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

Archive for the ‘Subversive Behavior’ Category

Handwringing, Moralizing, Anonymous, Paedophilia, and Digital Vigilantism

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I recently posted about the Hidden Wiki and its prevalence in hosting paedophilia content. This post may or may not have left an impression on some of the  anonymous collective to take action and perhaps sow good will for their group by hacking into the “Lolita City” site within the DarkNet and releasing thousands of users email addresses and personal data (such as it is on such a site) for the Internet to feast upon. The Anon’s are doing this for their own reasons, but the upshot of it all is that they are causing the paedophiles pain in making it hard for them to get their content as well as potentially outing them online as purveyors and consumers of this wretched content.

Since my post applauding them and giving them some direction as to how to become more of an intelligence gathering apparatus for the LEO community, some in the infosec world have come forward and voiced concerns about this line of thought. All of the talk about the morals, legalities, and philosophical aspects of Anonymous undertaking such actions has gotten me thinking quite a bit.It all raises some interesting questions and philosophical challenges.

Anonymous and Digital Vigilantism:

What I think that most people with reservations about Anonymous taking up such operations as the DarkNet op have are that these people are for the most part kids without training and without any kind of oversight. Oversight in that they could get too big for their britches (one could say that many already have) and think that they are invulnerable to attack never mind the respective laws of our society. That said, it would seem that Anonymous, Antisec, and LulzSec have already decided to take up the mantle of vigilante’s already. However, the targets have been, for the most part, varied parties that could be seen as hapless victims or as malefactors, it all depends on the point of view really.

In the case of Scientology, well, aside from religious freedoms (trust me, they are not a religion) generally the Scientologists have been pretty much seen as getting what they deserved. Today though, years later, Anonymous has begun to take on the governments of the world as well as the likes of Paedophiles online. Once again, generally, people see what they want to concerning whether governments are good or bad. Paedophiles though, pretty much are outlawed universally. So, when Anonymous decided to attack, I could not fault them one bit. However, I could perhaps fault their methods.. Only in that they were bound to only let the paedo’s get away in the end.

I have said it before and I will say it again.. “One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” It all depends upon your perspective really. While I do not think all of their targets have been chosen wisely, I cannot fault the true believers out th4ere that they are doing something out of conscience and good. This is not to say that a certain element of the movement is in fact just in it for the lulz (i.e. Antisec and LulzSec) There certainly are factions at play who just want to see the world burn as well as garner themselves digital street cred.

Overall though, the term Vigilante denotes a person or persons (committee’s) who dole out justice summarily when the law is seen as ineffective by them. In this case, the Anon’s have taken up the mantle of vigilante in order to rid the DarkNet of paedophile content because law enforcement seems unable to effectively. Now this is also the crux of the issue in another way, as the police generally are not allowed to hack into sites and dump the dirt so to speak.. The Anon’s are unhindered here. Just as they have felt the same way about other operations where they have denied service to corporations (likening it to a digital sit in) they have crossed the line of the law, but, their methods and motivations are free of it… Until they get caught that is.

The essence of the thing is this.. “Don’t do the crime unless you can do the time” If they believe in it strongly and act upon it, then they must accept the risks of being caught and incarcerated. So far, much of the motivation I have seen by a good deal of anon’s has been motivated by convictions and beliefs. All others have been for Lulz, which is what made LulzSec even more of a problem as they just did not care. The current Antisec movement that LulzSec begat also seems to lack the conviction of their beliefs and seems more driven by ego than anything else by their writings.

And this is the difference between the chaotic Joker like actors and the Batman types.

Anonymous vs. PLA, vs. Patriot Hackers:

Pulling back a bit now, I would like to look at the macroscopic view of Vigilante behaviour versus nation state sanctioned or perhaps, a better word for it would be “condoned” actions and groups. I have written in the past about groups like the Honker Union in China as well as the colourful character known as th3j35t3r. both of these entities have had an effect on the collective consciousness concerning digital vigilante justice and I think it important that they form the contextual base for Anonymous’ actions in Operation DarkNet.

First off, ALL of these entities have been doing what they do (Jester DDOS of Jihadi sites and Anonymous, Honker, hacking against the enemies of China, and Anonymous, attacking sceintology, the gov, and paedo’s) with a mind toward doing “good” In the case of Jester, he thinks DDoS-ing jihadi sites out of a patriotic bent that will stop them from communicating. In the case of the Honker Union, they are patriots to their homeland and attack others who would do their country slight or harm. Anonymous though, started out of /b/ … Which really is a band of miscreants for the most part. However, a core group decided to take on the mantle of doing right somewhere down the line and we find swaths of them today supporting Occupy Wall Street and other political agenda’s.

The basic idea here is that they are all motivated by a belief in some greater good.. Mostly. I am sure there are on individual levels, many more motives (ego, greed, ego… the list goes on) but I will just put it to a gross generality that these people want to effect some kind of change.

At least I hope that this is the case…

What is really different though is that in the case of Jester and the Honker Union, they both are condoned if not outright supported efforts by the countries they reside in. In the case of the PLA and the Honker, there is clear connection between the state and their actions. In the case of Jester, there are allegations (made by him) that his is state sponsored.. But, I think more to the point he is condoned. Either way, the Anon’s may indeed be getting some support (moral or other) from state sponsors and not even know it. In the case of Anon, they could just become the tool of another nation state and not know any better.

Which is pretty scary.

All of these entities though, have had a greater or less effect upon the internet these last few years through their online shenanigans via hacking. The secret is this, they are just the first. There will be others to be sure.. The genie is out of the bottle on this one.

Anonymous vs. LulzSec & Antisec:

Conversely, we have LulzSec and Antisec, who both wreaked havoc on the corporations and the police of the world lately. Their reasons for doing so pretty much have been stated as “because we are bored” At the core though, there seems to be a couple of motives here from postings online. One is the afore mentioned Lulz, the other, seems to be a kind of abject hatred of authority and police. In recent hacks on the police though, there seems to be a bent toward supporting the Occupy movement as the police have had some transgressions against them. So.. They hacked the police and dumped all their data to spite them. Frankly, I see no value to this and once again, even if motivated by supporting the movement, it has no real effect on the police other than to make them more angry and reactive against the protesters.

Basically, I still see Antisec as the Penguin & Joker while Lulz as The Riddler though while Anonymous has become more like The Batman in certain quarters

Anonymous on the other hand has had its lulz, but seems to be growing up a bit and maturing. The social conscience of anon has begun to take shape and within it (movement wise) may well be the lasting component that will be its Raison d’être in the end. Time will tell though, and I hope that this is the case more so than just a bunch of malcontent’s seeking attention and excitement.

The Hand Wringing by The Infosec Community At Large:

Alright, back to the hand wringing and the moralizing post the Op DarkNet…

Certain people in the community wrote that while the empathised with what Anon was trying to do with Op DarkNet, they felt that these people were not the folks they would have doing this to start. Most of this comes from the fact that many of the players are not trained investigators and not LEO’s. I can agree with this from the perspective of legal proceedings later on. If Anonymous hacks a server and then dumps data, it could have an effect on the court case from a few perspectives;

  1. Contamination: The defense could claim that the server was hacked and the data planted
  2. The data could have indeed been tampered with by anon’s
  3. The backend of the server/dbase could in fact be shared and all those who share could be swept up in the legalities/implications
  4. The hack is enough to raise reasonable doubt

So, yes, it could be counter productive to have a vigilante force actually hack a system and report it to law enforcement. However, I would advocate that in the case of Anonymous and the paedo’s at the least, they not just hack and dump data, but instead give that data to law enforcement to start an investigation. For that matter, if Anonymous just located the servers and authenticated (sans hacking) that the content was there, they could in fact just tip off the police.

And this is at least part of what they did with Lolita City in the DarkNet. They tried to locate the server location and this alone could be a great boon for the authorities.

On the other hand, there are moral/ethical objections on the parts of some who think that perhaps letting Anonymous do this type of thing, or even encourage it is setting a bad precedent. To them, Vigilante’s are outside the scope of good behaviour and the law.. They cannot be tolerated. Personally, I think that that is a sanctimonious load of crap, but, that’s just me.

Sometimes when the system cannot function other means need to be taken to effect change. In this case, within a network that is anonymized and the authorities have had little success in catching anyone trading in paedophilia, I see no harm in Anonymous outing them.. Though, I would rather they just passed the intelligence to the LEO’s instead. It is my opinion, that if done correctly, intelligence gathering of this type with a tip off to the police has a better chance at actual arrests and convictions than to just let them go on about their peddling of child pornography.

Just one man’s opinion…

Philosophical and Ethical Stands On Being The Digital Batman:


This is the philosophical and ethical standpoint I take in being the digital Batman. Strict utilitarianism dictates that maximizing overall good is key. In this case and perhaps others, the taking down of the paedophile’s content and capturing their login credentials is enough “good” to allow for the action to be seen as acceptable. This is really the basis of The Batman’s ethics in the comics and ideally, for me on this particular incident with Anonymous.

Now, this does not mean I agree with all of their operations as well as certainly not agreeing with the bulk of the actions carried out by the Antisec movement. However, the perspective is the key I suppose. It’s a slippery slope I admit, but, in this case of OpDarkNet, I agree with the greater good being served in this case.


Here we have the Deontologists like Sam Bowne. Deontology is a nice thing to cling to the ethical rules of a governing system of laws. However, it seems to me, and others here, that this system of laws is not working against these offenders in the hidden wiki. Sure, you could say that the LEO’s have ongoing investigations, but, just how many busts have there been as opposed to the massive amount of content located on the hidden wiki and within i2p, Freenet, and TOR?

So far, I have not seen law enforcement really winning this battle.

Oh well, the Deontologists have their point of view and others have theirs. The key here is that Sammy and others like Packetknife are entitled to their point of view. They are right for themselves, and that is the issue with all philosophy and ethics arguments. Like I said, it’s all about your world view. However, I do not ascribe to a moral absolute unlike someone like Sammy.

There are no right answers. There is only what you are willing to accept for yourself.

Legal Aspects of Digital Vigilantism:

Now, on to the legal aspects here.

18 U.S.C. § 2252 : US Code – Section 2252: Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors 

The US code on activities related to sexual exploitation of minors alludes to the fact that one has to “knowingly” access such content and to have more than 3 pieces of “content” to be considered guilty of child exploitation/pornography. This of course also alludes to the trafficking thereof etc etc in legalese. Where this is important for the digital Batman is where there are caveats.

(c) Affirmative Defense. - It shall be an affirmative defense to
a charge of violating paragraph (4) of subsection (a) that the
defendant -
(1) possessed less than three matters containing any visual
depiction proscribed by that paragraph; and
(2) promptly and in good faith, and without retaining or
allowing any person, other than a law enforcement agency, to
access any visual depiction or copy thereof -
(A) took reasonable steps to destroy each such visual
depiction; or
(B) reported the matter to a law enforcement agency and
afforded that agency access to each such visual depiction.

So, as I said before, if you are trying to take one of these sites down, then do turn off your browser’s images capabilities.. Hell, why not just use Lynx for that matter so as to negate the issue. However, there is a key point here that you all should take into account. It’s the bit about making the LEO’s aware of the content. This is what I was trying to get at before. If Anonymous or anyone is going to go after this content, then it would be best if you tipped off the LEO’s to the site and the content. Now, the above statement implies that if you make the tip, then you are going to let the police have your system to look at… And we all know Anonymous is not going to do that. So, just be judicious about your tip off’s to the authorities. Do your homework and dump the data to them directly, not on Pastebin.

Of course, then there are the issues of hacking a system in the first place… Well, in the DarkNet, the only thing as I see it that is key would be not leaving a trace that you were there. You know, kinda like the whole hiking ethos of only leaving footprints.. But in this case I would suggest not even a footprint should be left behind. It seems to me, that if you hack a paedo site, even with good intentions, you could get the double whammy from the authorities of hacking as well as accessing child porn…

And that could really be problematic.

So, in the end, I circle back to recommending that you become intelligence gatherers and locate the sources to report. If you locate them, and you get some good details for the authorities without having to SQLi them, all the better. You will be doing a good thing AND you will be satisfying the Deontologists in the room.

Keep your wits about you kids.


Anonymous, SCADA, LULZ, DHS, and Motivations

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Anonymous Is Interested In PLC’s & SCADA?

A recent .pdf bulletin put out by Homeland Security (i.e. DHS) claims that certain actors within Anonymous (and by that they mean “anonymous”, I added the distinction) have shown interest in at least Siemens SIMATIC PLC’s and how to locate them online for exploitation. It seems that DHS though warning about this threat, is not too concerned about its actually being exploited by the group because they lack the expertise to attack them. So, why the BOLO on this at all? If the collective cannot do the damage to the infrastructure that you are entrusted in keeping safe, then why report on it at all as credible intelligence? It would seem to some, myself included, that Anonymous is not the problem that they are really worried about on the macro scale, but instead, those who may claim to be Anonymous hitting small scale facilities or pockets of targets for their own purposes.

And therein lies the difference.

If indeed Anonymous the collective is looking at attacking SCADA, one has to wonder at their reasons to target such systems. After all, if Anonymous takes out the power or poisons the water, it will not look good for them PR wise. In fact, were such things to happen in the name of Anonymous, I can pretty much guarantee you all that they would be enemy #1 pretty darned quick post an attack. However, if they were to target a company such as a car maker that pollutes, then, you have a real agenda (per their social agenda of late) So, the targeting is really key here and I will cover that later on.

DHS Jumping The Shark?

The motivations of the release by DHS have also  been called into question by some as to why they chose to talk about this at all. This is especially prescient since they take pains to say that the Anonymous movement “most likely” does not have the technical means and motive to really pull of these types of attacks on the infrastructure. So why even bother? Perhaps they are just covering their bases (or asses) just in case the Anon’s actually attack? Or perhaps, they too are clued in on the fact that even if claimed to be anonymous, it could be others working against the US (Nation State Actors) who have chosen to attack and use Anonymous as a cover so as to throw off attribution.

Either way, as some look at it, it is almost like they are daring Anonymous to do it out of spite because they are calling Anonymous’  factions and actors “inept” or “unskilled” which, might get their dander up a bit. All of these scenarios pretty much do not preclude someone hitting SCADA systems in the future and it being blamed on Anonymous, which will bring on a new wave of efforts by the government to stamp them out. Reciprocity being what it is, this too will mean that Anonymous might in fact gain strength and sympathy from such actions and fallout as well.

For me though, I just see DHS covering the bases so as to not be blamed later on should something happen. Not so much am I of the opinion that they are in some kind of propaganda war here with this little missive.

Motives, Means, Technical Abilities

So lets go with the theory that certain elements of the Anonymous collective want to mess with the infrastructure. Who would they target and why? More to the point, what companies would they target that fits their agenda?

  • Telco?
  • Power?
  • Manufacturing?

Those are the three areas that I could see as potential attack vectors. Though, once again I have to say that the only two that I see as real possible would be the telco and manufacturing and even the telco would be dangerous for them to try as well. I mean, if you start messing with Ebay or Paypal that’s one thing, its quite another to mess with national infrastructure, as these two would be considered. If indeed Anonymous hit them and took them down for whatever reason, they would then be directly considered terrorists… And that would be seriously bad for their movement and its legitimacy.

Now, we do know that the  Anon’s hit the BART system but as I remember it, it was BART that took out the communications infrastructure themselves so as to prevent communication between anon’s. So, this just doesn’t seem to fit for me either. Manufacturing though, as I made the case above, could be something they would try. It’s not national infrastructure and it will not take the country down if they stop something like cars  being made.

Is it just me? Or does anyone else just see this as a non starter for Anonymous central? What I do see is the threat of other actors using the nomme de guerre of Anonymous as cover for their actions to mess with the national infrastructure. Perhaps some of these people might in fact be motivated by anonymous, but, my guess that if there were to happen, it would be nation state driven… And something I have been warning about for some time.

Anonymous, as an idea, as a movement, will be subverted by those looking to fulfil their own ends and justify their means. All the while, they will let the Anon’s take the fall for it.



Nation States

… AND.. Corporations.

You know, those with the money and the people who could pull off the technical hacks required to carry these capers off.. Not a bunch of rag tag hacktivists and hangers on.


In the end, what I fear is that there will be a great deal of blowback on Anonymous even talking about hacking and messing with infrastructure. The same can be said for their attempts on taking down Wall Street or the NYSE with their DD0S. If they had succeeded, they would have been an annoyance really, but that would not have caused any great fluctuation in the markets I think. No, unless they hacked into NYSE itself and exposed the fact that they had root in there, I think that it would have a very minimal effect on Wall Street and the economy at large.

Not to say that everything is going ever so well now…

DHS seems to have jumped the shark a bit for me on their BOLO and the coverage of this just tends to add to the FUD concerning SCADA and PLC code. Hell, for that matter we have the new Symantec report on DUQU that yells out about it being the “Son of Stuxnet” but in reality, it is more like a clone of Stuxnet used for APT style attacks by persons uknown..

Get yer FUD here!

Same goes for this DHS warning.

Your results may vary…


ウェブ忍者が失敗する : Dox-ing, Disinformation, and The Fifth Battlespace

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Digital Ninja Fail: ウェブ忍者が失敗する

The recent arrests of alleged key members of LulzSec and Anonymous have been called into question by the ‘Web Ninja’s‘, a group of would be hackers who have been ‘DOX-ing” the anonymous hierarchy for some time now. Yesterday, they posted the following on their page concerning the arrest of a man from the Shetland Islands who is purported to be ‘Topiary‘ by the Met and SOCA.

Now, this is a bold statement for anyone who really knows what they are doing in the intelligence analysis field. So, it is my supposition that these guys have no clue about what they are doing by making bold assertions like this. The data they have is tenuous at best and by making such bold statements, I have to wonder if indeed the so called ‘Ninja’s” themselves might not be a tool of anonymous to in fact sow that disinformation.

Here are the facts as I see them;

  • To date, the federal authorities have not questioned anyone who was DOX’d by the Ninja’s that I am aware of
  • The individuals who were DOX’d that were investigated by the authorities were in fact outed by LulzSec/Anonymous themselves
  • Adrian Chen has spoken to the person that the Ninja’s have fingered and claims that he (said person) went to the authorities himself. So far he is still not a suspect.

So, taking into account these facts, I would have to say that the Ninja’s have failed in their stated mission so far and I would suffice to say that if they are indeed a part of a disinformation campaign, then that too has failed. After all, the police seem to be ignoring the data put on the interent by the likes of the Ninja’s in favour of other tried and true tactics. The primary tactic as I see it, is grab one individual and then get them to roll over on their compatriots in the face of massive jail time.

This pretty much works all the time as we, as human beings, are most willing to sacrifice others for the self. In the case of the likes of LulzSec skiddies, I would have to say that the ages of the players, and their generational tendencies will allow them to cut deals pretty quickly. It’s my assessment that they are in it for the self gratification and lulz, not for the altruism that the LulzSec and Anonymous press releases have been trying to have one believe. My assumption is that if indeed the 19 year old guy they popped in Scotland is involved with LulzSec, and is in fact Topiary, he will roll over soon enough.

I also believe that these are all untrained operatives and they have made and will make more mistakes. I am pretty sure that the alleged “leaderless” group has leaders AND that unlike a true guerrilla warfare cell, will know the other players personal details. Essentially, they have had no compartmentalisation and they will all fall eventually though interrogation and deal making. As I said before, the insider threat to the organisation is key here, and it was this idea I think the Ninja’s had.. Well, at least that was the original idea of the Ninja Warrior. They were spies who infiltrated the ranks and destroyed from within.

So far with these guys.. Not so much.

Welcome To Spook World: Disinformation Campaigns and Intelligence Analysis

Now, on the whole disinformation thing, I know that the Lulz and Anonymous have said that they are using disinformation as well to try and create a smoke screen. Frankly, all of the intelligence out there that is open source is suspect. Maltego map’s of end user names as I have shown in the past can be useful in gathering intelligence… Sometimes. For the most part, if a user keeps using a screen name in many places and ties that name to real data, then they can be tracked, but, it takes a lot of analysis and data gathering to do it. Though, many of the foot soldiers within the Anon movement are young and foolish enough to just keep using the same screen names for everything so there is a higher likelihood that the data being pulled up on Maltego and with Google searches is solid enough to make some justified conclusions.

With the more experienced people though, there has been some forethought and they have protected their identities as best they could. What became their real downfall was that they could not rise above petty infighting and dox-ing each other. Thus you have the start of the potential domino effect on the core group as well as anyone who has any peripheral affiliation with the Lulz. Be assured, those who have been pinched are giving up as many names as possible as well as whatever is on their hard drives, Anon hacker manuals or not. All of these scenarios lead to the conclusion of more arrests by the authorities and even more skiddies getting into legal trouble around the globe. Meanwhile though, if the core group has been smart, then perhaps the leaders will skate for a time, using the masses as canon fodder.

Gee kids.. Did you know that you were all expendable?

On another tac, I would like to speak about the potential of the disinformation campaigns being perpetrated by the authorities as well. Consider that the trained professionals out there who are hunting these characters (Topiary, Sabu, et al.) are also adept at using not only the technologies of the fifth battlespace, but also the training afforded them in ‘spook world’ This means disinformation campaigns, mole hunts, and insurgencies of their own, getting to the inner core of Anonymous and Lulz. Now, that there were six (alleged) lulzer’s it would be more difficult to do, especially if those LulzSec folks really do know one another (as they claim they do not, which, I just don’t buy.. Remember the compartmentalisation issue) The agent provocateur’s are out there I am sure and with each rung of the ladder, they get closer to the core group.

That is unless the core group falls apart on their own and DOX’s each other out. In the end, I am going to suggest that the authorities will use all of the tricks of the trade on the Anon/Lulz folks to bag them… And with concerted effort by government resources, they will get their men/women.

Untrained, Unruly, and Unprofessional Operators:

“Discretion is the better part of valour” as they say, and in the case of the Lulz and Anon crews, they seem to not have a clue. Perhaps the Lulz think that by being unruly and unpredictable to a certain amount, will be just the cover they need, but, I think that their lack of discretion will be their undoing as well as their hubris. Had many of these folks had some real training, they might have just stood down for a while (not just a week or so) after setting sail into the sunset.

As I have said before, it was a bad idea to recruit and have comm’s out in the open on IRC servers even if they had ‘invite only’ channels. As is being seen now, someone (jester perhaps) has taken down their servers again after other outages due to Ryan Cleary’s attack and pressure from the government on those connection sources that the Anon’s were using. I am sure the idea was to have a movement that could also serve as diversion for the core users as well as to LOIC, but this all failed in the end didn’t it? The LOIC is what has given the FBI the 1,000 IP addresses as a hit list, so to speak, that they are now using to collect people and charge them for the DD0S attacks.

Had these people been trained or not been so compulsive, they might have had more of a chance to keep this up for a much much longer time. As I write, the Lulz do continue, but they have slowed quite a bit since the arrests started again. This I think is because the cages are starting to get rattled and people are finally coming to the conclusion that some discretion is needed to not end up Bubba’s play pal in prison. It’s a learning curve, and likely going to be a painful one for the kiddies.

Unprofessional actions within this area of battle will end up with your being put in jail kids.

To end this section I would also like to add this thought. My assessment of the Lulz core group is this;

  • They were drunk on the power of their escapades
  • The more followers they had and more attention, the less risk averse they became
  • They seem to have compulsion disorders (don’t say it.. Aspergers!) that seem to not allow them to lay low (until now it seems)
  • The ego has eaten their id altogether
  • Base ages are within the teens with a couple over 20

Technical Issues Within The Fifth Battlespace:

Another BIG issue within this battlespace is the technology. The Anon’s and Lulz have been ascribing to the idea of “Proxies, we haz them! So we’re secure!” and to a certain extent they are right. There are always ways around that though and certainly leaks in data (such as the TOR leaks that have happened) that could lead someone to locate the end user behind the proxy, so they are not fool proof. Certainly not if the fool in question is some skiddie 12 year old using LOIC un-proxied and not obfuscated while they D0S Paypal.

The problem is that the technology could fail you as well as the untrained operative could make small and large mistakes that could lead authorities right back to their IP and home accts. On the other side of that equation is that when properly done, it is damn hard to prove a lot in hacking cases because of obfuscation, as well as mis-configured end systems that have been hit. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen incidents play out where the target systems had no logging on as well as being completely un-secured, thus leaving practically nothing for a forensics team to find and use.

Once again, this brings us back to the insider threat, whether they be the insider who decides to go turncoat, or, the agent provocateur (i.e. Jester and the Ninja’s as well as others from the authorities) who infiltrate the Lulz and then gut them from the inside. What it really boils all down to is that in the end, it will be the foibles of the Lulz core and the actions of spooks that will bring them down.. And I think they are learning that very fact now.

JIN; One Must Know The Enemies Mind To Be Victorious:

As a last note, I would like to say to the Ninja’s, you need to learn and practice your Kuji-in. It is obvious to me that you have failed on the ‘Jin’ (knowing the opponents mind) with your dox attempts. Until such time as I see people being hauled in that directly relate to your documents posted, then I am going to consider the following to be the case:

  1. DOX-ing is mostly useless and takes quite a bit of analysis before just releasing names
  2. The Feds are not taking your data as gospel, nor should the general public or media
  3. You yourselves may in fact be a tool of Anonymous/Lulz and as such, spewing disinformation
  4. You could be right, but by releasing it to the public at large, you are letting the Lulz know to destroy evidence and create obfuscation that will hinder arrests later.

Ninja’s got results.. Not so much for ‘Web’ Ninjas. At least Jester, if his claims are true, is breaking their C&C channels lately.. Which has its own problematic issues.. Just like his meddling in the Jihadi area, but, that’s a story for another time.


LulzSec: How NOT To Run An Insurgency

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Oh how the Lulz turn…

Lulzsec seems to be imploding a bit with the pressure put on them by their own interpersonal issues as well as the likes of Th3j35t3r and the Web Ninja’s on their backs as well. I however, would like to point out the Lulz tactical failures that are directly leading to their ultimate party van special that seems to be coming soon. I say ‘seems’ to be coming because who really knows what will happen. Perhaps some of these guys will actually skate because they were smart enough to keep some of their personal details.. well.. personal.. Maybe not though as is evidenced by the ‘doxing pastebin-palooza’ of late.

Secrecy is important:

LulzSec seems to have misunderstood that secrecy is really really important when you are doing something like a digital insurgency. Sure, you can try to rely on all the technologies like proxies to hide your IP, but, you also have the human element to contend with. It is here where the Lulz have not thought things out too clearly. They attempted to use the Anonymous model, but, unlike Anonymous, they, had a smaller crew and a central core that, well, has been rather chatty. Chatty mind you, on IRC channels that have been compromised and monitored.

Loose lips sink ships.. Yeah, I went there…

Nope, while Lulzsec has been attempting to be secret, they failed to follow through and actually carry out their insurgency behind a wall of utter secrecy or even a cell based infrastructure it seems. Of course most of these efforts have been planed out and talked about on said IRC channels (even the sooper sekret ones) and advertised so others could revel in the lulz.

This and the other things I am going to mention will be their undoing.

Communications Should be COVERT:

Ok, so,  how long did Osama have runners with USB keys on donkey’s going to Peshawar Internet cafe’s without being caught? Oh, yeah, 10 friggin years! It took the CIA a long time to catch on to the runners/couriers and even then they did so only from a VERY FEW pieces of hard SIGINT. The key here kids is that the AQ guys were practising ‘tradecraft’ unlike the Lulzsec kids. They took pains to insure that their communications were not easily picked up by the NSA or anyone else listening and watching.

You guys in Lulzsec? Not so much….

Instead, you have relied on technology to keep you safe while flagrantly whipping out your collective pee pee’s and waving them at forces who are much better equipped, trained, and funded to hunt you down and make you go bye bye. Some might see that as daring… Others see it as just plain stupid. Either way, since you have failed to use real covert channels that you do not advertise, you have highly increased the likelihood that you will soon see those party van’s you speak of so often (mockingly) in your yards as they start taking all your computers out the door, and you to the local orange jump suit palace.

Next time, just have your meetings in the parking lot of the local PD. It will cut out the middle man.

Ego is the mind killer:

I must not have too much Ego. Ego is the mind-killer. Ego is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my Ego. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the Ego has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Ah yes, I have been ruminating on this one for some time and even adjusted this quote from Dune, which I think fits nicely. Your ego’s have been writing checks that you aren’t likely to want to have cashed kids. You have said that you do it for the lulz, you have also made intimations that its about how poor security is within the internet ecology, but, I think mainly your motivations have been ego driven. What this means is that you are getting quite the buzz off of being so darn smart and snarky. You have been having fun poking the badgers in the eyes and feeling invincible.

Well, you aren’t geniuses and you aren’t invincible. Eventually everyone gets caught, especially those who do not take care to cover their tracks and act smartly.

Simply, your ego’s have done you in… Be sure to check that ego at the door to the federal penitentiary that will be your new home, because there are bigger and nastier people in there who will be trading you for smokes soon. Oh, and remember to buy a lot of tucks pads.. You are going to need them.

Untrustworthy Assets Should NOT be Trusted With Operational Details:

This brings me to the bust of your minimally affiliated IRC op Ryan. It seems from all of the press and from the kids history, that he was unstable to start. This is the guy you want to trust with any data, no matter how small, on who Lulzsec is and how they operate?


Well then, who else do you have running your servers and running errands? Because I think they are likely to be just as whacked as Ryan and likely to be caught and roll within the first few minutes of interrogation!

Bravo, well done!

If you guys had any operational smarts, you would have to know that you cannot trust anyone with the whole picture. You pretty much are claiming that now after his arrest, but I think secretly you are all leaving fudge stains in your pants presently. According to the police Ryan had A LOT of data laying round and how are you to know who he talked to and how much he really knew about you all? Even IF you tried to be as careful as possible, you more than likely slipped up and gave him information that he will be giving.. Nope.. wait.. HAS GIVEN to the FBI and the Met.

Another failure on your part in the game of insurgency… I guess you will learn the hard way. Just as you will learn that outing your pals yourselves because they decided they wanted out, or did something to piss you off, will only lead back to you. Not the smartest of moves should any of these guys have data on you that they can use to turn against you.

“Never burn an asset unless you burn them and then shoot them between the eyes.. Or they will come back at you”

LulzSec Fall Down.. Go BOOM:

Finally, as if you could not tell from everything I said above, you are going to go down and likely go down hard. It will be a learning experience for you and for everyone else who wants to let their ego run free to gather 220K of followers on twitter by poking the badger. I am imagining that Ryan and his volumes of digital data, are being disseminated throughout the community of Feds and other agencies as I write…

Oh well, like I said, there’d daring and then there is stupid… Remember what John Keating said in “Dead Poets”

“Phone call from God. If it had been collect, that would have been daring!”

Be seeing you soon as your being put in the back of the party van kids…


Lulz, Jester, and Counterintelligence On The Internet

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I once wrote a blog post about ‘escalation’ and it seems that my fears are coming true as the Lulz Boat keeps making waves across the Internet. Between Lulzsec, Jester, Anonymous, and now God knows who else, we are seeing a re-birth of the 90’s anarchy hacking. However, since so much has changed network wise since the 90’s its been amplified a thousand fold. What has spun out of all the hacking (hactivism, vigilantism, whatever you want to call it) is that we are seeing just how a counter-intelligence operation is carried out. Th3j35t3r and his friends at Web-Ninjas’s are carrying out this counter-intelligence program and posting their findings on Lulzsecexposed as well as on th3j35t3rs own site on word-press.

To date, their efforts have not seemed to have either slowed Lulzsec’s antics, nor generated any federal arrests of anyone involved. However, I think it important to note the methods being used here to attempt to put faces to names in the lulz crew.

The LulzSec Problem:

The problem with trying to track lulzsec members is primarily the technologies that they are using prevent getting a real idea of where and who they are. By using VPN technologies, proxies, and compromised systems in the wild, they have been able to keep their true identities from being exposed in a more meaningful way other than screen names. Due to the problems of digital attribution, the governments of the world cannot quite get their hands around who these people are nor, would they be able to prove such in a court of law at the present time without solid digital forensics on the end users machines.

In the case of Lulzsec and Anonymous, they are not using just one system but many types of systems to protect their anonymity. Thus, with the right tools and obfuscation, they feel impervious to attack from anyone, be they government, law enforcement, or the likes of Th3j35t3r. Tactically, they have the advantage in many ways and it would take one of two types of attacks, if not both simultaneously, to take the Lulzsec and Anonymous core group down. The attacks I mention are these:

1) A direct attack on their IRC servers that host the secret C&C channels

2) Insertion of ‘agent provocateurs’ into the C&C of Lulzsec and Anonymous (as recently alluded to with the FBI stat that one in 4 hackers are CI’s recently)

I actually would suggest that both avenues of attack would have the best effect along with a healthy program of disinformation and PSYOPS to keep the adversary unbalanced and malleable. Which leads me to my next section.. The methods of attack.


An overall category, Counter-Intelligence ranges all of the afore-mentioned types of attacks. In the case of Lulzsec, anyone could be a member within the community that encompasses info-sec or anonymous. Hell, Jester could actually know some of these people in real life just as well as you the reader might and never know it if the member never talks about it. I imagine it’s kind of like Fight Club;

The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club. #2 – The second rule of Fight Club is, you DO NOT talk about Fight Club. 

If anyone talks, they could end up in some serious shit and in this case, disappeared pretty quickly if the governments in question get their hands on them. This is especially true now that they have hit the FBI and CIA with their attacks and derision… But I digress. The key here is that because no one knows who is who or is talking about it, it is very analogous to the idea of a mole hunt or counter intelligence operations that seek to locate spies within the community (such as within the CIA) There are whole divisions in the CIA and FBI as well as other places that are solely devoted to this type of war of attrition.

I believe that it is a counter-intelligence operation that will win the day though in the battle against Lulzsec or any other like minded adversary. Winning that battle will take the following types of sub operations as well.

PSYOPS & Disinformation:

PSYOPS and Disinformation work together to unbalance the adversary as well as spin the masses toward compliance or action. In the case of LulzSec, this type of activity is already ongoing with their own ‘Manifesto‘ and other publicity that they have put out. They want to spin opinion and generate adoration as well as fear, both of these are in evidence within the media cycle and the public’s perception of who and what they are. Where I am seeing both types of activity on Lulzsec’s part, I can also see within the actions of jester and the Web Ninja’s as well.

On the part of LulzSec, the following psychological operations and disinformation campaigns can be seen:

  • For each alleged ‘outing’ of a member, they make claims that these are not core members of their group (note, they do not make claim to the anonymous model of headless operations) such outed persons who can be connected to them are merely underlings in open IRC channels
  • Affecting accents and 4chan speak to attempt to hide their real patterns of writing and mannerisms
  • A claim to having battles with 4chan and /b/ as well as Anonymous while they seem much more aligned to them (distancing)
  • The use of agent provocateurs against Jester within his own coterie of followers and open IRC channel
  • The use of flash mobs (abuse) within Jester’s open IRC channel
  • Leveraging the fact that they are anonymous (in concept) and due to the technology today, virtually untouchable

On the part of Jester we have the following operational tactics used so far:

  • The outing of individuals believed to be core members of the group (no matter if correct, will prompt a reaction from Lulzsec that may be telling)
  • The use of agent provocateurs to place disinformation as well as gather intel on the adversary (Lulzsec) which can be seen in leaked IRC chat transcripts
  • The creation of analogous groups such as the Web Ninja’s to work against LulzSec
  • Leveraging the fact that he is just as anonymous (in concept) as they are and due to the technology today, virtually untouchable

It seems from both sides of the battle, that these types of actions are being used to mislead and gain the edge over the other. In the case of Jester, I am pretty sure that this is an overt thing. While, on the other hand, with Lulzsec, I see it as a reactionary set of measures to attempt to keep themselves from being exposed as to who and where they are. As this continues, I am willing to hazard that even more players are playing a part in this war, quietly, and those would be the government operatives looking for an in to take the Lulz down. Of course, the government has been pretty quiet about Lulzsec haven’t they? One wonders just what they are up to.. If anything at all.

Of course, the NSA may just be the dark horse here… And the Lulz won’t know what hit them.

Then it will be over.

Development of Sources:

One of the more tradecraft oriented things that must be going on is the use of sources or getting assets into positions to be inside the Lulz Boat. I am sure that there are players out there sidling up to the right users on the IRC boards in an attempt to get into the inner circle of LulzSec as well as Anonymous. These assets are likely to be working for the government but I can also see someone like Jester using the same tactic, if not posing himself as the asset. Due to the nature of the problems of tracking these people, this is the best way to get close to the Lulz and to gather raw intelligence on them. After all, even if not fully trusted, an asset can gather important data on the actions of the Lulz and be there when they make a crucial mistake.

The other side of that coin may be people who have been outed and were in fact affiliated with the Lulz. This is where the FBI has a forte in turning hackers into informants by allowing them to work for them instead of just being put in a hole somewhere. It has happened in the past (carders for example) and likely is the case in the Lulz affair. After all, some have been ‘vanned’ already in Anonymous circles and I have yet to hear about any real solid court cases being filed.. So.. One tends to think that there is a bit of cooperation going on with those who have been popped already for being suspected ‘anons’

In the case of the Lulz, we have yet to see or hear of anyone being taken into custody for being afiliated with the Lulz.. But, the day is young especially of late.

Habits Will Be Their Downfall:

Overall, I would say from what I have seen in IRC and in other data located out there on key user names, that human nature and habits will be the downfall of the Lulz. People have habits and these can be leveraged to attack them. No one is perfect and none of these people to my knowledge have been trained to avoid the pitfalls of habit that a trained operative would. Insofar as the Jester seems to have hit the mark in a few cases is telling that people are leaking data. Either the Lulz themselves have been careless (as they harp on password re-use, I harp on user name re-use) or they have indeed  been infiltrated by assets of the enemy, or, have decided to go down another less dangerous path in hopes of not being prosecuted.

Habitual behaviour too is not only action, but mannerisms, thought processes, and enunciation of motives. Just as coders tend to code in specific ways that can be used as ‘digital DNA’ so too can writing patterns, speech, etc even when attempted to be clothed in 4chan speak. As well, the habits of human nature to be trusting will too be their downfall. After all, unless this is a one person operation, there are many links in the chain that could and will be exploited. As people seem to be dropping off of the Lulz Boat (per Jester’s data) they will need new blood to keep the Lulz going, and that means that they will have to recruit, vet, and eventually trust someone…

And that is where the counter-intelligence operation will seal the deal… The phrase “Trust No One” just cannot be a reality in any operation. This is why they sometimes fail, because you trust the wrong person.

Over Reliance On Technology:

In the meantime, the Lulz seem to be relying quite a bit on technologies that are rapidly becoming susceptible to attacks by those who want to capture or stop them. The use of Anonymous proxies like Tor, while effective now, are also compromise-able from a few different perspectives. The technology may be solid, but the pressures legally on those who run them may in fact lead to compromise. Just as any of these avenues of anonymization that are out there could in fact be just honey-pots to capture data. A case in point would be Tor, which was a Navy project to begin with and anyone who has set up an exit node, can in fact sniff the traffic for data that may be helpful in getting a lock on a user.

Additionally, any other means of technology like cloud services that are hosting their data or facilitating anything the Lulz do, could potentially be compromised if the right people are involved *cough NSA cough* that have the latitude to do what they like. Given today’s surprising numbers of laws being passed that erode all of our rights to privacy, I should think that the days are numbered for the Lulz on the technical playground as the boys at Ft. Meade start getting their orders to lock and load.

Never trust so much in technologies that YOU do not run solely yourself.. Remember the government can make any company that MITM attacker and YOU the attacked.

The End:

In the end, I think that the Lulz have pointed out that ‘Elephant with its trunk in out collective coffee” but at what price? Will this change the paradigm and make the government care about security in a more cogent way? No. Instead they will come up with tougher laws and more ways to invade privacy by shortcutting the process. Sure, shit is out there and it is vulnerable, but you know what? It always will be. If it isn’t some very low hanging fruit like SQLi then it will be 0day. There will always be a way in. That is just the nature of things and the Lulz will have shifted paradigm.. Because truly, the Lulz will be on LulzSec, emotionally charged and sorry for their actions… While sitting in jail.


*EDIT* Oh and one more thing to add here as an afterthought. I may remind you all that as the laws are changing and the Patriot Act has been re-signed. The Lulz, having upped the ante, can easily be considered ‘Domestic Terrorists” This would place them in even a more precarious place because then, the legal gloves come off….

One man’s Domestic Terrorist is another man’s “Enemy Combatant”

The PrimorisEra Affair: Paradigms In Social Networking and SECOPS

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EDIT 5.24.2011

As of last night, I had heard that PrimorisEra was back and posting to a new blog. Today Wired has fired off a follow up to the earlier report and her return. It seems from the report that perhaps the Pentagon investigation is over and that in fact Shawna Gorman may indeed be the First Lady of Missiles. It remains to be seen if this is really the case but since she is back and blogging, I would have to lean toward my assessment from before. Still though, my cautionary statements about social networking and SECOPS still apply.

See below:


From Wired:

It started out with a leggy, bikini-clad avatar. She said she was a missile expert — the “1st Lady of Missiles,” in fact — but sometimes suggested she worked with the CIA. With multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts, she earned a following of social media-crazed security wonks. Then came the accusations of using sex appeal for espionage.

Now everyone involved in this weird network is adjusting their story in one way or another, demonstrating that even people in the national security world have trouble remembering one of the basic rules of the internet: Not everyone is who they say they are.

“I think anyone puts pictures out online to lure someone in,” the woman at the center of the controversy insists. “But it’s not to lure men in to give me any information at all… I liked them. They’re pretty. Apparently everyone else thought so too.”

This is a strange, Twitter-borne tale of flirting, cutouts, and lack of online caution in the intelligence and defense worlds. Professionals who should’ve known better casually disclosed their personal details (a big no-no in spook circles) and lobbed allegations they later couldn’t or wouldn’t support (a big no-no in all circles). It led to a Pentagon investigation. And it starts with a Twitter account that no longer exists called @PrimorisEra.

Yesterday, Wired posted a news article about another potential social networking attack on the .mil and .gov types involving Twitter, Facebook, and Google Buzz. The snippet above really sums up what is alleged to have happened and the problems with Social media’s blasé attitudes where people who have jobs that require secrecy meet and chat.

Presently, according to the article, a Pentagon investigation is under way into this story, but once again, this is not the first time we have heard this type of story in the press with these same players. It was last year when a profile online named “Robin Sage” made the rounds on LinkedIn and other social media formats. This “cutout” as they are called in the espionage community, was in fact a fake profile used by a security researcher to prove a point. By using an attractive woman as the persona, the researcher was able to get people within the military and governmental community to add her and flirt. Through the flirting, the unsuspecting connections gave up valuable data on what they did for a living, where they were, and perhaps even locations in country around the battlefield in Afghanistan.

Many just fell for the profile hook line and sinker.. And that is a bad thing for anyone in this sector. It was a lesson in OPSEC and it’s failure. Potentially, this emerging case from the Wired story could also be much the same. The number of online personae that are involved in this story are just a little too many to just think that it was an innocent mistake on the part of a young woman seeking attention online from her peers within the government and military. However, its also just as possible that that is all it really is.

Time will tell.

Shawn Elizabeth Gorman Daughter of Nancy Gorman 1983

Site with SEG photo (1983)

The thing about this is that this type of exploit is not new at all. This is commonly known as a honeypot in the espionage area and before there was an Internet, there was the local cafe or bar, where one would just happen to meet a lovely young thing and start a relationship. That relationship would then be turned into blackmail (either emotional or literal) and suddenly, you are an asset for the adversary. The new twist is that services need not deploy an asset to a foreign country to search for and find access to those who they want to get information from. Today all they need to have is an Internet connection and Google. It is only even more easily carried out now that there are Social Media sites like Facebook and others to sidle digitally up to anyone you like and start to work on them if you know how.

There used to be a time where every operator was given the tutorials on espionage means and methods. People were forewarned about travelling to other countries and if you are cleared, you have to report suspicious contacts to the DSS. Today though, I don’t think that they have even attempted to try this with online content. I mean, how many reports a day would you have to make to DSS if you are online and just talking to people in a chat room or on Facebook? It would be impossible. So it is understandable, as social animals, that we develop this technology to connect with others and being that it is a rather insular means of communications, feel that we can just let loose with information. After all, how does one really assure that who they are talking to is indeed that person that they claim to be?

So, people forget and really, this is still all relatively new isn’t it? There are no maps here.

Now, back to this story, no one has claimed that data has been leaked. It is only the appearance of things have set off the alarm bells for people and agencies. When one user finally decided to call the alleged cutout’s profile out, a subsequent shit storm began that ended up with @primosera deleting their Twitter, Facebook, and Google accounts thus making the story seem even more suspect.

Was Shawn E Gorman a cutout? Is she really the grad student and contractor she claims to be in her tweets? What about the allusions to the CIA? All of the missile tech and political discussions? Well, given the background of what can be located readily online, there is a Shawn Elizabeth Gorman attending Johns Hopkins as a research assistant getting her MBA in Government, so, perhaps. Or maybe someone has just taken on the persona of Ms. Gorman to use as a cutout for these activities?

Frankly, I am leaning toward it really being her. As you can see from the photos above, I located a photo other than the one from Wired that purports to be Shawn E. Gorman born 1983 to a Nancy Gorman. I also located data that shows a Shawn E. Gorman living in Bethesda MD with the same mother. Given that the photo is an early one, and one of the few out there easily found, I am thinking it is one in the same. However, this does not mean that it has been her behind that keyboard when she was talking to all of the people involved.

Time will tell what is what once the Pentagon’s investigation gets done. It could be that this is all for naught security wise from the compromise perspective. However, this once again is an object lesson for everyone online. Nevermind if you work in a job that requires security, everyone should be cognisant that when they are online talking to someone that they do not know in real life, are just that much more possibly talking to someone who is not their “friend” and looking to just have a chat. From the common data thief to the corporate spy, we all may have data that someone wants and will be willing to pretend a while to get it.

We want to be social and open as we are social animals… Just so happens that sometimes that is a bad idea.

I think though, that everyone who works in security or within a security centric job space will have to go through some more training in the near future. This is just a warning bell and I think it best that the government and military listen to it. Even as the article goes on to mention, there are restrictions on the military about posting online, but still they cannot deny these people access to the likes of Facebook for morale. It is really playing with fire either way, in denying the access it seems draconian and people will fight it. On the other hand, if you allow it and monitor it, you are damned for monitoring people’s interaction online.

Hell, even the CIA has set up its own social networks within the CIA’s Intranet so people can talk and ostensibly share ideas and data. However, that is on an Intranet that is well protected….

Meanwhile, back on the Internet, we have places like LinkedIn. Sounds like a great idea, networking for jobs and such. Then the .gov and .mil folks all got online and began to show themselves and much of their data in a contained space. So much of a treasure trove is LinkedIn that Anna Chapman (as seen above from her Russian Maxim shoot) was only 2 degrees of separation from me within my network on LinkedIn! She was mining the connections as a sleeper for the SVR and all she had to do was put up a pretty picture and say hi.

For me it comes down to this;

1) If you sign up for these places hide as much of your data as you can.

2) Pay attention to the security measures that the sites have in place.. Or don’t. Facebook has had a terrible record on personal privacy but look how many people they have on there and just how much personal data is available to anyone who can look at the page, even a cached version.

3) When you get invites from people check them out. Use other means than the current site (aka LinkedIn) to do that research. See if you can nail down who they are in reality. Even then, once you are friends, think before you type. You may be giving out data that you personally don’t want anyone to have.

4) Placing too much family data on the Internet is a threat. Anything from Identity theft to outright stalking and physical danger can be the outcome if you make it too easy for someone to get your data.

5) If you suspect that someone you are talking to is not indeed who you think they are, walk away.

6) AND for God’s sake, if you are a guy, in the military or government, or hold a classified status and some hot avatar’d chick starts PM’ing you, its either a bot or it’s likely another cutout. ESPECIALLY if you lay out your life’s story online as to what you do and where you work.

7) Finally, remember what I have repeated over and over again. Whoever you are talking to MAY NOT BE WHO THEY SAY THEY ARE!

Just don’t put that data out there and end up in the hot seat with your job on the line over a little virtual tail.


The force with no name: By Antonia Zerbisias of The Star

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The force with no name