Flame

Stuxnet and the Poisons that Open Your Eyes

Poison_EUstdimage-Wikipedia_200px_mod2Playwright August Strindberg wrote, “…There are poisons that blind you, and poisons that open your eyes.

We’ve been blinded for decades by complacency and stupidity, as well as our trust. Most Americans still naively believe that our government acts responsibly and effectively as a whole (though not necessarily its individual parts).

By effectively, I mean Americans believed their government would not deliberately launch a military attack that could affect civilians — including Americans — as collateral damage. Such a toll would be minimized substantively. Yesterday’s celebration related to the P5+1 interim agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear development program will lull most Americans into deeper complacency. The existing system worked, right?

But U.S. cyber warfare to date proves otherwise. The government has chosen to deliberately poison the digital waters so that all are contaminated, far beyond the intended initial target.

There’s very little chance of escaping the poison, either. The ubiquity of U.S. standards in hardware and software technology has ensured this. The entire framework — the stack of computing and communications from network to user applications — has been affected.

• Network: Communications pathways have been tapped, either to obtain specific content, or obtain a mirror copy of all content traveling through it. It matters not whether telecom network, or internal enterprise networks.

• Security Layer: Gatekeeping encryption has been undermined by backdoors and weakened standards, as well as security certificates offering handshake validation
between systems.

• Operating Systems: Backdoors have been obtained, knowingly or unknowingly on the part of OS developers, using vulnerabilities and design flaws. Not even Linux can be trusted at this point (Linux progenitor Linus Torvalds has not been smart enough to offer a dead man’s switch notification.)

• User Applications: Malware has embedded itself in applications, knowingly or unknowingly on the part of app developers.

End-to-end, top-to-bottom and back again, everything digital has been touched in one layer of the framework or another, under the guise of defending us against terrorism and cyber warfare.

Further, the government watchdogs entrusted to prevent or repair damage have become part and parcel of the problem, in such a way that they cannot effectively be seen to defend the public’s interests, whether those of individual citizens or corporations. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has overseen the establishment and implementation of weak encryption standards for example; it has also taken testimony [PDF] from computing and communications framework hardware and software providers, in essence hearing where the continued weak spots will be for future compromise.

The fox is watching the hen house, in other words, asking for testimony pointing out the weakest patches installed on the hen house door.

The dispersion of cyber poison was restricted only in the most cursory fashion.

Stuxnet’s key target appears to have been Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, aiming at its SCADA equipment, but it spread far beyond and into the private sector as disclosed by Chevron. The only protection against it is the specificity of its end target, rendering the rest of the malware injected but inert. It’s still out there.

Duqu, a “sibling” cyber weapon, was intended for widespread distribution, its aims two-fold. It delivered attack payload capability, but it also delivered espionage capability.

• Ditto for Flame, yet another “sibling” cyber weapon, likewise intended for widespread distribution, with attack payload and espionage capability.

There could be more than these, waiting yet to be discovered.

In the case of both Duqu and Flame, there is a command-and-control network of servers still in operation, still communicating with instances of these two malware cyber weapons. The servers’ locations are global — yet another indicator of the planners’/developers’ intention that these weapons be dispersed widely.

Poison everything, everywhere.

But our eyes are open now. We can see the poisoners fingerprints on the work they’ve done, and the work they intend to do. Continue reading

Side by Side: Timeline of NSA’s Communications Collection and Cyber Attacks

In all the reporting and subsequent hubbub about the National Security Administration’s ongoing collection of communications, two things stood out as worthy of additional attention:

— Collection may have been focused on corporate metadata;

— Timing of NSA’s access to communications/software/social media firms occurred alongside major cyber assault events, particularly the release of Stuxnet, Flame, and Duqu.

Let’s compare timelines; keep in mind these are not complete.

Date

NSA/Business

Cyber Attacks

11-SEP-2007

Access to MSFT servers acquired

15-NOV-2007

Stuxnet 0.5 discovered in wild

XX-DEC-2007

File name of Flame’s main component observed

12-MAR-2008

Access to Yahoo servers acquired

All 2008 (into 2009)

Adobe applications suffer from 6+ challenges throughout the year, including attacks on Tibetan Government in Exile via Adobe products.

11-JAN-2009

Stuxnet 0.5 “ends” calls home

14-JAN-2009

Access to Google servers acquired

Mid-2009

Operation Aurora attacks begin; dozens of large corporations confirming they were targets.

