NSA, Not China, the Global BIOS Suicide Cyber-Bomber

Remember when, to fearmonger as part of 60 Minutes NSA propaganda, they warned of a Chinese attack on the US economy that, if launched, would have amounted to China acting as a suicide cyber-bomber?

The attack would have targeted computers’ BIOS.

Then there’s the scary BIOS plot.

I’ll need to go back and review this, but the jist of the scary claim at the heart of the report is that the NSA caught China planning a BIOS plot to shut down the global economy.

To.

Shut.

Down.

The.

Global.

Economy.

Of course, if that happened, it’d mean a goodly percentage of China’s 1.3 billion people would go hungry, which would lead to unbelievable chaos in China, which would mean the collapse of the state in China, the one thing the Chinese elite want to prevent more than anything.

But the NSA wants us to believe that this was actually going to happen.

That China was effectively going to set off a global suicide bomb. Strap on the economy in a cyber-suicide vest and … KABOOOOOOOM!

And the NSA heroically thwarted that attack.

The invocation of a BIOS attack was meant to provide authenticity and (for those who didn’t realize how obvious this is, mystery), I think.

But I find it particularly ironic that inserting backdoors into BIOS is (or was, back in 2008) the preferred method of NSA’s Access Network Technology group, which provides tools to access hardware and software.

It also develops software for special tasks. The ANT developers have a clear preference for planting their malicious code in so-called BIOS, software located on a computer’s motherboard that is the first thing to load when a computer is turned on.

This has a number of valuable advantages: an infected PC or server appears to be functioning normally, so the infection remains invisible to virus protection and other security programs. And even if the hard drive of an infected computer has been completely erased and a new operating system is installed, the ANT malware can continue to function and ensures that new spyware can once again be loaded onto what is presumed to be a clean computer. The ANT developers call this “Persistence” and believe this approach has provided them with the possibility of permanent access.

Again, this is not surprising. It’s just a means of doing what the NSA wants to acquire.

Still, it highlights the degree to which most fearmongering claims the NSA makes may well be projection about its own activities.

That said, given the list of companies whose products they’ve compromised, it may serve as a kind of suicide bomb against the tech industry:

  • Juniper Networks
  • Cisco
  • Huawei
  • Western Digital
  • Seagate
  • Maxtor
  • Samsung

Again, that ANT tampers with Huawei products is not surprising, but it is ironic, given that we not only won’t let Huawei do business in the US, but increasingly want to keep them out of our close allies’ networks, all because of concerns China would require the company to insert back doors into Huawei equipment.

Maybe those back doors are really NSA’s?

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz My question at the outset was why GM concealment was not bankruptcy fraud; now that will be litigated. Good. http://t.co/CCL3wm2HYE
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @trevortimm Be terrified. Very terrified. Cause what you saw is, I think, all you get.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @johnson_carrie According to my wife, "impossible jerk" characterizes lawyers in many locales @npratc
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bmaz @HoltenMark @mucha_carlos @ColMorrisDavis @KenDilanianLAT The constitutional framing is amazingly resilient, but resets are slow.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @HoltenMark @mucha_carlos @ColMorrisDavis @KenDilanianLAT I represent far too many of the former and lament the latter. Things change though
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @HoltenMark @mucha_carlos @ColMorrisDavis @KenDilanianLAT Frankly, US can exert such influence, will not be effective foreign prosec either
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @HoltenMark @mucha_carlos @ColMorrisDavis @KenDilanianLAT Yes, in these considerations, that is exactly right. Not happening.
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @HoltenMark @mucha_carlos @ColMorrisDavis @KenDilanianLAT I wasn't being a smart ass, just honest as to situation.
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @mucha_carlos @ColMorrisDavis @KenDilanianLAT @HoltenMark Safe enough bet; no administration will want to open that can of worms.
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @mucha_carlos @ColMorrisDavis @KenDilanianLAT @HoltenMark ...ought to give pause in above regards too. If DOJ ever cared about these crimes.
4hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @mucha_carlos @ColMorrisDavis @KenDilanianLAT @HoltenMark Well, yes, and the wild expansion of extraterritorial jurisdiction in other cases
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bmaz @ColMorrisDavis @KenDilanianLAT @HoltenMark Granted, what Im saying applies to execution of US nationals as opposed to foreign nationals.
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