Archive for the ‘.mil’ Category
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…
PARASTOO پرستو :
I got a tweet today about some data sitting on cryptome.org that got me thinking about this “group” again so I did some more digging online on them (him) The name of the “group” is Parastoo (پرستو Farsi) which means Swallow or bird. In the last year this guy (yes I think it’s literally one deranged person) had been active on at least two .ir sites that dealt with security and hacking and then started his own domains to ostensibly carry out cyber war against Israel and attempt to leverage the IAEA and others. So far all of the alleged hacks and data dumps that I have seen have not impressed and the data itself seems to be from systems that they “think” are important but in reality they are not. Specifically of late there are threats concerning CIA plots and diatribes that read like Lulzsec on methamphetamine and Ketamine at the same time. This guy really has quite the beautiful and large tinfoil hat and he wants us all to know about it in no uncertain terms. It is interesting to read between the lines in a stylographic way how the writer here seems to be molding their communiques in the manner of Zodiac. with a third person approach that intones more than one person and that this is a group. By using “Parastoo is speaking” they come very close to the “This is Zodiac Speaking” which attempted to portray power and induce fear. It is also interesting to note the language used in the emails is of a nature that implies a good grasp of English as well as a flare for the overly dramatic which does not lend credence to the threats that they imply. In fact the reading I take away, and seemingly the press as well, is that of someone either trying too hard to be Anonymous or smacks of outright trolling.
In tracing the domains for parastoo.ir and hacker4hire.ir I came across a defunct site (RCE.ir) which was a PHBB site that is now offline live but is archived in a couple of places as well as Google caches. When searches for “Parastoo” were used a clear link to a user on the RCE.ir site came up and that user was “DarkPassenger” who posted often on the site not only about hacking tutorials, tools, and the like but also dropped many links to government sites in the US and talked about conspiratorial things in nearly every posting. The DarkPassenger’s favorite saying or ahorism in each posting was “de nobis ipsis silemus” which is taken from the Baconian epigraph to the first Critique and translates to “on ourselves we are silent” which is ironic for all the commentary that DarkPassenger is putting out there that speaks to his state of mind. The DarkPassenger is also a fan of TV and movies and can be tracked to other .ir sites but generally from the first searches, does not have a lot out there under this account name to go much further (at present writing) to say who he may be in real life. DarkPassenger though does seem to have quite a bit of time on his hands and some technical capabilities though. Much of the data however that he and Parastoo post though is really just OSINT that anyone capable could carry out. In fact in one post (DP) talks about OSINT while laying out informatics on a military organizations email addresses and contact list so he is in fact versed in the ways of OSINT collection. A key factor to the link I am making between the Parastoo and DP is that he uses the “EXPECT US” cutline in many of his posts as well and seems rather enamoured with the idea that he is in fact an Anon and that bent of conspiracy and overarching plots infuses the majority of his postings online.
Parasatoo.ir, hacker4hire.ir & RCE.ir:
The postings claiming hacks as well as those that rave on claim that DP had set up a couple domains for “attacks” on the outside world from the .ir domain. These domains are registered by what I assume is a cutout name of zohre sajadian which coincidentally was also used for the RCE.ir site. All sites are currently down and in fact I cannot locate any content for the hacker4hire.ir nor the parastoo.ir sites respectively. The only one that did have active content for a while was the RCE.ir address. This site was up for quite some time but was insecure and much of the content was not that interesting. It is of note though that the domain registrations all line up as well as there seems to be some overlap in email hosting between a .ru address and the chmail.ir site (that address is verified as being real)The information for the address as well as the name of the holder seems to be just made up. In fact the address cannot exist because there is no intersection for Felestin Street with Johmoori. A cursory look at the name used of Zohre Sajadian also comes up with some hits but they seem to be un-related at this time to the sites and their registration so mostly this is a dead end I think.
Alleged Hacks & Anonymous Rhetoric:
So far in my searching I have not found too much out there to support any large hacks of data or dumps thereof that show this “group” has done what they claim they have overall. Aside from news stories (few in fact) that claim Parastoo made off with “sensitive” information on nuclear systems and facilities. However the data that they claim to have taken and was admitted to by IHS Inc. is all of a nature that can be purchased from the web or has been published already in the past. The only real sensitive information that has been possibly breached was credit card information that may have resided on those servers that were compromised. So while the Parastoo makes grandiose claims of important hacks and data leaks, thus far, when really investigated they have yet to make a major hit on anything of real import. Since the sites have gone dormant or offline as well it has yet to be determined what else they may be working on or have compromised but if you look at the rhetoric from their pastebin posts as well as the alleged emails on Cryptome one becomes a bit jaundiced and must take everything they say with a large grain of salt. Another factor to remember that even with the drawings like the one at the top of this post are often available to anyone on the internet either by insecure or misconfigured servers or in fact the data is meant to be open to the public. This is a paradigm I have learned about recently in looking into the OSINT on nuclear facilities and systems. So these dumps of information are not what the attackers think they are because they are unacquainted with the data and it’s secrecy or lack thereof.
The final analysis of the “Parastoo” group is that in reality it is at least one person (DarkPassenger) who wants to make a statement on Israel and nukes with a fixation on IAEA and DOE. While some pastes in the pastebin list seem to have actual data from systems that are externally facing to the internet (DOE for one) the majority of the data seems to be half understood misinformation being spewed to garner attention. As the Anonymous model has been let out of the bottle so to speak post Lulzsec, there are many who would aspire to their level of reputation and attention and these dumps are an attempt to attract it. Of course the problem with the Anonymous model of operation is that anyone can take on the mantle and claim to be an Anon or a group of them to effect whatever outcome they seek (mostly attention) so it is oftentimes hard to take groups like this seiously until such time as they dump hard data onto the internet for all to see. In the case of Parastoo none of this is evident and as such I categorize (him/them) as a non threat actor on the larger stage of geopolitics and information warfare at this time.
DPRK INTERNET AND INTRANET:
As the DPRK under Kim Jung Un has been poking the global bear lately with threatening faxes I thought it was time to re-approach the CNE/CNO/CNA capabilities that they have and gut check against the hype in the news cycle. As there has been talk of cyber attacks allegedly carried out by the DPRK against at least the South, one has to wonder just what kind of connection the North actually has to the global internet. As it turns out the DPRK has a class B (188.8.131.52 – 184.108.40.206) address space that is ostensibly outwardly facing to the global internet. Inside the country though the fiber intranet is closed off to the external internet for the most part save for those eleets deemed important enough to have it. The gateways for this internet connection are sourced out to the Chinese mainland (China Unicom/ Star JV/ Loxley Pac) and are most likely located in southern China. This however has not stopped certain people actually downloading from Bittorrent this last year so we know that a certain amount of people actually do have access that goes to the internet directly from Pyonyang which was a bit of a surprise for me at first but then you look at the small area from which they are coming from and you see it is a very small subset of people accessing the net to pirate movies. The masses though who have access to a computer are relegated to the Kwangmyong network that they can only access through the “Red Star OS” that the DPRK has special made for them to use. This intranet is from all reports, more like a BBS than the internet and consists of very little content and certainly not anything revolutionary (both technically and literally) I have downloaded a copy of Red Star and will be putting it in a sandbox to play with and report on at a later date.
- The official North Korean governmental portal Naenara at: http://www.naenara.com.kp
- Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries at: http://www.friend.com.kp
- Korea Education Fund at: http://www.koredufund.org.kp
- Korean Central News Agency at: http://www.kcna.kp
- Korea Elderly Care Fund at: http://www.korelcfund.org.kp
- Rodong Sinmun newspaper at: http://www.rodong.rep.kp
- Voice of Korea at: http://www.vok.rep.kp
- : http://www.ksf.com.kp
- Air Koryo, a North Korean flying service, at: http://www.airkoryo.com.kp
- Pyongyang Film Festival at: http://www.korfilm.com.kp
- Pyongyang Broadcasting Station at: http://www.gnu.rep.kp
DPRK Internet Accessible sites:
DPRK CNO, CNA & CNE:
There seems to be some cognitive dissonance concerning the capabilities of the DPRK where network warfare is concerned. As seen below in the two snippets of articles either they have nothing much in place because they are focusing more on nuclear technologies or they are creating a master group of hackers to attack the US and South Korea. I for one think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle in that I know that fiber has been laid and that the eleet and the military both have access to the internet for their own purposes. That the connection is routed through a satellite ostensibly (mostly) shows just how disconnected the regime wants to be to insure their power consolidation. Though there is a single “internet cafe” in Pyongyang, it must be noted that it only serves network traffic to the intranet that they have created. I have to wonder though if perhaps somewhere within that infrastructure lies unknown dark spots where the government may not have as much control as they would like.
On the topic of cyber capabilities, the report said North Korea probably has a military computer network operations capability. North Korea may view computer network operations as an appealing platform from which to collect intelligence, the report added, and the nation has been implicated since 2009 in cyberattacks ranging from computer network exploitation to distributed denial of service attacks.
In assessing North Korea’s security situation, the report said, “North Korea continues to fall behind the rising power of its regional neighbors, creating a widening military disparity and fueling its commitment to improving asymmetric and strategic deterrent capabilities as the primary guarantor of regime survival.”
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have grown as relations between North and South Korea worsen, the report noted. North Korea has portrayed South Korea and the United States as constant threats to North Korea’s sovereignty in a probable attempt to legitimize the Kim family rule, its draconian internal control mechanisms and existing strategies, the report said.
“The regime’s greatest security concern is opposition from within,” the report added, “and outside forces taking advantage of internal instability to topple the regime and achieve unification of the Korean Peninsula.”
North Korea seeks recognition as an equal and legitimate international player and recognized nuclear power and seeks to normalize its diplomatic relations with the Western world and pursue economic recovery and prosperity, the report said.
“[North Korea’s] rhetoric suggests the regime at this time is unlikely to pursue this second goal at the expense of the primary goal of pursuing its nuclear and missile capabilities,” the report added.
North Korea has the highest percentage of military personnel in relation to population than any other nation in the world, with approximately 40 enlisted soldiers per 1000 people with a considerable impact on the budge of the country. Don’t forget also that North Korea has capabilities that also include chemical and biological weapons. A defector has declared that North Korea has increased its cyber warfare unit to staff 3,000 people and it is massive training its young prodigies to become professional hackers.
The large cyber force responds directly to the command of the country’s top intelligence agency, the General Reconnaissance Bureau. Last year in internet have been published satellite photos of the area that is suspected to host North Korea’s ‘No. 91 Office’, a unit based in the Mangkyungdae-district of Pyongyang dedicated to computer hacking, its existence was revealed in a seminar on cyber terror in Seoul.
According the revelation of Army General James Thurman, the commander of US Forces Korea, the government of Pyongyang is massive investing in cyber warfare capabilities, recruiting and forming high skilled team of hackers to be engaged in offensive cyber operations against hostile government and in cyber espionage activities.
In more than one occasion the North Korea has threatened the South promising waves of attacks, and the cyber offensive option is the most plausible considering the advantage in terms of efficiency, noise and political impact.
North Korea’s electronic warfare capabilities are second only to Russia and the United States…
So when the question of CNO/CNA/CNE comes up with many here in the rest of the world it is all pretty much a guess as to what the answer truly is. Of course I would love to know what the NSA knows about that internal infrastructure. I suppose that the NSA, with all of the revelations of late, probably has(d) entre into the intranet from hardware that had been spiked with surveillance tech. Overall the picture from using nmap and other technologies shows that the infrastructure outside looking in, without backdoor access to China Netcom systems, is pretty blank from an information warfare perspective. The sites that are sitting out there that are live are flat but if one were to r00t one what would the acl’s be like one wonders. DPRK has spent a lot of time hardening and walling themselves off but nothing ever is 100% secure. With all the talk about their DD0S attacks against S. Korea though and the bank hack (2013) there have been some leaks that lead us to believe that they do use that .kp IP space for access to their malware C&C’s. In the case of the bank hack this last year the malware was beaconing to an IP within their internet facing space surprisingly. For the most part though the attacks that have been perpetrated by the DPRK have been through proxy addresses (S. China etc) so as to have some plausible deniability.So short of some leaking of intelligence on DPRK and their internal fiber networks it’s pretty much still a black hole or maybe more apropos a giant darknet of their own and we cannot see inside.
Speaking of Darknets I just wanted to touch on this idea for a bit. One wonders just what CNA/CNO the DPRK might be carrying on with regard to TOR nodes and the use of the darknet. I should think an interesting study might be tracking IP’s from Southern China to see where much of that traffic is being routed through TOR nodes. I think that this could be a real untapped subject for study to date. If the eleets have access to not only the internet through INTELSAT/Chinacom and MAC OSX boxes then perhaps some of them are actually routing traffic through proxies like TOR to cover their own censorship arcology? Can you imagine that Un doesn’t have high speed SAT connection through INTELSAT so he can surf unencumbered? What about certain high ranking intelligence and military people as well? It surprises me that I am not seeing more in the darknet from the DPRK itself as well. Of course this would, even with it being on TOR or in a proxied hosted system, a dangerous game to have any kind of truth telling coming directly out of Pyongyang. Still though, I would love to see this happen as well as perhaps some incursion into the intranet by someone adding a rogue SAT feed and a router. Presently I have seen reports about how former DPRK escapee’s have been smuggling in DVD’s, Net-Top PC’s and Netbooks over the Chinese border and giving them to people. The thrust of this idea is to bring Western movies and media to the DPRK as a subtle form of mental malware. I would push that further and create a new darknet within their dark fiber network.
When one sIn the final analysis, the DPRK has connectivity that is very limited in scope and in actual use. The eleet few have access to the outside world while the rest have a very controlled intranet that is full of propaganda and surveillance. When one starts talking about their capabilities for cyber warfare you have to take what is usually said with a grain of salt or a whole shaker. The fact of the matter is that much is still not known about their capabilities outside of perhaps the NSA and certain people in the IC. From the attacks seen to date we have seen much activity out of China that could also be dual purpose attacks for DPRK as well. Since much of their CNA/CNE capabilities and training has come out of (literally) China one has to assume that not every China hack is just for China or originating from them. For that matter, it is entirely possible that traffic we have all seen coming from S. Korea could in fact be proxy attacks from the DPRK as well for plausible deniability. My feeling though is that the DPRK is still getting it’s unit’s together and building capacities and is not a clear and present danger to the world from any kind of cyber warfare scenarios. DPRK uses the aggrieved and angry squeaky wheel approach to diplomacy cum bullying on the world stage and is not suited for sneaky cyber war just yet. Also cite the fact that if you poll the likes of Crowdstrike or Mandiant you will not see too many (if any at all) attacks or campaigns being designated to DPRK actions. Now why would that be?
THE SNOWDEN AFFAIR:
Since the revelations began and the man without a country odyssey started all of our lives have changed at a fundamental level regarding our digital and private lives. The now million plus document trove is being parsed out by Glen Greenwald and others for the public to get a look into the inner workings of the state surveillance apparatus much to the consternation of the IC as well as the government and the dismay of the public. However you look upon Mr. Snowden and his choice you have to admit that the information does lend an insight into the great potential for abuse of the apparatus that the NSA has put together no matter what they may tell you they are doing or not doing to protect us. You see the point is no matter what alleged safeguards and altruism may lie within the apparatus and it’s employees it’s still ripe for abuse that will never see the light of day because it’s all classified and codified by the government. This is the point of the exercise as I see it from Mr. Snowden’s point of view and the aegis behind his doing what he did. Of course from day one darker minds would make assertions that there were darker geopolitical machinations at play and this was all just a dastardly plan to destroy us as a country. Of course as the passion play played out it was first China, the go to country for all our woe’s of late (APT etc) but as time wore on and Snowden found a perch in Russia, it’s now “clear” to some in the government that the plot was in fact Russian all along.
Mike Rogers has been the bell ringer on the idea that Snowden from the get go was in fact a handled and groomed asset by a foreign power. His most recent bellowing without any real evidence is that Snowden was in fact an asset for Russia from the start and furthermore that all of this was done to damage the US and seek primacy once again on the international stage. Of course as I mentioned already Mike cannot offer any evidence and he alludes to “secrecy” of the data but in reality until you have proof that you can emphatically state and present the people it’s all just wild speculation and a form of conspiracy or propaganda in and of itself. While it is possible that Snowden was from the start an asset of the
KGB FSB, the evidence thus far for motive, methods, and follow through are somewhat thin and I cannot go on the record as thinking he was handled from the start by Russia or any other nation state. The fact that Snowden ended up in Russia at Sheremetyevo may in fact be because of the machinations of Assange and Wikileaks brokering the deal to get him there and then to get him allowed into the country not as a plan all along. There is more evidence to say that this is in fact the case then there is of any KGB FSB actions.
Using the paradigm of “Occam’s Razor” here let’s run through the possibilities on whether or not the claims being made by Mike Rogers and others out there that this was a carefully planned operation that cultivated Ed Snowden to become the largest leaker in history.
- Ed Snowden is a naive individual who became through a sequence of events, an administrator within the IC networks and began to see things he thought were illegal and immoral
- He used his knowledge of hacking and technologies to accumulate data through his own administrative access and social engineering
- Once he saw the data he decided to leak all that he could and after seeing what happened to Manning made a plan to go to a country that in all the spy novels is easy to infiltrate and ex-filtrate out of
- The NSA itself had poor OPSEC and threats from insiders were poorly covered thus making this possible (proven to be the case)
- The NSA could not even keep track of internal access and exploitation (proven to be the case)
- He contacted the press and was turned down by some until he met Greenwald and Poitras who then planned with him how to release the data and to firewall Snowden off
- While in HK it became clear he could not stay there once the NSA/USA/UKUSA and other apparatus began working in the background to extradite him
- Poitras, Greenwald, and then Wikileaks ex-filtrated Snowden out of HK and to Russia where a brokered interim solution of the airport no mans zone was at least possible
- Snowden is a prize for the
KGBFSB after the fact from not only an intelligence perspective but also a political one that thumbs its nose at the US (a win win for Putin)
- Edward Snowden was a carefully orchestrated long term asset by the
KGBFSB trained by them to infiltrate the NSA and then use his domain admin/root access to steal them blind, exploiting their logical and technical vulnerabilities who they then ex-filtrated to HK and to Russia as a smoke screen for their own operational cover
- Snowden was handled by
KGBFSB for years while coming up the ranks as an UN-credentialed cleared individual clearly taking advantage of the US’ lax clearance and oversight process post 9/11
- Snowden was in contact with Russia from the start and is a consummate operator perhaps even a cleverly created cutout sleeper agent
- Once gathering all the data Snowden then passed it to Russia for them to digest and then leak to the world to cover their own operations and shame the US
- Snowden is now a hero of the state in Russia and will get a hero’s treatment with access to all that Russia can offer in the post Soviet Oligarchy (inclusive Anna Chapman visits)
Hmmm is it just me or does the razor only really cut one way?
My take on the whole affair is that Snowden was not a paid/cultivated/handled asset of the
KGB FSB nor do I think that he was aided in any way by Russia in carrying out this leak/exploit. What I do think is that he is naive but also that what he was seeing, what we are all now seeing today in the news made him feel that the accumulation of power in a central secret body was anathema to freedom and the American ethos. As we have seen in the news there have been many things that the government has allowed, even shall we say promulgated, that are clearly violations of the US Constitution no matter the inveigling that might occur by those in power as to it’s legality. So I for one can see why someone like Snowden might do what they did outside of their own propensities for spy novels and a sense of right and wrong.
The realities are that no matter the attestations by those running the programs and their need to use them, there is always a chance of their abuse and subsequent burial of the facts through classifications and National Security letters as we have seen these last years. Were egregious abuses happening and are they still today? I am sure there are some, after all this is nothing new and all you need do to confirm that is Google “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” or look just to recent history with the Plame Affair to see how abuses can and have happened. So is it really outside the pale for someone with a conscience and perhaps an overactive imagination to think that great wrongs are being committed in all our names? I think that while there may have been no abuses “may” I also think that the capacity for abuse and the infrastructure to hide them is easily seen within the current architecture of the IC apparatus of the NSA and their programs. After all, if you want to ask about the idea that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, I ask you to tell me just exactly how you feel every time you go through a TSA checkpoint at the airport today.
Finally, I would also like to touch on the idea that the governments own hubris and now embarrassment is firing the boilers on this whole blame game that Snowden is in fact a handled asset of the Russians. I think that the NSA/USGOV and IC community feel the sting of their inadequacies as they have been laid bare for all to see. You see, Snowden did not carry out some 3l33t hacking here to gather the data. He used common techniques and vulnerabilities within the NSA and other government IC bodies to steal data and put them all on a USB stick and then walk out with them. It’s a simple trick and the top of that list is actually just socially engineering people for their passwords within the confines of the most secretive and secret IC shops in the world. Now that has to sting a bit wouldn’t you agree? So there is shame all around here on the part of the government and it puts them all in a weak position tactically. The reactions of all those at play seems to be more along the lines of dialogue from a playground spat rather than state or spycraft and it’s sad really. As the immortal words of GW Bush can attest;
“There’s an old saying in Tennessee – I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.”
To me, it seems that Snowden just did what he did because of a myriad reasons that also include a certain amount of self aggrandizement. However, I can point to things in our own history and to popular media that may explain why someone might do something like this on the grounds that they think it’s illegal, immoral, and against the tenets of the USA. While POTUS is right about how important these types of programs can be in the war on terror and the every day intelligence gathering that every country needs to survive, it should also be possible to have some level of oversight to disallow for abuses of power to happen and happen with great frequency due to over classification. These are fundamental changes that should occur but the reality is that the very nature of the work being done and the culture within it’s halls will stoip any real progress being made. In the end nothing will change and the NSA will continue to collect all the data it can like a giant hoover-matic for later sorting and use.
Having grown up in the era of Nixon though, and other revelations like Iran Contra, I for one not only know that these things will continue to happen but that they have in the past and should be in our collective consciousness. Unfortunately many do not remember and the only entree into such ideas may in fact be cinema… I leave you with this scene from “Three Day’s Of The Condor”
Not everything in cinema is just fantasy…
“scr hrw lgihr kzpzz cwl nci pjwt”
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.
Espionage & Industrial Espionage:
This case has been spinning up in the news since it hit the net yesterday but this post begs the questions over nation state espionage versus opportunistic theft of data to sell. Clearly this case has yet to be fleshed out completely by the FBI and others but it seems at the first blush though, that this guy decided to steal information with a motive of selling or trading it for money or other forms of remuneration. In either case though, this is a form of both industrial and nation state espionage by the mere fact that the end location of the data was going to be Iran, a nation state that currently is on many lists for boycott. The major issue here that has yet to be worked out though in this particular case is whether or not Mr. Khazaee in fact hand a MISRI handler or not.
When looking at espionage of any kind one has to look at the motivations of the players involved to understand how to classify it. In this case as I said above we do not have a lot of data on the actions of Khazaee save for that he worked for Pratt for a certain number of years and that he was recently laid off by them in August. Here though are the important questions I am asking in light of this arrest:
- Was Khazaee motvated by need for money? (he filed for bankruptcy)
- Was Khazaee stealing as revenge for being laid off? As I remember this round I think they knew they were going to be at a certain date.
- Was Khazaee acting out of an allegiance to Iran?
- Was Khazaee working for SAVAK at all?
- Was Khazaee working for SAVAK for fear of his family still in Iran?
All of these questions being answered will give a good idea of how long he had in fact been taking the documents from Pratt as well as lend an understanding of why exactly he did it. All of these scenarios are possibly reasons that in fact caused Mr. Khazaee to perpetrate the crime. I will say though, that given the circumstances around his history and the slips in OPSEC here that led to his capture (as serendipitous as they may seem) I am thinking that this was more an opportunistic crime than anything else.
ASSESSMENT of Pratt & Whitney Case:
My overall assessment given the information we have to date is the following:
- Khazaee was more than likely acting alone hoping that he could exfil the data to Iran and gain money/job in Iran
- I don’t think Khazaee had a handler here in the US just from the failure of the plan due to his not really hiding the documents very well
- I think notionally he had contacted people in Iran to say he had documents and that he’d like to deal
- Khazaee had MANY signs of being recruit-able and if he was it was missed completely by US security (Pratt/DOD) with regard to clearances
- IF this data was taken from the NON DOD/ITAR areas of the company then there is an access/classification issue on the data
- Physical security needs to start inspecting all bags, boxes, etc at the facilities
- Why didn’t Khazaee take the data electronically on a stick? (mitigation’s are in place)
Overall I am interested in seeing where this all leads. It is not like the Chinese already haven’t stolen the JSF lock stock and barrel basically from hacks in the past (Lockheed) but I guess if Iran had a hand in Khazaee’s actions at the start then they did not want to pay China for it. My sense of this though is that Khazaee not only fell into poor credit and financial ruin but also may have had negative feelings for UTC/Pratt with his being laid off as well and that motivated him to attempt to make some easy money. I seriously doubt from everything I have seen online so far concerning Mr. Khazaee’s personal life that he was a patriot to Iran to start. As time goes by I am sure we will have more revelations in the news cycle to chew on.
I will say though, with this being the second incident of late for Pratt regarding escapes of data like this that they will be in the hot seat a bit with the government….
VQX HWMVCUSE JQJFASSNTG QV! X HQ JD ISIAVVE!
Face it.. We are all PWND six ways to Sunday
Every frigging day we hear more and more about how the NSA has been emptying our lives of privacy and subverting the laws of this land and others with their machinations. It’s true, and I have been saying as much since the day Mr. Klein came out of his telco closet and talked about how the NARUS system had been plugged into the MAE West back in the day. We are all well and truly fucked if we want any kind of privacy today kids and we all need to just sit back and think about that.
*ponder ponder ponder*
Ok, I have thought about it and I have tried to think of any way to protect myself from the encroachment of the NSA and all the big and little sisters out there. I am absolutely flummoxed to come up with any cogent means to really and truly protect my communications. Short of having access to the NSA supercloud and some cryptographers I don’t think that we will not truly have any privacy anymore. If you place it on the net, or in the air. We have reached in my opinion the very real possibility of the N-Dystopia I have talked about before in the Great Cyber Game post.
As the pundits like Schneier and others groan on and on about how the NSA is doing all of this to us all I have increasingly felt the 5 stages of grief. I had the disbelief (ok not completely as you all know but the scope was incredible at each revelation) Then the anger came and washed over me, waves and waves of it as I saw the breadth and scope of the abuse. Soon though that anger went away and I was then feeling the bargaining phase begin. I started to bargain in my head with ideas that I could in fact create my own privacy with crypto and other OPSEC means. I thought I could just deny the government the data. I soon though began to understand that no matter what I did with the tools out there that it was likely they had already been back door’d. This came to be more than the case once the stories came out around how the NSA had been pressuring all kinds of tech companies to weaken standards or even build full back doors into their products under the guise of “National Security”
Over time the revelations have all lead to the inescapable truth that there is nothing really anyone can do to stop the nation state from mining our communications on a technological level. Once that had fully set in my mind the depression kicked in. Of late I have been more quiet online and more depressed about our current state as well as our future state with regard to surveillance and the cyberwarz. I came to the conclusion that no matter the railing and screaming I might do it would mean nothing to the rapidly approaching cyberpocalypse of our own creation arriving. ….In short, we can’t stop it and thus the last of the five stages for me has set in. I accept that there is nothing I can do, nay, nothing “we” can do to stop this short of a bloody coup on the government at large.
I now luxuriate in my apathy and were I to really care any more I would lose my fucking mind.
OPSEC! OPSEC! OPSEC!
Speaking of losing one’s mind.. Lately people all have been yelling that OPSEC is the only way! One (the gruqq) has been touting this and all kinds of counterintelligence as the panacea for the masses on these issues. Well, why? Why should we all have to be spies to just have a little privacy in our lives huh? I mean it’s one thing to be a shithead and just share every fucking stupid idea you have on FriendFace and Tweeter but really, if you can’t shut yourself up that is your problem right? No, I speak of the every day email to your mom telling her about your health status or maybe your decision to come out etc. Why should the government have the eminent domain digitally to look at all that shit now or later?
If you take measures to protect these transactions and those measures are already compromised by the government why then should you even attempt to protect them with overburdened measures such as OPSEC huh? I mean, really if you are that worried about that shit then go talk to someone personally huh? I know, quite the defeatist attitude I have there huh? The reality is that even though I claim not to be caring about it (re: apathy above) I actually do but I realize that we no longer have privacy even if we try to create it for ourselves with technical means. If the gov wants to see your shit they will make a way to do so without your knowing about it. I fully expect someday that they will just claim eminent domain over the internet completely.
Fuck OPSEC.. I want my government to do the right thing and not try to hide all their skirting of the law by making it classified and sending me an NSL that threatens to put me in jail for breaking the law.
Fuck this shit.
Then we have the CYBERWARZ!! Oh yeah, the gubment, the military, and the private sector all have the CYBERWARZ fever. I cannot tell you how sick of that bullshit I am really. I am tired of all the hype and misdirection. Let me clear this up for you all right here and right now. THERE IS NO CYBERWAR! There is only snake oil and espionage. UNTIL such time as there is a full out kinetic war going on where systems have been destroyed or compromised just before tanks roll in or nukes hit us there is no cyberwar to speak of. There is only TALK OF cyber war.. Well more like masturbatory fantasies by the likes of Beitlich et al in reality. So back the fuck off of this shit mmkay? We do not live in the world of William Gibson and NO you are not Johnny Mnemonic ok!
Sick. And. Tired.
I really feel like that Shatner skit where he tells the Trekkies to get a life…
Awaiting the DERPOCALYPSE
All that is left for us all now is the DERPOCALYPSE. This is the end state of INFOSEC to me. We are all going to be co-opted into the cyberwarz and the privacy wars and none of us have a snowball’s chance in hell of doing anything productive with our lives. Some of us are breaking things because we love it. Others are trying to protect “ALL THE THINGS” from the breakers and the people who take their ideas and technologies and begin breaking all those things. It’s a vicious cycle of derp that really has no end. It’s an ouroboros of fail.
RAGE! RAGE! AGAINST THE DYING OF THE PRIVACY! is a nice sentiment but in reality we have no way to completely stop the juggernaut of the NSA and the government kids. We are all just pawns in a larger geopolitical game and we have to accept this. If we choose not to, and many have, then I suggest you gird your loins for the inevitable kick in the balls that you will receive from the government eventually. The same applies for all those companies out there aiding the government in their quest for the panopticon or the cyberwarz. Money talks and there is so much of it in this industry now that there is little to stop it’s abuse as well.
We are well and truly fucked.
So, if you too are feeling burned out by all of this take heart gentle reader. All you need do is just not care anymore. Come, join me in the pool of acceptance. Would you care for a lotus blossom perhaps? It’s all good once you have accepted the truth that there is nothing you can do and that if you do things that might secure you then you are now more of a target. So, do nothing…
IJPFRH CPAGP EIIL!
CYBER CYBER CYBER!
CYBER CYBER CYBER! or “CRY HAVOC AND LET SLIP THE DIGITAL DOGS OD CYBER WAR!”” is often what you hear from me in a mocking tone as I scan the internet and the news for the usual cyber-douchery. Well this time kids I am actually going to review a book that for once was not full of douchery! Instead it was filled with mostly good information and aimed at people who are not necessarily versed at all in the cyberz. I personally was surprised to find myself thinking that I would approve this for a syllabus (as it has been placed into one by someone I know and asked me to read this and comment)
The book really is a primer on IW (Information Warfare) and Cyber-Warfare (for lack of a better nomenclature for it) which many of you reading my blog might be way below your desired literacy level on the subjects. However, for the novice I would happily recommend that they read the book and then spend more time using ALL of the footnotes to go and read even more on the subject to get a grasp of the complexities here. In fact, I would go as far as to say to all of you out there that IF you are teaching this subject at all then you SHOULD use this book as a starting point.
I would also like to say that I would LOVE to start a kickstarter and get this book into the hands of each and every moron in Congress and the House. I would sit there and MAKE them read it in front of me *surely watching their lips move as they do so* There are too many people in positions of power making stupid decisions about this stuff when they haven’t a single clue. I guess the same could be said about the military folks as well. We have plenty of generals who have no idea either.. That’s just one man’s opinion though.
As we move further and further down the cyber-war road I think that books like this should be mandatory reading for all military personnel as well as college level courses in not only IW/INFOSEC but also political and affairs of state majors as well. We will only continue down this road it seems and it would be best for us all if the next wave of digital natives had a real grasp of the technologies as well as the political, logical, and tactical aspects of “Cyber”
I have broken down the book into rough chapters and subject areas as it is within the book (mostly) It really does cover more of the overall issues of cyber-warfare and methods used (not overly technical) The modus operandi so to speak of the actual events that have taken place are laid out in the book and give you a picture of the evolving of IW to what we see today as “cyber-warfare” I will comment on those sections on what I thought was good and what I thought was derpy of course, I mean would you all have it any other way?
IW (INFORMATION WARFARE) RUSSIA
The authors cover early IW with the Russian saga’s over Georgia and Estonia. There is a lot in there that perhaps even you out there might not know about the specifics of the incidents where Russia is “alleged” to have attacked both countries at different times with different goals and effects. Much of this also touches on the ideas of proxy organizations that may or may not be state run that were a part of the action as well as a good overview of what happened.
In the case of Georgia it went kinetic and this is the first real “cyber-warfare” incident in my mind as cyber-war goes. I say this because in my mind unless there is an actual kinetic portion to the fighting there is no “war” it is instead an “action” or “espionage” so in the case of tanks rolling in on Georgia we have a warfare scenario outright that was in tandem with IW/CW actions.
OUR CHINESE OVERLORDS
Ah Chairman Meow… What book on Cyber would be complete without our friends at the MSS 3rd Directorate huh? Well in the case of this primer it gets it right. It gets across not only that China has been hacking the living shit out of us but also WHY they are doing it! The book gives a base of information (lots of footnotes and links) to ancillary documentation that will explain the nature of Chinese thought on warfare and more to the point Cyber-Warfare. The Chinese have been working this angle (The Thousand Grains of Sand etc) for a long time now and there are more than a few treatises on it for you to read after finishing this book.
The big cases are in there as well as mention of the malware used, goals of the attacks and some of the key players. If you are out to start teaching about Chinese electronic/cyber/IW then this is a good place to start. Not too heavy but it gets the point across to those who are not so up to speed on the politics, the tech, or the stratagems involved.
Anonymous, as someone on my Twitter feed was just asking me as I was writing this piece, is also a part of this picture as well. The idea of asymmetric online warfare is really embodied by these groups. The book focuses more on Lulzsec and their 50 days of sailing but it doesn’t go too in depth with the derp. Suffice to say that all of them are indeed important to cyber-warfare as we know it and may in fact be the end model for all cyber-warfare. How so? Well, how better to have plausible denyability than to get a non state group to carry out your dirty war? Hell, for that matter how about just blame them and make it look like one of their ops huh?
Oddly enough just days ago Hammond wrote a piece saying this very thing. He intoned that the FBI via Sabu were manipulating the Anon’s into going after government targets. This is not beyond comprehension especially for places like China as well. So this is something to pay attention to. However, this book really did not take that issue on and I really wished that they had. Perhaps in the next updated edition guys?
OY VEY, the “GRID” this is one of the most derpy subjects usually in the media as well as the books/talks/material on cyber-warfare out there. In this case though I will allow what they wrote stand as a “so so” because they make no real claim to an actual apocalypse. Instead the book talks about the possible scenarios of how one could attack the grid. This book makes no claim that it would work but it is something to think about especially if you have an army of trained squirrels with routers strapped to their backs.
It is my belief that the system is too complex to have a systematic fail of apocalypse proportions and it always has been so. If the book talked about maybe creating a series of EMP devices placed at strategic high volume transformers then I would say they’d be on to something. However, that said, the use of a topological attack model was a good one from a logical perspective. They base most of this off of the Chinese grad students paper back years ago so your mileage may vary. So on this chapter I give it a 40% derp.
All in all I would have liked to have seen more in the political area concerning different countries thought patterns on IW/CW but hey, what can ya do eh? Additionally I think more could have been done on the ideas of offense vs. defense. Today I see a lot of derp around how the US has a GREAT OFFENSIVE CAPABILITY! Which for me and many of you out there I assume, leads me to the logical thought conclusion of “GREAT! We are totally offensive but our defense SUCKS!” So much for CYBER-MAD huh?
I would have also like to have seen more in the way of some game theory involved in the book as well concerning cyber-warfare. Some thought experiments would be helpful to lay out the problems within actually carrying out cyber-war as well as potential outcomes from doing so more along the lines of what I saw in the Global Cyber-Game.
Well, in the end I think it is a good start point for people to use this in their syllabus for teaching IW/CW today. It is a primer though and I would love to see not only this end up on the list but also the Global Cyber Game as well to round out the ideas here. To me it is more about “should we do this?” as opposed to “LETS FUCKING DO THIS!” as the effects of doing so are not necessarily known. Much of this territory is new and all too much of it is hyped up to the point of utter nonsense. This is the biggest problem we have though, this nonsense level with regard to the leaders of the land not knowing anything about it and then voting on things.
We need a more informed populace as well as government and I think this book would be a good start. So to the person who asked me to review this..
The Global Cyber Game:
I had been meaning to write about this before when I had originally read the text but things got in the way as usual (work, more work, some more work after that, Defcon/Bsides) Now though I am in a space where I can reflect back on this paper and write about it here for you all to see. The Defence Academy (UK) put this together to describe how we might approach “cyberwar” on the level of game play or game theory. They constructed a board and began to set to the task of creating game play and tactics given certain scenarios in the cyber world. (see image of game board below) You can actually play this game if you create a board from this design and work within the rules of game theory but this is not why I find this treatise so important.
What I find most interesting is the actual scenario’s that play out within the game play as well as the end game status that the paper puts it all down to in the end of N-Utopia and N-Dystopia. As one can gather from the inherent meaning of the words, N-Utopia means that we all work out our problems globally and work on bettering society (which in the Nash equations is the best play) or we end up with N-Dystopia, a Balkanization of the net, and warfare that scales all levels up to kinetic and will be the death of us all. Can you guess where I think we are right now on the N-scale? Yes, you’d be right to lean toward the N-Dystopia area. In fact I would even like to see that idea rendered in a new way with an older iconography, that being the Doomsday Clock analogy. Perhaps someone can take that up online and create one for the cyebrwarz eh?
What must be taken into account in the great cyber game is that all of this is centered around power plays. The use of information as power, the use of information to effect actions vis a vis “power” and the varying types of power that are being wielded by the players. This paper covers this idea pretty well and should be required reading for anyone looking to study cyber-warfare along side Clausewitz and other more well known pieces of doctrine. Some however may already be familiar with the ideas of hard and soft power but let’s take that into the electronic warfare arena which is a bit harder to scope today.
- Hard power
- Overt threats and rewards
- Kinetic action
- Soft power
Both of these types of dynamic play off of one another and work in tandem. There actually is a whole spectrum of power plays that can be derived from these basic premises but I will not go into all that here. To date I have seen an abundance of hard power tactics being employed on the game board and I fear that that seems to be what the governments of the world have locked on to as their aegis. I would love for more to try the soft power tactics and methods but I am too much of a realist to hope that it will ever really happen.
The game play today that we are all seeing unfold before us is the hard power of Stuxnet or the ramping up of every piece of malware and 0day conceivable being purchased by the US government or others in an effort to be superior when the battle comes. That is though when they are not using those said same exploits in the darker games of realpolitik that they are prosecuting now. As I see it now we are hurtling towards a massive cyberfail of our own making and the real cost of the bad play will be economies around the world and other collateral damage that may not be an apocalypse as we currently understand them to be.
The power dimensions portion of this paper is quite enlightening and you should broaden the scope of how those plays are made with information and the internet. One must understand the playing field as well as the weapon you wield. This is the main problem I have of late is that all too many people and governments are not understanding the game play, the field of play, nor the tools they are using (pieces) well enough to play the game well. This makes not only for bad play, but in this game there are real world consequences for us all when some government or actor does something immensely stupid.
Cyber Games Today:
So what are we seeing today that has me worried? Well, we have the cybergames with Stuxnet and other malware to start. I liken the release of Stuxnet as skin to the release of a biotoxin or virus that eventually will be re-worked or manipulated into a more fearsome weapon. These are not one use tools, they are in fact re-usable and re-tune-able. Once these things are out there is no controlling them and with the idea of Stuxnet you have something that was used against one target but could affect hundreds more in friendly countries if they had the same configuration.
Another cybergame being played today is the new surveillance state that we find ourselves in. It seems in the case of the US we have people who are interpreting our Constitution to suit their needs under the rubric of protecting the homeland. This cybergame is all about information and the power dimension of controlling it. I have been watching this Snowden affair unfold and frankly I am frightened of the capabilities that the NSA has but I am much more scared that they claim that they are protecting us while a Snowden subverts the very systems they are saying cannot be misused. This particular cybergame when looked at, show’s all of the hard and soft power dimensions at play with the media and the law. This should also be brought into the cyber game play as well.
Yet another cybergame going on is within the public/private sector and I call the “Patriot Games” What I mean by this is that we have non state actors playing rolls of asymmetric warriors online to effect whatever change they see fit. A certain un-named clown for one is a primary actor in this space and really started the trend in my opinion. The cybergamers here are vigilantes nothing more and nothing less and may or may not have an effect on the grander scheme of things on the net and in public policy. For the most part however, these players are on the hard power end of the spectrum and thus just mostly come off as thugs.
Lastly, the cybergame that seems to be the one with the most chance of playing in the larger space is that of Anonymous. Anonymous has been able to leverage many players into semi cogent action and could in the future have a real effect on policy and other dimensions within the cybergame play. The only reason that I place Anon into this game is because of that mobilizing force that they seem to carry. If motivated and able to be cohesive enough this group could affect the greater games being played and have on a microcosmic scale thus far in recent history.
In all, the games that are being played, and they are games, all serve as a means to an end for those paying attention to understand and perhaps help those in the seat of power how not to play the game at all. Our petty squabbling on the internet is just that. The reality is that the net is important and much of our lives today require it to run smoothly but if the net were to go down permanently our society would not utterly collapse. We would survive and we would re-build. The question then becomes would we have learned from it and do things better the next time around?
Cyber-Utopia and Cyber-Dystopia:
The idea of Cyber-Utopia is a far fetched one in my mind and probably many others out there. This would be a great thing if we could make it happen but given the petty nature of our.. well nature.. We will only see this ideal wash up on the rocks and sink into the ocean rather quickly. In the Cyber-Utopia we all work together, we cooperate, and we work towards a better day. … And I just don’t see this happening barring some kind of alien intervention frankly.
Cyber-Dystopia though I am afraid is already the case in many respects. We are seeing an almost Balkanization of the internet today as it is never mind the games being played in reality with Stuxnet and cyberwar. If the N-Dystopia comes to pass we will find ourselves at war with each other constantly in a “cyberworld” much like the episode of STOS “A Taste of Armageddon” where all warfare is carried out via computer simulations and only the casualties report to be disintegrated as a means to balance it all out. Today though we will see attacks on economies as well as infrastructures to effect “war” (economic, political, or other) on our enemies and the real world costs will have to be measured in profit loss or perhaps even actual loss of human life.
The cyber-dystopia though is more than just an outcome of war. It is the outcome from our own inabilities to work with each other and our ability to rationalize warfare through a non apocalyptic destruction of life. It will be a tit for tat war of attrition that will not lead to any clear victories and certainly not elevate our societies in any way and that is the sad truth of it. Ladies and gents we are already in the dystopia. We just may not understand that yet.
Understand the game:
So, I leave you with the paper: The Global Cyber Game pull it down and read it. Learn from it, play the game if you like, and spend some time thinking about it all. We are on the cusp of another evolution in our society that we have seen repeated in every other evolution we have had. We create something, then we weaponize it. Perhaps if more of us understand it and the pitfalls we can prevent the N-Dystopia from becoming any worse.