Krypt3ia

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

Archive for the ‘IMINT’ Category

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.

Enemy of the State

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Fort Meade has acres of mainframe computers underground. You're talking on the phone and you use the word, "bomb," "president," "Allah," any of a hundred key words, the computer recognizes it, automatically records it, red flags it for analysis; that was twenty years ago.

From The New Yorker; The Secret Sharer

The government argues that Drake recklessly endangered the lives of American servicemen. “This is not an issue of benign documents,” William M. Welch II, the senior litigation counsel who is prosecuting the case, argued at a hearing in March, 2010. The N.S.A., he went on, collects “intelligence for the soldier in the field. So when individuals go out and they harm that ability, our intelligence goes dark and our soldier in the field gets harmed.”

Top officials at the Justice Department describe such leak prosecutions as almost obligatory. Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General who supervises the department’s criminal division, told me, “You don’t get to break the law and disclose classified information just because you want to.” He added, “Politics should play no role in it whatsoever.”

Politics should play no role whatsoever? Really? This man is delusional to think that the statement, albeit correct, is actually factual. Of course politics play a part in such prosecutions, and case in point, this article cites examples of people getting slaps on the hand for breaking the espionage act and others where TS/S documents are concerned. The reasons that these others were not prosecuted to the full extent of the law was exactly because of politics and their entanglements. No Mr. Breuer, politics do play a role all too often.

That said, I encourage you all to read the full article and judge for yourselves just what happened with the case against Mr. Drake. It is my understanding from other sources as well as the New Yorker piece, that Drake was seeking to show waste on a grand scale while others were motivated by the idea that the sweeping changes to US law and oversight within the espionage area had taken a deep turn for the un-constitutional. This is an assessment that I agree with and have seen even more such dark turns lately where the digital realm is concerned. Frankly, at times I am a bit scared of the access and perhaps excess that the changes in the law have allowed for the NSA as well as anyone with enough juice within the newly minted security infrastructure post 9/11.

Constitutional Law vs. Technological Ease of Access vs. Political Agendas:

When the Constitution was created none of the technologies at play today were even a dream for the makers. Today though, the ideas of privacy, unreasonable search and seizure, and the fundamental freedoms we claim to cherish so much have been blurred. The blame for this rests partly on the technology, but mostly on the people who should be monitoring their system of laws. After 9/11 the people became all too trusting of the government to take care of them and all too willing to accept the over-reaches that they knew of while they were kept in the dark about others.

Case in point would be the FISA and warrantless wiretap situation that the Bush administration put into play after the terrorist attacks. It was the belief of the administration and the law enforcement community (certain factions) that too much time was lost to entering FISA warrants and getting approvals. So, instead they began to draft opinions that said the process was too ponderous, all the while they were putting together a secret process to just bypass the FISA altogether with or without the legal status to do so. This then begat the further access programs that essentially placed a tap on ALL communications going in and out of the backbone of the internet with the NARUS systems in the MAE’s around the country.

Since the technology was there, and it could be placed into a position to audit everything, they just said let’s do it. Thus, all traffic that you or I create over the Internet has the potential of being captured, flagged, and audited by someone at Ft. Meade without a warrant to do so. This also includes the cell phones as well because that traffic too passes through the same backbone system. Like the image of Brill above states;

Fort Meade has acres of mainframe computers underground. You’re talking on the phone and you use the word, “bomb,” “president,” “Allah,” any of a hundred key words, the computer recognizes it, automatically records it, red flags it for analysis; that was twenty years ago.

Brill, a character from Enemy of the State, was going on about this in a film out before the attacks on the US. It would seem that if the technology had not already been in place then, the administration took a cue from the film and made it a reality after the twin towers came down. After all, the enemy could be anyone and the US populace wanted an action hero to take on the bad men and win. The same people though, did not seem to understand that to do so, the administration would take the shortcut of bypassing decades of laws set in place to protect our freedoms from excessive powers that the Bush administration wanted to have to ‘protect’ us.

It was this over-stepping of the laws that others within the story at The New Yorker had begun to tell to the Sun reporter and who now are being pursued by an alleged non political NSA and government for calling them on their breaking of the law. Just as much as Mr. Drake was seeking to show that the waste created by Trailblazer could also tie into the misuse of ThinThread’s code to eavesdrop on anyone.

Both of these concerns are shared by me as well. After all, with the technology in place and without the oversight, how do we know that abuses aren’t happening? The NSA is famously known to tell the Senate oversight committee to go pound sand… So, who is really watching the watchers?

Right Versus Wrong and Speaking Truth To Power; Do We Have A Say Anymore?:

So, if you have access to classified materials and programs and you see that things have gone off the rails how can you expect to report on it to the authorities and not be prosecuted? It used to be that there were protections, but, it seems now post 9/11 that changes to the paradigms of classification and the re-interpretation of the law to suit the state, it has become increasingly impossible to whistle blow and not be prosecuted. What’s more, if you decide to report, the data that you are reporting on may be classified to the extent that it cannot even be used in open court or with your non cleared lawyer because it may be deemed too sensitive.

The net effect is that if there is malfeasance going on it may be impossible to report it and not get yourself into dire legal trouble with the current whistle blowing legislation on the books. This makes it even easier for the state and or entities and parties within its infrastructure to not abide by the law and have little to fear of oversight or speaking truth to power.

Sheeple vs. The Informed and Worried:

Meanwhile, the populace may live their lives unaware of the capacities for the state to listen to them and or present evidence gathered on them in an extra-legal way. At the very least, due to the wider interpretation of the law, it is easier for the state to gather and use evidence in ways that were not possible before because of the latitudes given post the Bush administration.

From a privacy perspective and the expectation thereof, the idea that all traffic is being hoovered up by the state is kind of scary. From a constitutional law perspective, you have the right to privacy in your papers and your domicile. Does this actually apply to digital papers, computers, hard drives, and anything you pass over telco lines to the cloud? Or is it considered public domain like your trash being placed at the end of your driveway?

This is an important precedent and should be considered with every email, IM, and call you make today. Just as well, if you are intent on retaining your privacy, what are the ways to do so now that all of these lines of communication are monitored by the state? One also has to determine just how worried they should be about intrusion into their privacy. After all, today we as a people give up a lot of information on ourselves at sites like Facebook and if we do that, just how much privacy can we expect?

Following that thought process, if we give up our privacy so easily how can we make an argument against the changes to the FISA rules as well as other laws where eavesdropping on our daily digital lives are concerned?

I for one do not want all of my conversations recorded for someone else to audit whether or not I may have said or done something that could be construed as illegal or perhaps pique the interests of the fed. Of course today one could easily be stopped in some states for alleged traffic violations and be asked if they could clone your phone data… Just because.

Whistle Blowing… Not So Much:

I guess in the end that the state of affairs today leans heavily toward the government being able to pretty much do what it wants to. From the warrantless wiretaps to the detention of non combatants, we have quite an inheritance from 9/11 and the Bush years. Unfortunately much of what President Obama had pledged he would roll back from those years have instead been re-approved if not enhanced. Add the whole Wikileaks debacle and now you have an even more reflexive and paranoid government trying to over classify everything and getting really bent when things get out.

So, the idea of whistle blowing I think is pretty much a dead one from here on. If anyone sees wrongdoing going on then they probably will let it go for fear that they will be prosecuted into oblivion.

And then the state wins… There have to be checks and balances.

K.

The Post Bin-Laden World

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Well, it finally happened. OBL is ostensibly dead, though we have no real proof of that for the masses to see, but we are being told as much and that there have been DNA matches made. As you are all being barraged with I am sure, the salient points of the operation are these:

  • OBL was not in the kush, but instead in a populated area situated about an hour outside of Islamabad Pakistan
  • The compound was built in 2005 and has been under surveillance for some time
  • The compound was located in an area that was off limits to the reapers and other drones, thus they thought they were secure
  • The compound was about half a mile away from the Pakistani military version of West Point
  • The courier that OBL trusted most was the one who led us to him. He was in turn alleged to have been outed by KSM in Gitmo under “interrogation” as well as others in CIA ghost sites
  • Once the CIA had the pseudonym it took about two years to actually get his real name and then to locate him
  • Once we had a lock on enough data to place OBL there, the go code was given to neutralise OBL (he was not to be captured)
  • SEAL Team SIX confiscated more than 3 computers from the premises and I am sure those have been sent already to the NSA for decrypt/forensics
  • OBL’s body and any photos of it have been deep six’d so as not to give the jihadi’s anything to work with for Nasheeds and other propaganda
  • It was old fashioned intelligence work and a SPECOPS team that eventually got him… Not just fancy drones and technology

All in all, Sunday was a good day for SPECOPS, the CIA, and the U.S. So, what does this mean though for the GWOT and for all of us now?

AQ’s Response:

So far, I have seen very little chatter on the jihadi boards whatsoever. In fact, it has been downright quiet out there. I think there is a mix of disbelief and a bit of fear out there that is keeping them quiet. Just as there has been no body provided or photo’s thereof, they all must be waiting on an announcement from AQ as to the loss. However, I don’t expect that announcement to be soon. I am sure Ayman has been scuttled off somewhere ‘safe’ and the rest of the thought leadership (what’s left that is) is wondering just where to go from here.

Much of the inactivity on the part of AQ also likely is due to their loss of computers that likely held A LOT of data that were taken by the SEAL’s at exfiltration. I would assume that much of what was left of their internal network has been compromised by this loss and when the systems are cracked and examined, there will be more raids coming. So, they all are likely bugging out, changing identities if possible and burning the rest of the network to prevent blowback.

Frankly, this is a real death blow to AQ itself no matter how autonomous the network cells have become. Though, OBL had been less the public face of things for some time with Ayman taking up the face roll. Time will tell just what happens to the AQ zeitgeist in its original form, but I think I already know what has happened, and it has been going on for some time…

In the end, I don’t expect a real response from AQ proper and if anything, I expect a feeble one from Ayman in a few days. Remember, Ayman is not well liked within many jihadi circles, so the succession of AQ is likely to have Ayman try, but I think in the end fail to be the new OBL.

AQAP and Anwar al-Awlaki the new thought leaders:

Meanwhile, I believe this is the new AQ. AQAP has been developing a base that includes the whole Inspire Magazine machine. Anwar Al-Awlaki has been the titular head of jihadi thought for some time now, but with the demise of OBL and AQ proper, he will be the lightning rod I suspect. I think also that we will be hearing from him very soon and with that audio, no doubt released by Al-Malahem, he will take the spot that OBL and Ayman did. Whether that will be at the behest or acquiescence of Ayman or not I cannot be sure.

Awlaki is frankly, the charismatic Americanized version of OBL that will be able to and has been, moving the western takfiri’s to jihad with his fiery speeches. With his team of younger, hipper, and technically savvy, he will have a better chance of activating the youth movements and gaining the respect of the older set.

AQ Attacks:

I frankly do not see any major attacks coming from AQ proper in the near future that would rival 9/11. However, I do see the potential for some attacks in Pakistan/Afghanistan/Iraq from operators using shahid attacks. I do believe though, that they will be working on larger scale attacks as they are patient and have a real desire now to avenge OBL.

Time will tell on this, but I do not think that operationally, AQ is in a position to really do anything of merit at this time. This is specifically so because OBL’s computers and data have been captured and as I said before, the networks are likely broken.

AQAP Attacks:

AQAP though, is an entity unto itself and I can see them putting together another parcel bomb plot pretty quickly. The last plot (the one with the toner cartridges) was put together in short order and had a very low cost, so I think if anyone, AQAP has a better chance of actuating a plan and carrying it off.

Of course, they may not succeed just like the last time. In some ways though, we got lucky on that one as the Saud’s got intel that they shared foiling the plot.

Lone Wolves:

This is the one I think most viable and worry about. The disparate crazy loners who have self radicalized to jihad are the ones likely to do something bonkers. These guys may not have the training, may not have the infrastructure, but, they make up for it all in sheer whack nutty-ness.

The one thing about this is that I suspect that these folks will be the ones here in the states. So soft targets will be a premium (malls, games, etc)

Moving Forward:

The next week is going to be interesting. As time goes on, and the AQ networks begin to settle, then I am sure we will see some response from them. Meanwhile, I will continue to monitor the boards and see what’s what.

I do though want to recommend that you all out there keep your wits about you as you are out and about in soft targets like malls, games, and other gathering places. If anything, its that lone wolf actor who may try something and those would be targets they would choose for maximum effect.

More when I have it.

K

Anonymous #HQ: Inside The Anonymous Secret War Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

[snip]

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway… Just sayin…

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

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

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

For that matter.. How about the CIA?

NSA?

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

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

“May you live in interesting times”

Indeed.

K.

Anonymous: Headless, Herd Mentality, or Convergence Theory Driven Entity?

with 10 comments

In my last couple of posts I took a look at what has been going on with Anonymous and HBGary Federal. Within those posts, I began musing on just how decentralised Anonymous really is. By looking at the overall picture of how Anonymous seems to work on the face of it, you might think that they are just a fluctuating group of online personae who sign up for certain operations that they desire to devote time to. However, no matter how many times I look at the big picture, I still see an underlying structure(s) that potentially have more static features that can be analysed and thus, allows for the potential of there being pseudo-anonymity.

Now, this may rankle some within the anonymous camp and likely will cause some comments here but, this is something that interests me as well as really is an academic thought experiment as opposed to Aaron’s little projects. So, you anon’s out there, take this post and my musings as food for thought as you go on about your anonymous lulz. I am not searching you all out to “out” you, just looking at an interesting problem.

With that said, lets move on to my theories.

Motivations, Drivers, Flocking, Herding, and Convergence Theory:

Before I go into the infrastructure of Anonymous as I see it, let me first go into the psychology behind the human side of Anonymous. This bears directly on the infrastructure due to the fact that humans online comprise the entity known as Anonymous. It is the psychology behind that human element, that give rise to the means by which they are carried out in a social media format. (i.e. the internet/IRC/Social media)

Human motivations can and are myriad, however, there are some basic desires that are fulfilled by action as a cohesive group. These desires or goals take shape in differing ways. In the case of Anonymous, they have aligned themselves with a “swarm” mentality, and I ascribed to that at first, but, after thinking about it quite a bit, I have come to the conclusion that a swarm does not really fit the patterns of behaviour exhibited by Anonymous. A swarm implies lack of thought and instead just reaction. The examples used before of bee’s or ants are good ones to use to show in fact, Anonymous does not resemble them. Instead, the Anon’s all have motivations as a whole and on their own individually that motivate them to act as they are. In this simple fact, the aspect of having self awareness and motives, shows that the allusion to swarming is a fallacy.

Instead, I propose that since humans are behind the actions of anonymous, and comprise its ranks, that other theories apply to them that come from a more humanistic approach, much of it being from psychology. The following theories apply as I see it.

From Wikipedia

Herd behavior in human societies
The philosophers Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche were among the first to critique what they referred to as “the crowd” (Kierkegaard) and “herd morality” and the “herd instinct” (Nietzsche) in human society. Modern psychological and economic research has identified herd behavior in humans to explain the phenomena of large numbers of people acting in the same way at the same time. The British surgeon Wilfred Trotter popularized the “herd behavior” phrase in his book, Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War (1914). In The Theory of the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen explained economic behavior in terms of social influences such as “emulation,” where some members of a group mimic other members of higher status. In “The Metropolis and Mental Life” (1903), early sociologist George Simmel referred to the “impulse to sociability in man”, and sought to describe “the forms of association by which a mere sum of separate individuals are made into a ‘society’ “. Other social scientists explored behaviors related to herding, such as Freud (crowd psychology), Carl Jung (collective unconscious), and Gustave Le Bon (the popular mind). Swarm theory observed in non-human societies is a related concept and is being explored as it occurs in human society.

Information Cascade:

An information (or informational) cascade occurs when people observe the actions of others and then make the same choice that the others have made, independently of their own private information signals. Because it is usually sensible to do what other people are doing, the phenomenon is assumed to be the result of rational choice. Nevertheless, information cascades can sometimes lead to arbitrary or even erroneous decisions. The concept of information cascades is based on observational learning theory and was formally introduced in a 1992 article by Sushil Bikhchandani, David Hirshleifer, and Ivo Welch.[1] A less technical article was released by the authors in 1998.[2][3]

[4][5]

There are two key conditions in an information cascade model:
1. Sequential decisions with subsequent actors observing decisions (not information) of previous actors.
2. A limited action space (e.g. an adopt/reject decision).[6

Classical theories
The main idea of Sigmund Freud’s crowd behavior theory is that people who are in a crowd act differently towards people from those who are thinking individually. The minds of the group would merge to form a way of thinking. Each member’s enthusiasm would be increased as a result, and one becomes less aware of the true nature of one’s actions.
Le Bon’s idea that crowds foster anonymity and sometimes generate emotion has become something of a cliché. Yet it has been contested by some critics, such as Clark McPhail who points out that some studies show that “the madding crowd” does not take on a life of its own, apart from the thoughts and intentions of members. Norris Johnson, after investigating a panic at a 1979 Who concert concluded that the crowd was composed of many small groups of people mostly trying to help each other. However, ultimately, leaders themselves identify themselves to an idea.

Theodor Adorno criticized the belief in a spontaneity of the masses: according to him, the masses were an artificial product of “administrated” modern life. The Ego of the bourgeois subject dissolved itself, giving way to the Id and the “de-psychologized” subject. Furthermore, the bond linking the masses to the leader through the spectacle, as fascism displayed in its public representations, is feigned:

“When the leaders become conscious of mass psychology and take it into their own hands, it ceases to exist in a certain sense. […] Just as little as people believe in the depth of their hearts that the Jews are the devil, do they completely believe in their leader. They do not really identify themselves with him but act this identification, perform their own enthusiasm, and thus participate in their leader’s performance. […] It is probably the suspicion of this fictitiousness of their own ‘group psychology’ which makes fascist crowds so merciless and unapproachable. If they would stop to reason for a second, the whole performance would go to pieces, and they would be left to panic.”[1]

Edward Bernays (1891–1995), nephew of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, was considered the father of the field of public relations. Bernays was one of the first to attempt to manipulate public opinion using the psychology of the subconscious. He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he felt was irrational and dangerous.

Convergence theory

Convergence theory holds that crowd behavior is not a product of the crowd itself, but is carried into the crowd by particular individuals. Thus, crowds amount to a convergence of like-minded individuals. In other words, while contagion theory states that crowds cause people to act in a certain way, convergence theory says the opposite: that people who wish to act in a certain way come together to form crowds. An example of convergence theory states that there is no homogeneous activity within a repetitive practice, sometimes observed when an immigrant population becomes common in a previously homogeneous area, and members of the existing community (apparently spontaneously) band together to threaten those trying to move into their neighborhoods. In such cases, convergence theorists contend, the crowd itself does not generate racial hatred or violence; rather, the hostility has been simmering for some time among many local people. A crowd then arises from convergence of people who oppose the presence of these neighbors. Convergence theory claims that crowd behavior as such is not irrational; rather, people in crowds express existing beliefs and values so that the mob reaction is the rational product of widespread popular feeling.

My money though is on Convergence Theory. While herd mentality works in many respects, the herd seems less actively motivating the outcome as it is reacting to external stimuli or a certain single entity moving them to “herd” in a specific direction. In Convergence Theory however, we have a more nuanced approach to understanding that like minded individuals congregate together socially and then as a crowd, act out on their collective consciousness. I believe that all of these behaviours and observations play a role in the macro-verse of Anonymous.

I also believe that at times, there are leaders who take up the issue that they feel needs redress and then start that herd moving toward a goal by beating the drum. Thus you have the chats and the boards where people take their digital soap boxes out and speak on the target, the reasons, and the method of attack. If the idea gets enough traction vis a vis the oration of the de facto leader at that time, then, a movement begins. Which brings me to the next topic.

Cells vs Spontaneous Headless Entities:

Anonymous has said many times and rather vociferously, that they are a headless organisation. I have always been of the opinion that no matter how many times they make that claim, it is functionally impossible. There will always be a core group of individuals that will be leading an operation. It is also the case that Anonymous is predicated on infrastructure that must be maintained. The IRC rooms, the servers, the web servers etc, all have people who operate them and manage them. In this respect, those persons would be the holders of the keys to the kingdom would they not? If a person in charge of such functions were to turn (or be turned) on the organisation, they could do massive damage to the org by being in charge of key assets.

I would further like to posit that for each “raiding party” as they may be called, would also have de facto leaders. An incidence of this can be seen in the WBC debacle in the response to WBC that claims 20 people had worked on the document. Those twenty people would nominally be leaders of that cell or operation by my accounts. So, to extend this further, for every operation there must be a division of roles and responsibilities doled out to function, it is just our nature to do this. If Anonymous were truly a chaotic system, nothing would get done effectively.

Cells however, also fit as an modus operandi for Anonymous. When I say cells I mean this from the perspective of cells in terrorism. Al Qaeda, as a functional operation has been winnowed down to the point of only being a titular entity in the jihadi movement. Due to the war on terror, AQ has shifted their operations from being rather linear to a cell mentality. All of the cells out there are pretty much self formed at present. The cells consist of like minded people who get subtle and not so subtle information/mandates from the AQ HQ via things like “Inspire Magazine” or the jihadist boards. The same can be applied to the structure of Anonymous. There are still those people who are making suggestions and or are outright perceived leaders, that can be singled out as targets of interest. This may not be the case every time, but, by using the information above on motivations and crowds, you can infer that it is the case more times than not.

Nick Re-Use as De-Anonymization:

Now, once you consider the motivations and the structures that are created or used, one must then consider how would someone go about trying to determine targets of interest. In the case of Anonymous this allusion had been made (poorly) by Aaron Barr. He went after certain parties that he claimed were in fact the core leaders of Anonymous. I can’t say that any of those names were in fact core leaders, however, I will say that the nicknames themselves could have been used to gain intelligence on said users and indeed prove their affiliation.

My premise is this;

1) The more unique a nick is the easier it is to track

2) Nickname re-use on other sites in tandem with uniqueness makes tracking and expanding on social connections easier

3) With the right foot-printing, one can potentially get enough information not only to see affiliations and actions, but also real names of individuals

So, if you are on the Anon boards and you re-use your nick, AND it is unique enough, I know that you can be tracked. Add to this the notion that you use your nick as an email address, then you are adding even more context for someone to search on and cogently put together patterns for recognition. So, the more data points, the more coherence to the picture if you see what I mean. By using tools like Maltego or even Palantir correctly, one can make those connections. In the hands of a trained analyst, the data can really show a person’s online personae and lead to enough data being revealed to have law enforcement breathing down your neck with warrants.

In looking at the Anon sites, one can see regular names turning up. Using Maltego on some of those names have also given returns that would be a good start on locating those people because the used the same nickname for other uses that are inherently insecure. Which is ironic as Anonymous is supposed to be just that. In fact, one can log onto their IRC session just as “anonymous18457” etc. I would do this every time I wanted to go onto their servers so as not to have too much residual data for someone to mine.

Aaron was right in that people are inherently lazy at times. We as a species are also ill equipped to delineate long term threats as opposed to near term. In most cases though, many of the Anon’s are in fact young and likely inured to the idea that the Internet is in fact an anonymous space.

It isn’t, unless you take pains to make it so.

Conclusion:

So there you have it. I have been pondering this for a little while now. I am sure there will be more as I think about it a bit. Aaron was a fool, but let me tell you, there are others out there in spook country who aren’t. These techniques are no secret nor are the theories of behaviour. These are common ideas that are used within the psyops realm and you, “anonymous” legions must take that into account. If the authorities cannot get the core members, they will eventually get round to going after the low hanging fruit.

However, with these techniques, even someone diligent about their anonymity can be defeated. Everyone makes mistakes…

Keep your wits about you.

K.

Служба Внешней Разведки: Russian Espionage “The Illegals 1990-2010”

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Служба Внешней Разведки

“Christ, I miss the Cold War”

M from Casino Royale

The dramatic events unfolding within the last day or so over the “illegals” program caught by the FBI is really the stuff of Le Carre and other writers of espionage fiction. Yet, this is all real….

The reports started coming out yesterday afternoon and having seen a blurb on CNN I went out and got a hold of the complaint by the Federal government against the 10 conspirators and had a sit down. In the end I found myself alternately laughing at the story that unfolded as well as waxing historical about yesteryear during the cold war days. It seems though that one thing has changed a bit since the old days.

Millennial Spies?

It seems the SVR had to remind their operatives that they were in fact here for a reason and being taken care of for that reason, i.e. being spies.

This communique pretty much alludes to the fact that perhaps the “illegals” had been here too long and had begun feeling entitled as opposed to being servants of the state. This is a bit of a difference from the old cold war days. Yes, of course some deep cover operatives might have become “comfortable” in the west, but, they pretty much lived under the fear of reprisals to themselves and family in the old country if they misbehaved. This message and some of the handling that can be seen from the surveillance bespeaks a more millennial attitude by these illegals than old school Sov operatives. in one case an officer remarks that he is glad not to be one of the illegals handler as he is bitching about money… Kinda comical…

It also seems to me that some of these operatives were in fact quite young when they started and even as things progressed, were not as well trained as they could have been. In one case there is a remark of only about 2 weeks of training at the SVR  center, and this is not quite like the old days when the spooks got some serious training before going out in the field. Of course today, post the 1990’s break up of the Soviet Union, I suspect that in some of the minds at “C” we (FBI) have become lax at detection and operations just because we were very Sov oriented back in the cold war period.

However, this group of illegals seems to have been in play since the late 90’s and over time, have become more American than true blood Russian idealogs. With the amounts of money being passed to them over the years, these folks were rather well taken care of. This is something a bit different from the old days and bespeaks a paradigm shift in the SVR’s handling of them and approaches to getting good INTEL out of them. These folks were monetarily motivated which is usually how spies get brought in from other nation states, not the ones being sent to foreign posts by the motherland.

Times are a changing though… Guess you have to roll with it or lose assets.

Technology and OPSEC

The times have changed and with them the technologies of spy-craft do too. In the case of the illegals not only did they engage “AD HOC” wireless networks between laptops in open spaces (ballsy really given the nature of WIFI 802.11 standards and vulnerabilities) but also with the addition of things like the use of “Steganography

For some time now I have been randomly hoovering sites looking for stegged images and so far, I have come up with potential hits (Jihadist sites) but as yet, I haven’t been able to decrypt anything that is alleged to be hidden. In the case of the illegals, they had special software installed on laptops given to them by Moscow Centre. It turns out that these laptops and the schemes that they were using didn’t always work for the agents but, in many cases, had it not been for the surveillance by the FBI, this particular method of data passing might not have been seen.


Overall, the technology today is neat but as in the case of the AD HOC networking over WIFI, I have to wonder about their choice here. I mean it wasn’t all that long ago that the CIA had a fiasco wth a “WIFI” enabled faux rock in a park in Moscow. The rock was supposed to be able to transfer data onto a CF type card from a PDA or phone that the asset would pass by. As the technology failed, the KGB noticed that there were people wandering around looking to connect to this rock. When they did a search they got the rock and later the asset trying to connect to the faulty device. So much for the technological approach.

When it works it works great.. When it fails, you end up in Lubyanka…

Tradecraft: Tried and True

Meanwhile, some of the illegals seem to have perfected the tradecraft side of the work by performing brush passes with operatives from the Russian consulate as well as infiltrate and exfiltrate out of other countries using bogus passports etc. It seems that perhaps though, that the FBI caught on to the group however and exploited poor tradecraft practices to catch onto the whole of the operation. In one case the handler from the consulate took 3 hours of evasion practices to elude any possible surveillance only to be compromised by the fact that the “illegal” already was under surveillance… OOPS.

The meetings that are mentioned in the complaint though show how much tradecraft the group was using to perform their meetings. These included marking, dead drops, and of course the brush passes with pass phrases like “Didn’t I meet you in Bangkok in 1990?” So those of you who think that its just cliche, its not really… Even in todays technological world these practices are kept up BECAUSE the technology is so easily watched from remote ala the NSA. Of course it was that technological FAIL along with the poor practices of basic information security that caught them in the end.

Kinda funny really.. I mean how often do I moan and wail about all of this huh and here it is that very thing that pops a group of spies for Russia.

Funny…

Meanwhile some of the “old school” techniques still pervade…

Numbers Stations and Rapid Burst Transmissions Making a Comeback

When some of the houses/apartments were black bagged, the operatives found that the illegals were not only using “rapid burst” radio technology, but also the old old school technique of “Numbers Stations” to get their orders as well as report their data to Moscow Centre. I imagine that in the case of the rapid burst technology, they were in close proximity of either other operatives that they did not know about, or they were in fact close enough to the consulates that they could burst their data to their arrays on the roof.

This stuff is really old school and I have mentioned before that the number of “numbers” stations has increased over time since the internet age took over because this technology, properly implemented, is sure fire and hard to detect. After all, how many of us have short wave radios in their homes huh? The burst technology though is a little more circumspect and can be detected, but since it has not been in vogue for some time, I doubt many agencies are looking for it. Perhaps a HAM radio operator in the area might have picked up on it but it was the surveillance team that mentions “noise” that seems to be radio transmissions.

It just goes to show that sometimes the new tech just doesn’t cut it. You need to go old school.

Espionage 2010, Pooty Poot, The Bear Never Left

In the end, I expect to be hearing more about this story in the news. There will likely be the expuslions of diplomats from the Russian consulates in the US as well as the ongoing coverage of the trials. What I am wondering about though is that the FBI charged these guys with smaller charges rather than official “espionage”

This makes me think that there is much more to this tale behind the scenes that we will eventually get in dribs and drabs. I personally think that the illegals that we caught really made a dent in the security of the nation. The complaint does not mention any high level connections that would be bad enough to consider this operation as a whole to be damaging. However, if the group is in fact bigger or as we know, there are others out there, just who have they compromised? Remember that in the complaint you can see Moscow Center asking about compromisable assets. What they really wanted was to go old school and get the dirt on someone juicy and turn them… and given Washington’s habit of nasty behavior with pages or toe tapping in airport mens rooms, I can see they had a rich target environment.

All of this also makes it so ironic that the operation had been ongoing since at least the Clinton administration. When “W” looked into the soul of Pooty Poot, he wasn’t in fact seeing anything there. George, he was PWN-ing you as you gave him the reach around.. and liked it. The Bear never left my friends and anyone who thought we were all friends with rainbows and puppies where Russia was concerned is seriously deluded.

The only thing that has changed is that the American conciousness became… Unconcious to conspicuous wealth and reality TV.

I too pine for the cold war…Looks like its back on.

So in conclusion here are some questions that I have:

  • Why was this operation rolled up now?
  • How did the FBI catch on to these illegals?
  • Who is “FARMER”
  • Who is “PARROT”
  • Why the charges of not telling the AG that the illegals were.. well illegal and not actually charged with “espionage”
  • Why did “C” want the operatives to buy ASUS EEE PC’s?
  • What steg program did they have?
  • When will we be expelling the 3 consulate “secretaries” in NYC?

You can read the “almost full” complaint here

CoB

Whois: Ansar007

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It seems that since the take down of the Saudi intel gathering site, the Jihad’s took a little time to think about what to do next and then began their site posting in earnest. On the Ansar boards, the traffic has been up and someone calling themselves “Ansar007” has been quite busy posting up propaganda video and audio files. The latest was a little ditty that he claims to have sung himself as an ode/anthem to a shahid who bought it.

Now, looking into this Irhabi007 wannabe, I found some interesting tidbits that might be of use. Frist off, a Maltego map of the user name shows some interesting connections. This included a couple specific items that lead me to the data I am about to present. The first bit of data was an email address:

Ansar007@hotmail.co.uk

This email when put into Google turned up about 5 hits altogether, but, it was one that had the exact address in the site that drew me to a page for LN Travel, a taxi company in West Yorkshire England. This little blurb is an alleged advertisement for a taxi service at a specific address. You are to contact them at the email address to use them… Odd I thought, just an email address to get a taxi service huh? I began to think that perhaps this was a red herring.. Or, maybe some kind of dead drop or coded post. I decided to look up the place on Google and came up with the following maps:

LN TRAVEL
106 Harlow Road
bradford
West Yorkshire
bd72hu
01274521867

Funny, I don’t see a taxi.. Do you? Curiouser and curiouser…

Widening the search of the hotmail address lead me to another email address from Yahoo. This address lead me to a website for Arabic music an video files. Interestingly enough, this fits the profile of a wanna be musician who is posting songs that he has sung huh? The site: listenarabic.com had a post on the users account that the email keyed off of from Ansar007. Ansar believe it or not, had an account on the same site and after a little manipulation I had access to his user profile. It presented me with the following data:

Is this you Ansar007? Hmmm? Do you in fact now live in or had always lived in Pakistan or the UK? Either way, there is a phone number.. Anyone wish to make a long distance call? Fort Meade anyone? Better still, Ansar007 on this site has some pictures of himself for everyone to see. So, I took the picture from the Ansar Jihad site on his recent post and one from the arabic music site and viola:

Could they be one in the same person? Could be, but I do feel a bit like Jack Ryan in “Patriot Games” I can’t be sure, but, the coincidences of the music site and all connected with the email address.. Well, I think I may be in the right neighborhood data wise. So, what do you all think?

Johnny Utah?

Anyone?

Oh well, I will pass this on and keep looking into Ansar007. He is rather mouthy on those boards so eventually, someone will be coming along to collect him I am sure..

CoB