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

Archive for the ‘Hubris’ Category


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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?


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!


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.


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?


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.



The Global Cyber Game

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The Global Cyber Game:

I had been meaning to write about this before when I had originally read the text but things got in the way as usual (work, more work, some more work after that, Defcon/Bsides) Now though I am in a space where I can reflect back on this paper and write about it here for you all to see. The Defence Academy (UK) put this together to describe how we might approach “cyberwar” on the level of game play or game theory. They constructed a board and began to set to the task of creating game play and tactics given certain scenarios in the cyber world. (see image of game board below) You can actually play this game if you create a board from this design and work within the rules of game theory but this is not why I find this treatise so important.


What I find most interesting is the actual scenario’s that play out within the game play as well as the end game status that the paper puts it all down to in the end of N-Utopia and N-Dystopia. As one can gather from the inherent meaning of the words, N-Utopia means that we all work out our problems globally and work on bettering society (which in the Nash equations is the best play) or we end up with N-Dystopia, a Balkanization of the net, and warfare that scales all levels up to kinetic and will be the death of us all. Can you guess where I think we are right now on the N-scale? Yes, you’d be right to lean toward the N-Dystopia area. In fact I would even like to see that idea rendered in a new way with an older iconography, that being the Doomsday Clock analogy. Perhaps someone can take that up online and create one for the cyebrwarz eh?

Power Dimensions:

What must be taken into account in the great cyber game is that all of this is centered around power plays. The use of information as power, the use of information to effect actions vis a vis “power” and the varying types of power that are being wielded by the players. This paper covers this idea pretty well and should be required reading for anyone looking to study cyber-warfare along side Clausewitz and other more well known pieces of doctrine. Some however may already be familiar with the ideas of hard and soft power but let’s take that into the electronic warfare arena which is a bit harder to scope today.

  • Hard power
    • Overt threats and rewards
    • Kinetic action
    • Coercion
  • Soft power
    • Cooperation
    • Co-Option

Both of these types of dynamic play off of one another and work in tandem. There actually is a whole spectrum of power plays that can be derived from these basic premises but I will not go into all that here. To date I have seen an abundance of hard power tactics being employed on the game board and I fear that that seems to be what the governments of the world have locked on to as their aegis. I would love for more to try the soft power tactics and methods but I am too much of a realist to hope that it will ever really happen.

The game play today that we are all seeing unfold before us is the hard power of Stuxnet or the ramping up of every piece of malware and 0day conceivable being purchased by the US government or others in an effort to be superior when the battle comes. That is though when they are not using those said same exploits in the darker games of realpolitik that they are prosecuting now. As I see it now we are hurtling towards a massive cyberfail of our own making and the real cost of the bad play will be economies around the world and other collateral damage that may not be an apocalypse as we currently understand them to be.

The power dimensions portion of this paper is quite enlightening and you should broaden the scope of how those plays are made with information and the internet. One must understand the playing field as well as the weapon you wield. This is the main problem I have of late is that all too many people and governments are not understanding the game play, the field of play, nor the tools they are using (pieces) well enough to play the game well. This makes not only for bad play, but in this game there are real world consequences for us all when some government or actor does something immensely stupid.

Cyber Games Today:

So what are we seeing today that has me worried? Well, we have the cybergames with Stuxnet and other malware to start. I liken the release of Stuxnet as skin to the release of a biotoxin or virus that eventually will be re-worked or manipulated into a more fearsome weapon. These are not one use tools, they are in fact re-usable and re-tune-able. Once these things are out there is no controlling them and with the idea of Stuxnet you have something that was used against one target but could affect hundreds more in friendly countries if they had the same configuration.

Another cybergame being played today is the new surveillance state that we find ourselves in. It seems in the case of the US we have people who are interpreting our Constitution to suit their needs under the rubric of protecting the homeland. This cybergame is all about information and the power dimension of controlling it. I have been watching this Snowden affair unfold and frankly I am frightened of the capabilities that the NSA has but I am much more scared that they claim that they are protecting us while a Snowden subverts the very systems they are saying cannot be misused. This particular cybergame when looked at, show’s all of the hard and soft power dimensions at play with the media and the law. This should also be brought into the cyber game play as well.

Yet another cybergame going on is within the public/private sector and I call the “Patriot Games” What I mean by this is that we have non state actors playing rolls of asymmetric warriors online to effect whatever change they see fit. A certain un-named clown for one is a primary actor in this space and really started the trend in my opinion. The cybergamers here are vigilantes nothing more and nothing less and may or may not have an effect on the grander scheme of things on the net and in public policy. For the most part however, these players are on the hard power end of the spectrum and thus just mostly come off as thugs.

Lastly, the cybergame that seems to be the one with the most chance of playing in the larger space is that of Anonymous. Anonymous has been able to leverage many players into semi cogent action and could in the future have a real effect on policy and other dimensions within the cybergame play. The only reason that I place Anon into this game is because of that mobilizing force that they seem to carry. If motivated and able to be cohesive enough this group could affect the greater games being played and have on a microcosmic scale thus far in recent history.

In all, the games that are being played, and they are games, all serve as a means to an end for those paying attention to understand and perhaps help those in the seat of power how not to play the game at all. Our petty squabbling on the internet is just that. The reality is that the net is important and much of our lives today require it to run smoothly but if the net were to go down permanently our society would not utterly collapse. We would survive and we would re-build. The question then becomes would we have learned from it and do things better the next time around?

Cyber-Utopia and Cyber-Dystopia:

The idea of Cyber-Utopia is a far fetched one in my mind and probably many others out there. This would be a great thing if we could make it happen but given the petty nature of our.. well nature.. We will only see this ideal wash up on the rocks and sink into the ocean rather quickly. In the Cyber-Utopia we all work together, we cooperate, and we work towards a better day. … And I just don’t see this happening barring some kind of alien intervention frankly.

Cyber-Dystopia though I am afraid is already the case in many respects. We are seeing an almost Balkanization of the internet today as it is never mind the games being played in reality with Stuxnet and cyberwar. If the N-Dystopia comes to pass we will find ourselves at war with each other constantly in a “cyberworld” much like the episode of STOS “A Taste of Armageddon”  where all warfare is carried out via computer simulations and only the casualties report to be disintegrated as a means to balance it all out. Today though we will see attacks on economies as well as infrastructures to effect “war” (economic, political, or other) on our enemies and the real world costs will have to be measured in profit loss or perhaps even actual loss of human life.

The cyber-dystopia though is more than just an outcome of war. It is the outcome from our own inabilities to work with each other and our ability to rationalize warfare through a non apocalyptic destruction of life. It will be a tit for tat war of attrition that will not lead to any clear victories and certainly not elevate our societies in any way and that is the sad truth of it. Ladies and gents we are already in the dystopia. We just may not understand that yet.

Understand the game:

So, I leave you with the paper: The Global Cyber Game pull it down and read it. Learn from it, play the game if you like, and spend some time thinking about it all. We are on the cusp of another evolution in our society that we have seen repeated in every other evolution we have had. We create something, then we weaponize it. Perhaps if more of us understand it and the pitfalls we can prevent the N-Dystopia from becoming any worse.


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

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Flame, DuQU, STUXNET, and now GAUSS:

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

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

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

Malware Wars:

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

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

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

An Interesting Week of News About Lebanon and Bankers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a delicate balance.. #shutupeugene

Pandora’s Box Has Been Opened:

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

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

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

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

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


Detecting Psychopathy Via Tweets? A Flawed Premise May Present Dire Consequences

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In contemporary research and clinical practice, Robert D. Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist, Revised (PCL-R) is the psycho-diagnostic tool most commonly used to assess psychopathy.[1] Because an individual’s score may have important consequences for his or her future, and because the potential for harm if the test is used or administered incorrectly is considerable, Hare argues that the test should only be considered valid if administered by a suitably qualified and experienced clinician under controlled and licensed conditions.[2][3] Hare receives royalties on licensed use of the test.[4]

Background Sources:

Wikipedia on PCL-R

Defcon 20 Presentation

Fox News



Science Daily



A paper and talk being given at Defcon 20 this week has gotten people all worked into a lather within the news arena and has piqued my interest. The talk centers around the premise that one may be able to determine psychopathic traits (psychopathic and sociopathic behaviors) from of all things, the analysis of tweets. Now, this may be a novel idea to some and it certainly seems the news has latched onto this, but, in the cold hard light of day, this premise has way too many failures to be actually applicable to gaining any insight into anyone’s psyche via Twitter.

