Krypt3ia

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

Archive for the ‘Geopolitics’ Category

Influence Operations: We All Carry Them Out

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Screenshot from 2016-09-06 08-29-26

 

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.

Screenshot from 2016-09-06 09-17-01Shut up Grandma Nixon!

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.

Move on.

Dr. K.

Written by Krypt3ia

2016/09/06 at 13:26

So here’s my thing….

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dark_of_night_OURO

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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.

CYBERWARZ

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…

Derp.

K.

JIHADI’S HOLD LEGION OF DOOM CON CALL!! WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?

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fednet

AZIJ XXRZ HMCKIDACVA GZ UZZW!

The Legion of DOOM!

Yesterday the camel’s back finally snapped in my head after reading a post on Harper’s Magazine entitled “Anatomy of an Al Qaeda Conference Call”  which the author called into question the whole story that was put out by the Washington Times and their “anonymous sources”  The paper claimed that Ayman Zawahiri and all the heads of the various jihadi splinter groups got onto their polycom phones and their SIP connections to have a “concall” as we say in business today.

You all may remember the heady headlines in the last couple weeks where the mass media picked up on this story and began scribbling away on how the so called jihadi “Legion of Doom” dialed in for a sooper sekret meeting to plan the end of our Western Civilization. Now, I am sure some of you out there have seen my screeds (140 chars at a time more so recently) on just how we get played too often by the media and the government on some things but this, this is just epic stupid here. If you or anyone you know believed any of this claptrap coming from the media please seek psychiatric attention post haste.

Let me tell you here and now and agreeing with the article cited above, that the “LOD” did not have a skype or asterisk call to plan our downfall. At the most they likely had a meeting of the minds in a chat room somewhere within the jihadist boards out there or had a server set up somewhere for them all to log into an encrypted chat. I lean towards the former and not the latter as they usually lack subtlety online. Though, given the revelations from Mssr “Snowman” I can see how the prudent Ayman would want this to be on it’s own server somewhere and for people to authenticate locally and encrypted on a system that does not keep logs… But I digress…

Suffice to say that a group of leaders and minions thereof got together for a chat on <REDACTED> and that they talked about plans and ideas (from hereon I am going to coin the term ideating) for the destruction of the West and the raising of a new global caliphate. Does that sound familiar to you all? Gee, I can’t seem to put my finger on where I have heard that one before. … So yeah, there was a meeting, there were minions, and there were plans but here’s the catch; NOTHING WAS SAID THAT ALLUDED TO A REAL PLAN! No, really, there wasn’t any solid evidence that prompted the closing of the embassies all over. It was a smoke and mirrors game and YOU all were the captive audience!

As you can see from the article cited there seems to be a lot amiss with all of this now that some reality has been injected into the media stream of derp. Why was this all brought to you in the way it was put out there by the media? Was it only the demented scribblings of one reporter seeking to make copy for his dying paper? Or was there more to it? Was there a greater plan at play here that would have the media be the shill to the duping of the public in order to make them see say, the NSA in a different light in these times of trouble for them?

Makes you wonder huh?

DISINFORMATON & OPSEC

So yeah, a story comes out and there are “sources” sooper sekret sources that are telling the reporter (exclusively *shudder with excitement*) that the Great Oz of the NSA has intercepted a LIVE call with the LOD and that it had scary scary portents for us all!

WE. ARE. DOOMED!

That the NSA had help prevent a major catastrophe from happening because they had the technology and the will to listen in on a conversation between some very bad dudes like Ayman and the new AQAP leaders plotting and planning our cumulative demise.

*SHUDDER*

The truth of the matter though is a bit different from the media spin and disinformation passed on by the so called “sources” however. The truth is this;

  • The “con call” never happened. There was no set of polycoms and Ayman is not a CEO of AQ.
  • The fact is that Ayman and many of the other “heads” of the LOD were not actually there typing. It was a series of minions!
  • The contents of the “chat” were not captured live. There was a transcript captured on a courier that the Yemeni got their hands on and passed it on to the Western IC. (So I have heard, there may in fact be a chance they captured the stream using this guys acct) the Yemeni that is, not so sure it was us.
  • As I understand it, there was nothing direct in this series of conversations that gave any solid INTEL/SIGINT that there was a credible threat to ANY embassies.

There you have it. This has been WHOLLY mis-represented to the Amurican people. The question I have is whether not there was an agenda here on the part of one of the three parties or more.

  • Right wing nutbag Eli Lake
  • The “anonymous sources of intel”
  • The “anonymous sources handlers”

These are the key players here that I would really like to get into the box and sweat for a while. After the madness was over and sanity let it’s light creep into the dialog, we began to see that these so called sources were no more or less better than “CURVEBALL” was during the run up to the Iraq war. In fact, I guess you could say they were less effective than old curveball because we did not actually go into another half baked war on bad intelligence this time did we?

Another question that should be asked here is why was this information leaked in this way to the press on an ongoing operation that I would say might be pretty sensitive. I mean, you have a channel into a chat room (or *cough* con call as the case may be har har) that you could exploit further and yet you decide to close all the embassies and leak the fact that you have closed said embassies because you intercepted their sooper sekret lines of communication?

*blink blink*

Holy what the Hell? What are you thinking POTUS and IC community? Oh, wait … Let me ideate on this a bit….

  • The intel community is in the dog house right now because of the SNOWMAN FILES yup yup
  • So a WIN would be very very good for PR wouldn’t it? I mean you don’t have to hire a PR firm to figure this one out right?
  • HOLY WIN WIN BATMAN! We tell them we foiled their plans using sooper sekret means that the public hates for infringing on their “so called” rights and we can win hearts and minds!

Could it be that simple?

All joking aside though, think about it. Why blow an operational means of watching how the bad guys are talking UNLESS it was never something you really had access to in the first place right? You could win all around here (though that seems to be backfiring) IF the Yemeni passed this along and it was after the fact then how better to make the AQ set abandon the channel by saying you had access to it?

Right…

How better also to try and get a PR win by alluding (ok lying lying lying with pantalones on fire!) that you had compromised (you being the NSA and IC here) said channel! I guess overall the government thinks that the old axiom of “A sucker born every minute” still applies to wide scale manipulations of stories in the media to sway thought huh? Oh and by the way, if any of you out there think this is just too Machiavellian I point you to all those cables dropped by Wikileaks. Take a look at the duplicity factor going on in international realpolitik ok?

Political Wag The Dog

It seems after all once all the dust has settled that either one of two things happened here;

  1. Eli Lake did this on his own and played the system for hits on his paper’s page
  2. Eli Lake was either a witting or un-witting dupe in this plan to put out some disinformation in a synergistic attempt to make the IC and the government look good on terrorism in a time where their overreach has been exposed.

It’s “Wag The Dog” to me. Well, less the war in Albania right? I suggest you all out there take a more jaundiced eye to the news and certainly question ANYTHING coming from “ANONYMOUS SOURCES” on NATSEC issues. It is likely either they are leakers and about to be prosecuted, or there is a cabal at work and DISINFORMATION is at play using the mass media as the megaphone.

Sorry to sound so Alex Jones here but hell, even a clock is right twice a day.

K.

 

Three Days of The Condor… With Malware…

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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

Virus origin in Gulf computer attacks in question

New Virus Hits Oil Giant, LNG Producer

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

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.

K.

Defcon Grows Up and Gets Recruited As An Asset…

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I came to Defcon this year as it turned 20 and after much had changed on the world stage regarding our business (INFOSEC/Pentesting/Dev/SECOPS) much remained the same. What has really changed though, and could be seen at this anniversary year was just how much our antics and interests were now the new “hotness” to the government and the military. Never before had the NSA had a booth at our conference but this year, they were there with recruiting in mind and that is a big change.

However, you may be saying to yourself right about now “Uhh, but, this has been going on a while, not just now” Well, yes, it has, but, what I have noticed this last con was that it’s not all about the tech, this year, it was also recruitment of human assets who would give “intelligence” to the players like NSA. No more are they just looking for programs and programmers, but also seeking out to make connections with people who have connections. You see, as Shawn Henry said as well as General Alexnder, “we need you to keep an eye out and tell us if you see something” What I heard was the equivalent of “if you see something say something” that the TSA has plastered at airports.

This is an important paradigm that we all need to be aware of. With the advent of Anonymous and Stuxnet as well as the nascent idea of the internet becoming a “digital nation state” we all have to be mindful that while the technologies out there are a commodity, so too are we in the great game of cold war intelligence and cyber war. We are the commodity that makes the new exploit as well as being the HUMINT asset that intelligence agencies need to “collect” with.

Now, while you are pondering that, consider the fact that the “opposition” is also trying to curry favor and recruit us as well…

Yup, that’s right. That party you might be attending might in fact have operators from other countries clandestine services too. In fact, that party could even be funded by said agencies and players to get you to chat and perhaps leak meaningful information. Think about it, how many of you out there reading this post work for fortune 500 companies as security technicians? What kind of data is in your head that might be of use to a foreign operative?

Ponder that as you sip that free drink late in the day. Say, did you know that the Chinese most preferable means to gaining intel with visiting professors and the like, is to have them over tired and tipsy? It’s true, it’s low level but its been used on many an occasion. You see, once you start talking, then you open the door for more rapport building, and then it’s pretty much over. One wonders how many Los Alamos folks had the same treatment on trips to China. Now think about the average Defcon party and the amount of alcohol and sleep deprivation we have going on there.

Just sayin…

So, look at it from that perspective. Now the NSA has come to the con just as the FBI and other agencies and security bodies so too will the “other guys” I don’t know how many of you out there come from military or “other” backgrounds where you will have a DSS or counterintelligence training,but, I am assuming that a vast majority of the folks attending the cons today do not have that background, especially the younger ones who’s only been in the security arena a short time. Pentesters who know SE should be able to easily detect some of the techniques used to recruit an asset, and tease out information.. Others, maybe not so much.

So here we are today, APT (Yes China being one purveyor of APT attacks) are not only using malware to get into systems but also recruiting sources to help them in their goals. Used to be a time that it really only was the nuclear scientists getting the attention… Today though, everything is game, you might make widgets, but that doesn’t mean that someone doesn’t want to know what you know.

Pssst… It’s still espionage kids… And now YOU are part of it because you hold interesting information.

How’s that for some “Threat Intelligence” huh?

Which brings me to the second line of thinking or topic that came up this year. The government is asking us to consider more “threat intelligence” and to bring them in on the loop. See, right there, they are asking you to be an asset.. Did that occur to you? Of course I know for the most part you all thought, as I did too, that the idea was a bit silly.

Why?

Because who really has that kind of threat intel program going on today? Hell, we are all pretty much trying to just keep our shit together right? On average, unless you work for a major company,you may not even have an SIEM or even snort instance right? How are you going to convince your employer that you need that stuff and then more so, to pass that intel to the government? The only groups I have known to do this are the DIB partners, and they do it because they don’t want to lose contracts for the military.

So now, we would all be assets? All corporations out there, whether they are being attacked by APT or Anonymous, would be reporting their incursions or attempts at them to the government? That’s kinda spooky really. This also circles back nicely to the idea that we all now, all of us in the INFOSEC community are now collection nodes for SIGINT/HUMINT/MASINT/ELINT and not many of us have had the training to be analysts.

You see, when you use the words “Threat Intelligence” this has some context that some may not get right away. It’s not just what IP is hitting us and with what attacks anymore.. It’s about the context around all of that and the attribution that is needed for cyber warfare, or more likely, cyber intelligence operations. I expect to see a lot more of this lobbying going on at all of the cons as well as more people sidling up to the attendee’s and asking “so, what’s going on out there?”

For those of you not acquainted with HUMINT and it’s techniques, I suggest you read “The Art Of Intelligence” By Henry Crump and learn… Why? Because that guy you’re talking to at the cool party might just be a PRC case officer…

Interesting times….

K.

INFOPOCALYPSE: You Can Lead The World To The Security Trough.. But You Can’t Make Them Think.

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“Dark, profound it was, and cloudy, so that though I fixed my sight on the bottom I did not discern anything there”

(Dante Alighieri; The Inferno)

The current state of the Security “Industry”

It seems that once again people who I have acquaintance with in the security industry are wondering just how to interface with corporations and governments in order to build a base of comprehension about the need for information security. The problems though are myriad with these questions and the task to reach people can be a daunting one, never mind when you have groups of them in hierarchies that comprise some of the worst group think in the world (AKA corporations)

Added issues for the “industry” also surround the fact that it is one at all. Once something moves from an avocation to a profession, you have the high chance of it becoming industrialised. By saying something has been made industrialised, implies to many, the cookie cutter Henry Ford model really. In the security world, we have seen this from the perspective of magic boxes that promise to negate security vulnerabilities as well as teams of consultants who will “securitize” the company that is hiring them with magic tools and wizardry. The net effect here is that those paying for and buying into such products and services may as well be buying a handful of magic beans instead.

Now, not every company will be efficacious in their assessments nor live up to the promises they make for their hardware/software solutions. Many practitioners out there and companies really try to do the right thing and do so pretty well. However, just as in any other business, there are charlatans and a wide range of skilled and unskilled plying their arts as well. Frankly, all that can be said on this issue is “Caveat Emptor”  It’s a crap shoot really when it comes to goods and services for security solutions. The key is though, to be able to secure yourselves as a company/entity from the standpoint of BASIC security tenets up.

Often its the simple things that allow for complete compromise.. Not just some exotic 0day.

So we have a cacophony of companies out there vying for people’s dollars as well as a news cycle filled with FUD that, in some cases are directly lifted from the white papers or interviews with key players from those said same companies seeking dollars. It is all this white noise that some now, are lamenting and wondering just how do we reign things in and get a stable base to work from in an ethical way to protect companies and individuals from information security meltdowns. More so it seems lately, the question has been how do we reach these people in the first place? How do we actually get a meaningful dialogue with the corporate masters and have them come away with the fundamentals of security as being “important”

Unfortunately, I think that there are some major psychological and sociological hurdles to overcome to reach that point where we can evince the response we all would like to see out of those C level execs. I have written about them before, but I will touch on them again later in this piece. Suffice to say, we all have a tough row to hoe where this is concerned, so, I expect there to be no easy answer… Nor really, any satisfactory conclusions either.

“It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing”

(Shakespeare; MacBeth)

Security Joan of Arc’s and their Security Crusade:

Joan De Arc was a woman ahead of her time. She wore men’s clothing and lead the French in battle against the English and to victory, all as a teen girl. She later was burned at the steak for heresy and just recently made a saint many years later. I give you this little history lesson (link included) to give you an idea of who you all are in the security industry lamenting over not being listened to. You too may be ahead of your time, but, just as she was, you too will not be listened to because your ideas (to the listeners) are “radical”

Now, radical is a term I am using to denote how the corporate types are seeing it. We, the security advocates, do not see these concepts as radical, but instead as common everyday things that should be practices (complex passwords, patching effectively, etc) They (the client) see these things as impediments to their daily lives, their bottom lines, and their agenda’s both personal and corporate. There are many players here, and all of them have agenda’s of their own. This is a truism that you must accept and understand before you rail against the system that is not listening to your advice.

Here’s a bit of a secret for you.. The more ardent you seem, the more likely you will be branded a “Joan” The perception will be that you are a heretic and should not be listened to. Instead you should be marginalised in favour of the status quo.. After all, they have gone about their business every day for years and they are just fine! The more you rail, or warn with dire tones, the more you will be placed at the back of the mind.

