Tag Archives: Cyber Warfare

Focus on Kaspersky hides facts of another NSA contractor theft

The Wall Street Journal based their story on the fact that another NSA contractor took classified documents home with him. Yet another Russian intelligence operation stole copies of those documents. The twist this time is that the Russians identified the documents because the contractor had Kaspersky Labs anti-virus installed on his home computer.

This is either an example of the Russians subverting a perfectly reasonable security feature in Kaspersky’s products, or Kaspersky adding a plausible feature at the request of Russian intelligence. In the latter case, it’s a nicely deniable Russian information operation. In either case, it’s an impressive Russian information operation.

This is a huge deal, both for the NSA and Kaspersky. The Wall Street Journal article contains no evidence, only unnamed sources. But I am having trouble seeing how the already embattled Kaspersky Labs survives this.

What’s getting a lot less press is yet another NSA contractor stealing top-secret cyberattack software. What is it with the NSA’s inability to keep anything secret anymore?

And it seems that Israeli intelligence penetrated the Kaspersky network and noticed the operation.

Full story on CRYPTO-GRAM October 15, 2017 by Bruce Schneier CTO, IBM Resilient schneier@schneier.com https://www.schneier.com

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Hacking EirGrid: NCSC MiA, GCHQ Inertia, US Data Centres, & Creating Backdoors to UK/EU Grid

This post was first published by me on Peerlyst on 7th August 2017.

This hack took place last April (2017) but the details are only emerging now. Hackers compromised EirGrid’s routers at Vodafone’s Direct Internet Access (DIA) service at Shotton, Wales. The MITM “virtual wire tap” then intercepted unencrypted messages between EirGrid and SONI (EirGrid NI). Firmware and files were copied from the compromised router devices but there is no estimate as to the scale of the breach or the magnitude of the data that was stolen.

The Role of NCSC & GCHQ

An informed source has confirmed to AirGap Anonymity Collective that this hack was going on for some time before it was “detected” and before EirGrid were informed – that was already reported.

However, the same source is also of the opinion that the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre – part of GCHQ – instructed Vodafone not to tell EirGrid of the breach – while they tried to ascertain who the perpetrators were (understandable) but that this was for an unreasonably extended period of time.

The source is not clear on what portion of the estimated nine weeks of the hack overlapped with GCHQ’s attempts to identify the hackers.

Where was Ireland’s National Cyber Security Centre while all of this was going on?

The Irish National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) & Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT)

Formally established in 2015. Together with the (CSIRT), they have responsibility for Ireland’s national cyber security defences. They say:

“The global cybersecurity threat landscape continues to pose an immense challenge. As part of wider efforts to address these security threats, the Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (NIS Directive) was approved in July 2016. Member States have until May 2018 to implement the NIS Directive, with both the NCSC and CSIRT playing a critical role in this regard.”

Seán Kyne – Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources & Digital Development – discussed the NCSC’s objectives, and offered his thoughts on the nature of the digital security threat to the public and private sector alike in a press conference last month.

INCSC

EirGrid & UK Energy Policy

The UK has become increasingly reliant on off-shore wind farms and it’s power needs are augmented by the purchase of power generated in the Irish Midlands. Irish supplied power is key to the UK meeting its projected 2020 energy needs. The Irish supply is seeking to generate circa 3GW for the UK market.

The Irish national grid is managed by a company called EirGrid. They took over the Irish national grid in 2006 from ESB (the Electricity Supply Board). They own all of the physical electricity transmission assets in the country (about 7000kms of cable (fact check)).

As such, they run a monopoly and nearly all of the large independent generators (Airtricity, Synergen (70% EirGrid) Viridian and others) connect to the transmission system and utilise it to transport their power to all regions and abroad. They also operate the wholesale power market and operate (and own) the 500 MW East–West Interconnector, linking the Irish power system to Great Britain’s grid.

Last month the operator was awarded over €20 million by the EU to fund research into the deployment of renewable energy. Ireland’s own target, set out by the European Union, is to secure 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

“We won’t have enough renewable energy left over to export to the UK without completing some specific projects, such as the proposed Midlands development,” according to Fintan Slye (EirGrid CEO). “There are sufficient renewable projects in train to meet the 2020 targets, but it’ll still be challenging. There are 2,000MW connected across the island – we need to get that to over 4,000MW by 2020.”

The EU is also funding a France-Ireland power link (that bypasses the UK) via an undersea cable as an “obvious solution” to Ireland’s energy reliance on a post-Brexit United Kingdom.

Motives – All Those Data Centres in Ireland & A BackDoor to the EU/UK Grids 

IE DCs

Extract from EirGrid Group All-Island Generation Capacity Statement 2016-2025:

“2.2(d) Data Centres in IrelandA key driver for electricity demand in Ireland for the next number of years is the connection of large data centres.Whether connecting directly to the transmission system or to the distribution network, there is presently about 250 MVA of installed data centres in Ireland. Furthermore, there are connection offers in place (or in the connection process) for approximately a further 600 MVA. At present, there are enquires for another 1,100 MVA. This possibility of an additional 1700 MVA of demand is significant in the context of a system with a peak demand in 2014/15 of about 4700 MW (where it would add 35%). In forecasting future demand, we need to appreciate that data centres normally have a flat demand profile.”

Culprits

Lots but the most likely candidate for this hack is Russia – why? Because I cast lots, sacrificed a chicken, and got my Tarot cards read. And also …

Irish energy networks being targeted by hackers – Hackers have targeted Irish energy networks amid warnings over the potential impact of intensifying cyber attacks on crucial infrastructure. Senior engineers at the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), which supplies both Northern Ireland and the Republic, were sent personalised emails containing malicious software by a group linked to Russia’s GRU intelligence agency, reported.
Inside the Cunning, Unprecedented Hack of Ukraine’s Power Grid – It was 3:30 p.m. last December 23, and residents of the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Western Ukraine were preparing to end their workday and head home through the cold winter streets. Inside the Prykarpattyaoblenergo control center, which distributes power to the region’s residents, operators too were nearing the end of their shift.
Ukraine power cut ‘was cyber-attack’ – BBC News – A power cut that hit part of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, in December has been judged a cyber-attack by researchers investigating the incident. The blackout lasted just over an hour and started just before midnight on 17 December. The cyber-security company Information Systems Security Partners (ISSP) has linked the incident to a hack and blackout in 2015 that affected 225,000.
Hackers targeting UK energy grid, GCHQ warns – Hackers may have compromised Britain’s energy grid, GCHQ has said as it warned that cyber criminals are targeting the country’s energy sector. The security agency said industrial control systems may have already been the victim of attacks by nation state hackers.

 

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Quick Reference Resource Introduction: WikiLeaks CIA Vault 7 Leaks

This series covers links to and analysis of each of the WikiLeaks CIA Vault 7 leaks including:

  1. The WikiLeaks pages;
  2. The associated CIA documents – Specification Documents, Systems Requirements, Installation Guides, User Guides, User Manuals, Test Plans, Tactics Documents, Slides and so on;
  3. Links to external references and sources including The Hacker News (Twitter @TheHackersNews), HackRead (Twitter @HackRead), and Pierluigi Paganini at “Security Affairs”; 
  4. Analysis by other third party publications of each leak;
  5. General comments, notes, and links added by AirGap Anonymity Collective as each leak and its previous deployment is more clearly understood;
  6. How these posts will evolve over time:
    1. The first post will be a generic description of each leak including 1-3 above; 
    2. Content will be added over time and date-stamped to include:
      1. Articles, external resources, and commentary that augment the knowledge base with respect to the basic content of each leak; 
      2. Advice on counter-measures / new research; 
      3. Analysis and examples of the subsequent deployment (in the original form or altered) of these hacking tools by cyber criminals, cyber terrorists, state actors, hackers, and others;
      4. Other information that does not emanate from generic or main stream media sources; 

These documents are marked with various security classifications. To understand what these classifications mean see Understanding NSA / INR Security Classifications on Intelligence Assessments;

Posts in this series to date:

Quick Reference Resource: WikiLeaks CIA Vault7 Leak #14 – OutlawCountry;

Quick Reference Resource: WikiLeaks CIA Vault7 Leak #15 – BothanSpy & Gyrfalcon;

Quick Reference Resource: WikiLeaks CIA Vault7 Leak #16 – HighRise;

Quick Reference Resource: WikiLeaks CIA Vault7 Leak #17 – Imperial: Achilles, SeaPea, & Aeris

Quick Reference Resource: WikiLeaks CIA Vault7 Leak #18 – UCL / Raytheon

Quick Reference Resource: WikiLeaks CIA Vault7 Leak #19 – Dumbo

Quick Reference Resource: WikiLeaks CIA Vault7 Leak #20 – CouchPotato

All third party content is explicitly acknowledged and content or imagery that has been altered or amended for ease of use is clearly marked.  

ENDS

Data Is The New Perimeter in Emerging Age of Corporate-Espionage-as-a-Service

Last Tuesday, July 11 2017 I was pleased to listen to Mike Desens, Vice President, IBM Z and LinuxONE Offering Management, IBM Systems as he took myself and some colleagues through a preview and introduction of the z14 prior to the July 17 announcements *.

The overriding theme of the briefing was that IBM view the z14 as “Designed for Trusted Digital Experiences”. The last twenty four months in particular have seen data breaches that have seriously eroded public confidence in erstwhile trusted institutions and organizations.

There have been hacks that have embarrassed nations, and led to real fears about the risk that insecure data poses to our energy and commercial infrastructures not to mention the veracity of election results but I am not going there.

Shadow Brokers dumps and WikiLeaks releases of alphabet agency backdoors and toolkits have given cyber criminals (even the opportunists), and terrorist outfits almost nuclear-grade hacking capability when compared to 2014.

IBM are hoping that these real fears, but more particularly their real solution, will be the key driver in convincing customers to adopt the new platform.

Been There, Done That

I have seen this before (IBM pinning their hopes of making the mainframe cool by leveraging an unexpected turn of events). I worked on the deep end of the ADSTAR Distributed Storage Manager (ADSM) ESP’s in the early 90’s (renamed Tivoli Storage Manager in 1999).

Back then entire banks ran on less DASD than your kid’s pot burner phone does right now (and that included all the IMS, CICS, and DB2 data). IBM pinned some of their hopes on maintaining their lucrative storage market share on ADSM in the face of EMC inroads. “Disk mirroring” however by EMC was the final blow when EMC turned an engineering weakness into a strength. It cost outsider Ed Zschau, ADSTAR Chairman and CEO, his job in 1995.

IBM had made a very valid argument for ADSM adoption. All that data on the newly acquired (mostly by accident and without permission by rogue business units – especially the capital markets mavericks), rapidly expanding, and poorly managed (in terms of Disaster Recover and Business Continuity at the very least) AS/400, Tandem, and NT infrastructure was best managed on the mainframe storage farm.

This also included using those new-fangled robotic tape libraries on Level 2 (which even appeared in a few movies with perspex exterior, the StorageTek one though, not the IBM Magstar 3494 Tape Library).

It didn’t work though. Mainly because the network couldn’t handle the volumes, and record level backup was never going to work to help reduce the bandwidth requirements to fit the overnight backup windows what with the quagmire of proprietary databases that had sprung up.

GDPR Unwittingly Making the Market for “Corporate-Espionage-As-A-Service”

But I digress so I will briefly digress again to another but equally valid potential driver for z adoption. And that is GDPR. Soon GDPR regulators will be gleefully fining corporates who fail to adequately protect their data the higher of EUR€20M or 4% of annual turnover, for each breach. That’s an instant laxative right there for the entire C-Suite.

But what the proposed GDPR penalty system also makes me wonder is how much of a market maker it is (unwittingly) for Corporate-Espionage-As-A-Service (CEAAS) and Industrial-Espionage-As-A-Service (IEAAS).

Back On Message – Pervasive Encryption

Consequently, IBM have put security at the core of the new platform with “Pervasive Encryption as the new standardAnalytics & Machine Learning for Continuous Intelligence Across the Enterprise, and Open Enterprise Cloud to Extend, Connect and Innovate”.

Here are some stats to keep your CISO awake:

  1. Nearly 5.5 million records are stolen per day, 230,367 per hour and 3,839 per minute (Source:http://breachlevelindex.com/);
  2. Of the 9 Billion records breached since 2013 only 4% were encrypted (Source: http://breachlevelindex.com/);
  3. 26% is the likelihood of an organization having a data breach in the next 24 months(Source: https://www.ibm.com/security/infographics/data-breach/) ;
  4. The greatest security mistake organizations make is failing to protect their networks and data from internal threats. (Source: https://digitalguardian.com/blog/expert-guide-securing-sensitive-data-34-experts-reveal-biggest-mistakes-companies-make-data)

The Z is arguably more powerful, more open and more secure than any commercial system on the planet and the box makes serious moves in the rapidly evolving domains of Machine Learning, Cloud and Blockchain. But again and again the focus comes back to Pervasive Encryption and that is the potential seismic shift that just might make the Z the go-to platform for organisations who can afford their own and the Cloud platform of choice for those who cannot.

Pervasive Encryption Is The New Standard

Back in the day as an MVS370 systems programmer I stressed about downtimes, availability stats, and the SLAs with business units. If I am being honest though I mostly stressed about the long holiday weekends spent in subterranean data centers upgrading ESP code or patching or migrating new releases from TEST to PROD LPARS or doing S390 disk mirrors.

Therefore when I first heard of the this bold new “encrypt it all” call to arms I wondered what the price for this would be in terms of the social lives and general marital stability of SPs globally.

However I am assured that the encryption “migration” involves no application changes, no impact to SLA’s, and that all of this application and database data can be encrypted without interrupting business applications and operations.

What’s Under the Hood

This section of the briefing was prefaced with the statement that the Z will deliver “unrivalled performance for secure workloads.” I have another post in the works with the tech spec dets on the encryption under the hood but for now here’s the 60k foot view:

“Industry exclusive protected key encryption, enabled through integration with a tamper- responding cryptographic HSM. All in-flight network data and API’s, true end-to-end data protection. 4x increase in silicon area allocated to cryptographic operations. 4 – 7x faster encryption of data with enhanced cryptographic performance. 18x fasterencryption than competition at 1/20th the cost to implement. 2x performance boost on Crypto Express6S. Securing the cloud by encrypting APIs 2-3x faster than x86 systems. Linux exploits Protected Key encryption for data at-rest.”

More later.

* From an article originally published on July 18 2017 on my Peerlyst blog

ENDS

Terrorist Technology: “Amn al-Mujahid” (Security of the Mujahid)

On June 7, 2014, the Al­ Fajr Technical Committee (FTC) released an Android version of its ‘Amn Al­-Mujahid’ encryption program. The FTC also announced the launching of its new website – alfajrtaqni.net (now inaccessible).

BLOG - ENC - Amn Al­-Mujahid - Al-Qaeda.Android

The FTC was established in September 2012. It is comprised of an unknown number of individuals with various technical backgrounds. In December 2013, the FTC launched the first version of the encryption program. This version of their software was the evolution of several other encryption programs that were previously deployed for use by jihadis.

Commenting about its new Android app, the FTC wrote on its website:

“Your brothers in the Technical Committee, which belongs to Al-Fajr [media] center, were able to write the ‘Amn Al-Mujahid program. The ‘Amn Al-Mujahid program is characterized by a strong encryption, and it is the best aid for the brothers since it follows the technological advancements [in the field]. The encryption scheme of the program [can be] easily developed and updated [further] if necessary. That is in addition to the program being able to run on mobile phones. Add to that the technological experience… of the brothers in the [Al-Fajr] Technical Committee in the field of encryption, and which made this program more secure. The ‘Amn Al-Mujahid program has been provided with a 4096 bit public key [encryption]… making it the most secure system among the other [encryption] algorithms.”

For a review of AQ’s use of encryption see MEMRI’s Inquiry & Analysis report No. 1086, Al-Qaeda’s Embrace Of Encryption Technology – Part II: 2011-2014, And The Impact Of Edward Snowden April 25, 2014.

A full copy of this MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor is available if you send an email with the report title, number, and date in the subject line, and include your name, title, organization, and official contact info in the body of the email to that organization.

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