In this article I am staking out my contention that this is not a suitable means of diagnostics of this type and in fact, were it to be followed up on and used, would lead to bad results and perhaps the citation of individuals online as being “Psychopathic” when they are not the least bit so. As such, this talk may be an inquiry into whether or not this is possible, but, had the research been carried out to the extent of reading the materials and their ancillaries, one would quickly come to grips with some salient facts that make this method of detection untenable. As the media hype has already started on this, I think it prudent to speak up on this here and now, as well as write an after piece once I have sat through the talk and had a chance to see exactly what they say they believe possible in the end.

A Flawed Premise:

Having read the original paper by Hancock, Woodworth, and Porter, (Hungry like the wolf: A word-pattern analysis of the language of psychopaths) the experiment clearly states that they had chosen a sampling of criminals convicted of murder (various degrees of which) and verbally interviewed them on their crimes. The method of interview was strictly adhered to and was a known and well used process including blind interpretation (where the interviewer did not collate the data on psychopathy, just transcribed dialog and logged emotional states) Once the transcription was done (including disinfluences *uh and um*) this text was taken and run through the wmatrix and other tools to determine the languages affinities for psychopathy and other mental states. This “text” is actual “dialog” and as such, is not the same as the “written word” that the speakers at Defcon are going to be assessing in their presentation, and this is a key difference that I am unsure they have taken into account. Writing is affected and not natural to many (i.e. fluid dialog in writing) Add to this that you are talking about the emoting of data/emotion vis a vis Twitter at 140 characters at a time AND using quite a bit of word shortening and slang, and the premise of using “language” to determine psyche really falls apart.

A second key point is that the dialogs that are being used in the original paper are specifically stories of their crimes. This was a calculated effort on the part of the psychologists to elicit the emotional states of the subjects in relation to their crimes, and their victims. This is a key factor in the determination of the language that the researchers were looking at, and as such, this, as far as I know, is not a part of the paper being presented at Defcon, and thus, misses a key data point… Making the premise suspect to start.

It is my opinion, just from the differences between the experimental inputs, that unless you have a larger dialectic to work from and a trained set of people to determine not only language, but also emotion (we all know how easy it is to misinterpret an email right?) of the poster, you cannot in any way, shape or form come up with a psychiatric profile, never mind an actual diagnosis, of psychopathy via online content, especially that which is culled from Twitter.

Background Data On PCL-R:

Another factor that I would like to address briefly is the use of the PCL-R test. This test, though being around for some time and used, is still not part of the DSMV as a diagnostic tool that they prefer. There are many papers and articles online that do not promote the use of this test as a lock on Psychopathy, nor is there really a consensus from DSM to DSM on exactly what Psychopathy is. Psychology and Psychiatry is more of a plastic science due to the nature of the human brain. So, all of this supposition on trying to quantify an individual from their language written online at 140 characters at a time is being terribly kluged into an ideal. It is important to know the landscape here to understand that nothing is certain and even diagnosis of an ailment such as these can be countered by a second opinion by another doctor.

.. And doctors should be involved in any of these experiments online as well. However, the bulk of what I have seen online and read elsewhere, as well as common sense, points to me the fact that even with a lot of online chatter, one must interview the subject in person to determine their illness.

Not All Problems Can be Solved With Big Data and Technical Solutions:

In the end though, I guess my biggest concern is that certain people out there (or government groups) might take this idea of sifting through big data online for such linguistic cues as something to run with. In fact, contextual searches already exist and often are used by agencies to determine where someone might live or have lived, gone to school, etc by the nature of their writing. In fact, recently on Studio 360 I heard a report of a computer program being created for just such a thing. It however, was also an AI project to try and get the “Turing” effect to be so acute that a person online would not know the difference between computer and human communication.

Which, brings me to another idea.. When will we see the first “psychopathic” AI out there? But I digress…

It seems to me that more and more we are being collectively mined not only for our habits, but now our emotions as well as our psychological makeups. All of this could potentially be collated from numerous sources (not just out of the context of language but also click behavior etc) Remember those days in college when you took Psych 101 and thought the professor was just messing with you and taking notes? Well, I have the same feeling now with the internet in general and the companies and governments using it for contextual purposes.

I doubt though, we will ever be able to contextualize the human psyche just from internet datum… And that is where I think this talk is headed… And thus, I had to speak my peace. I will have another post on my thoughts after the talk.. Maybe they can change my mind a bit.

Maybe not.


Written by Krypt3ia

2012/07/25 at 20:14