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

Archive for the ‘SECOPS’ Category

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

BofA Gets A Burn Notice

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Psychiatry. a mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal
conflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing to
disturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission.

baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others.
Also, par·a·noe·a  [par-uh-nee-uh]  Show IPA .
1805–15;  < Neo-Latin  < Greek paránoia  madness. See para-, nous, -ia

Paranoia , the Anonymous intelligence division (self described) published a dump of data ostensibly taken from Bank of America and TEK Systems last week. The information presented seems to show that BofA had contracted with TEK to create an ad hoc “Threat Intelligence” unit around the time of the LulzSec debacle. Of course since the compromise of HB Gary Federal and the revelations that BofA had been pitched by them to do some contract work in the disinformation business it only makes sense that BofA would set up a threat intel unit. The information from the HB Gary dumps seemed to allude to the fact that BofA was actively looking to carry out such plans against those they perceived as threats. Anons out there took great umbrage and thus BofA was concerned.

This blog post is being put together to analyze the data dumped by Anonymous and to give some perspective on what BofA may have been up to and to set some things straight on the meanings of the data presented by Paranoia. First off though I would like to just say that I think that generally BofA was being handed lackluster threat intel by a group of people with intelligence background. (for those names located in the dumps their LinkedIN pages showed former mil intel work) This of course is an opinion formed solely from the content that was available online. There may have been much more context in formal reports that may have been generated by the analysts elsewhere that was not open for the taking where Anon found this dump. The daily and monthly reports found in the database showed some analysis but generally gave rough OSINT reports from online chat logs, news reports, and pastebin postings. There seemed to be a general lack of product here and as such I have to wonder if there ever was or if perhaps those reports never made it to the internet accessible server that anonymous downloaded them from.


Since the leak of their threat intelligence BofA has been recruiting for a real team it seems. A Google of the parameters show that they have a bunch of openings all over the place for “Threat Assessment” It makes sense since the TEK Systems team may in fact be mostly defunct but also that they likely would want an in house group and not have to pay overhead on consultants to do the work for them. TEK’s crew as well may have been the problem that caused the leak in the first place by placing the data in an accessible area of a web-server or having passed the data to someone who did not take care of it. Either way it looks as though BofA is seeking to create their own intelligence apparatus much as many other corporate entities are today. The big difference though is what exactly is their directive as a group is to be.

One of the problems I have with the Paranoia analysis is that they take it to the conspiratorial level and make it out to be some pseudo CIA like entity. The reality though is that from what has been shown in the documents provided, that this group really was only tasked with OSINT and threat intelligence by passive listening. This is a key difference from disinformation operations and active participation or recruiting of assets. I will cover this in more detail further on in this post so suffice to say that what BofA was doing here was not only mediocre but also not Machiavellian in nature. The argument can be made though that we don’t know the whole picture and I am sure Paranoia and Anonymous are leaning that way. I cannot with what I have seen so far. What I see is an ad hoc group of contractors trying to create an intelligence wing as a defensive maneuver to try and stay ahead of incidents if not deal with them more effectively should they not be able to stop them.

Nothing more.. Nothing less.

Threat Intelligence vs. Analysis and Product

All of this talk though should be based on a good understanding of what intelligence gathering really is. There are many variations on intelligence tasks and in this case what is clearly seen in the emails and documents is that this group was designated as a “Threat Intelligence” collection group. I have written in the past about “Threat Intelligence” and the misnomer many have on the idea that it is some arcane CIA like pursuit. One of the bigger problems overall is perception and reporting where intelligence gathering is concerned. Basically in today’s parlance much of the threat intelligence out there in INFOSEC is more around malware variants, their C&C’s and perhaps who are running them. With the advent of APT actors as well as criminal activity and entities like Anonymous the paradigm of threat intelligence has come full circle back to the old school idea of what it is from the military sphere of operations.

