Archive for the ‘Intelligence Game’ Category
See Robert Redford at the top of the page? He’s playing a character who was an intelligence analyst who read books for the CIA. He came back from getting lunch for his co-workers and found them all dead, killed by a rogue CIA operation that hired an outside freelance assassin to kill them all and cover up rogue operations. This is fiction, and YOU are not him. So please everyone just calm the fuck down about the Wikileaks Vault7 dump ok?
RIGHT! Well Wikileaks has done it again and released a dump of CIA exploits this time around. There are quite a few little gems in there and the hue and cry by the genpop has been idiotic as usual. My personal favorite was the epic fuckery around how the New York Times chose to say that some of the exploits “bypassed” the encryption of programs like Signal which sent many an INFOSEC twitter account into a tizzy over “OMG IT ISN’T A BYPASS!” which, by the way, FUCKING CUT THAT SHIT OUT YOU SELF IMPORTANT FUCKWITS! The point of the statement is true, if the software in the Vault7 dump is used on someone’s phone then the CIA is BYPASSING the encryption altogether. For that matter they are bypassing the application altogether! So stop with the self important I AM A GOD DAMNED IMPORTANT PENTESTER AND THE SEMANTICS OF THE HERE ARTICLE ARE WRONG ERMEGERD!
The point of it all is that these tools, if used against you (until they are mitigated by patching and fixes to OS’) will make any precautions you take on those devices moot ok? Arguing over the semantics of it all is just fucking stupid posturing and if you expect the average person to understand what you are saying, then you are delusional ok? Oh, and if you think that the average person is the target of these attacks, yep, you once again are delusional. Specifically, if you are a US person CONUS and you are just the average Joe the plummer, you are NOT the target of the CIA.
Sorry.. I know it hurts your self image but it’s fucking true.
Get over yourselves.
Ok, so that rant is over, now let’s move on to other things about this dump. There’s a lot of techical stuff that will make the wonks masturbate for quite a long time and that’s to be expected. However, I would like to talk about a few other side loaded things happening that you should think about. First off, let’s talk about the dump itself and who dumped it. It seems from what I am seeing Assange saying, is that the dump was given to Wikileaks by an insider who wanted to open up discussion over the pervasive nature of these kinds of exploits against common and deeply penetrated systems in our collective lives. By this I mean cell phones, TV’s and other IOT devices. Now most of the stuff in the dump looks to be from 2012 up to nearly 2016 so it is older in respect to 0day and hacking exploits in many ways. Since they were secret though and they took a lot of time to make sure there were bypasses as well as ways to hide their presence, the CIA’s stuff is still old from a certain standpoint. Within the community one has to offer up the idea that not everything stays secret and those services that cover assets that the CIA might want to bug also have people who spend their time looking for such software right? What I am saying is who knows what has been working well and undetected and what has been detected by a foreign power and counteracted or allowed to use as a means of disinformation. Take that into consideration when you read the dump. Sure the common man here in the world may not know about this stuff and it will blow their minds but in the IC maybe not ok?
Now let’s consider how long this data has been in the hands of Wikileaks and who may have had it before. This stuff may have been in the community at large for a long time. The CIA may have shared this tech with FIVE EYES in some cases but if you look at the headers much of it was NOFORN (No Foreign Persons) so let’s just assume it was inside Langley. If the data was common there, when did it get leaked originally? Who had it in the interim? This goes back to the paragraph above too. If the exploits were working, now we have to wonder if they were being fed bad data by them from an aware adversary (this will play a key fact in the дезинформация part of this post later) given when we think the data was stolen and leaked. The fact of the matter is this, brass tacks I don’t believe a word Assange says from his balcony at Hacienda Ecuador and my money is that this was not leaked by a CIA employee just because they had a change of heart. I personally believe that whoever leaked it is an asset of a foreign power and that power just might be Russia.
Which brings me to the issue of the quick disinformation spin up by what looks to be Russian trolls and bots on Twitter and elsewhere over this last dump. The narratives that are starting to spin up are aiming this data directly at Democrats (including Hillary) and are aimed to cause more friction within the country and our politics. Gee, who lately has been doing that I wonder? The Daily Beast had a good report on this and I agree with Rob that this has spun up way too quickly and too much cohesion to allow for it not to have been in the pipeline before the dump. My meaning is that as we have seen in the recent past with the hack on the DNC and active measures on our electoral system, the Russians have a useful idiot in Assange and the Wikileaks organization. Assange has been another lackey of Putin like Trump and in fact it is quite possible that the leaked data came from Russia by way of an asset inside the CIA. Which then makes the inevitability of a Russian mole hunt at Langley a very large possibility. I bet the polygraphers are all warming up their electrodes as I write this in Virginia.
