NSA’s Plans to Excuse Their Hacker Fuck-Ups: Blame Israel

Wired has a very fascinating interview with Edward Snowden. You should go read the whole thing, among other things, for the swell picture of Snowden posing with Michael Hayden at some black tie event in 2011.

But I wanted to point to this incident.

One day an intelligence officer told him that TAO—a division of NSA hackers—had attempted in 2012 to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major Internet service provider in Syria, which was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. This would have given the NSA access to email and other Internet traffic from much of the country. But something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead—rendered totally inoperable. The failure of this router caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the Internet—although the public didn’t know that the US government was responsible. (This is the first time the claim has been revealed.)

Inside the TAO operations center, the panicked government hackers had what Snowden calls an “oh shit” moment. They raced to remotely repair the router, desperate to cover their tracks and prevent the Syrians from discovering the sophisticated infiltration software used to access the network. But because the router was bricked, they were powerless to fix the problem.

Fortunately for the NSA, the Syrians were apparently more focused on restoring the nation’s Internet than on tracking down the cause of the outage. Back at TAO’s operations center, the tension was broken with a joke that contained more than a little truth: “If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel.”

I assume — but am not certain — this was the outage in question. If so, the response is instructive. At least 3 US-based Internet security firms reported that Syria had brought down the Internet. Were they making stuff up, unable to determine what really happened, or just repeating something US officials told them?

I’m just as interested that — just 6 months after David Sanger’s reporting on how the Israelis let StuxNet escape…

An error in the code, they said, had led it to spread to an engineer’s computer when it was hooked up to the centrifuges. When the engineer left Natanz and connected the computer to the Internet, the American- and Israeli-made bug failed to recognize that its environment had changed. It began replicating itself all around the world. Suddenly, the code was exposed, though its intent would not be clear, at least to ordinary computer users.

“We think there was a modification done by the Israelis,” one of the briefers told the president, “and we don’t know if we were part of that activity.”

NSA’s hackers joked they might hide a major fuck-up by blaming Israel.

I’m sure that’s all just a coinkydink, though.

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3 Responses to NSA’s Plans to Excuse Their Hacker Fuck-Ups: Blame Israel

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel RT @SamWangPhD: Sudden nerdy thought: should I calculate the house effects of all the polling sites and pundits?
1mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @astepanovich Once went into an interview having just heard a smutty joke, got asked, "what's the last joke you heard."
8mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @WeMeantWell Hmm. I see your point. Not Clara, not IZYQ. But something else.
8mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel To think Olive Garden could lose its land just because it doesn't salt its water. http://t.co/YqRCeM2LyA
11mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @Krhawkins5: Daash. Pejorative, authentic, & what Syrian tweeps have used for while (I think it's acronym of transliterated Arabic name)?
13mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @WeMeantWell Nut uh. Must be a Google killer. Where else are you gonna find the string IZYQ except in a really frustrating scrabble hand?
13mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @mcdoobie What if they become the by-comparison-not-so-bad-guys in a few months? Happened with Assad.
16mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Since no one has settled on its name yet, can we rename ISIS/ISIL/IS something that's easier to Google? Maybe IZYQ?
18mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @ErikLoomis But hey. If it wins us back SCOTUS and keeps McCain out of SASC chair, cliche away.
28mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @ErikLoomis Cue "what's the matter with Kansas" headlines.
30mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @Krhawkins5 On many problems think the Courts are poised to fix. This one should be Congress' turn. @matthewstoller @JohnWonderlich
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