Today’s threat intelligence is not only technical but also human action driven and this makes it even more important to carry out the collection and analysis properly in order to provide your client with the information to make their decisions with. Unfortunately in the case of the data from BofA we see only sketchy outlines of what is being pasted online, what may be being said in IRC sessions, and what is in the news. Nothing overly direct came from any of the data that I saw and as “product” I would not be able to make much of any decisions from what was presented by TEK Systems people. What is really missing within the dump from Paranoia was any kind of finished analysis product tying together the information in a cogent way for the executives at BofA. Did TEK actually carry this type of activity out? Were there actual reports that the execs were reading that would help in understanding the contents of the raw intelligence that was being passed on in emails daily and monthly? I cannot say for sure. What I did see in the reporting (daily threat reports as well as monthly) were some ancillary comments by a few of the analysts but nothing overly structured or productive. I really would like to know if they had more of an apparatus going on here as well as if they plan on creating one again with all of the advertised positions in that Google search above.

Threat Intelligence vs. HUMINT

This brings me to the whole issue of Threat Intel vs. HUMINT. It would seem that Paranoia thinks that there is much more than meets the eye within the dump that makes them intone that there is a HUMINT (Human Intelligence) portion to the BofA program. While there may well be some of that going on it was not evident from any of the documents I looked at within the dump files. HUMINT would imply that there are active participants of the program out there interacting with the targets trying to recruit them or elicit information from them. With that kind of activity comes all of the things one might conjure up in their heads when they think on NOC (Non Operational Cover) officers in the CIA trying to harvest intelligence from sources (assets) in the field. From everything seen that was posted by Paranoia this is not the case.This operation was completely passive and just collecting data that was in public view aka OSINT. (Open Source Intelligence) Could BofA be seeking to interact more with Anon’s and generate more personal data other than that which the Anon’s posted about each other (DOX’ing) sure but there is no evidence of that. Given the revelations with HB Gary though I can see why the Anon’s might be thinking that they are likely taking more robust non passive actions in the background elsewhere though. Overall I just want everyone to understand that it’s not all cloak and dagger here and seems that Paranoia has a flair for the dramatic as a means to get their point across. Or, perhaps they are just living up to their name.


My assessment in a nutshell here of the Paranoia BofA Drop is as follows:

  1. Paranoia found some interesting documentation but no smoking gun
  2. TEK systems did a mediocre job at Threat Intelligence with the caveat that I am only working with the documents in plain view today
  3. BofA like any other company today has the right to carry out this type of activity but they need to make sure that it’s done well and that it isn’t leaked like this
  4. If more documents come out showing a more in depth look at the OSINT being collected then perhaps we can change the above findings
  5. BofA needs to classify their data and protect it better on this front
  6. Paranoia needs to not let its name get the best of itself

All the drama aside this was a ho hum really. It was funny seeing all the analysts taking down their LinkedIN pages (really, how sekret squirrel is it to have a LI page saying who you work for doing this kind of work anyway? SECOPS anyone?) I consider those players quite burned and assume they are no longer working on this contract because of it. All you analysts out there named, you are now targets and you are probably learning SECOPS the hard way huh? I guess in the end this will all just be another short chapter in Encyclopedia Dramatica and an object lesson for BofA and maybe TEK Systems.

For everyone else.. It’s just LULZ.


L’affaire du Petraeus: Electronic Communications (ELINT) and Your Privacy

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Thoughts On The Politics, Media Frenzy, and Schadenfreude

As you all now know, general Petraeus (aka P4) was caught using a dead drop Gmail acct with his lover (Broadwell) because the lover got jealous over another woman who was perhaps flirting with her down low guy. Many out there have made this all into a Greek tragedy though because of the perceived rights to privacy we all are supposed to enjoy as US citizens and bemoan the whole affair because it was all leaked to the press. Personally I think that it was necessary for the general to step down from the DCI post as well as be outed because he was DCI to start however, generally this thing has become the new digital slow speed chase in a white bronco all over again for me.

Sure, the schadenfreude is fun, and there are many gawkers and rubber necks out there watching with glee but in the end there is much more to this debacle than just getting some on the side within the political sphere. The bigger picture issues are multiple and I will cover them below, but to start lets just sit back and watch the calamitous demolition of those who partook and their hubris.

*pours whiskey into glass and watches*

Petraeus and His Fourth Amendment Rights as Director Central Intelligence (DCI)

Some (namely Rob aka @erratarob) bemoaned the general’s 4rth amendment rights being contravened and thusly, expanding to everyone’s in general as being egregious. My answer to Rob yesterday still stands today for me. As DCI of the CIA the general had no right to privacy in this vein. Why? Because as the leader of the CIA he was the biggest HVT that there ever was for some kind of blackmail scheme so common to the world of spooks. Though the general tried to be cautious, his lover began the downfall with her threatening emails to someone else. Now, usually this type of case would not even be one at all for the FBI were it not for the sordid affair of the SA who Kelley knew and went to to “look into” this matter for her as a favor. This was inappropriate in and of itself and a case never should have been logged never mind any investigation carried out by the SA to start with.

That the FBI agent began looking into the emails and actually tasked the FBI’s lab boys to look into it, well, then it became a case. OPR is looking into it all now and sure, something may come of that investigation (i.e. the SA will be drummed out maybe) it all changed timbre once Petraeus’ name became part of the picture. As DCI P4 held the top most clearance possible as well as the data attendant to that designation. As such, any kind of activity like this would immediately call for an investigation into what was going on as well as what kind of damage may have occurred through compromise of his accounts or his credibility. So, anyone who asks why this is such a big deal and why the FBI did what they did, you need to just look at that one salient fact. The problem isn’t that they investigated, the problem instead is that P4 was doing this in the first place and may have actually given Broadwell more access than he should have to information he had within his possession.

This of course still has to be investigated and reported on and that’s why it all came to pass.

The Expanded Powers of The US Government (LEA’s) To Search Your Emails and the Fourth Amendment

Meanwhile, the civil libertarians are all over this from the perspective that “We the people” have little to no privacy online as the government and LEA’s can just subpoena our email in/outboxes without any oversight. This has been a problem for some time now (post 9/11 really PATRIOT Act) so it should not be new to anyone who’s been paying attention. It is true though, that those powers have been expanded upon since the Patriot Act was passed but overall, the technologies have outstripped the privacy possibilities for the most part in my book. For every countermeasure there’s always another that can be used against it to defeat your means of protection. Add to this that the general populace seems to be asleep at the digital wheel as well and the government has a free hand to do whatever they like and get away with it.

Frankly, if you are ignorant of the technology as well as the laws being passed surrounding it then it is your fault if you get caught by an over-reaching LEA. It’s really that simple. If the general populace is not out there lobbying against these Orwellian maneuvers by law enforcement as well as using any and all technology to communicate securely then it’s their God damned fault really when they get pinched or spied on. It’s all of your jobs out there to know the laws, know what’s going on, and most of all, to know how to protect your communications from easy reading by LEA’s and others. I firmly believe that the laws on the books and the slip-space between where LEA’s and governments are abusing them is egregious but I as one person can do nothing to stop it from happening at a legal level. At a technical level though, that is a completely different story.

Your “Papers and Effects” Digitally… 

Now we come to a real sticky bit in this whole debacle. The Founding Fathers listed “Papers and Effects” while today the law and the government seem to think that electronically, neither of these terms apply to your online communications. Last year I sat through a tutorial by the EFF on this very thing and was not completely shocked by what they were saying as much as wondering just how people let this slide. According to the EFF the LEA’s see no relevance to the words papers and effects when it comes to an email inbox or a Dropbox. What this means is that they can just sneak and peek in some cases without a warrant or a subpoena. If you have email or files being hosted anywhere online, not on a system within the confines of your home, then it’s really fair game to them. I also assume the same can be said for any files/emails on any intermediary servers that they may pass through and are cached as well. So really, once you log in and create the email outside of your machine at home (i.e. being logged onto Gmail for example) it’s already not a paper or effect within the confines of your domicile.

Once again, the law is outdated and should be amended to cover discreetly the nature of email, its ownership and the protections that you “think” you have already as it is a paper of yours and thus covered by the Fourth Amendment. Will this happen though? I am not overly optimistic that it will even make the table with or without the likes of the EFF trying to push the issue frankly. The government has it the way they want it as well as their machinations via Patriot Act allow for so much latitude just to make their lives easier to snoop against anyone for fear of terrorism. Face it folks, we are pretty much Borked here when it comes to our online privacy, and not only from the LEA/Gov perspective either. Just take a look at all of the corporate initiatives out there in EULA’s and lobbying such as RIAA or MPAA. Any way you look at it, your data, once out of your local network, is no longer legally yours.

The Only Privacy Today That YOU Have Is That Which YOU Make For Yourselves With Crypto

This brings me to what you can do about all of this today. The only way to really have that privacy you desire is to make it yourself and to insure that it can withstand attacks. By using strong cryptography you can in fact protect your fourth amendment rights online. You have to insure that the crypto is strong, tested, and not back door’d but there are more than a few products out there on the market that will do the job such as PGP/GPG. In fact, Phil Zimmerman got into trouble with the US Government in the first place because PGP, to them, was considered to be a munition! So really, what is stopping you all from using it en mass? Well, i am sure there’s a healthy dose of lazy in that mix but I would have to say for many its the lack of comprehension on how it works and how to manage it that stops the general populace. Of course I have to say that PGP on a Windows box is really really easy to use so, once again we are back to lazy.

Anyway, unless you assiduously apply crypto to your communications, whether it be a PGP encrypted email or a chat session using OTR (Off The Record Messaging) consider yourself open to LEA abuse. The other side of that coin unfortunately is that if you are encrypting all your communications, the LEA’s may get to wondering just what you are up to and force the issue. I guess it’s much better to have them wondering and FORCE them to get a warrant to search your home then to just roll over and allow them to see all your dirty laundry (looking at you P4) because it’s open for the taking on a Gmail server somewhere. I mean, yeesh people, you worry about your second amendment rights all the time, moaning and whining about your need to carry a gun but you don’t do shit about encrypting your traffic?


TRADECRAFT and OPSEC Are Important As Well

Another component that the general tried to use and failed so miserably at (which scares the living shit outta me as he was DCI after all) was the old “dead drop” method. The modern twist on this is the use of a Gmail account where you just log into it shared and leave draft emails for the other party. This has been something the AQ guys have been using for a long time and once again, it is futile to stop the LEA’s from seeing it all unless you encrypt it! This was the main failure in the case of P4 and his squeeze. No crypto allowed all the lascivious emails to be read in situ and that was just stupid. They through they were being so smart using a tactic that we have been monitoring AQ on for how long?


The second massive failure on the part of both P4 and Broadwell (other than P4’s bad judgement of crazy women) was that neither of them were anonymizing their logon’s to the email properly and consistently. It seems perhaps this may have been more Broadwell than P4 but meh. In the end it was the downfall as the FBI tracked the IP addresses from the Google logons across the country to hotels where she was staying. All they needed to do in the end was match names for each hotel and BING they had her. At the end of the day, OPSEC is king here and both military veterans failed miserably at understanding this which is really frightening frankly. If you want to play the game know the OPSEC and TRADECRAFT and APPLY them properly. The same goes for you all out there who are crying about your privacy. You too will succumb in the same way if you do not pay attention.

Welcome To The Digital Panopticon

Finally, a parting thought. I have said this before and I am saying it again here. “Welcome to the digital Panopticon”  No longer are you in a place where there are corners to hide easily. With the governments of the world trying to gain control over the way we communicate electronically we will see increasing measures of privacy stripped in the name of anti-terrorism as well as transparency. Have no doubts that the governments that apply this logic will of course have back doors for their own secrecy but surely not yours. It will remain your problem and your duty to protect yourselves if you are using the infrastructure to communicate to anyone. Know this, say it as a mantra. If you do nothing about it, then you have nothing to complain about.

So I exhort you, learn and use encryption properly. Go to a cryptoparty near you and learn from the cipherpunks! Deny the governments of the world the ability to easily just look in on your lives whenever they feel the need without due process. Until such time as the laws are amended and some fairness put into it, you are just cattle for them to herd and cull.

There’s no excuse…


Written by Krypt3ia

2012/11/14 at 18:27

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

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Flame, DuQU, STUXNET, and now GAUSS:

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

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

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

Malware Wars:

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

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

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

An Interesting Week of News About Lebanon and Bankers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a delicate balance.. #shutupeugene

Pandora’s Box Has Been Opened:

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

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

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

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

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


Defcon Grows Up and Gets Recruited As An Asset…

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I came to Defcon this year as it turned 20 and after much had changed on the world stage regarding our business (INFOSEC/Pentesting/Dev/SECOPS) much remained the same. What has really changed though, and could be seen at this anniversary year was just how much our antics and interests were now the new “hotness” to the government and the military. Never before had the NSA had a booth at our conference but this year, they were there with recruiting in mind and that is a big change.

However, you may be saying to yourself right about now “Uhh, but, this has been going on a while, not just now” Well, yes, it has, but, what I have noticed this last con was that it’s not all about the tech, this year, it was also recruitment of human assets who would give “intelligence” to the players like NSA. No more are they just looking for programs and programmers, but also seeking out to make connections with people who have connections. You see, as Shawn Henry said as well as General Alexnder, “we need you to keep an eye out and tell us if you see something” What I heard was the equivalent of “if you see something say something” that the TSA has plastered at airports.

This is an important paradigm that we all need to be aware of. With the advent of Anonymous and Stuxnet as well as the nascent idea of the internet becoming a “digital nation state” we all have to be mindful that while the technologies out there are a commodity, so too are we in the great game of cold war intelligence and cyber war. We are the commodity that makes the new exploit as well as being the HUMINT asset that intelligence agencies need to “collect” with.

Now, while you are pondering that, consider the fact that the “opposition” is also trying to curry favor and recruit us as well…

Yup, that’s right. That party you might be attending might in fact have operators from other countries clandestine services too. In fact, that party could even be funded by said agencies and players to get you to chat and perhaps leak meaningful information. Think about it, how many of you out there reading this post work for fortune 500 companies as security technicians? What kind of data is in your head that might be of use to a foreign operative?

Ponder that as you sip that free drink late in the day. Say, did you know that the Chinese most preferable means to gaining intel with visiting professors and the like, is to have them over tired and tipsy? It’s true, it’s low level but its been used on many an occasion. You see, once you start talking, then you open the door for more rapport building, and then it’s pretty much over. One wonders how many Los Alamos folks had the same treatment on trips to China. Now think about the average Defcon party and the amount of alcohol and sleep deprivation we have going on there.

Just sayin…

So, look at it from that perspective. Now the NSA has come to the con just as the FBI and other agencies and security bodies so too will the “other guys” I don’t know how many of you out there come from military or “other” backgrounds where you will have a DSS or counterintelligence training,but, I am assuming that a vast majority of the folks attending the cons today do not have that background, especially the younger ones who’s only been in the security arena a short time. Pentesters who know SE should be able to easily detect some of the techniques used to recruit an asset, and tease out information.. Others, maybe not so much.

So here we are today, APT (Yes China being one purveyor of APT attacks) are not only using malware to get into systems but also recruiting sources to help them in their goals. Used to be a time that it really only was the nuclear scientists getting the attention… Today though, everything is game, you might make widgets, but that doesn’t mean that someone doesn’t want to know what you know.

Pssst… It’s still espionage kids… And now YOU are part of it because you hold interesting information.

How’s that for some “Threat Intelligence” huh?

Which brings me to the second line of thinking or topic that came up this year. The government is asking us to consider more “threat intelligence” and to bring them in on the loop. See, right there, they are asking you to be an asset.. Did that occur to you? Of course I know for the most part you all thought, as I did too, that the idea was a bit silly.


Because who really has that kind of threat intel program going on today? Hell, we are all pretty much trying to just keep our shit together right? On average, unless you work for a major company,you may not even have an SIEM or even snort instance right? How are you going to convince your employer that you need that stuff and then more so, to pass that intel to the government? The only groups I have known to do this are the DIB partners, and they do it because they don’t want to lose contracts for the military.

