny and Freddy, and waves of greed and misdeeds on the part of corporations that influence the government, and we have quite the picture of how things have gone sideways.
But.. Much of this is not new I’m afraid. Wikileaks just opened the secret flood gates in some ways. Though, had you been paying attention you likely would have already known much of what Wikileaks was trying to say before the big dumps began to show up online.
What is new is that a new generation of youth have been disenfranchised enough to take up arms against it all as they see fit. Anonymous, was the catalyst for this in their early attacks on oppression like “Scientology” a system which really is much more a corporation melded with a religiosity (faux) to create an entity that is not taxed, does not have oversight by anyone, and seems for all intents and purposes, to be a “Corporate Cult”… Which when I think about it now post Steve Jobs departure from this mortal coil, is a lot like the reverb surrounding Apple and the Jobs-ian “passing on to a higher plain” claptrap.. But that is another story…
Either way, the gist of this all is that Anonymous and Wikileaks is the progenitors here I think, and it is the very nature of the collectives technical bent that has lit this fuse that finally reached out of the digital Kabuki theatre and on to the real streets.
Technology, The Great Equalizer
Anonymous’ use of technology only comes naturally as they formed online. It is with the growth of social media and the connectivity that we all have today with smart phones, that the movement went viral. Some may say it was the targeting, but I would say that the targeting was always there, but those who were feeling the miasma weren’t able to express it in the normal ways of yesterday. However, with blogs, micro-blogs, twitter, texting, etc, people coalesced into groups on their own with a collective gravity that eventually, had enough psychic mass to catch on large scale.
It is this very thing that has led to what we see today. From flash mobs to the final outcome of the occupy movement that harkens back actually to the early Tea Party movement in the way the word got out and collected like minds to its cause. All of these people have found each other and inspired one another to react to what they are perceiving as injustice within the systems in which they live. The technology has given the tools to the populace to respond in a way that only the mass media has had the corner of the market on for so long.
Added to this the technical aspects that bred not only the Anonymous “Hactivism” we have a new paradigm for dissent. The recent threat to DoS NYSE by Anonymous is case in point to the technology being used as not only a weapon but also as a means of protest, though the legalities of such attacks is questionable. The law has yet to catch up on much of the technology, so the arguments upcoming over the LOIC arrests for the MasterCard denial of service attacks will likely generate new law either way.
Interesting times indeed.
Occupy Wall Street.. Why Again?
Of late, the “occupation” movement has picked up speed all around the globe. However, it seems that with these demonstrations unlike the ones in the 60’s over Civil Rights, seems rather more diffuse when you go and observe what’s going on. Now, one could say that this is media spin, but, when I look at the aggregate reporting from all sides, I can see how some might categorise the movement as being diffuse. On some fronts, the movement seems to have been co-opted by others with more shall we say, exotic demands? I guess my fear would be that this turns into a Lolapalooza or a Burning Man instead of a protest with specific goals in mind.
Occupy Wall Street has a set of 13 goals that seemed to me pretty straight forward, yet, they seem to be open ended. Perhaps the movement might tighten them down a bit and generate some more concise and workable (demands) for lack of a better term? In the era of the 60’s there was a defined demand for a civil rights bill.. I suggest to you all now that you work something akin out on paper to give to the congress critters that want to work with you. After all, its kinda pointless to ask for things like “stuff” and expect to get something back (including support) that is concrete from the establishment. How about you get some of the luminaries in the economics field to give you ideas for positions?
Unless you direct all this energy, you will all be collectively mocked as a bunch of stinky hippies without jobs or just attributed to be “malcontent’s”
Define the argument… Get the 60’s protesters to show you the way.. After all, they really did change things.. For a while.
The Media, Lapdogs To The Corporations?
Speaking of perceptions, here we have one of the key issues today. For a long time it seemed as though the mainstream media was ignoring the protests. Perhaps they thought it was just going to go away and it wasn’t news. However, as they have come to find out, there seems to be a large disenfranchised populace out there willing to protest. Just who are they protesting and what seems to be the issue both from the perspective I have as well as what the media might want to portray it to be.
Yes.. That’s right, I am not a fan of the media today. It is my opinion frankly that Cronkite’s demise only saved him further pain and anguish over the career that he loved so much. The mainstream media as it’s called, is pretty much a corporate run “profit” centre as opposed to what it used to be “a cost centre” That’s right kids, as soon as news became a “for profit” business as a whole, its efficacy in providing true reporting became much diminished. Now, this is not to say that this wasn’t the case before. In the 19th century all you had to do was look at the newspapers of the day and you could see it was all about “if it bleeds it leads!” and just how much money could be made with a lurid headline. Of course today we get the same treatment from a fire-hose of sources online and off, all of which is now pretty much solely being run for profit.
When people talk about the media being the lapdogs of corporations, they need only look as far as FOX *cough* News, who really came down to the point in a court case claiming that they aren’t really news, but instead “entertainment” Enough said really huh? So, when I see the stories not only about things like Occupy Wall Street, but also anything I have a pretty good knowledge of, I see their spin to get headlines and attract viewers.. Viewers who in turn are the targets of marketing and advertising between segments. Follow the money…
Of course speaking of Fox, you only have to read a bit more and see how Mr. Kane.. Uhh, I mean Mr. Hearst… Uhh, I mean Mr. Murdoch uses his papers and other media operations to sway the public and the government. Even his machinations involving phone hacking is a telling piece of the puzzle no? Yes Virginia, Mr. Murdoch does underhanded things to get what he wants…
So, while we are protesting the other injustices, one might suggest that you all pay attention to the media that you are being interviewed by and made into sound bytes…
They can control the story.. Catch them at it… Stop it when they do.
The Governmental Response and New Backlash
Meanwhile, another faction that is being used by the media (hand in glove) is the government and the players within it who would use these tools. The recent coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement on CNN for instance shows how the media can be used to portray the movement as nothing but unwashed stupid hippies (the falor Newt gave to the debate) Perhaps Newt was misquoted? Maybe it’s out of context? I think not. I find it really funny that the Republicans have latched onto this issue by saying that it is a symptom of “Class Warfare” and generally acting like the old man yelling at the kids to get off his lawn. Well, come to think about it, I guess that is pretty much on the mark, Wall Street is their lawn ain’t it?
The Democrats are only a little better on this issue as well. Sure, they support what is happening or what’s being said, but really, do any of us really think they are feeling so moved by their own ethos? Or might it be that it’s election season and they are seeing potential voters? Yeah, I think its the latter too. Frankly both parties are useless in my book and as for the Tea Party, well, they are pretty much tinfoil hat wearing reactionaries to me. However, this is not to say that they don’t have a core idea that is right.
Change needs to happen.
It’s just how and by whom is the real question.
So, when all of the Congress critters get in on talking about this I take it all with a pillar of salt, not just a grain. Meanwhile, we have the police responses to the protesters. For the most part, I can take no issue with the arrests that have happened on the face of them “legally” however, when violence is involved, then I begin to wonder just what the Hell is going on. Of course tensions will run high and there will be morons like Bologna (mace boy) but on the whole, I think the response thus far has been pretty even handed on the part of law enforcement. I know others will likely take issue with this, but, this is just my opinion of what I have seen thus far.
However.. Just how long will it be before the anti-occupy Wall Street folks start showing up fueled by the likes of the Tea Party whacknuts or worse?
Time will tell…
A Return of the Sixties and Socio-Economic Upheaval?
I have written at least a couple of times in the past year that I was beginning to feel as though the 60’s were coming back. With the Occupy Wall Street movement gathering strength and more voices being added, the spectre is back isn’t it? We still have many of the issues from the 60’s that haunt us all, but I would have to say that I am going to amend this statement with a time shift as well as political bent. I would have to say that this movement has much more akin with the 70’s than the 60’s.
In the 70’s we had the Vietnam war still ongoing. We had Nixon and the excesses of his grab at illegal wiretapping and wet-work in the US as well as outside. When it all came to light with the publishing of the Pentagon Papers as well as the exposure of the “Plumbers” by Woodward and Bernstein we got a peek into executive malfeasance. Compare that to today post GWB and two wars post 9/11… No wonder we all don’t trust our government huh? Now though, we have the elephant in the room added to the mix of business and money seeking to control the government through lobbying and other chicanery.
Frankly, it took an economic apocalypse to wake people up to it all..
My Conclusions On All of This
I foresee “interesting times” ahead. This movement will continue and likely will have no real effect in the short term on how our government is being run (primarily meaning going to the highest bidder) However, I think that this movement may in fact spawn the youth of today to action. Action meaning that they will take an interest in the system and perhaps seek ways to improve it. My hope is that they do and that someday things get a bit more cleaned up but, that may not be for some time. The sad truth of it though, is that for every Mr. Smith going to Washington, there is another who goes without the wide eyed wonder and sense of honesty who just seeks to puff themselves up and line their pockets.
Another sad fact is that there may even be some altruists who go there with good intentions and then find themselves following the lead of the Mr. Potter’s of the world.
One hopes that is not the case..
Recently the ideas of HFT trading (High Frequency Trading) being a vector for attacks on the stock market in tandem with an actual DDOS/Hack attempt on the Hong Kong stock market got me thinking about all of this again. The original post was back in November of 2010, but it seems even more prescient today after we have been in a recession for so long and may in fact be up for a double dip. Added to this we now also have the debt crisis and an onslaught of cyber espionage that could easily turn to offensive cyber warfare (i.e. an attack on the financial system as the coup de gras of our economy) as the Chinese even are trying to divest themselves of our debt. This would mean that the Chinese would have much less to lose now if they were less monetarily invested in us and thus, they would become the larger economy and super power by taking us out of the running.
And all of this could be done by the simple (well not really in practice) act of taking down the markets here. The cascade effect of mistrust by the investors and other countries in our systems of trade could be devastating to us. This is why I am re-hashing this post and thought it important today to re-iterate.
“The Internet becomes the tactical nuke of the digital age. I believe that cybercrime is going explode exponentially next year as the Web is invaded by hackers. And My surprise is that we will see a specific attack on the New York Stock Exchange which has a profound impact, causes a week long hiatus in trading which will cause abrupt slowdown in travel and domestic business.” Hedge Fund Manager Douglas Kass
Some time ago I posted a story about how by using tools like FOCA, Maltego, and Google, one could gain enough intel on NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) to mount an attack. Well, it would seem that others might have the same idea, but the above gent may have more in mind than just an attack on America’s financial machine. This guy is already positioning his funds for a “short sell” on the system.
So, a smart bet or perhaps some inside knowledge? Maybe he’s just a realist? Why is he betting that it will come during 2011? What’s more, and is questioned in the article, perhaps he is injecting fear into the market to drive it….
The article goes on…
What could happen if Mr. Kass’ prediction is correct and a cyber attack effectively takes the New York Stock Exchange “offline” for a week? As far as historical events to compare to, after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and NASDAQ didn’t open on September 11th and remained shut down until September 17, the longest shut down since the Great Depression in 1933. After the markets opened on September 17th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 684 points, or a 7.1% loss.
The NYSE’s Web site (NYSE.com) has been targeted in the past with denial of service’ attacks but without success, according to NYSE reports. Importantly, the NYSE.Com Web site is not connected to any of the trading operations and even if such attack took NYSE.com offline it wouldn’t affect trading operations, of which most of the infrastructure is over private networks and not the public Internet.
So, the market has been offline before and then there was that “fat finger” event, but, what is really troubling is the lack of understanding on the part of the writers to comprehend that the NYSE.com site’s being “online” has nothing to do with a real and substantive attack on NYSE itself on that level. What is really important is that the NYSE.com site as well as NYXDATA.com are leaky as all Hell and giving out the crown jewels by simple Google searches of their domains. So sure, take their site down all you want with a DoS, but, if you use the data they are handing out, you can get into their systems potentially and manipulate the actual trading.
Well, lets see.. Before I showed how they were serving our docs with intel on the protocols they are using, the programs used for trading, the collocation facilities location and pertinent data on their infrastructure etc etc. This time around, the searches turned up much more, including a document that shows their entire internal IP structure. Passwords and logons to their “FTP’s” (yes that is FTP, not SFTP) to access programs and data. I also located documents on their API’s prgramming standards, and everything one would need to reverse R&D their software to do some damage.
So, the possibilities of an attack on the system as Mr. Kass has bloviated on are somewhat more possible than the articles writer would make of it.
Lets look at the next level of this too. By doing the searches with Google and Maltego, there were enough email addresses out there to show that it would be easy to attempt a phishing attack. I found at least 150+ addresses out there on the internet already, just by extending that logic that is 150 chances to root internal machines and pivot into their internal network, which, you already have a pretty good map of by the Google searches previously carried out. Then, you move on to your FOCA searches.
FOCA turned up a SHITLOAD of data on NYSE and NYXDATA, So much so that it crashed several times just trying to analyze the data! I had to do it in parcels of documents. NYSE and NYXDATA have a lot of documents out there to parse through and all of it had a TON of metadata in them.
- Machine names
- Folders saved to (directory structures)
- Machine OS levels
- Server Names
What struck me most was the number of machines polling as NT4.0 machines *shiver* as well as Win2K
Ok, on that account the docs may be older and these machines may have been decomm’d… but.. If you look at the usual trading systems out there, they are often based off of a DOS prompt environment, so….Yeah, I can see these systems being still in play at NYSE.
So, back to Mr. Kass… I am with him on the side of being prepared for a short sell on the market as a whole. I think it’s just a matter of time before something happens either by design, or perhaps by accident. Say you had a stuxnet variant that got out of control and infected the old and creaky systems at NYSE, what would happen with the market if they were taken down for a time because of this? What’s more, what would happen to the market if the “perception” was that these events happened because the NYSE was not doing the “due diligence” to take care of the security issues that would allow for such things to happen?
Trading would go down, money would be lost, and generally the market would be pretty shaky wouldn’t it? Let me go back to my favorite movie quote to illustrate:
Cosmo: Posit: People think a bank might be financially shaky.
Martin Bishop: Consequence: People start to withdraw their money.
Cosmo: Result: Pretty soon it is financially shaky.
Martin Bishop: Conclusion: You can make banks fail.
Cosmo: Bzzt. I’ve already done that. Maybe you’ve heard about a few? Think bigger.
Martin Bishop: Stock market?
Martin Bishop: Currency market?
Martin Bishop: Commodities market?
Martin Bishop: Small countries?
There you have it. The basis for the markets is perception. How often do you see stocks fall because the perception is that company (A) is on shaky ground and about to stumble. Hell, just look at what was happening back in 08 with AIG and Lehman with the monies that they owed and were trying to borrow daily to keep the system afloat. Banks and insurance companies mind you, that were declared “To Big To Fail” as the perception if they did just fail would be financial cataclysm right?
Just as well, how many brokers and company’s have been investigated or charged in manipulation through insider trading or perception jiggering? That’s what the market is really all about. It’s all about betting on a company and if you make that company or for that matter, “country” look “shaky” then you can manipulate the outcome to your desired effect. I would have to say that Al Qaeda has already done that to some extent already with America. So, it is not an inconceivable notion. Lets go back to that precipitous market “bubble” as Kass called it with the “fat finger” event. Did you see how much effort there was to calm everyone? Spin the situation and downplay it when it happened? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Look, if the system were that easily manipulated by a single set of lightning trades, then what does it say about the system’s security and integrity?
That’s the key question. So, where are the reports to congress about the security of the systems at NYSE? Does the SEC have some reports that we can all look at and see that they are doing their due diligence? I guess I will have to trawl the SEC domains to see. This is what I found through a quick search:
Information Technology Security
Finally, GAO’s audit confirmed weaknesses in the SEC’s information technology security that have been reported in prior years through our FMFIA program. These weaknesses include insufficient access controls, network security, and monitoring of security-related events. However, I should also note that the GAO found we had taken the right set of initial steps to address the weaknesses, including hiring a new Chief Information Security Officer and establishing a centralized security management program. In response, the SEC has developed a detailed inventory and timeline for correcting each of the specific weaknesses identified, such as through a certification and accreditation project and revisions to the agency’s policies and procedures in this area. We have continued to build out our information security program and address specific issues over the several months since the conclusion of the audit, and while our timeline is ambitious, we plan to complete the remediation efforts by June 2006.
This is all I could find at present.. 2006… Hmmm…
In the end, all I am saying as a security professional is that I know human nature. Human nature usually consists of the path of least resistance especially where business is concerned. I am willing to bet that not much has changed within the security environment at the NYSE even post 9/11 and their being targeted as a primary target of Al Qaeda never-mind the usual criminal elements looking to manipulate the system. This means that yes, the system is potentially vulnerable to attacks that would have great consequences to the financial system within the US as well as potentially the world. Perhaps Mr. Kass is just looking to leverage the fear, perhaps he is trying to fire off the “Bat Signal” that something is wrong or inevitable..
Either way, we need to assure that these things aren’t so easily done.. Don’t we?
A week before this year’s DEFCON, I got a message that I was being considered to replace Aaron in the the “Confronting Aaron Barr” panel discussion. It was kind of a surprise in some ways, but seemed like a natural choice given my tet-e-tet with Anonymous, LulzSec, and even Mr. Barr. After coming to BlackHat and seeing the keynote from Cofer Black, it became apparent that this year, all of these conferences were about to see a change in the politics of the times with reference to the hacking/security community and the world of espionage and terrorism. Two things that I have been writing about for some time and actually seeing take place on the internet for more than a few years with APT attacks on Defense Base contractors and within Jihadist propaganda wars.
