Archive for June 2011

Debriefing on the different “hacktivist” groups making the news these days

The Internet has never been a safe place, and since its inception, and introduction to consumers, privacy and security have been a major concern. Of course, now that the average person’s computer skills are many times over what they used to be, that only amplifies the problem. Couple this with the fact that millions and millions of people are uploading mass amounts of personal and sensitive data and you’ve got a recipe for some serious cyber-insecurity. The advent of hackers with a conscience has exacerbated the situation while also putting a new twist on Web ethics.

Anonymous and LulzSec have become household names, and their Internet antics have captured the attention of just about everyone, including the CIA. But as identities and opponents merge, the cyberwar landscape has become confusing. Here’s an introductory course on the “who’s who” of hackers.

From Digital Trends:

Hackers capture and release personal data from former British PM Tony Blair

A hacker group has published what appears to be the address book and other private data of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The leak includes the names, phone numbers and addresses of numerous British politicians and personal contacts, as well as Blair’s National Insurance number, the equivalent of a Social Security Number in the US.

The data, published to around 6:30pm EST Friday, was originally stolen “via a private exploit” in December 2010, according to the Team Poison post. The group says that they “still have access to the mail server.” According to a Blair spokesman, however, the data was not obtained from Blair himself, but rather the personal email account of a former staffer.

“This information has not been obtained from Tony Blair or any of his office systems,” the spokesman said in an email to CNN. “This appears to be information from the personal email account of a former member of staff from a few years ago.”

Team Poison member “TriCk” rebutted the claims, saying on Twitter that “Blairs [sic] sheep are lying about how we got the info.”

TriCk says that the leak is retribution for Blair’s role in the “War on Terror” and his support of the US-led war in Iraq. “Tony Blair is a war criminal, he should be locked up,” writes TriCk.

From Digital Trends:

How to pick a password that’s hard to hack

Most hacker victims use email passwords that are easy to decipher. A good password doesn’t have to be impossible to remember. Here are tips for protecting your accounts.

From the Los Angeles Times:,0,3456346.story

SPECIAL REPORT: US Government takes steps to secure “the cloud”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon is about to roll out an expanded effort to safeguard its contractors from hackers and is building a virtual firing range in cyberspace to test new technologies, according to officials familiar with the plans, as a recent wave of cyber attacks boosts concerns about U.S. vulnerability to digital warfare.

The twin efforts show how President Barack Obama’s administration is racing on multiple fronts to plug the holes in U.S. cyber defenses.

Notwithstanding the military’s efforts, however, the overall gap appears to be widening, as adversaries and criminals move faster than government and corporations, and technologies such as mobile applications for smart phones proliferate more rapidly than policymakers can respond, officials and analysts said.

A Reuters examination of American cyber readiness produced the following findings:

* Spin-offs of the malicious code dubbed “agent.btz” used to attack the military’s U.S. Central Command in 2008 are still roiling U.S. networks today. People inside and outside the U.S. government strongly suspect Russia was behind the attack, which was the most significant known breach of military networks.

* There are serious questions about the security of “cloud computing,” even as the U.S. government prepares to embrace that technology in a big way for its cost savings.

* The U.S. electrical grid and other critical nodes are still vulnerable to cyber attack, 13 years after then-President Bill Clinton declared that protecting critical infrastructure was a national priority.

* While some progress has been made in coordinating among government agencies with different missions, and across the public-private sector gap, much remains to be done.

* Government officials say one of the things they fear most is a so-called “zero-day attack,” exploiting a vulnerability unknown to the software developer until the strike hits.

That’s the technique that was used by the Stuxnet worm that snarled Iran’s enriched uranium-producing centrifuges last summer, and which many experts say may have been created by the United States or Israel. A mere 12 months later, would-be hackers can readily find digital tool kits for building Stuxnet-like weapons on the Internet, according to a private-sector expert who requested anonymity.

From TPM IdeLab at:

Internet Service Providers Partnering With NSA On Web Security

Three U.S. Internet service providers are working with the National Security Agency to filter the Internet traffic flowing to 15 defense contractors in an effort to block hacker attacks, according to The Washington Post.

The pilot program began last month on a voluntary basis and uses the high-tech spying agency’s data sets to identify malicious programs that hackers try to send to infect the contractors’ networks.

The network providers are AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink.

The defense contractors participating in the project include CSC, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Gruman and SAIC.

The Post quotes Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III as saying that he hopes that the program will be extended to protect other parts of critical U.S. infrastructure.

The program took a year to launch because both the NSA and the contractors had to work through privacy and national security issues.

Both sides say they had to make sure that the system complied with privacy concerns. The NSA was worried about classified information “getting in the hands of adversaries.”