So, while all you INFOSEC nerds wank off to the sploits just remember these salient points.
- There’s a bigger more subtle game going on here
- YOU are not that important so just take this stuff and work on how to fix it
- Take a beat and remember YOU ARE NOT THAT IMPORTANT
- The CIA is not charter to work within the USA these exploits were targeted at other countries. Just look at FINE DINING for case officers
- Consider what exploits other countries have and are being used that you don’t know about
- PENTESTERS ARE NOT FUCKING JAMES BOND. FOR FUCKS SAKE JAMES BOND IS NOT JAMES BOND!
Look at the bigger picture.
Forty odd days into the new presidency and Putin is already telling his media minions to not talk about Trump anymore. The reason? Because Trump has become more unhinged and potentially uncontrolled by his possible handlers at the Kremlin is the going theory in the IC world. Personally I think that Putin is of two minds where this is concerned and this post will try to explain the possible blowback for him as well as the potential benefits of an unhinged president as well as maybe an impeachment. This gambit by Putin worked so well, too well, that perhaps the Kremlin and the ops guys (psyops/active measures/Gerasimov) could not have even gamed this out fully to have counter moves or plans on contingencies here.
The hacking of the DNC and all the active measures surrounding the 2016 election cycle from a strict operations standpoint was a thing of beauty to behold. Yes, it was carried out on us but as someone who appreciates a well planned out operation this one was pretty well done. The American populace was ripe for this and the political system was in a state where just a simple nudge with the right assets started the great Rube Goldberg device moving and it culminated in Trump winning the election. I will not cover the problems with our voting systems here I have done so in another post(s) a while back but let’s just look at it from the higher levels of disinformation shall we? The ‘Fake News’ thing was a perfect storm for the under-educated Facebook minions out there and the very nature of social media was the teflon sprayed slug that deployed it all. From the churnalists and the disinfo operations out there the sway and the echo chambering that happened allowed for a critical mass of Trump support that would in the end eek out the electoral win. This is a real feat given that three million or so people voted for Clinton and the overall popular vote was easily hers. This was some math that I do not believe Putin and his intelligence community thought was a real possibility. I think they were as shocked by Trumps win as Trump was on the night of the election.
Trump did win however and at that time it was in Putin’s interest to cater to the man, play him with praise and friendship in order to curry that favor. The reciprocal praise and love by Trump throughout the candidacy and into the presidency has been odd as well and plays to the whole ‘kompromat’ story too. For this piece I am not going to stray too far into the kompromat theory at the Trump level (another day soon) but it has to be mentioned here that at the very least, there seemed to be a bromance between them for whatever reasons. Likely on both parts at the base of it, the idea that if they are friends they can do deals together which is what Trump had said on more than one occasion. This idea plays for me outside the kompromat thing because this is Trump after all (The Art of the Deal etc) but on Putin’s part it was a contingency plan. Putin’s goal was to cause as much fractiousness as possible in the elections and to unbalance the US as he perceived Clinton had in Russia and he succeeded.
Now that Clinton was out and Trump was in Putin likely thought that it would be smooth sailing, but, he should have had an psychological monograph or assessment on Trump before assuming so. It seems that they did not and have been compiling one as of February after the win and spiral since then. This is where the blowback starts as well as the possible wins for Putin. On the blowback side, an uncontrolled Trump could lead to actual crazy actions that would impede Putin’s goals. What if Trump decides to go all out and attempt to block his actions in Ukraine? What if Trump does an about face on NATO? What if Trump just goes off the deep end and starts wars with proxies of Russia that would complicate Putin’s plans of regional control and power? All of these things have to be taken into account post the administrations rocky, to say the least, fits and starts these forty days or so. Add to this all of the attention by the media and the populace, who are now asking for independent investigations into the ties between Trump and Russia pre election and you have heat. This heat is anathema to Putin’s goals here and thus it is blowback for him. He has been distancing himself from Trump and if sudden unexplained deaths of certain Russians is any indication, he has been cleaning up loose ends as well. But these things lead back to the kompromat, and I am saving that for later.
Anyway, let’s look at the upside to the Trump instability for Putin. Trump is a wild card and his consistent instability is causing push back here in the US that may lead to serious investigations on him, his minions, and all of their connections to Russian money as well as the whole Emoluments issue. There are law suits being formed and registered as well as the notion of an independent counsel for the Russia investigation has been gaining momentum. With all of this friction, the wheels of the US’ foreign policy has been slowed as well. Suffice to say that with all that is happening it would be easy to not be able to respond properly to actions taking place in the world nor there being a real outcry to respond to things because we have all been thrust into self introspection and a certain protectionism mentality. With this slack space to work, even with Trump being an unpredictable and uncontrolled asset of the Kremlin, Putin would have room to work on moving his agenda forward rather unhindered.
Once again, the ‘Wilderness of Mirrors‘ can lead one to inaction because you just cannot tell what is real anymore and who is telling the truth. With Trump and his outlandish tweets (say like accusing Obama of a “wire tapp”) on Trump tower it is hard to tell what he believes and what he is trying to maybe throw shade on to unbalance us all. Putin might seek to enhance this behavior as well as use it to his advantage as well. I would expect more disinformation (fake news) that may well end up in the president’s tweet stream and not just stuff about internal politics here in the US. The goal overall is to keep us unbalanced because an unbalanced nation is a nation trapped in amber and a nation weakened to inaction is exactly what Putin needs to succeed …Even with blowback.
With all of the crazed tweets over the weekend from 45 I thought it would be appropriate to acquaint my readers with the notion of the “Wilderness of Mirrors” as James Jesus Angleton put it. Angleton is famous for his paranoia and his actions during the time he was chief of counter intelligence at the CIA from 1954-1975. Today we are in an unprecedented time of national intrigue with our very nations political system at stake with the issues surrounding the hack of the DNC, the manipulation of the US election process, and now the allegations and insinuations that the Trump campaign may have colluded with Russia. All of these things now fall under the auspices of Counter Intelligence in that there are actors within our government that may be compromised and have either been witting or unwitting accomplices to a foreign powers manipulation of our national transition of power. What’s more, these same individuals may in fact be assets of that foreign power while they are in the power within the White House and elsewhere within the new administration.
Take a breath there and contemplate that statement.
We potentially have reached what I personally thought was only a movie plot line as a reality today. There are actual reasons to question whether or not the President of the US today may be a witting or unwitting asset of the Russian state. There may be reason to believe that the minions of the new President may also be assets of the Russian state, and to even make it worse we have seen a litany of lies and half truths given by these people and their dissembling has been caught by the Fourth Estate and held accountable for them. While there is no smoking gun yet, there is a lot to parse out with every mornings headlines in the Times and other papers of record but I would like to lift the curtain a little for you on the counterintel side for you. If you are gonna play this game at home you need a primer on counter intelligence and the ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’
When Angleton made the comment on the wilderness of mirrors he was referring to his own deep paranoia and the nature of counter intel. You have spies upon spies that you must determine who they work for in reality. As the chief of counter intelligence it was Angleton’s job to assume that assets and agents within his own organization were in fact double agents or even triple agents. It was Angleton’s job to seek the truth of what his officers were telling him from intelligence reports and what their assets were saying in a time when the great game was at it’s highest point with the USSR. In essence, and this was his personality anyway, he had to assume at all times there was compromise within his organization and to determine who those assets that were doubles were and were working for in reality.
Now, in the current situation we are going through with 45 and the Russian efforts to destabilize the United States there is no internal mole hunt that we have heard about within the halls of the CIA but, there is a counter intelligence operation going on at least at the FBI concerning all the players we are hearing about in the news and likely other names we have not heard. The current players you know are;
- Paul Manafort (Worked for Yanukovich/Had affairs/Money troubles/Access to slush funds)
- Trump (No tax retturns/business with Russia/Love of Putin)
- Jeff Sessions (Lied about meeting Russian Ambassador twice at least)
- Michael Flynn (Lied about talking to Russian ambassador to Pence and everyone else)
- Carter Page (Business with Russia and seems disposed to them)
- Jared Kushner (Revelations of meeting with Russian ambassador with Sessions)
- Roger Stone (May have handed over DNC emails to Wikileaks physically)
- Un-named others TBD
There are likely more to be named as we go along but you get the gist. The people in the inner circle of the current presidents campaign and those he then added to his administration all seem to have had regular contact with the Russian government pre election and post. Not only are they talking to Russian emissaries but according to the IC, they are talking to Russian intelligence officers. This is not a good thing even if they were unwitting assets of the Russian intelligence apparatus. To lie about these contacts only makes the problem worse for the state and places more suspicion on them all, which leads to the wilderness of mirrors that the fourth estate is amplifying with the reporting (which they should be doing) on the leaks that are coming out of the IC. Leaks mind you to my mind, are a means to an end to get the word out because if they did not, the admin would attempt to bury them forever. To wit, we have agents of foreign powers and people within the admin who are all lying about their connections and discussions. This is a counter intelligence operation and a mole hunt potentially. Do we believe the people who have been sources of the Steele notes? Or do we think that maybe they are telling tales to muddy the waters even more? Since some of these people seem to be dying conveniently are they being killed off by Putin for talking and telling the truth or are they just being killed to muddy the waters some more?
This is how you have to approach this. No one is telling the truth and you have to discern what the truth of it all really is. Who do you believe?
We are in the wilderness of mirrors kids. Look at the news and try to parse out what is truth and what is fiction. It makes it even worse when there are factions out there like Alex Jones and the SVR that would like you to believe wild stories and disinformation campaigns set out to further their own agendas. All of this then, in a completely inconceivable twist today is re-tweeted by the president of this country who often does so as a diversion (one hopes) or actually believes these things (much worse for he may be mentally deranged) which unbalances us all. We are now all in Angleton’s shoes trying to determine what is truth today and this is one of the most destabilizing things happening today to the United States populace and government. I want you all to understand this as you watch or read the news with these revelations. Specifically now that we have reached peak crazy with Trump saying that the former President ordered a FISA warrant on himself and the campaign in 2016. There are many issues here to consider and if in fact the IC had intel that the candidate and his minions were in fact in touch with Russian intelligence ‘constantly’ then what actions would the IC and the president have at their command to take up to determine if this was in fact true?
The recent accusation by the current president may be complete lunacy and the product of his own reading or watching conspiracy sites, or, it may have some basis in fact. In that there may not have been a FISA warrant but instead foreign friendly intelligence agencies, monitoring not only Russia but by their outside mandate, the current president and his people’s conversations “might” have some telling information. Maybe they in fact got the conversations and there was no smoking gun but instead the conversations looked suspect and more digging was required. Perhaps then, some group like the FIVE EYES passed along this information and it is still being worked by the IC here in the US?
‘Wilderness of Mirrors” kids.
All of the hand wringing and whinge-ing over the possibility that Russia has hacked our completely insecure election systems has my bile up… Well that and it seems I am lactose intolerant and ate whole ice cream last night. Anyway, back to INFLUENCE OPS and their use globally. The article above from the Boston Globe really set me off this weekend. All of these guys in the corridors of power all hand wringing over the possible fact that Russia has been messing with our political process makes me want to fly to Washington and bitch slap people. This type of activity has been going on forever and it is not just Russia pulling these strings even today. If you take a look at the actual history of the world you will see many players playing the same games with or without the benefit of Wikileaks and computers both then and now. This is not new people and for fucks sake wake up and realize that the US playing the “hurt” card in this game is really quite absurd in the grand scheme of things.
Now once you have taken a little trip down history lane with those links I just provided, then I want to ruminate on the whole problem today of the hacks on our democratic systems. See, as a former pentester and now a blue team guy I often ran into places that just did not have a clue about security. Still today there are many places that are very clue free and that also includes our government and those bodies that comprise our election systems. Seriously? Seriously those election systems were not even being monitored? You are shitting me right that the alleged Russian hackers used Acunetix to scan and then just SQLi dumped shit right? …
And no one saw a god damned thing…
It’s hardly INFLUENCE OPS when all you need to do is run a shitty tool and just take what you want with a script kids. So really, stop with the hurt and surprised bullshit Congressman and Senators alike! Put on your big boy and big girl pants and get the fuck over the fact that someone would have the audacity to fuck with our already fucked up election cycle anyway! As to Putin’s comment on the subject recently ‘‘It doesn’t really matter who hacked this data from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign headquarters,’’ I agree, it doesn’t really matter because the fact of the matter here is that her actions alone concerning the BleachBit of her server days after it’s public disclosure should be enough to show us all just what fuckery is afoot without Russian intervention to begin with. What the paradigm change here is is that we now don’t have to send plumbers to Watergate’s to break into file cabinets to get the data. All one needs to do now is fucking Acunetix an IP and then run SQLi map to fuck with a national election and that is just fucking sad.
At the end of the day I for one don’t care who hacked the shit, what I care about is that there is enough evidence to show that even with out information/influence operations that there’s some crooked shit going on. The problem is that this is the default state of our governance and election system so one tends to just become complacent about it. The hack on the election here and now, with the fate of the world in the balance so to speak, with Führer Trump or Grandma Nixon only makes it all the more piquant for the hungry news media but in the end means a choice between two terrible shit sandwiches to those paying attention here.
We are all fucked either way.
I grow more and more weary of the attribution games being played in INFOSEC and the DNC hack is just another in a cavalcade of epic missing the point parades. Since the “scoop” given to WaPo by Crowdstrike, there has been a flurry of allegations, revelations, and throwing of attribution dice akin to a basement game of Magic The Gathering repleate with summoning!
“I summon the Russian GRU!”
“I summon the LONE ACTOR!”
“I summon the KGB!”
*slaps down cards on table* TAKE THAT!
The reality here is that there are more than a few games going on here. Think about it, Crowdstrike gets a media coup by selling this story to WaPo, who just happens to have been banned by the Orange Julius of our time, presidential candidate Donald Trump! WaPo jumps on this like a child on a fresh tit and runs with the attribution story and sets the world on fire for Donny boy with the release that the DNC not only was hacked but that his dirty laundry may be in the hands of Kommisar Putin!
So, first let’s set aside the whole issue of marketing, which is akin for me, to choking on a hairball left from that chick in “Ringu” and move on to the veracity of the attribution as well as the real need to name and shame here. I for one can believe that the two nation state actors software and activities were found by Crowdstrike on the DNC systems. The fact that there are two disparate groups from the same nation state is interesting in itself. I guess they are not really talking to each other and given the state of affairs there in Russia I can see this as being a true accounting. However, I can also see my way to there being third, fourth, fith, sixtieth actors also in the network or having had been in the past as well. Face it, these are government systems who usually go to the lowest bidder right? This was likely the Diagon Alley of Democratic networks.
So, to say that it was only these two actors might be a stretch. There is room for doubt and after the dump by “Guccifer2” as they are calling themselves, it is easier to think that perhaps there is more to the story than what we have been given by the media, the DNC, and Crowdstrike. That the documents are legit on the wordpress site by Gucci and that they seem to be pretty well stamped down on metadata, one can’t make too many assumptions.. Oh, yeah, but everyone is! At the end of the day for me, even though I will play the game a little bit below the fold here, the real issues should be how the hackers did it, and fixing the behaviors of the DNC to stop it from happening for a year or two at a time in the future. Not so much pointing at Russia and yelling; “YOU TOOK OUR SHIT! BAD POOTY! BAD!”
Put another way… I eagerly await the FBI warrants and 10 most wanted cyber listings for the Russian actors they have all this attribution on … I suspect I will be waiting the rest of my life for that one kids… Just sayin. This was mostly about marketing as far as I am concerned and I have to give them props for working that one. Sales must be up in the government area now because of this caper right?
Metadata and Cyrillic:
Meanwhile, after the WaPo story hit the wires the “lone hacker” created his wordpress site and dropped dox as we say on the intertubes. Shortly after the drop people were inspecting, detecting, infecting, and making circles and arrows with captions on the back to describe what you were seeing! … And the conspiracy theory machine went into overdrive. Pwnallthethings made some good comments on the metadata in the dropped dox but really, concluding that this is a Russian disinformation operation from metadata stripped documents on the idea that the machine name was cyrillic for Felix Dzerzhinsky (Феликс Эдмундович) Really? Now that is fucking SOLID work man! Stellar! FUCK LET’S GO BOMB RUSSIA NOW!
You know at least Crowdstrike has like actual data, ya know, C2’s, malware, and shit like that. Anything else is totally speculative, I mean even more speculative than most attribution that these companies make with real data! Anyway, I took a look at the metadata on the documents and here is what I have found…
- Much of the data was stamped out in saving from format to format
- Emails of users though were still embedded in the excel files
- The word docs have no more metadata than the Iron Felix machine name save, which, gee, kinda leads one to wonder…
- The image files have no metadata.. none.. niente clean.
- Grizzli777 is just someone who pirates
Yep, not a lot to see there and people are hanging their collective hats on the deliberate placement of Феликс Эдмундович as the machine name to it’s quite OBVIOUSLY being Mother Russia’s exclusive secret services.
*squint.. takes drag of cigarette*
So here’s my assessment…. Maybe Russia did it… OR Maybe this actor is the real thing and happens to want to take credit. The facts that this person(s) reads, writes, has, cyrillic on their machine and names it after the founder of the KGB is as reliable a means to saying it was Russia as it is to say that aliens built the pyramid because people just were fucking too stupid back then!
All of this hoo ha really means nothing. The fact of the matter is that now Donny’s dirty dirt is open source!
Wait.. I read it.. What the shit people? REALLY? THAT’S ALL YOU HAD HILLARY? COME ON!
It doesn’t matter who did it really.. Horse is out of the barn and the barn is on fire kids. So please, stop with all the wankery and move on to the next hack ok?
Motivation Analysis and Hypothesis
RIGHT! Well now I want to play the attribution/motivation/game of clue too! So here goes…
Imagine if you will that Russia did do it. Imagine also that Gucci2 is still Russia’s services performing a disinfo campain against Crowdstrike. Now imagine why would they be doing that? Why would they drop Donny’s dox AND all the other fun stuff for the Clinton campaign, which is in trouble already over the cybers! What effects would this have? Let’s list it out for you…
- Dropped dox of the dirt —-> Blows all Hill had on him unless there is a double secret probation file somewhere
- Dropped dox yet to be releast on Wikileaks —> Let’s say, as Gucci2 alluded, they were also in Hill’s mail server, ya know, the one that wasn’t supposed to be? Oh yeah…
- If that server was popped by the Russians and Gucci1 those criminal charges could be much more deleterious right? *waves at FBI*
- Dropping of dox and general hackery causes DNC and the election process to be even more fractious than it already is
- Dropping dox makes Hill’s candidacy potentially weaker (hint hint server –> Russians–>PWN wink wink nudge nudge!
So all those effects would do what possibly? Why would they want to do this? WHO WOULD WANT A TRUMP PRESIDENCY?????
Why Pooty of course!
Think about it kids. Given your knowledge of Teeny Tiny Baby Hands Trump, do you think he could stand up to a bearish Putin? *sorry had to use that one* Do you think that perhaps Donald is easily.. Shall we say.. Distracted or led? Come on, I know you can all reason this out. A Trump presidency would be sweet sweet love for Putin. He would have a friend, and someone he can sit on his knee to play ventriloquist with! … Well, until he has to polonium enema him that is.
That’s my theory and I am sticking with it… For all the fucks that it is worth.
I will say though.. I am waiting on those documents to show up in Wikileaks. That’s when the shit is really gonna hit the fan.
See you all in INFOSEC attribution Hell.
Insider Threat SNOWDEN:
The insider threat has always been and always will be the bigger of the threats or so the aphorism goes. In reality it certainly seems to be the case in the Snowden affair and the NSA is still stinging from it as I write this. Snowden leveraged his administrative access where he could and used technical and social means as well to gather the information and access he wanted to ex-filtrate out of Ft. Meade. Since Snowden was so successful and the NSA and IC has been blindsided by the ease of the attack and their stunning lack of controls the government and IC has been re-thinking their security around insider threats. Since much of today’s technology allows for ease of access and people tend to be the weakest link in the security chain (on average) the NSA is looking to more proactive controls against this type of exploit. Since they failed logically and technically to stop an insider attack I assume that they are in a real bind trying to assert control over not only the data they house but also the custodians of that data and architecture as well.
The Insider Threat Has Always Been The Largest:
Since the dawn of time the insider threat has always been a go to if possible in waging war against anyone. The Trojan Horse for example is the greatest use of the “insider” by placing outsiders inside and making the opposition the method of their own doom. Insiders though are commonly traitors or spies (sleeper or other) inserted or bought to work for the opposition to gain access inside the confines of the sanctum. In the case of hacking and digital malfeasance this often times takes the shape of an insider who feels they have been wronged in some way and either steals IP or destroys operations within a company or org to cause great damage. What has come to light though over the years and now has been brought to the fore are the psychological and social cues or traits that make a person more likely to be an insider threat.
In the case of espionage the recruitment of spies really is the tale of an insider threat. What makes someone become an asset for a service like the CIA? Within the IC (CIA) a lot of time was spent on the psychology of recruitment and handling of assets. MICE was the standard by which the CIA handled recruitment and handling up until recently when a new paradigm was put forth (RASCLS) which is much more reciprocal instead of just carrot and stick. Where all of this touches on insider threats though in the common vernacular of INFOSEC is where the motivation lies for someone’s actions. In a paper put out recently called “Inside the Mind of An Insider” the focus is on technologists and insider attacks that they have or may carry out and their personal motivations as well as proclivities to do so within the tech sector. I however would assert that this take is only a sub header within the larger umbrella of motivations and actions that an insider whether or not they are a spy or just an aggravated tech worker would have or carry out.
in the paper (cited above in picture at top) the writers lay out the “six characteristics” that coincidentally make up much of the same ideals and motivations that you will find in a recruit-able asset within the IC sphere. In fact, I would assert as well that if in fact Snowden were at all contacted by an outside security services to do what he did, these motivations would have been leveraged within him as well. What it all comes down to human nature. We are all subject to wants and desires as well as feelings of being under appreciated or not appreciated at all in our daily lives. This makes anyone potentially an insider whether they self activate or are handled by someone.
Countermeasures And Technologies:
The NSA though has been working on some technical means of detection and deterrence of an insider attack where other logical means have failed. These consist of programs that monitor behaviour patterns of users and access as well as I can only assume their outside activities such as internet access, browsing, and comments on sites. Can such programs really detect accurately the mind of a person and their motivations to lock down on them as a potential threat? I am sure that the technology is getting much better at this heuristic behaviour detection so sure but I don’t think it will be infallible however. I also suspect that it will also mark people as bad actors when in fact they may never even entertain the thought of actually carrying out some plan against the NSA or whatever company that might employ such tech. I would also assume that the people at the NSA will be undergoing more frequent and rigorous Poly sessions as well as perhaps psychological profiling which does not bode well for many I think who want to feel as though they are part of a team. Generally the job is stressful enough when you cannot talk about anything you do and are always fearing that you might slip at some point and give away information that you shouldn’t. The psychological stress of cleared life is hard and this will all just make it a little harder in the post Snowden world.
Whether you call it an “insider threat” or a spy, saboteur, or insurgent the same psychology applies. People are motivated by things that are personal to them. Desires they have for money, power, or fame as well as a myriad of other reasons for their actions. To attempt to detect and deter this activity will be quite the undertaking and hard enough in the classified world. Now imagine that you are not a cleared individual but instead an corporate employee, how are you going to feel about such activities and programs attempting to tell whether or not you might turn on the company and damage their servers? I somehow doubt that many corporations will undertake the threat modelling here for insider threats as seriously as the NSA but I can see where some might want some insight. We already have things like Websense and IDS/IPS/SIEM tech that follows traffic but with the advent of the likes of Facebook, how long will it be until they offer a service that tracks users behaviour and sells it to your security department? If companies are sufficiently worried about their insider threats then they will begin profiling and putting in countermeasures.
Welcome to the brave new world…
Virtual Worlds vs. The Internet or Darknet:
A recent post on Wired had a bold claim in the title; “U.S. Intel: Osama Bin Laden Avatar Could Recruit Terrorists Online for Centuries” that made me snort then giggle then facepalm. Once again we see that the government has been watching too many Hollywood movies and listening to too many cyber snake oil salesman. This current regurgitation stems from a newly declassified report that was requested by the IC on virtual worlds and terrorism (aka jihad) and makes some far fetched assertions about technologies that just aren’t there yet. Presently though we do have the internet and it can be seen as a virtual world in and of itself, and that is not even covering the idea of darknets. The report though really covers the idea that virtual worlds, i.e. game universes are the place where jihad will bloom as well as many sundry other types of illicit activities. While this idea is a common plot for B movies it has not really been the reality within the virtual reality of games like WOW (World of Warcraft) In fact a recent dump from “Snowman” (Ed Snowden) showed how the NSA had teams of individuals trawling WOW and other games seeking terrorists to little or no avail. Most took this as yet another invasion into the privacy we all thought we had, but some of us just had to laugh because we were in fact also tasked with looking for the AQ set in the same games as well.
So while the government think tankers and scientists were creating this report others were in fact looking not only in the game environments for secret comm’s but also within the internet itself. There are many boards online since 2001 that have sprung up and gone away as I have reported on over the years. The internet is the virtual world today and will likely be it in the future, we will just interface with it a little more organically with things like Google Glass or some other HUD devices. So yes POTUS and the IC, the terrorists are in the virtual world of the internet, just not so much are they plotting the end of the West in WOW or Second Life. In fact, to date they have yet to really make inroads into the Darknet as well so really, they aren’t hiding all that much with super secret sites, after all, they have to advertise to get recruits, this is why they came up with Al-Malahem in the first place.
To date the Jihadi’s have been on the learning curve as to how to leverage the internet. Much of their message gets lost outside of the insular community-scape of their lives as Muslims in the would be caliphate. Many sites are out there for the jihadi’s to talk to each other and they are mostly not very secret about them. Sure there are sites that are a little more stealth but in general the web is being used on one level to radicalize and proselytize. On the other end of the spectrum the C&C for Jihad is as easy as setting up an email and using encryption to send instructions back and forth. In fact, they now have chat rooms and programs for some point to point chat as well so really they are learning but I would hardly say that they are as cyber aware or capable as say an Anonymous cell today. I have written a lot over the past 13 years about this topic and investigated many sites and while it is a threat as a means of communicating and having a command and control base, I have also seen great gaff’s in OPSEC as well that lead right back to these notional jihadi’s (like the IP address in the tutorial video on how to hack of their own system) Sure, the jihad is online but it is not as Gibsonian as the paper linked above would make it out to be nor do I think it will be so in the near future.
Virtual Sociology and Psychology:
The paper linked above however is correct in some of its assessments on the future of the internet and technology to allow us to interface with it. We are creating more and more ways to interface with the data we love to share and as time goes on we will be more awash in a sea of it every waking moment of the day. This also leads to social and psychological developments on how we act as societies and people as well. I have written about this in the past as well and while this stuff is interesting the contentions in the paper are starting to come to pass. There is a section on criminality that we are seeing actually happen in the darknet with places like Silk Road, and all the criminality that seems to be flourishing in the darknet. This is happening now because TOR and the darknet implies that you can actually transact there in secrecy and keep your privacy, this leads to a dis-inhibition effect that leaves the user thinking they are invincible… Or more to the point invisible. This of course is now being shown not to be completely true with the arrest of The Dread Pirate Roberts (v1) and the take-down of the Silk Road (v1) site in the darknet. All of this too has to be taken into account when trying to kluge the idea that the internet or more to the point WOW is going to be the ground zero for terrorism. As the jihadi’s have seen with their efforts online it is hard to actually recruit and radicalize people simply through slick magazines and slogans, especially when you are asking a Westerner to strap explosives on and kill themselves in the name of jihad. The psychology of interaction when not in person is a problematic one so yes, the idea of a virtual you interacting in a metaverse while entertaining, is likely not going to actuate offline behaviour and actions.
What The Government Sees As Future State:
Once again the government and the politicians are getting spoon fed notions that there is a great dystopia about to take place where William Gibson novels are the reality. There’s a terrorist in every chat room and a dark cyber plot in each packet passed over the net. While once again this makes a great B movie, I have to once more say poppycock! It always amazes me what the government and military types will swallow from some think tanker’s delusion as reality and a clear and present danger. Since we have had the revelations that the NSA did in fact have people trawling in WOW, and I myself was tasked at one point to look into it as well we can extrapolate that people in power saw this and other like reports as the gospel. It is just an assumption here as well that as the net convergence continues and we begin using wearable computers with HUD interfaces that the government will be seeing more terrorists on every street corner as they are trying to type with their haptic gloves and it’s sad really.
ASSESSMENT of Jihadist Recruitment and Operations Online & In Virtual Worlds 2001-2014:
The assessment is this, as you see above, there was no real evidence of these games or virtual worlds being used for terrorism. Sure there is criminality going on but hey that happens everywhere and with every technological solution offered. Will there be terrorism on the net in the future? Sure. Are people plotting and planning things online now? Yes. Is it the Gibsonian novel that they seem to be making it out to be in the report linked above? Not so much. As for this notion that the avatar of Bin Laden will be exhorting and recruiting terrorists for a hundred years online and in the game verse? No. While there have been a couple games put out by jihadi’s in the past this has not proved to be something that worked for the masses and brought more to jihad. This notion of the Bin Laden avatar is just ridiculous and quite the one dimensional approach to thinking about the online world and the nature of the jihad.