Think Richard Clarke (I heard that chuckle out there)

Though Joan inspired the French forces to battle on and win more than a few battles, she eventually was burned at the steak. Much of this was because of her unique nature and fervour. Much as yours may do the same to you… Without of course literally being burned at the steak and you all must learn this. I think you have to take a page from the hackers playbook really and use the axiom of being a “Ninja”

The subtle knife wins the battle.

 

“If the Apocalypse comes, beep me”

(Joss Whedon;Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

What’s the worst that could happen really?

The quote above really made me chuckle in thinking about this article and the problems surrounding the premise. This I think, is the epitome of some people’s attitudes on security. Most folks just go along their days oblivious to the basic security measures that we would like them to practice as security evangelists. The simple fact is that like other apocalypse scenarios, people just have not lived through them and been affected by them to change their behaviours accordingly. What solidified this for me recently was the snow storm last October here in New England that caught so many people flat footed. They simply had not ever really had to rely on their wits and whatever they had on hand before like this. When the government and the corporations (CL&P) failed to provide their services to the populace, the populace began to freak out.

Its the same thing for information security. Whether it is the government or the corporations that supply us all, both are comprised of people who all pretty much lack this perspective of being without, or having really bad things happen to them. 9/11 comes the closest, but, that only affected NYC and DC directly (i.e. explosions and nightmarish scenarios with high casualties) In the case of corporations, you have lawyers and layers of people to blame, so really, what are the risk evaluations here when it is easy to deflect blame or responsibility? For that matter, it was inconceivable to many in the government (lookin at you Condi) that terrorists would use planes as missiles… Even though a month before a report was handed out with that very scenario on the cover.

The core of the idea is this. Human nature on average, and a certain kind of psychology (normative) that says “This can’t happen to us” We all have it, just some of us are forward thinking and see the potentials. Those forward thinkers are likely security conscious and willing to go out of their way to carry out actions to insure their security. Things like storing extra food and water as well as other things that they might need in case of emergency. These can be life of death deal breakers.. Not so much for information security at your local Acme Widget Corp. In the corporate model, they have the luxury of “It’s somebody else’s problem” So, these things are usually not too important to them unless that person making the decision is cognisant of the issues AND responsible for them. Unfortunately, as we have learned these last 10 years or so, responsibility is not their strong suit.

So, on they go.. About their business after you, the security curmudgeon has told them that they need to store food for the winter..

But the grasshoppers, they don’t listen… Until they are at your door in the snow begging for food.

 

“More has been screwed up on the battlefield and misunderstood in the Pentagon because of a lack of understanding of the English language than any other single factor.

(John W. Vessey, Jr.)

How do we communicate and manipulate our elephants?

Back to the issue of how to communicate the things we feel important. This has been a huge issue for the security community for a couple of reasons.

  1. The whole Joan of Arc thing above
  2. The languages we speak are.. Well.. like Tamarian and theirs are corporate speak.

We, the security practitioners, often speak in metaphor and exotic language to the average corporate manager. You have all seen it before, when their eyes glaze over and they are elsewhere. We can go on and on about technical issues but we never really seem to get them to that trough in the title. Sometimes you can get them to the trough easily enough by hacking them (pentesting) but then they think;

“Well this guy is a hacker… No one else could do this! What are the chances this is going to really happen? Naaahhh forget it, it’s not likely”

So there is a bias already against doing the things that we recommend. Then comes the money, the time, and the pain points of having to practice due diligence. This is where they turn off completely and the rubric of it is that unless they are FORCED to carry out due diligence by law or mandate, they won’t. We all have seen it.. Admit it.. It’s human nature to be lazy about things and it is also human nature to not conceive that the bad things could happen to them, so it would be best to prepare and fight against them.

So, how do we communicate with these people and get them on the same page?

I have no answers save this;

“Some get it.. Some don’t”

That’s the crux.. You have to accept that you as the security practitioner will NEVER reach everyone. Some will just say thank you and good day… And you have to accept that and walk away. As long as you have performed the due diligence and told them of their problems.. You have done all you can. You can try and persuade or cajole them… But, in the end, only those who get it or have been burned before will actually listen and act on the recommendations you make.

“The greater our knowledge increases the more our ignorance unfolds”

(John F. Kennedy)

The Eternal Struggle

There you have it. This will always be the case and it will always be the one thing that others seeking to compromise corporations and governments will rely on. The foolishness of those who do not plan ahead will be their undoing..

Eventually.

All you can do sage security wonk, is calmly and professionally explain to them the issues and leave it to them to drink.

K.

China’s cyber-warfare capabilities are ‘fairly rudimentary’… What is it with these crazy Australians?

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Conclusions
Chinese strategists are quite aware of their own deficiencies and
vulnerabilities with respect to cyber-warfare. In June 2000, “a series of high-
technology combat exercises” being conducted by the PLA “had to be
92 suspended” when they were attacked by “a computer hacker”.

China‟s telecommunications technicians were impotent against the intermittent
hijacking of the Sinosat-1 national communications satellite by Falun Gong
„practitioners‟ in the early 2000s. China‟s demonstrated offensive cyber-
warfare capabilities are fairly rudimentary. Chinese hackers have been able
to easily orchestrate sufficient simultaneous „pings‟ to crash selected Web
servers (i.e., Denial-of-Service attacks). They have been able to penetrate
Web-sites and deface them, erase data from them, and post different
information on them (such as propaganda slogans). And they have
developed various fairly simple viruses for spreading by e-mails to disable
targeted computer systems, as well as Trojan Horse programs insertible by
e-mails to steal information from them. However, they have evinced little
proficiency with more sophisticated hacking techniques.

The viruses and Trojan Horses they have used have been fairly easy to detect and remove
before any damage has been done or data stolen. There is no evidence that
China‟s cyber-warriors can penetrate highly secure networks or covertly
steal or falsify critical data. They would be unable to systematically cripple
selected command and control, air defence and intelligence networks and
databases of advanced adversaries, or to conduct deception operations by
secretly manipulating the data in these networks. The gap between the
sophistication of the anti-virus and network security programs available to
China‟s cyber-warriors as compared to those of their counterparts in the
more open, advanced IT societies, is immense. China‟s cyber-warfare
authorities must despair at the breadth and depth of modern digital
information and communications systems and technical expertise available
to their adversaries.

China is condemned to inferiority in IW capabilities for probably several
decades. At best, it can employ asymmetric strategies designed to exploit
the (perhaps relatively greater) dependence on IT by their potential
adversaries—both the C ISREW elements of adversary military forces and
the vital telecommunications and computer systems in the adversary’s
homelands. In particular, attacks on US information systems relating to
military command and control, transportation and logistics could “possibly
degrade or delay U.S. force mobilisation in a time-dependent scenario”, such
as US intervention in a military conflict in the Taiwan Straits.

China‟s cyber-warfare capabilities are very destructive, but could not compete in
extended scenarios of sophisticated IW operations. In other words, they
function best when used pre-emptively, as the PLA now practices in its exercises.

In sum, the extensive Chinese IW capabilities, and the
possibilities for asymmetric strategies, are only potent if employed first.

Desmond Ball: China’s Cyber Warfare Capabilities


Oh Desmond…

Desmond, Desmond, Desmond… You spend so much time pointing out all of the Honker Union activities, the malware created by China, and all their overall IW/Espionage activities and then you say;

“Well, because there’s no real proof of their actually having done anything, they are unable to do so”

*blink blink*

Crikey! Have you been sipping what Dr. Wright has been drinking or what? Tell me Desmond, what is your classification rating? Because I think you are lacking some pertinent information that might change your hypothesis quite a bit. Either way, your contention is lacking understanding of the playing field I think, so let me enlighten you a bit ok?

Rudimentary? Really?

I personally have heard of “on the fly” coding of malware to affect pertinent systems within a defense contractor network to not only keep access within said network, but, also to exfiltrate even more interesting data. Now, that sounds rather advanced to me..

How about you?

Sure, the coders could have been just about anyone, but, the data was being exfiltrated to areas that were in the Asia Pacific and more than likely were Chinese in origin so, yeah, it likely was them and not say, Germany. However, once again, we have no real proof of it being “solely” China. Oddly enough though, when data was caught in the hands of the Chinese we pretty much had to admit it was them doing it. So, no Desmond, they are not wholly unskilled and certainly as unsophisticated as you would paint them. This is just one instance of access and hacking that allowed for the APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) activity that, well Desmond, was coined for their activities against the defense industrial base here in the US.

Simply Desmond, you can cite all the articles from the internet you want.. You still won’t have the whole picture.

PSSST… Guess What?

So, to move this further along the philosophical and technical path for you let me explain it another way for you. The Chinese, as with most of the Asiatic countries, have a different perspective on things than we in the West. Something core to the Chinese mindset on warfare are the following:

The Chinese do not have a goal of outright cyber warfare with us. In fact, they would use the subterfuge angle you speak of by leaving trap doors in software and hardware, which they have done in the past (and have been caught) However, more than likely, they would use the supply chain that we have allowed them to become the lions share of via outsourcing of cheap parts/labor to infiltrate our systems with bad chips or said same back doors. Why do you think we spend so much time (the military) checking everything that we get for the government/mil from China?
Soft power Desmond would dictate that they use the thousand grains of sand to not only steal our IP but also use the technology and our dependence on their cheap rates to insert bad data/systems/hardware into our own infrastructure for them to call up when needed to fail. This is not to say that they do not also have operators who have inserted code into other systems remotely to late be used when needed as well.
Simply Desmond, you don’t see the whole picture and its rather sad that you go on to make such defined claims. The simple truth is that the Chinese don’t need to attack us pre-emptively. They have been undermining us (US) for a very long time as we sell out to them for cheap goods. and services. THIS is soft power. They now sit in the catbird seat in many ways financially (though yes, they could lose much by us defaulting) however, from the soft power perspective, they hold the upper hand. A coup de grace would be to take down military systems were we to get uppity about Taiwan.. but really, are we in a position to do so after being wholly owned by them and their capital?
Desmond.. It’s not so much Red Dawn as it is “They Live” if you are into movie references.

網絡戰 !!!

Alrighty, now that I have gotten that off my chest, Cyberwar is to me, too hard to carry out for ANY of the countries out there now. China being only one country that might want to. The systems are too disparate and to control a single node would take great effort. So, yes, I can agree with you that they are not in a position to do us major damage from a CYBERWAR booga booga booga perspective. Frankly, no one could in my opinion. However, your contention that they could not insert bad data during a time of war is a load of crap.

ANYONE could IF they had the access and the desire. It would not need to be nation state, it could be a private citizen for that matter. What is more interesting Desmond is that you fail to understand the espionage angle here. The Chinese use their expat’s to do their bidding under threat, or, mostly under the “poor poor China” argument. Imagine an insider adding code to systems that could be triggered…

Yeah.. Soft power once again.. It could turn hard though with the right circumstances.

Once again Desmond, you think too one dimension-ally.

The Sad Truth…

Now, with all of that said, lets turn it around a bit. The saddest truth is this;

“Given all of what has happened recently with Lulzsec, it has become clear that it does not take an uber hacker to take down pretty much anyone”

The systems out there have not been protected well enough. Patching, and secure coding have not been at the fore here and thus it is trivial for the most part to hack into systems throughout the internet. So, the Chinese need not be uber haxx0rs to do the damage needed because we collectively have done a bad job at securing our own networks.

*sadface*

Once again, you fail to look at the problem from a more multidimensional angle.

Please go back to the drawing board Desmond because you lack the proper information and perspective to really make the claims you are making.

K.