The prime concern of civil liberties’ advocates and private sector companies is that a project focusing on monitoring networks for malicious code could be used as a surveillance program for other network traffic.

From TPM IdeaLab:

Same Hackers attack CIA website?!?

The Lulz Security group of hackers said in a Tweet that it had launched an attack on the public website of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

The site,, was unavailable for a few minutes on Wednesday evening, immediately after the group announced the attack via Twitter.

“We are looking into these reports,” a CIA spokeswoman said.

from Reuters:

Computer systems of the U.S. Executive Branch and Congress were probed or attacked an average of 1.8 billion times per month in 2010

The hackers who broke into the Senate’s public web server over the week-end gained access through a security hole on an unidentified senator’s web site, said the Senate sergeant at arms on Tuesday.

The shadowy group, which calls itself Lulz Security, didn’t break through the senate’s firewall and gain access to its internal computer system. Instead, it just accessed’s file directory.

Nevertheless, the sergeant at arms’ office on Tuesday issued a statement saying that the group was able to do this because of a security vulnerability on a senator’s web site. The office said that it doesn’t maintain sites for individual senators, but that it closed the security hole after it was discovered.

“As always, we continue to work with our federal cyber security and law enforcement partners to enhance the security of federal government websites,” the office said in a statement issued to the press.

“We are also initiating a review of all the sites hosted on, urging the individuals responsible for those sites to conduct their own review, and continuing to take other actions to safeguard the Senate’s public Web presence.”

Along with the poached server logs, Lulz Security posted a note on its web site with the following message:

Greetings friends,
We don’t like the US government very much. Their boats are
weak, their lulz are low, and their sites aren’t very secure.
In an attempt to help them fix their issues, we’ve decided
to donate additional lulz in the form of owning them some more!

This is a small, just-for-kicks release of some internal data
from – is this an act of war, gentlemen? Problem?

– Lulz Security

The week-end prank was one of the latest of a rash of high-profile break-ins that the group has conducted over the past month.

The group has broken into a television talent show’s system in the United Kingdom to expose its database of 250,000 contestants — some of whom are minors, and whose names, dates of birth, phone numbers and e-mail addresses are now openly available on the web.

Lulz Security’s other targets over the past month include, Sony, a database connected to a an ATM somewhere in the U.K., PBS, Nintendo, the F.B.I. various gaming companies and Infraguard, a body run by the F.B.I. that works in partnership with the private sector to secure networks.

The group actually announces its targets on Twitter and maintains a phone line, where it encourages people to leave messages at 614-LULZSEC, where a message tells callers “We are not available right now, as we are too busy raping the internets!”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine said in a press statement on Tuesday that “the computer systems of the Executive Branch agencies and the Congress were probed or attacked an average of 1.8 billion times per month last year.”

From TalkingPointsMemo’s IdeaLab at:

International Monetary Fund cyber attack calls for global action

The International Monetary Fund has joined Sony and Google on a growing list of hacking victims but it is hard to identify the culprits who consistently manage to keep one technological step ahead of their pursuers.

“This is an example of technology developing faster than the frameworks and sometimes the regulations around that,” said Unilever chief executive Paul Polman on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum meeting in Jakarta.

Cyber security experts say the only way to effectively combat the menace is for the public and private sectors to join forces and combine greater regulation with international action.

From at

Citi says hackers were able to access bank card data

Citigroup Inc said computer hackers breached the bank’s network and accessed the data of about 200,000 bank card holders in North America, the latest of a string of cyber attacks on high-profile companies.

Citi said the names of customers, account numbers and contact information, including email addresses, were viewed in the breach, which the Financial Times said was discovered by the bank in early May.

However, Citi said other information such as birth dates, social security numbers, card expiration dates and card security codes (CVV) were not compromised.

“We are contacting customers whose information was impacted. Citi has implemented enhanced procedures to prevent a recurrence of this type of event,” Sean Kevelighan, a U.S.-based spokesman, said by email.

“For the security of these customers, we are not disclosing further details.”

In the brief email statement, Citi did not say how the breach had occurred.

From TPM:

Apple Unveils New Cloud Computing Strategy

Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Monday unveiled the company’s revamped strategy to cloud computing, showing off how users can create content and buy music from one computer or device, and have it all appear seamlessly on their other Apple devices without having to manually plug in and synchronize their devices any more.

Jobs took to the stage at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco Monday morning to a standing ovation.

He and his colleagues spent the morning detailing the the hundreds of improvements that Apple has been making to its personal computer operating system, its mobile device operating system, and its revamped online computing strategy.

The biggest change Apple revealed was its iCloud strategy, which replaces its MobileMe subscription service, which was plagued by inconsistency.

The new iCloud service is free, and it automatically synchs document, photo, music and book applications across multiple devices.
From TalkingPointsMemo: