FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Holes in NATO’s Cyber Defense Pledge

by

NATO members are currently meeting in Wales to consider a joint defense agreement which stipulates that a cyberattack on one member would represent an attack on all of them [1]. Though the concept of international teamwork may seem appealing at the outset there are at least a couple of issues that officials are [intentionally] neglecting.

High-End Anti-Forensics

For instance, how can countries mobilize to fend off a cyberattack when they can’t even tell who launched it? Deception is an age-old instrument of spy tradecraft and the Pentagon has been actively working on developing Internet stealth technology for decades.

The Tor platform, for example, is based on a technology called onion-routing which sends encrypted network traffic through a cloud of relay computers in an attempt to conceal the source of the traffic. Former military researcher Michael Reed admits that onion routing was originally invented years back on behalf of spies [2]:

“The *PURPOSE* was for DoD / Intelligence usage (open source intelligence gathering, covering of forward deployed assets, whatever). Not helping dissidents in repressive countries.”

Though it receives funding from the military [3], Tor is a poor man’s anonymity suite. As such it’s fallible and has been
blundensuccessfully undermined by U.S. security services on a number of occasions [4]. Contrary to popular belief the people caught weren’t always incompetent. Some of them were technically proficient [5].

Professional spies (you know, the guys with an $80 billion budget) tend to use their own custom platforms. Classified documents reveal that spies regularly scan the internet for vulnerable computers, subvert them with malware, and then merge the compromised machines into a globe-spanning command and control infrastructure. That’s right, the intelligence outfits are creating their own anonymity botnets [6].

“Several times a year, the spy club tries to take control of as many machines as possible, as long as they are abroad. For example, on February 2010 twenty-fourth spies located over 3000 potential ORBs in a single work day”

Funny, this is exactly the same technique used by criminals [7]. How about that?

Seeing an opportunity to make a buck, the private sector has also jumped on this train. Thanks to WikiLeaks we know about a company named Ntrepid that offers an anonymity service called the Internet Operations Network (ION). The company’s glossy marketing literature states [8]:

“ION solutions are built on proprietary technologies that provide multiple layers of indirection, ensuring no link exists between mission personnel and their assets, or between assets. With technologies that transcend simple non-attribution, our hardened security leaves no trace of operational communication.”

 

Black Hats Turn to Old Hat

The hi-tech tools utilized by government spies and purveyed by companies like Ntrepid are augmented by traditional covert measures. You know, the kind of old school stuff you’d read about in a John le Carré novel. Groups like the NSA’s Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO) leverage front organizations, fake identities, and limited hangouts [9]:

“TAO increasingly depends on clandestine techniques, such as commercial cover, to hide its activities. TAO uses an array of commercial business entities, some of them proprietary companies established specifically for this purpose, to try to hide its global computer-hacking activities from computer security experts in a maze of interlocking computer servers and command-and-control systems located in the United States and overseas that have no discernible link to the NSA or the U.S. government.”

How can you possibly track down an attack when the ISP hosting the attack is itself a shadow organization?

What all this means is that just because network traffic is coming from a particular country (ahem, China or Russia) doesn’t mean that Chinese or Russian hackers are to blame. Attacks could be the result of a false flag operation. Documents published by the Intercept corroborate this. They describe a whole series of dirty tricks used by GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG). One of the techniques in JTRIG’s operational playbook is, a drumroll please …false flag operations [10].

Cyber Lord of the Flies

There’s another catch to the NATO’s joint defense scheme. A joint defense agreement is founded on the notion of an external enemy. Can such a pledge withstand the pressure of substantial internal threats?

A house divided against itself cannot stand: the United States Hacks Germany [11], Germany Hacks the United States [12], Germany Hacks Turkey [13], The Israelis hack the United States and the United States hack Israel [14]… I think you get the picture. The idea that NATO members would rally around a common defensive perimeter is laughable because report after report reveals the inconvenient truth that NATO members are too busy breaking into each other’s networks.

Folks, it’s anarchy. Until we mobilize and get our political leaders to outlaw covert ops the government and corporate spies show no sign of letting up. In all probability, as things progress the whole clandestine scene is just going to get worse. This past April Obama openly bragged to China’s leadership that the U.S would be devoting $26 billion to the Pentagon’s cyber trough and expanding the U.S. force to 6,000 so-called “cyberwarriors” [15]. Guess where all of that funding goes to?

The moral of the story is this: when high-level Pentagon types and think tank pundits start yammering about cyberattacks from Russia or China keep in mind that our security services are neck deep in deception ops directed against their alleged allies. History shows that the American Deep State is constantly in search of new enemies, even if it has to fabricate them [16], and our corporate rulers have no scruples about launching attacks that kill untold thousands of innocent people so that they can boost quarterly profits.

Bill Blunden is an independent investigator whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including The Rootkit Arsenal , and Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex. Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs.

 

End Notes

[1] David Sanger, “NATO Set to Ratify Pledge on Joint Defense in Case of Major Cyberattack,” New York Times, August 31, 2014.

[2] “TOR Made for USG Open Source Spying Says Maker,” Cryptome, March 22, 2011.

[3] Yasha Levine, “Almost everyone involved in developing Tor was (or is) funded by the US government,” Pando, July 16, 2014.

[4] Bill Blunden, “The NSA Wants You to Trust Tor, Should You?,” Counterpunch, July 18-20, 2014.

[5] Kim Zetter, “Federal Cybersecurity Director Found Guilty on Child Porn Charges,” Wired, August 26, 2014.

[6] Julian Kirsch, Christian Grothoff, Monika Ermert, Jacob Appelbaum, Laura Poitras, Henrik Moltke, “NSA/GCHQ: The HACIENDA Program for Internet Colonization,” Heise Online, August 15, 2014.

[7] Sergey Golovanov and Igor Soumenkov, “TDL4 – Top Bot”, SecureList, June 27, 2011.

[8] https://www.wikileaks.org/spyfiles/docs/NTREPID-2011-IONInteOper-en.pdf

[9] Matthew Aid, “The NSA’s New Code Breakers,” Foreign Policy, October 15, 2013.

[10] Glenn Greenwald, “How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations,” Intercept, February 24, 2014.

[11] “Embassy Espionage: The NSA’s Secret Spy Hub in Berlin,” Der Spiegel, October 27, 2013.

[12] Alexandra Hudson, “German security recorded Clinton conversation: media,” Reuters, August 15, 2014.

[13] “Targeting Turkey: How Germany Spies on Its Friends,” Der Spiegel, August 18, 2014.

[14] Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, “NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel,” Guardian, September 11, 2013.

[15] David Sanger, “U.S. Tries Candor to Assure China on Cyberattacks,” New York Times, April 6, 2014.

[16] Bill Blunden, “The Zero-Sum Game of Perpetual Conflict,” Counterpunch, September 2, 2014.

 

 

Bill Blunden is a journalist whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including “The Rootkit Arsenal” andBehold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex.” Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs and a member of the California State University Employees Union, Chapter 305.

February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail