The risks of open collaboration, OWS edition  21.10.11

Not much of a surprise, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been infiltrated. A New York-based security consultant called Thomas Ryan and a team of IT security professionals managed to access systems used by the movement.

As part of their intelligence-gathering operation, the group gained access to a listserv used by Occupy Wall Street organizers called September17discuss. On September17discuss, organizers hash out tactics and plan events, conduct post-mortems of media appearances, and trade the latest protest gossip. On Friday, Ryan leaked thousands of September17discuss emails to conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who is now using them to try to smear Occupy Wall Street as an anarchist conspiracy to disrupt global markets.

What may much more alarming to Occupy Wall Street organizers is that while Ryan was monitoring September17discuss, he was forwarding interesting email threads to contacts at the NYPD and FBI, including special agent Jordan T. Loyd, a member of the FBI’s New York-based cyber security team. (…) …Loyd cited Occupy Wall Street as an example of a “newly emerging threat to U.S. information systems.”

The incident highlights structural weaknesses of open collaborative platforms in social environments with detrimental perceptions and interests. A group that wants to become a mass movement doesn’t have the choice of operating and planning in secrecy. Nor does it have the means to sanction – from the perspective of the group – anti-social behaviour. At yet another frontier, Generation Openness is learning the hard way that sharing can come with costs. It’ll be interesting to observe the institutional innovations, the OWS movement will inevitably come up with.

The ineradicable cyber-myth  21.10.11

The Epoch Times reports:

Although the attacks on Estonia—one of the world’s most wired countries—did not involve physical attack, virtually the whole country came to a standstill as banks, communications, and government fell victim to cyberattacks.

It did not come to a standstill. Whenever an article starts with this meme, enjoy the line of argument ahead. Like this one:

“Just as organized crime groups have hired hackers, it is possible that nation states could hire or distantly support jihad networks and launch cyber-attacks through them,” states an April 17 report from Project Cyber Dawn, part of The Cyber Security Forum Initiative.

I guess the story the author wants to convey is: Botnets can bring down a country (Estonia, Georgia), there is an underground market for botnets, you can rent a botnet from a criminal group or person, you can “weaponize” a botnet, elite hacker groups can consist of jihadists. Hence you can bring down the US or one of its allies by renting a botnet from jihadists.

What you could read is: Estonia was not brought down to a standstill – thanks to the intervention of some capable, mostly local IT experts –, even though it’s a small country with just 1.3 m inhabitants.

14 years after, blissfully unaware  21.10.11

Fourteen years ago, the Clinton administration launched the Presidential Commission on Critical Infrastructure Commission. Its 1997 report “Critical Foundations – Protecting America’s Infrastructure” states (Appendix A, Section Summary Report, p. A-26):

Vulnerabilities facing the energy industries include:

* Those created in the operating environment by the rapid proliferation of industry-wide information systems based on open-system architectures, centralized operations, increased communications over public telecommunications networks and remote maintenance

Earlier this week, Terry Zink quoted the following in a blog post:

Despite investments into state of the art technology, a majority of the oil and gas industry remain blissfully unaware of the vulnerabilities, threats and capability of a malicious cyber attack on control systems.

cyberwar ‘not just for a run around town’  20.10.11

Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, NYT:

But administration officials and even some military officers balked, fearing that it might set a precedent for other nations, in particular Russia or China, to carry out such offensives of their own, and questioning whether the attack could be mounted on such short notice. …

“We don’t want to be the ones who break the glass on this new kind of warfare,” said James Andrew Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he specializes in technology and national security. …

“These cybercapabilities are still like the Ferrari that you keep in the garage and only take out for the big race and not just for a run around town, unless nothing else can get you there,” said one Obama administration official briefed on the discussions. … 

Some officials also expressed concern about revealing American technological capabilities to potential enemies for what seemed like a relatively minor security threat to the United States.

Read: Cyber-attack capabilities are built up in the shadows, quantity and quality unknown, to be used only in conflicts on the ‘vital-interest’-level – or as yet another deterrence (the attribution problem aside).

“Are Stuxnet and Duqu related? I don’t know.”  20.10.11

Micorosft’s Terry Zink sums up his “20 minutes of research“ on Duqu:

On page 18 of that report, they list similarities between Stuxnet and Duqu. But how many generic pieces of malware have those same similarities as Stuxnet? Is this just an example of the Barnum effect (like that one South Park episode where Stan Marsh talked to the dead and John Edward won the BDIU award)? For all I know, half the malware out there can be classified as similar to Stuxnet.

Are Stuxnet and Duqu related?  I don’t know.

Symantec calls the malware “The precursor to the next Stuxnet“. Good malware analysis marketing.

Duqu’s purpose is to gather intelligence data and assets from entities such as industrial control system manufacturers in order to more easily conduct a future attack against another third party. The attackers are looking for information such as design documents that could help them mount a future attack on an industrial control facility.

 

“so big it does my head in”  14.10.11

The unnamed Economist author shares her notes of a prep-conference for the upcoming cyber sec conference in London next month.

A “senior” participant remarked:

“It is so big it does my head in.”

But why? The author notes:

“Because this stuff is all mashed up. The interconnectedness of cyberspace breaks down borders and distinctions around which societies and states are organised.

It mashes up people and geography. …

Cyber mashes up functions. …

Cyber mashes up the trivial and the critical. …

It mashes up weapons. …

Finally, the internet mashes up state and private … “

Release often, release early:

By definition we need international co-operation. … So we should start with something small and build out. I see it as a quilt, a patchwork…  The role of NGOs, think-tank and private experts in sensitising governments, without it seeming a form of electronic imperialism, is important.

The role of states:

Whatever the threat, it seems to me that the private sector will be involved in almost all responses. One working group made the point that “knowledge implies more responsibility”.

Indeed, indeed. Operationally, cyber security rests on those who control the components that make up the internet.

In any case, it is hard to translate rules and practices of war. Two examples: – Is private industry ready to be the warfighter? – How do you put red crosses on hospitals and orphanages? Do we have to put them on separate networks, ie, create a “dot.humanitarian” domain? Here we start to move into polders. Should we create “dot.secure” areas? People are willing to give up a lot of privacy in social networking. It seems to me that they would be wiling to do it for security.

 

The Prince of Wales moment in cyberspace  13.10.11

Stewart Baker, former official at DHS and NSA, in an article called “Denial of Service” on Foreign Policy:

“We should not wait for our own Prince of Wales moment in cyberspace.”

Now, that’s disturbing. Virtual Pearl Harbour no more. Welcome to: Oh, that I were a bot upon that machine that I might touch that juicy data? Well, I shouldn’t start reading articles at their very last paragraph. The second last comes to rescue.

In 1941, the British sent their most modern battleship, the Prince of Wales, to Southeast Asia to deter a Japanese attack on Singapore. … It took Japanese bombers 10 minutes to put an end to their fantasy, to the Prince of Wales, and to hundreds of brave sailors’ lives.

Besides that, the message is:

But the lesson of all this for the lawyers and the diplomats is stark: Their effort to impose limits on cyberwar is almost certainly doomed.

Therefore, cyber strategies are necessary:

The offense must be powerful enough to deter every adversary with something to lose in cyberspace, so it must include a way to identify attackers with certainty. The defense, too, must be realistic, making successful cyberattacks more difficult and less effective because resilience and redundancy has been built into U.S. infrastructure.

How to identify attackers with certainty without fundamentally altering the architecture of the internet or the ability to enforce collaboration of intermediaries such as ISPs worldwide? The latter could be accomplished in several ways: a) by foreign governments as a proxy, convinced by diplomatic influence ad-hoc or by institutions such as international treaties; or b) by supportive worldwide technical communities.

Hacktivism response – the technocratic order of ICT security  12.10.11

Tim Lohman, Australian edition of Computerworld, in a piece called “Hacktivism: The fallout from Anonymous and LulzSec”:

While government and industry figures all agree that hacktivism — no matter the colour or stripe — poses a real security threat to organisations, opinion is divided on the motivations, and hence seriousness of groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec. (…) however, two schools of thought have emerged on who these groups really are. The first argues that these groups are simply teenagers doing what teenagers do: Rebel. The other school argues that in line with the digital saturation of the current generation of teens and twenty-somethings these acts of hacking are simply the modern day equivalent of street protests.

If it’s the equivalent of street protest, why is it “a real security threat”?

Australian Federal Police (AFP) High Tech Crime Operations Acting National Manager, Grant Edwards is quoted:

“Hacktivism may be similar to other forms of legitimate demonstration or protest; however it can have significant implications… The AFP and other Australian law enforcement authorities will not tolerate the attempts of hackers to damage or destroy Australian individuals, companies and national infrastructure resources.”

Autralia’s Attorney General office:

the Government does not consider ‘hacktivisim’ or other similar activity that disrupts the confidentiality, integrity or availability of electronic information to be a legitimate form of protest

Human-bot driven DDoS attacks, aka virtual sit-ins. are legal in Germany. They disrupt the availability of electronic information, just as sit-ins have disrupted transactions of nukes to their launching sites and of used nuclear fuel to interim or permanent disposal site. Mass public display of discontent in the physical world always implies the non-availability of some services. Applying the classic computer science definition of ICT security (confidentiality, integrity or availability of data) to the political sphere and to what societies perceive as threats to their security, has great potential to result in a technocratic order.

Policing Anonymous – ‘we never forget’  12.10.11

A little gem for friends of games and strategies. The author:

I…intend to…provide a fresh perspective, hopefully thought provoking, on a key aspect of the movement: the claim of “leaderless resistance”.

My intent, in this note, is to raise context and observations on the nature of “leaderless resistance” as a strategic outlook, and as a tactic. (…)
My intent is a strategic and tactical observation of the “leaderless resistance” concept as applied to “Occupy Wall Street”,

Strategies applied by the police against this “leaderless resistance”?

De-Anonymization:

Like sifting sands for gold, the identification of the logistical leadership is priceless to future intervention. Those targeted should be very vigilant: they are no longer Anonymous.

Counter-intelligence, network analysis:

However, the process of booking is an intelligence coup. Not only are the databases updated, but new items added, biometric data collected, network analysis made. In effect, 700 arrests mean, 70,000 data routes for the average person, who knows 100 people or so. There is overlap, so obviously the number made vulnerable is not 70,000, but it will still be in the five figures. This is a counter-intelligence coup. Yes, we are Anonymous, we never forgive, we never forget. Neither does the State – and its power is underestimated.

Wedging:

The elimination of formal hierarchy doesn’t eliminate informal hierarchy of will, charisma, economic/racial/gender privilege and other such background hierarchies. In effect, counter-intelligence hoists the movement on its own petard in a pragmatic approach.

Criminalisation:

By criminalizing the movement, in other words, by equating active participation with the possibility of being processed criminally, the same “preventative” logic of policing is imposed on political speech. … Leaderless resistance in this sense doesn’t figure at all: no matter what strategic and tactical method is uses, this response will happen.

(via p2pFoundation)

£16.9m of x billions  11.10.11

Financial Fraud Action announces:

Total fraud losses on UK cards fell to £169.8 million between January and June 2011 – a 9 per cent reduction compared with losses in the first half of 2010. (…)

Online banking fraud losses totalled £16.9 million during January to June 2011 – a 32 per cent fall on the 2010 half-year figure. (…)

The NFA estimated that fraud in all its guises costs the UK more than £38 billion a year – card and banking fraud accounts for only 1.2 per cent of this figure.

Not that doomed after all?

Computerworld reports:

The criminals have new targets these days, the officials said. Increasingly, they are targeting sectors like retail and hospitality, instead of simply focusing on financial institutions, Martinez said. “Why hack into Citibank and steal 10 million pieces of information when you could hack into restaurants and get the same information and not have a big target, a bulls-eye, on your back?”