So now, we would all be assets? All corporations out there, whether they are being attacked by APT or Anonymous, would be reporting their incursions or attempts at them to the government? That’s kinda spooky really. This also circles back nicely to the idea that we all now, all of us in the INFOSEC community are now collection nodes for SIGINT/HUMINT/MASINT/ELINT and not many of us have had the training to be analysts.

You see, when you use the words “Threat Intelligence” this has some context that some may not get right away. It’s not just what IP is hitting us and with what attacks anymore.. It’s about the context around all of that and the attribution that is needed for cyber warfare, or more likely, cyber intelligence operations. I expect to see a lot more of this lobbying going on at all of the cons as well as more people sidling up to the attendee’s and asking “so, what’s going on out there?”

For those of you not acquainted with HUMINT and it’s techniques, I suggest you read “The Art Of Intelligence” By Henry Crump and learn… Why? Because that guy you’re talking to at the cool party might just be a PRC case officer…

Interesting times….


China’s cyber-warfare capabilities are ‘fairly rudimentary’… What is it with these crazy Australians?

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Chinese strategists are quite aware of their own deficiencies and
vulnerabilities with respect to cyber-warfare. In June 2000, “a series of high-
technology combat exercises” being conducted by the PLA “had to be
92 suspended” when they were attacked by “a computer hacker”.

China‟s telecommunications technicians were impotent against the intermittent
hijacking of the Sinosat-1 national communications satellite by Falun Gong
„practitioners‟ in the early 2000s. China‟s demonstrated offensive cyber-
warfare capabilities are fairly rudimentary. Chinese hackers have been able
to easily orchestrate sufficient simultaneous „pings‟ to crash selected Web
servers (i.e., Denial-of-Service attacks). They have been able to penetrate
Web-sites and deface them, erase data from them, and post different
information on them (such as propaganda slogans). And they have
developed various fairly simple viruses for spreading by e-mails to disable
targeted computer systems, as well as Trojan Horse programs insertible by
e-mails to steal information from them. However, they have evinced little
proficiency with more sophisticated hacking techniques.

The viruses and Trojan Horses they have used have been fairly easy to detect and remove
before any damage has been done or data stolen. There is no evidence that
China‟s cyber-warriors can penetrate highly secure networks or covertly
steal or falsify critical data. They would be unable to systematically cripple
selected command and control, air defence and intelligence networks and
databases of advanced adversaries, or to conduct deception operations by
secretly manipulating the data in these networks. The gap between the
sophistication of the anti-virus and network security programs available to
China‟s cyber-warriors as compared to those of their counterparts in the
more open, advanced IT societies, is immense. China‟s cyber-warfare
authorities must despair at the breadth and depth of modern digital
information and communications systems and technical expertise available
to their adversaries.

China is condemned to inferiority in IW capabilities for probably several
decades. At best, it can employ asymmetric strategies designed to exploit
the (perhaps relatively greater) dependence on IT by their potential
adversaries—both the C ISREW elements of adversary military forces and
the vital telecommunications and computer systems in the adversary’s
homelands. In particular, attacks on US information systems relating to
military command and control, transportation and logistics could “possibly
degrade or delay U.S. force mobilisation in a time-dependent scenario”, such
as US intervention in a military conflict in the Taiwan Straits.

China‟s cyber-warfare capabilities are very destructive, but could not compete in
extended scenarios of sophisticated IW operations. In other words, they
function best when used pre-emptively, as the PLA now practices in its exercises.

In sum, the extensive Chinese IW capabilities, and the
possibilities for asymmetric strategies, are only potent if employed first.

Desmond Ball: China’s Cyber Warfare Capabilities

Oh Desmond…

Desmond, Desmond, Desmond… You spend so much time pointing out all of the Honker Union activities, the malware created by China, and all their overall IW/Espionage activities and then you say;

“Well, because there’s no real proof of their actually having done anything, they are unable to do so”

*blink blink*

Crikey! Have you been sipping what Dr. Wright has been drinking or what? Tell me Desmond, what is your classification rating? Because I think you are lacking some pertinent information that might change your hypothesis quite a bit. Either way, your contention is lacking understanding of the playing field I think, so let me enlighten you a bit ok?

Rudimentary? Really?

I personally have heard of “on the fly” coding of malware to affect pertinent systems within a defense contractor network to not only keep access within said network, but, also to exfiltrate even more interesting data. Now, that sounds rather advanced to me..

How about you?

Sure, the coders could have been just about anyone, but, the data was being exfiltrated to areas that were in the Asia Pacific and more than likely were Chinese in origin so, yeah, it likely was them and not say, Germany. However, once again, we have no real proof of it being “solely” China. Oddly enough though, when data was caught in the hands of the Chinese we pretty much had to admit it was them doing it. So, no Desmond, they are not wholly unskilled and certainly as unsophisticated as you would paint them. This is just one instance of access and hacking that allowed for the APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) activity that, well Desmond, was coined for their activities against the defense industrial base here in the US.

Simply Desmond, you can cite all the articles from the internet you want.. You still won’t have the whole picture.

PSSST… Guess What?

So, to move this further along the philosophical and technical path for you let me explain it another way for you. The Chinese, as with most of the Asiatic countries, have a different perspective on things than we in the West. Something core to the Chinese mindset on warfare are the following:

The Chinese do not have a goal of outright cyber warfare with us. In fact, they would use the subterfuge angle you speak of by leaving trap doors in software and hardware, which they have done in the past (and have been caught) However, more than likely, they would use the supply chain that we have allowed them to become the lions share of via outsourcing of cheap parts/labor to infiltrate our systems with bad chips or said same back doors. Why do you think we spend so much time (the military) checking everything that we get for the government/mil from China?
Soft power Desmond would dictate that they use the thousand grains of sand to not only steal our IP but also use the technology and our dependence on their cheap rates to insert bad data/systems/hardware into our own infrastructure for them to call up when needed to fail. This is not to say that they do not also have operators who have inserted code into other systems remotely to late be used when needed as well.
Simply Desmond, you don’t see the whole picture and its rather sad that you go on to make such defined claims. The simple truth is that the Chinese don’t need to attack us pre-emptively. They have been undermining us (US) for a very long time as we sell out to them for cheap goods. and services. THIS is soft power. They now sit in the catbird seat in many ways financially (though yes, they could lose much by us defaulting) however, from the soft power perspective, they hold the upper hand. A coup de grace would be to take down military systems were we to get uppity about Taiwan.. but really, are we in a position to do so after being wholly owned by them and their capital?
Desmond.. It’s not so much Red Dawn as it is “They Live” if you are into movie references.

網絡戰 !!!

Alrighty, now that I have gotten that off my chest, Cyberwar is to me, too hard to carry out for ANY of the countries out there now. China being only one country that might want to. The systems are too disparate and to control a single node would take great effort. So, yes, I can agree with you that they are not in a position to do us major damage from a CYBERWAR booga booga booga perspective. Frankly, no one could in my opinion. However, your contention that they could not insert bad data during a time of war is a load of crap.

ANYONE could IF they had the access and the desire. It would not need to be nation state, it could be a private citizen for that matter. What is more interesting Desmond is that you fail to understand the espionage angle here. The Chinese use their expat’s to do their bidding under threat, or, mostly under the “poor poor China” argument. Imagine an insider adding code to systems that could be triggered…

Yeah.. Soft power once again.. It could turn hard though with the right circumstances.

Once again Desmond, you think too one dimension-ally.

The Sad Truth…

Now, with all of that said, lets turn it around a bit. The saddest truth is this;

“Given all of what has happened recently with Lulzsec, it has become clear that it does not take an uber hacker to take down pretty much anyone”

The systems out there have not been protected well enough. Patching, and secure coding have not been at the fore here and thus it is trivial for the most part to hack into systems throughout the internet. So, the Chinese need not be uber haxx0rs to do the damage needed because we collectively have done a bad job at securing our own networks.


Once again, you fail to look at the problem from a more multidimensional angle.

Please go back to the drawing board Desmond because you lack the proper information and perspective to really make the claims you are making.


OpCARTEL: Kids, Trust Me… YOU ARE NOT Up To This Operation

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Killing Pablo:

Ok kids, before you were old enough to understand, there was a guy named Pablo Escobar. He was a bad guy who pretty much single handedly provided the US with cocaine that powered the 80’s debauchery. Pablo was the progenitor of the Zeta model of narco-trafficking that you guys are claiming to have data on and want to tangle with. Let me tell you now in no uncertain terms how I feel about #OpCartel…


Plain and simple, these guys are not just some namby pamby government following laws who will try to arrest you. No, these guys will hire blackhats of their own, find you, and KILL you in the most horrific ways. Need I remind you of the bloggers who got whacked recently? I don’t think you all want to be the next to be swinging under an overpass with a Mexican Necktie do you?

It took major government and military operations to kill Pablo and his cartel. You guys dropping information on the low end mules and lackeys will do nothing but interrupt operations currently ongoing as well as put yourselves into the cross-hairs of the Zeta killing machine. At the very least, you need to do your homework on these guys and NOT announce things on the internet before you do anything, this is just asking for a whacking.

Have you not been listening?


First off, if you want to gather intel on these guys or you have it, then make sure you vet it out and insure its the real deal. If you have sources, you need to protect them and if you have hacked access, you need to insure that you can’t be traced back. The big thing though, is to KNOW YOUR TARGET! How much do you really know about the Zetas? How much do you know about the politics of the area? The players both inside and outside the cartel? This group just doesn’t have low level people, they also have high ranking political connections as well. You mess with them, then you have governmental assets and pressure as well to deal with.

So.. What do you know about Los Zetas?

Los Zetas:

Los Zetas and La Familia Michoacana are a narco ring comprised of about 30 ex Mexican Special Forces deserters who decided that narco trafficking was a much better choice than just being ordinary special operators. This group has been one of the bloodiest and boldest in their massacres of opposing groups or individuals. In short, they are not people to tangle with unless you are a government with a special operations group of your own. Much of their infrastructure is already known (see pdf file at the top here) so, dropping some of the data you propose might just serve to get others killed and not damage the organization much at all.

Though, if you did have tasty information, perhaps you could pass it along to the authorities? If not, then maybe Mata Zetas?

Mata Zeta:

Los Matas Zetas is another paramilitary group (Zeta Killers) that has sprung up recently and in fact could be governmentally sponsored. Either way, this group is out to whack the Zetas. Now, were you in posession of data that could be used by them to combat the Zeta’s maybe you could find a conduit to get that to them… Secretly. I am pretty sure though, that these guys, if not sponsored by the government (Mexico and the US) would then just become the next narco trafficking group in line to stop the power vacuum once the Zeta’s have been taken out of the equation.

The basic idea though is this: Use the enemy of your enemy as your friend to destroy your enemy. Get it?


Ok, so, here we are and you guys have laid claim to the idea of the operation. Then, once people started threatening, you dropped it. Then others like Sabu said it was all a PSYOP and there are things going on in the background still.

Oy  vey…

Look, overall you have to follow OPSEC on any operation like this and so far you have been a big FAIL on that account. It’s akin to saying to your enemy;

“I’m attacking at dawn.. From the East… With planes.. Vintage WWI planes…”

What were you thinking?

Obviously you weren’t thinking about OPSEC. You have seen me write about this in the past and you surely have heard Jester talk about it too. It is a key precept to special warfare and you guys just are not ready for prime time here. Unless you follow some basic security measures you will end up dead. So pay attention.. If there was any merit to this operation in the first place.

This Isn’t An Episode of Miami Vice:

Finally, I would like to say that this is not an episode of Miami Vice kids. YOU do not have a nickel plate .45, slip on shoes, and pastel shirts. This is reality and you are more than likely to run up against blackhats who will find you and one by one, these guys will hunt you down.

I know.. You’re an idea… No one can stop an idea…

I’m sorry, but your Idea will also not stop bullets and bad men with knives from cutting you to ribbons when they locate you. Unless you learn some tradecraft, go back to taking on corrupt corporations and paedophiles…

Though.. They too could also hire a hacker huh?

You guys are not ready for this…


Written by Krypt3ia

2011/11/03 at 15:45