Going into the planning for the panel discussion, I was informed that I was hoped to be the stand in for Aaron in that I too see the world as very grey. Many of my posts on the Lulz and Anonymous as well as the state of affairs online have been from the grey perspective. The fact is, the world is grey. There is no black and white. We all have varying shades of grey within our personalities and our actions are dictated by the levels to which our moral compasses allow. I would suggest that the example best and most used is that of torture. Torture, may or may not actually gain the torturer real intelligence data and it has been the flavor of the day since 9/11 and the advent of Jack Bauer on “24” face it, we all watched the show and we all did a fist pump when Jack tortured the key info out of the bad guy to save the day. The realities of the issue are much more grey (complex) and involve many motivations as well as emotions. The question always comes down to this though;
If you had a terrorist before you who planted a dirty nuke in your city, would you ask him nicely for the data? Give him a cookie and try to bond with him to get the information?
Or, would you start using sharp implements to get him to talk in a more expedient fashion?
We all know in our darkest hearts that had we families and friends in that city we would most likely let things get bloody. Having once decided this, we would have to rationalize for ourselves what we are doing and the mental calculus would have to be played out in the equation of “The good of the one over the good of the many” If you are a person who could not perform the acts of torture, then you would have to alternatively resolve yourself to the fates as you forever on will likely be saying “I could have done something” Just as well, if you do torture the terrorist and you get nothing, you will also likely be saying “What more could I have done? I failed them all” should the bomb go off and mass casualties ensue.
I see both options as viable, but it depends on the person and their willingness to either be black and white or grey.
Within the security community, we now face a paradigm shift that has been coming for some time, but only recently has exploded onto the collective conscious. We are the new front line on the 5th battlespace. Terrorists, Spies, Nation States, Individuals, Corporations, and now ‘collectives’ are all now waging war online. This Black Hat and Defcon have played out in the shadow of Stuxnet, a worm that showed the potential for cyber warfare to break into the real world and cause kinetic attacks with large repurcussions physically and politically. Cofer Black made direct mention of this and there were two specific talks on SCADA (one being on the SYSTEM7’s that Iran’s attack was predicated on) so we all ‘know’ that this is a new and important change. It used to be all about the data, now its all about the data AND the potential for catastrophic consequences if the grid, or a gas pipeline are blown up or taken down.
We all will have choices to make and trials to overcome… Cofer was right.
“May you live in interesting times” the Chinese say…
Then we have the likes of Anonymous, Wikileaks, and the infamous ‘LulzSec’ Called a ‘Collective’ by themselves and others, it is alleged to be a loose afiliation of individuals seeking to effect change (or maybe just sew chaos) through online shenannigans. Theirs and now their love child ‘LulzSec’ ideas on moral codes and ethics really strike me more in line with what “The Plague” said in “Hackers” than anything else;
“The Plague: You wanted to know who I am, Zero Cool? Well, let me explain the New World Order. Governments and corporations need people like you and me. We are Samurai… the Keyboard Cowboys… and all those other people who have no idea what’s going on are the cattle… Moooo.”
Frankly, the more I hear out of Anonymous’ mouthpieces as well as Lulzs’ I think they just all got together one night after drinking heavily, taking E, and watching “Hackers” over and over and over again and I feel like Curtis exclaiming the following;
“Curtis: If it isn’t Leopard Boy and the Decepticons.”
So, imagine my surprise to be involved in the panel and playing the grey hat so to speak. The panel went well and the Anon’s kept mostly quiet until the question and answer after, but once they got their mouths open it was a deluge. For those of you who did not see the panel discussion you can find the reporting below. My take on things though boils down to the following bulletized points:
- Anons and Lulz need to get better game on if they indeed do believe in making change happen. No more BS quick hits on low hanging fruit.
- Targets need recon and intelligence gathered has to be vetted before dumping
- Your structure (no matter how many times you cry you don’t have one) can be broken so take care in carrying out your actions and SECOPS
- Insiders have the best data… Maybe you should be more like Wikileaks or maybe an arm of them.
- Don’t be dicks! Dumping data that can get people killed (i.e. police) serves no purpose. Even Julian finally saw through is own ego enough on that one
- If you keep going the way you have been, you will see more arrests and more knee jerk reactions from the governments making all our lives more difficult
- Grow up
- The governments are going to be using the full weight of the law as well as their intelligence infrastructure to get you. Aaron was just one guy making assertions that he may or may not have been able to follow through on. The ideas are sound, the implementation was flawed. Pay attention.
- If you don’t do your homework and you FUBAR something and it all goes kinetically sideways, you are in some deep shit.
- You can now be blamed as well as used by state run entities for their own ends… Expect it. I believe it has already happened to you and no matter how many times you claim you didn’t do something it won’t matter any more. See, all that alleged security you have in anonymous-ness cuts both ways…
- Failure to pay attention will only result in fail.
There you have it, the short and sweet. I am sure there are a majority of you anonytards out there who might not comprehend what I am saying or care.. But, don’t cry later on when you are being oppressed because I warned you.