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

Archive for the ‘PsyOPS’ Category

Leaderless Jihad and Open Source Jihad: A Marriage Made In Hell.

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In 2013 I wrote about leaderless jihad and the “Stand Alone Complex” Now we are seeing this type of leaderless, “inspired by” thought virus playing itself out on the national stage. Last nights attack using a lorrie was something that was presaged by two issues of Inspire Magazine back in 2010 and 2014. There isn’t much to it really to gather some weapons, steal a truck, and then plow it into a crowd but it has taken this long for the insidious idea to take root in the collective unconscious of the would be jihadi’s. The days of a more rigid and trained “jihad” are being eclipsed by would be unbalanced individuals seeking attention and reinforcement of their sick ideas through the media, the internet, and our collective inability to look away from a tragic scene on a glowing screen.

Screenshot from 2016-07-15 07:00:082014 Inspire


Screenshot from 2016-07-15 07:04:082010 Inspire 2 “Ultimate Mowing Machine”


Soft targets were always the preferred avenue of attack but now they are becoming seen as a top priority for security forces since the attacks in France and other places like Bangladesh. While Dahka on the face of it had a contingent of more trained individuals the attack last night is as simplistic as they come. This is what is really scaring the populace and the security services because now it seems that the authors and actors of these acts are in fact just one guy and not a cabal that they could perhaps track using pervasive surveillance. A cell of one is hard to track and certainly if they self radicalize by just downloading Inspire magazine and watching YouTube, well, what can one do? There are no easy answers here in the world of detection and prevention.

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So here we have it, I have been pointing this out for a while and at first it was AQAP trying to inspire “OSJ” or Open Source Jihad. Now Dabiq and Da’esh are carrying it on and furthering it with the media zeitgeist that ensues with each attack. The net effect here is that these people are selfradicalizing with the help of the media’s obsession on covering ad nauseum these acts. The pervasive hand wringing and talking heads only serve to whet the appetite of the would be jihobbyist into action. Forget the Inspire magazines and the videos, just watch CNN and that is enough it seems. This all is very much like the plot line to “The Laughing Man” arc of Ghost In The Shell. An act carried out on the media instilled others to carry out like acts to be on the media and further the idea(l) as well as serve as a means to self fulfil the actors need for attention and satisfaction.


This is pure psychology at work and there are a host of reasons and syndromes that could likely be pointed at to rationalize it’s happening. The fact of the matter is that now we are seeing it play out rather bloodily on the streets of the world in furtherance of an idea and ideal set that lends itself to the like minded.. Or should I say mentally ill? Yes, I would say mentally ill. These actors are acting out and likely have some borderline tendencies to start with. These people feel outcast in their societies or out of place within the societies they are living in as a second generation citizen. It is a complex thing to nail down and I suggest that anyone who might want to delve into it further read “Leaderless Jihad” by Marc Sageman.

We need a more nuanced approach to the GWOT and I am afraid we won’t get that…



The DNC Hack: SVR? KGB? GRU? Lone Hacker?

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Attribution Games:

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?


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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.



Written by Krypt3ia

2016/06/17 at 18:34

The QNB Hack: Cui Bono?

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Screenshot from 2016-05-02 11:14:51

The Dump

The recent dump of data from the Qatari National Bank was of interest to me and many others because it was purporting to have the accounts and identities of spies within it’s csv and text files. I downloaded the files from Cryptome thanks to someone pointing me in their direction and took a nice long look. As the story has unfolded it has come to light that the bank itself says the data is real and that they are now “completely secure” which is amusing given that this was an ols SQLi attack that netted this Turkish hacker group the jewels of QNB.

The dump consists of the oracle database files, the passwords, and the banking information of all the users therein. I have to say that most of it is really quite pedestrian but then the hackers, or the bank management,  created file folders (as seen above) that marked people as spies, Mukhabarat, Security, Gov, and other tantalizing names. I first had thought that the file folders and their speculative names had been created by the hackers to sex up their dump but it has come to light that if you look within the database dump itself you see the directories and names have headings like intelligence and defence. So it seems that the bank itself may in point of fact created these tags in the belief or inside knowledge that the people in the data were in fact what they claimed, or at least thought they were.