03-JUN-2009

Access to Facebook servers acquired

22-JUN-2009

Date Stuxnet version 1.001 compiled

04-JUL-2009

Stuxnet 0.5 terminates infection process

07-DEC-2009

Access to PalTalk servers acquired

XX-DEC-2009

Operation Aurora attacks continue through Dec 2009

12-JAN-2010

Google discloses existence of Operation Aurora, said attacks began in mid-December 2009

13-JAN-2010

Iranian physicist killed by motorcycle bomb

XX-FEB-2010

Flame operating in wild

10-MAR-2010

Date Stuxnet version 1.100 compiled

14-APR-2010

Date Stuxnet version 1.101 compiled

15-JUL-2010

Langner first heard about Stuxnet

19-SEP-2010

DHS, INL, US congressperson informed about threat posed by “Stuxnet-inspired malware”

24-SEP-2010

Access to YouTube servers acquired

29-NOV-2010

Iranian scientist killed by car bomb

06-FEB-2011

Access to Skype servers acquired

07-FEB-2011

AOL announces agreement to buy HuffingtonPost

31-MAR-2011

Access to AOL servers acquired

01-SEP-2011

Duqu worm discovered

XX-MAY-2012

Flame identified

08-JUN-2012

Date on/about “suicide” command issued to Flame-infected machines

24-JUN-2012

Stuxnet versions 1.X terminate infection processes

XX-OCT-2012

Access to Apple servers acquired (date NA)

Again, this is not everything that could be added about Stuxnet, Flame, and Duqu, nor is it everything related to the NSA’s communications collection processes. Feel free to share in comments any observations or additional data points that might be of interest.

Please also note the two deaths in 2010; Stuxnet and its sibling applications were not the only efforts made to halt nuclear proliferation in Iran. These two events cast a different light on the surrounding cyber attacks.

Lastly, file this under “dog not barking”:

Why aren’t any large corporations making a substantive case to their customers that they are offended by the NSA’s breach of their private communications through their communications providers?

DiFi Admits She Okayed Unleashing 21st Century WMD with Inadequate Details

The reason Dianne Feinstein is so torqued about the StuxNet story, according to this SFChron piece, is because she learned things from it that she didn’t know as a Gang of Four member.

Feinstein declared, “This has to stop. When people say they don’t want to work with the United States because they can’t trust us to keep a secret, that’s serious.”

A week later, Feinstein is more than halfway through New York Times reporter David E. Sanger’s book, “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.” She told me Wednesday, “You learn more from the book than I did as chairman of the intelligence committee, and that’s very disturbing to me.”

Now, as a threshold matter, I think DiFi and others are underestimating how much our foreign partners are leaking on these stories; not only did foreign sources serve as early confirmation on UndieBomb 2.0, but the Saudis and Yemenis exposed the last infiltrator the Saudis put into AQAP.  And as for StuxNet, the Israelis are now complaining that Sanger didn’t give them enough credit.

The Israeli officials actually told me a different version. They said that it was Israeli intelligence that began, a few years earlier, a cyberspace campaign to damage and slow down Iran’s nuclear intentions. And only later they managed to convince the USA to consider a joint operation — which, at the time, was unheard of. Even friendly nations are hesitant to share their technological and intelligence resources against a common enemy.

Plus, if and when Israel bombs Iran and has to deal with the retaliation, I can assure you the Israelis will be happy to work with us.

And there’s a far bigger problem here. DiFi was not a Gang of Four member when this program started under Bush (Jay Rockefeller would have been the Democrat from the Senate Intelligence Committee). But she seems to say she got what passed for briefing on StuxNet.

Yet she’s learning new details from Sanger.

StuxNet is, both because it can be reused by non-state actors and because of the ubiquity of the PLCs they affected, the 21st Century version of a WMD. And all that’s before we learned Flame was using Microsoft’s update function.

Now from the sounds of things, DiFi never had the opportunity to authorize letting StuxNet free; the Israelis don’t have to brief the Gang of Four. But the possibility StuxNet would break free on its own always existed. One reason we have Congressional overseers is to counterbalance spooks whose enthusiasm for an op might cloud any judgment about the wisdom of pursuing that op.

The US, in partnership with Israel, released a WMD to anyone who could make use of it. And the people in charge of overseeing such activities got fewer details about the WMD than you could put in a long-form newspaper article.

And DiFi thinks there’s too little secrecy?

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz On behalf of Cheeseheads everywhere, from the heart of Mr. Rodger's neighborhood, thank you sincerely to the New England Patriots.
18mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @nickmanes1 I jinxed him.
57mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @nickmanes1 A lot of great passes were dropped, even by people who normally catch them.
59mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Vince Wilfork got almost up to sumo weight in his injury year. He'd be damn good at sumo, I bet.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @nickmanes1 Had said if Kitties kept penalties low and Stafford avoided picks they might have a chance. Forgot to say, "catch the ball."
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Stafford fucked up the slide.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @matthewstoller Gonna write a post on this.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @barrettmarson @CBS5AZSPORTS Ya think? If only maybe local affiliates could do more than tweet about it.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @barrettmarson: NFL needs a little scrutiny about their TV rights. @bmaz @CBS5AZSPORTS
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @Ali_Gharib The Israelis aren't patient. But then they didn't have to be patient to develop their nukes.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @barrettmarson @CBS5AZSPORTS ..are home host for Lions, that is within the CBS purview. Yet we get this Cinci/Texans bullshit. Inexcusable.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @barrettmarson @CBS5AZSPORTS My understanding is the home team determines the jurisdiction of network broadcast rights. Since the Patriots..
2hreplyretweetfavorite
November 2014
S M T W T F S
« Oct    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30