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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24 Responses to NSA, Not China, the Global BIOS Suicide Cyber-Bomber

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Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz The modern police, cops first citizen's lives second, state is pervasive+invasive: We need to step, and get, back: https://t.co/W6CdD0Np3f
7mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Also, anyone want to start a pool on how long Bandar will really be booted this time?
20mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Can someone ring me when the definitive account of the Bandar booting is done?
20mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @biasedreporter Huh. For how long, this time?
28mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel If we had 5 Judge Rakoffs in every federal courthouse this country would be in better shape.
30mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @biasedreporter Whatever. @AC360 did a fantastic job with Marissa Alexander and @JeffreyToobin They really did given TV constraints.
57mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz It is 70º and dry where I am in Phoenix. I'm a punch the next pasty ass visitor from Seattle or New England that complains about the weather
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emptywheel @charliearchy Man, who do I ask to be able to use "fucked" in a Salon headline?
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bmaz If you all in the Beltway think Loretta Lynch is grand bi-partisany nom, and not the worst of Holder without the best of him, quit you jobs.
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emptywheel Walter Pincus apparently wasn't not watching the trial I actually watched. https://t.co/DdM3C20iFV
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bmaz If Orrin Hatch will support+McConnell will let through, Lynch's nom, that is NOT a sign of "bi-patisanship" you Beltway morons. Wake up.
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emptywheel @electrospaces Plurality of orders used by FBI to get Internet data not available using NSLs. That FBI gets directly. @dametzger
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