The Spies

I looked at all the interesting folders and the data all the while wondering about the validity of the idea that these names were in fact corresponding to real assets, NOC’s or just functionaries in Qatari space that had just been quite well blown by this hack and subsequent data dump. On the whole I would call into question all of the names being linked directly to espionage organs. I really have to wonder if the bank would in fact be that “in the know” about spooks in their country and really have to be circumspect about their putting that in the users bank records. I mean even the Mukhabarat would at least demand that it be obfuscated one would hope by a code of some sort and not just in the headers/directories themselves.

It really kind of feels like the natural tendencies of the Arab nature had gotten the best of the database admin and the managers of the bank and they believed that these people were spies without there being any real proof. In any case, if these people, especially those who are FORN and in country, now may have some trouble with people thinking that they are really spies and subject to attacks. Imagine if you will any jihadi types who might take this data as gospel and go after these people for da’esh or AQ. This could be bad. I have yet to hear of anyone leaving their positions or the country. If I were one of them I would at least be looking over my shoulder henceforth.

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The other data I can see perhaps the military accounts and names being totally on the money because they are their own Ministry of Defence and really, that is not top secret stuff. Likely the bank see’s where these people get their pay from (Qatari funds from the gov) but even these people could now be targets because this hack was motivated by political means it seems after all.

Cui Bono?

Screenshot from 2016-05-02 16:10:09

It seems that the Bozkurtlar (Grey Wolves) a Turkish political group and their hackers were the perpetrators of this hack. There is a long history between Turkey and Qatar and most of it seems kind of benign but when you scratch the surface a bit you can see that there are some issues between them as well as some synergies in their support of certain terrorist groups like da’esh. (click linked image below)

Screenshot from 2016-05-02 16:13:47

Screenshot from 2016-05-02 16:12:09So, “Cui Bono?” Well, certainly the Grey Wolves, to what end I am not completely sure. They did post their video before the hack hit the pastebins out on the net so it was pretty much their gig but I still don’t quite understand why. Perhaps these hackers are quasi wolves and or it is some other entity using the wolves as a cover for their activities. Given that there has been no real perceived fire coming out of Qatar over this nor in other areas of the world that we are aware of, I kind of doubt all these people were in fact assets of foreign powers.

At the end of the day, this just turns out to be yet another derpy easy hack using SQLi on an entity that wasn’t performing any due diligence but it had the sexy sexy for the masses with the idea that some great hack exposing spies had occurred. In my opinion not so much really. So hey Grey Wolves, gimme some more context would you than some poos British shmucks MySpace page in the future would you?


Written by Krypt3ia

2016/05/03 at 00:08

DISINFORMATION and PSYOPS: Corporate, Government, and Personal

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Screenshot from 2014-09-24 10:23:47

The Panopticon and Testbed


Recent stories online have got me to thinking again about the internet and it’s effects on just about everything. Specifically though of late the idea of how the internet is being used in efforts of control and observation of course have been at the forefront of my mind. Since the revelations of “Snowman” came out just about everyone has had to face the facts that I and many others were saying all along, primarily this; “The internet is a massive and accessible form of control” We are living digitally in a panopticon.

For a long time after the revelation that the MAE West was split and a NARUS STA6400 was placed inline, I have been saying that we all were being surveiled in a driftnet approach to intelligence collection. Some considered me a tinfoil hatter but the reality is that the government has long been using the net as a means of intelligence gathering. Now though there has been a paradigm shift from not only using the internet as a means of surveillance but also as a means of control over the populace.


Screenshot from 2014-09-24 10:27:46

One way of controlling a populace is with the use of disinformation. What got me thinking about this though today was an article about how the recent online threats made by alleged hackers against Emma Watson turns out to maybe be a marketing stunt. Evidently a site was set up with a countdown to the release of nudes like those recently dropped by hackers in the “Fappening” The twist here is that in the end the site was just a shill to manipulate people by clickbaiting them and then using that traffic to make money possibly off of ads. There may be other designs behind this site and hoax but it sets a precedent that people should be paying attention to.

In the world of APT (Advanced Persistent Threats) and SE (Social Engineering) this is a common tactic. You bait the user with something that they just have to see and get them to click on something to infect themselves whether that be a file or a website or a link to one. This particular incident is in fact a form of disinformation just like the tweets coming out of ISIS/L trying to scare people into actions or behaviours. In this case the behaviour or action served the purposes of the creators to potentially make quite a bit of money from traffic to a particular site. In other instances this can lead to the compromise of corporations, governments, and end users to steal data such as confidential information or credit cards.

On a grander scheme though you can see the geopolitical actions of disinformation at play with every nation that has available internet access. If you look at the twitter streams and pages of Russia you can see manipulation going on in such cases as the last ill fated Malaysian airliner that was shot from the sky. In fact, the Russians have a very active online Trolling campaign that they use to manipulate people that sometimes is poor enough to just see right through. In other instances the information that is being used is not so easily determined to be skewed or false.

Now consider the whole debate over climate change. Take a look at the “Climategate” incident as well as all of the players involved both government and corporate that have had their hands in the manipulation of public opinion. It’s not just governmental and not just criminal but now a common practice of corporations and I would say has been so since the invention of Advertising and the primacy of Madison Avenue. I suggest you all go watch Mad Men again but not just to watch the unspooling of Don Draper’s life but how the advertising business works.


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PSYOPS on the other hand were more military in origin but then the age of Advertising came along again and started using their precepts as well. In the case of PSYOPS online they are often used by military and government but never count the corporate entities out of the game. Recently it came to light that Facebook carried out some manipulation of it’s users in a program that wanted to see just how much they could change their moods. This experiment was also alleged to be affiliated with the military as well due to funding so you can start to see how it’s a win/win for Zuck right? Manipulate your user base to get them to be pliant and click on ads all the while being a potential pawn in a larger war for hearts and minds for the military?

As I mentioned above this type of warfare is being carried out on Twitter by the likes of ISIS/L as well as the USA. In the case of the US they are trying to troll ISIS and their possible base into “Turning Away” from radical jihad. With both of these cases you can see just how ISIS does this a lot better than the US. However, I would then point you to the chickenhawks all on Fox and other news sources decrying that ISIS is a fundamental threat to the US. Unless you pay attention and do the due diligence reading you may miss that the Pentagon says that ISIS is not as much of a threat to the US (via terrorism) than the current Khorasan group that is an AQ offshoot.

It’s easy to lose the truth between all of the shouting here online and off. Just how much is PSYOP to get a groundswell of support from the likes of the populace and their representatives in Congress is anybodies guess. I for one though think that there is a lot of this going on but too many people focus on the governmental and should start thinking about corporations that now feel empowered to carry out these kinds of campaigns because they have the money and the will to do so.

*cough BIG TOBACCO and OIL cough*


The New (old) Dystopia:

So what it all comes down to for me is that we all need to be more mindful of this kind of manipulation. Remember too that it was the likes of HB Gary that were offering platforms to automatically manipulate people via social media for intelligence gathering as well as other desired effects. The dystopia kids isn’t just from surveillance but also PSYOPS and DISINFORMATION that manipulates people into actions desired by those carrying them out. In the case of the 4chan hating alleged hackers of Emma Watson’s pictures? Well, I am sure there’s a bank account somewhere with more money in it. I also can assume that there are some people having a real laugh about it as well. What’s more, these people also are feeling very smug because they got all of you to click on a link and do the work for them.

Just remember to vet what you read kids and be mindful that the internet is an open forum to manipulate you as well as your traffic.


Written by Krypt3ia

2014/09/24 at 15:54

Posted in Disinformation, PsyOPS

ASSESSMENT: Insider Threats, Espionage Recruitment and Psychological Profiling

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Screenshot from 2014-01-27 15:07:53

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…


Creating Your Own Privacy & ROI

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img courtesy of XKCD



With all the alleged revelations over the drift net surveillance happening to us all by the government I and others have been pondering the processes needed to protect one’s communications online and over the phone. Wired and other venues have put out reasonably ok articles on this but generally I think they have lacked on the ROI factor for the varying degree’s of surveillance that has been carried out for some time now, not just the NSA with PRISM. The immensity of it all I think can put one off on the idea of being able to keep their privacy especially given the pains that one must take to keep it on the nation state scale. However, there is much that could be done to have a modicum of privacy but one just has to understand the idea of OPSEC and have some technical base to work from in order to use the technologies such as TOR or CRYPTO in the first place. It is another thing altogether to keep that mindset every day and to understand the import of their use and the cause and effect that comes from failing to use them.


As Ali (@packetknife) alluded to on the “Loopcast” recently with me, the idea that someone can completely deny the nation state program of surveillance is a tough one to swallow today. We all are connected to the net in some way whether it be your smartphone or some other connected device that we carry with us 24/7. In the case of the smart phone the utter and total pwn that goes on there is spectacular to think about. There is no need for tinfoil hat conspiracies about barcode tattoo’s on one’s neck here, all you really need is an iPhone and connectivity to know quite a bit about a person. This is why the metadata issue is a big one and people are seemingly unable to comprehend it. Let me clarify this for you all by also saying that not only are the calls to and from being easily monitored and mined (stored later for perusal when needed) by the NSA it seems, but also the GPS data as well. Remember the hubbub over the Apple collection of GPS data on the phones a couple years back? Remember the outrage on some parts over this? Well, now look at that in relations to how much of that data is accessible by the government too in this program. More to the point and this has not really been talked about, but are they correlating that data as well in the phone surveillance being carried out? My assumption is yes but like I said that seems to have been dwarfed and drowned out by the PRISM revelations.

Ok so now we are being data mined and correlated on the phone calls we make (metadata). Of who we are calling, how long we are talking, and when as well as  the GPS (location) as well?  All of that data is very informational about the habits of a person alone but start to analyze it from a personal and psychological perspective and you can build quite the dossier on someone without even having to listen to their conversations. Which I hasten to add that there are rumors of the caching of conversations generally not just under warrant from FISA. At this level, the nation state level of surveillance, one cannot hope to really be secure in their communications using technologies as they are because of the access the government has built for themselves post 9/11 with the Patriot Act as it’s fulcrum. Access mind you that we are giving them by proxy of the devices we buy and the services that provide the connection because without them we have no way to communicate other than in person or pen to paper with the post offices help right?

All of this though does not mean that the government is spying on you now. What it means though is that the legalities have been created or bent to the will of the government to have the illusion that the wholesale collection of all kinds of data for later use of anyone using these systems is legal. It also means that no matter the protestation of the government and the law enforcement bodies that they take all due care not to collect/use/surveill you vis a vis your data that there is a chance that someone within the system “could” and “might” do so outside of the rules and that is the problem here … Well other than the Constitutional, moral, and ethical issues that is. Just because it is against the rules does not mean someone won’t do it if they have the access. You know.. Like EJ Snowden having access to highly classified data that perhaps he shouldn’t have? Or furthermore the availability of Mr. Snowden being able to insert a USB drive into systems and siphon off said data to give to the press or anyone who’d listen right?


Another issue that seems to be taking a back seat here is the notion of the Little Sisters to Big Brother. This idea springs from something I alluded to above in that the corporations that offer you the services (Gmail/ATT/Facebook etc) all collect data on you every minute of every day. They use this data for advertising, data mining, selling that data to other companies to form synergies on how to sell you on things etc. It is this practice of collecting all this data on us and our complicity in it that has given rise to the drift net approach that the government has taken with the surveillance programs like PRISM. The government is simply leveraging the capacities that are already there in the first place! You want to blame someone for this mess? Look in the mirror as you have allowed your data to be collected in the first place. YOU have placed your minute details out there on the internet to start with in email or posts to Twitter and Facebook for example. YOU are the culprit because you fail to understand OPSEC (Operational Security) and just scattered it on the net for anyone to see.

Of course other bits are more arcane. Cookies, tracking data within browsers and the like also give away much data on who you are, what you like, and allow the marketers to tailor ads for you when you go to sites that pay for the services. The aggregate of all of this data makes a digital portrait of you that unless you take pains to disallow the collection, will be sold and used by the corporations to package YOU as the commodity. I mean, how do you think Facebook works? It’s a social contract to connect to others and allow Facebook to make money off of your habits. Zucky is not in this to win a Nobel Peace Prize here ya know.

So when you think about all this surveillance going on please remember that you are complicit in it every time you surf the web, make a facebook post, a tweet, or send an email unencrypted (Google analytics kids) because they are all sifting that data to “get to know you better” *cough* It’s just a friends with benefits thing as the government see’s it being able to just hit them with an NSL and plant a server in the infrastructure to cull the data they want. As long as it doesn’t effect the bottom line (money) for them I suspect their worries about privacy are, well, pretty low on average. I mean after all you have already signed away your rights have you not? The little sisters are insidious and subtle and I am afraid they have already become metasticized within the society body.

The Only Privacy You Can Have Is That Which You Make Yourselves

“The only privacy that you have today  is that which you make for yourself” is something I said a while back on a blog post or podcast and I still stand by it. It seems all the more relevant in the post Snowden world today. By creating privacy I mean leveraging technologies like encryption to keep your communications private and OPSEC to consider how you transmit information over the internet and telco. There are inherent problems though with all of these things as you can always make a mistake and end up leaking information either technically (an instance would be logging online with your own IP address to something) or process wise like putting your current location on Facebook and saying you’re on vacation for two weeks. It is all a matter of degree though and even if you are practicing OPSEC there are things outside of your control when the nation state is looking to spy on you. There are just no two ways about it, you can only fight the nation state so much with technology as they have more resources to defeat your measures eventually by end run or by brute force.

On the level of defeating the little sisters, well the same applies but with limitations. You can in fact surf the net on TOR with NOSCRIPT, cookies disallowed and on an inherently anonymized OS on a USB stick right? The little sisters can only do so much and they only interact when they see a profit in it. They after all are not looking to be voyeurs just for the fun of it. They want to sell you something or sell you as metadata right? However, if you start to anonymize yourself as much as you can and you are diligent about it you can stop the Little Sisters which in turn may minimize what the Big Brother can use too. The caveat is that you have to take pains to do this and you have to know what you are doing. There are no magic easy button offerings on the shelf that will hide you from them all and if you care then you will take the time to learn how to perform these measures.

ROI On Privacy

Finally, I would like to take stock of the fight here that you need to take on and what the ROI is for each adversary involved. In reality unless you go off the grid, change your identity and never touch another piece of technology ever again there is a high likelihood that your information will be tracked. One may in fact create a separate identity to pay bills with and use that one to surf online as well as other things but that is an extreme just like the idea of becoming a Luddite. There must be a middle road where you can feel that you are protecting a certain portion of your lives from the unblinking eye of the companies and governments that own or access the technologies that we use every day. You have to though, understand all of this and accept that in the end you may fail at keeping your privacy yours and yours alone. Come to grips with this and be smart and you can have a modicum of success if you are diligent.

A for instance of this ROI would be on the phones. If you TRULY want to be private then you have to lose your smartphone that you have billed to you and buy a burn phone. Cash is king and there is no information taken if you do it right. The unfortunate thing is that you then have to call only others who have the same burn phones out there without any metdata that ties it back to their real identities. You just try getting mom and dad to buy burn phones to talk to them on… It’s not that easy. So really, some of the ROI is minimized by the nuisance factor. The same can be said for the lay individual who is not going to go buy encryption products nor are they capable of installing a Linux system and running something like GPG. This is not going to work for everyone as well as not everyone is going to care about their privacy as the recent Pew poll showed where 56% of polled ok with surveillance program by NSA.

In the end it all comes back to the idea that you create your own privacy by your own actions. Do not trust that the government is going to protect your privacy and certainly don’t believe that the corporations will either. I mean, just look at how many spectacular fails there were on passwords that weren’t hashed or encrypted in any way by companies hacked by LulzSec. As well you should not trust the government, no matter how well intended, that they will be ABLE to protect your privacy as we have seen with recent events like Brad Manning’s theft of (S) data as well as now Snowden (TS/SCI) The actions of one person can be the downfall of every carefully crafted system.

So what is the ROI here? Well….


Crypto and anonymized traffic online will minimize your footprint but eventually they will break you if they want to. You have to be exceptional to fight the nation state level of surveillance. As for the driftnet out there well, unless you go luddite they have a lot of data to sift and commingle. They have a pretty good picture of who you are and much of that comes from the little sisters. Your ROI here is minimal because they have the power and the thing you MUST remember is that CRYPTO IS YOUR FRIEND!! Encrypt sessions for chat and emails and you will leave them with the task of either having to break that crypto or hack your endpoint to see the plain text. Make them work for it. Otherwise you may as well just BCC the NSA.GOV on each and every email today it seems.


The little sisters though are another thing. You can in fact obscure a lot of what you do online and through telco but you have to be diligent. It means time and sometimes money (burn phones or laptops in some cases) to obfuscate as much as you can. The ROI here is that IF you take these pains you are then able to deny them easy access to your habits and patterns. If you start using crypto in sessions and in communications like emails then you will be also geometrically heightening your privacy status. But you have to do it.. AND that seems to be the hard part for many whether it is laziness or apathy I am not sure.

Privacy is what you make of it… He says as he hits enter on a public blog post!


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Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Exo-Nationals and The Digital Lord of The Flies

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Digital Natives

Last week Josh Corman was at a conference and live tweeting commentary and thoughts online about INFOSEC and around the ideas of Cyberwar. At one point he mentioned the idea of “Digital Natives” against the backdrop of nation states and it struck me again as something I needed to expand upon. Though Josh had said he wanted a chance to explain further to me his ideas before I posted I don’t feel like I think that differently than he does about the topic. Though perhaps I do, I am not sure as I have yet to hear his ideas in full but I wanted to get this out of my head now so here it is.

Digital natives as a term has been around since 2001 when Marc Prensky coined the term in his work “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” was published. In this article he explains the basis of the idea that since kids from 2000 on (I would say earlier for some of us) have grown up with computers and the internet as a ubiquitous appliance/medium they tend to be greatly different in thinking, acting, and general attitudes than their parents and older generations. These people who did not grow up with the technology always around them and used by them are termed to be “Digital Migrants” and have emigrated to the use of the Internet and technologies. As such, these immigrants are often seen as foreigners in the digital world with antiquated ideas on how things should work and methods of doing things. The article (see below link) also goes into some detail on the cognitive differences as well as social differences that Presnky was seeing in the studies he was conducting.

Prensky; Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

Prensky; The Emerging Online Life of Digital Natives

Another paper that Prensky wrote was on the emerging online lives of these “digital natives” in that you could see the emergent behaviors progressing as online life (Web2.0 and Social Media for example) expanded to allow for more connectivity and social malleability. In both though the idea is put forth that we now have a generation or a couple really, that are inherently living their lives in a completely different way than their parents and all of it predicated on rapidly changing technology. This idea lends itself to the problems we face today as INFOSEC ptactitioners, governments, law enforcement agencies, and as parents to children who on the face of it are cognitively different than we are. Add to this the problem that much of our lives are now greatly affected by these technologies (banks, power, credit, reputations etc) that this generation or two now can control at very young ages for good or for ill and we have a problem that we must understand in order to manage.

Digital Immigrants

Moving on we have the Digital Immigrants, those who have moved into the digital space with smart phones, PC’s, Laptops, Ipads, and the like. Many do not leverage these devices in the ways that the natives do and in fact do not understand them on the whole. Outside of the people in the business of creating these wonders and creating their infrastructure the bulk of the populace older than 30 on average have little cognition of how things really work. I know this is a gross generality but just go with me on this and let’s not quibble ok? So, we have all these people who still use paper books and write things on pads and the natives think on the whole that they are a foreign species according to Prensky.

What really shakes out for me is that on the whole the LEA’s, the Gov, The Generals, and corporate execs of the world are all pretty much on the whole not of the Z or iGeneration (Natives) This means that they are all immigrants and by the terms of the idea not really connected to the ideals, attitudes, and cognitive changes that the iGen’s have in place. Add to this that aforementioned inability to really understand the technology itself nor how it could be leveraged and we have a pretty big problem with the world don’t we? Look at all this talk over cyberwar today and the outmoded modalities that are being used to try and grapple with the problems. How many times have you had the experience gentle reader with your boss or some other person as you try to explain to them the security problems with technology just to get a blank look back? …You get my point…

So we have the digital natives on average running circles around the immigrants (kids vs. parents, iGen vs. those in power) and friction occurs. All you really need look to are the cases of Aaron Swartz and Weev to see it play out in the media and the courthouse. What we commonly see as nothing really wrong the immigrants see as abhorrent, illegal, and immoral. The fact that say Weev just wrote a script to enumerate pages to us is nothing while in the eyes of the corporate types and the law it is an offense worthy of going to jail for 3.5 years and a lot of money in recompense to the corporation that was enumerated. Until such time as the immigrants are all gone and only the natives inhabit the net and the meatspace we will not have substantive cognition of the new generations mores and means of living with the technologies and how the laws can be changed to make a little more sense about offenses online as well as problems like cyber-warfare. It will take a at least another generation until parity is reached.

Digital Exo Nationals

While I think that the ideas of Digital Natives and Immigrants was what Josh had in mind as the core to his statement I also think he was alluding to those natives as being their own state. This is an idea that has been brought about by Anonymous and I think could be termed as “Digital Exo-Nationals” Those out there who feel that the net is a stateless space where no one state rules them (nation) nor do the mores of meatspace apply within the electronic world they live in. A group like Anonymous can claim to be truly stateless and on the face of it they can be on one level, but I think that on  the whole anyone who is not persistently living just online (meaning they reside inside of a computer network) is in fact affected greatly by where they were raised, by whom, and are the product of their upbringing. This fact will always color people’s reactions and there will always be some form of nationalism to them as they interact online or take up arms in defense of some ideal.

With that said though I think it is nominally an idea that has merit. I believe in many ways the deizens of the net (i.e. the iGen/Natives) think of themselves as apart from the “real world’ that they physically inhabit when they are online, which today is pretty persistent at a connectivity level. This cognitive dissonance creates quite the dichotomy of perceptions for the natives. Once offline they must generally adhere to the structures of the “old world” as opposed to the pretty much wild west of the Internet and on average they manage to separate the two lives much like the quote from “The Matrix” by Agent Smith;

Agent Smith: It seems that you’ve been living two lives. One life, you’re Thomas A. Anderson, program writer for a respectable software company. You have a social security number, pay your taxes, and you… help your landlady carry out her garbage. The other life is lived in computers, where you go by the hacker alias “Neo” and are guilty of virtually every computer crime we have a law for. One of these lives has a future, and one of them does not. 

This is pretty much the perception for the immigrants right? While on the other side Neo would consider himself a freedom fighter or a seeker looking for a basic truth that the old system (i.e. The Matrix) is trying to prevent him from seeing. Think about this idea for a minute while reflecting on Anonymous today in the Wikileaks age. I think you will see the parable here and this is a core issue between Immigrant culture versus the new Native one. It is interesting to note though, that in the case of the Matrix, the natives are in fact both Neo and Smith in one sense but only Neo resides in a corporeal way… But I digress into philosophy here and before I break out my copy of “Simulacra and Simulation” on you I will stop.

Ok back to the issue at hand. We have digital natives now that perceive themselves as “Exo-Nationals” the net is their country and it is outside of the corporeal world. Their rules are not the rules of the real world and their mores are different. Their culture is one that is new and evolving and unfortunately the world they inhabit is not really theirs to control. Since the backbone of the infrastructure is owned by corporations and governments they’re really only renting if not actually squatting in their exo-national domain. This fact however does not stop them from trying to control the networks and in many ways they are able to through hacking and the use of good OPSEC. You see, in reality the natives who consider themselves Exo-Nationals are in fact guerrilla’s for the most part to my thinking.

 The Digital Lord of The Flies

No matter the dialectic, there are issues to the dichotomy between the natives and the immigrants that can beget darker things. Since on average the common kid today can bypass most protections a parent my try to purchase for their home computers, that is if they are even cognizant enough to try, we have a generation that pretty much can run amok online. Without oversight the digital natives pretty much run the show. This has been touched upon by sociologists studying 4chan and Anonymous in the past and is quite valid a point. The mores of the natives are greatly different within the online world than those that we would teach them in the offline one. All of this is really predicated on the idea that once online the native is “anonymous” by use of technological means in the extreme or just the perception thereof by those who do not cognitively understand it (younger natives still learning)

Generally though the natives learn quickly that they can do many more things online that parents and others would find frightful offline and in public. It is this “disinhibition effect” through percieved or technical anonymity that allows for this behavior to evolve and thus gives rise to what I call the “Digital Lord of The Flies” effect. In essence the children have been left to their own devices on a digital island and those more powerful take over and rule rather mercilessly. In the last few days I got a first hand view of this effect with regard to teens and twenty somethings in the gamer/Xbox verse. Where gaming had become banal some of these “crews” or “Teams” began upping the ante by hacking, carding, and what they call GT (gamer tag) “Jacking” All criminal activities that are perceived by these kids as ok because they are not doing these things to people in reality (and by reality I mean in person in front of them)

There seems to be a disconnect within the psyche for these kids where their actions are just not real because it happens online. Some of these kids that I tracked online due to recent events with the attacks on Brian Krebs that leads me to believe some of them may in fact be on the road to sociopathy. This though is not the case for all of them of course so one has to ask how is it that they feel so moved to carry out these deeds online and not feel the least bit of remorse about them? It is this disconnect that fascinates me really and I will be looking further at it in the future. As more and more generations move into the natives category being born into a world with prevalent technologies we will only see more of these problems until that parity I spoke of happens. When the parents of all these kids are just as savvy about the net as their kids are, then we will be able to teach them.. Of course in thinking about this it comes to me that perhaps that will only shift to natives teaching natives the same behaviors…


Time will tell I guess.


Written by Krypt3ia

2013/03/22 at 20:51