Tag Archive for cybersecurity

Cybersecurity: A view from the front lines

The changes in the digital world today represent a dramatically sped-up version of the changes the world underwent in a century of industrialization. It is a paradigm transformation of our world: Notions of a nation’s size, wealth, power, military might, population and G.D.P. mean something altogether different from what they meant a generation ago.

These relations are in constant flux, and old assumptions no longer hold. Today, a small, poor East European country can be a world leader in e-governance and cybersecurity.

In February, the United Nations praised Estonia’s e-Annual Report system, by which entrepreneurs can submit annual reports electronically, as the “best of the best” e-Government application of the past decade. Last autumn, Freedom House ranked Estonia first in Internet freedom for the third year in a row (the United States and Germany were second and third).

More from the New York Times @ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/12/opinion/global/cybersecurity-a-view-from-the-front.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Manual Applies Laws of War to Cyber Attacks

LONDON (AP) — Even cyberwar has rules, and one group of experts is putting out a manual to prove it.

Their handbook, due to be published later this week, applies the practice of international law to the world of electronic warfare in an effort to show how hospitals, civilians and neutral nations can be protected in an information-age fight.

“Everyone was seeing the Internet as the ‘Wild, Wild West,’” U.S. Naval War College Professor Michael Schmitt, the manual’s editor, said in an interview before its official release. “What they had forgotten is that international law applies to cyberweapons like it applies to any other weapons.”

The Tallinn Manual — named for the Estonian capital where it was compiled — was created at the behest of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, a NATO think tank. It takes existing rules on battlefield behavior, such as the 1868 St. Petersburg Declaration and the 1949 Geneva Convention, to the Internet, occasionally in unexpected ways.

Marco Roscini, who teaches international law at London’s University of Westminster, described the manual as a first-of-its-kind attempt to show that the laws of war — some of which date back to the 19th century — were flexible enough to accommodate the new realities of online conflict.

The 282-page handbook has no official standing, but Roscini predicted that it would be an important reference as military lawyers across the world increasingly grapple with what to do about electronic attacks.

from TalkingPointsMemo.com @ http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/cyberwar-manual-appeals-laws-of-war-to-cyber-attacks.php?ref=fpblg

Protecting the Nation’s Electric Grid from Cyber Threats

Protecting the electric system from cyber threats and ensuring its resilience are vital to our national security and economic well-being. This is exactly why cybersecurity is one of four key themes in the White House’s Policy Framework for a 21st Century Grid. For obvious reasons, the private sector shares our interest in a safe and secure electric grid. The Administration has benefited from working closely with industry, including to develop the Roadmap to Achieve Energy Delivery Systems Cybersecurity, released by the Department of Energy last September.

To continue that close cooperation, last week Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Poneman and I, along with senior officials from Department of Homeland Security, hosted industry leaders to discuss a new initiative to further protect the electric grid from cyber risks. This initiative — the Electric Sector Cybersecurity Risk Maturity Model Pilot — is a new White House initiative led by the Department of Energy, in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security, to develop a model to help us identify how secure the electric grid is from cyber threats and test that model with participating utilities. Gaining knowledge about strengths and remaining gaps across the grid will better inform investment planning and research and development, and enhance our public-private partnership efforts.

Read more the U.S. White House blog:

Bradley Manning and the next Security Paradigm: Insider Threats

Bradley Manning Had Secrets from Animate Projects on Vimeo.

Bradley Manning is an Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. Depending on your perspective, he’s become a symbol for high tech whistleblowing, or dangerous cyber-crime. Either way, you should be paying attention to his pre-trial hearing, which unfolded this week. Manning’s case represents a convergence of issues that shed light on the future of lawbreaking and punishment.

Manning’s case is about a novel, but increasingly normal, way that secrets will be leaked to the media. The datadump Manning’s alleged to have handed over to Wikileaks seemed to have been the result of simply running a script to snarf up every piece of classified information he had access to.

Leaks in the era of big data will probably look a lot more like what we see on Wikileaks. People who want to expose bad behavior in their companies or governments will grab what they can and post it. Just as online journalism of the future will be less edited than paper journalism of the twentieth century, online leaks will be unedited too.

Check out the video: http://vimeo.com/animateprojects/bradleymanning

Story From IO9: http://io9.com/5869209/bradley-manning-and-the-future-of-punishment?tag=futurism

US Chamber of Commerce hackers went undetected for one year

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobbying group in the world, was hacked and all of the information stored on its computer systems was accessible to the hackers, who are suspected to have operated out of China. This, according to a stunning report published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.

A Chamber spokesperson told TPM in a statement that the Chamber could “confirm that the quotes and background information provided by the Chamber to the Journal are accurate.”

Even more worrisome, the brazen hack might have remained undetected for up to a year, according to The Journal’s report, which notes that the Chamber only became aware of the intrusion when it was alerted by the FBI.

From the Wall Street Journal:http://online.wsj.com/video/china-hackers-attack-us-chamber-of-commerce/A4DF072E-BD65-4063-ABFF-ECB6A9C0312C.html

As expected: Police start to employ Predator drone spy planes in US

Armed with a search warrant, Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke went looking for six missing cows on the Brossart family farm in the early evening of June 23. Three men brandishing rifles chased him off, he said.

Janke knew the gunmen could be anywhere on the 3,000-acre spread in eastern North Dakota. Fearful of an armed standoff, he called in reinforcements from the state Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances and deputy sheriffs from three other counties.

He also called in a Predator B drone.

As the unmanned aircraft circled 2 miles overhead the next morning, sophisticated sensors under the nose helped pinpoint the three suspects and showed they were unarmed. Police rushed in and made the first known arrests of U.S. citizens with help from a Predator, the spy drone that has helped revolutionize modern warfare.

But that was just the start. Local police say they have used two unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights since June. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration have used Predators for other domestic investigations, officials said.

“We don’t use [drones] on every call out,” said Bill Macki, head of the police SWAT team in Grand Forks. “If we have something in town like an apartment complex, we don’t call them.”

The drones belong to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which operates eight Predators on the country’s northern and southwestern borders to search for illegal immigrants and smugglers. The previously unreported use of its drones to assist local, state and federal law enforcement has occurred without any public acknowledgment or debate.

Congress first authorized Customs and Border Protection to buy unarmed Predators in 2005. Officials in charge of the fleet cite broad authority to work with police from budget requests to Congress that cite “interior law enforcement support” as part of their mission.

From the LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-drone-arrest-20111211,0,324348.story

Watch the software that may be watching you

Though the software is installed on most modern Android, BlackBerry and Nokia phones, Carrier IQ was virtually unknown until 25-year-old Trevor Eckhart of Connecticut analyzed its workings, revealing that the software secretly chronicles a user’s phone experience — ostensibly so carriers and phone manufacturers can do quality control.

But now he’s released a video actually showing the logging of text messages, encrypted web searches and, well, you name it.

Eckhart labeled the software a “rootkit,” and the Mountain View, California-based software maker threatened him with legal action and huge money damages. The Electronic Frontier Foundation came to his side last week, and the company backed off on its threats. The company told Wired.com last week that Carrier IQ’s wares are for “gathering information off the handset to understand the mobile-user experience, where phone calls are dropped, where signal quality is poor, why applications crash and battery life.”

The company denies its software logs keystrokes. Eckhart’s 17-minute video here clearly undercuts that claim.

From Wired magazine: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/11/secret-software-logging-video/

Hackers Leak Facebook Law Enforcement Data Access Guidelines

A group of hackers claiming to represent Anonymous’s Antisec movement hijacked two Gmail accounts belonging to a retired California Department of Justice cybercrimes investigator, now a private investigator, and on November 18 published 38,000 private emails and identifying contact information online.

Among the data published by the hackers in a torrent file were two versions of what appears to be Facebook’s guidelines for law enforcement agencies, according to Public Intelligence, a collaborative research website dedicated to the freedom of information.

Specifically, the documents include instructions on how different law enforcement agencies should submit subpoenas and requests for user data from the world’s largest social network.

Sources close to Facebook told TPM that the newly revealed guideline documents are “outdated,” and that an updated set of law enforcement guidelines is scheduled be made publicly available to all users on Facebook’s Help Center late Wednesday.

The Obama Administration was this year supposed to submit to lawmakers a bill that would allow federal law enforcement agencies the ability to use “back doors” to observe all online communications under wiretap orders, even encrypted communications, according to a New York Times report in October 2010. That legislation has yet to be introduced.

From TPM IdeaLab @: http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/11/hackers-leak-facebook-law-enforcement-guidelines-1.php?ref=fpnewsfeed

Researcher uncovers cyber attack on Illinois water system

Federal investigators are looking into a report that hackers managed to remotely shut down a utility’s water pump in central Illinois last week, in what could be the first known foreign cyber attack on a U.S. industrial system.

The Nov. 8 incident was described in a one-page report from the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center, according to Joe Weiss, a prominent expert on protecting infrastructure from cyber attacks.

The attackers obtained access to the network of a water utility in a rural community west of the state capital Springfield with credentials stolen from a company that makes software used to control industrial systems, according to the account obtained by Weiss. It did not explain the motive of the attackers.

In 2007, researchers at the U.S. government’s Idaho National Laboratories identified a vulnerability in the electric grid, demonstrating how much damage a cyber attack could inflict on a large diesel generator. (To see video that was leaked to CNN: here)

Lani Kass, who retired in September as senior policy adviser to the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States should take the possibility of a cyber attack seriously.

“The going in hypothesis is always that it’s just an incident or coincidence. And if every incident is seen in isolation, it’s hard — if not impossible — to discern a pattern or connect the dots,” Kass told Reuters.

“Failure to connect the dots led us to be surprised on 9/11,” she said, describing the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacking attacks as a prime example in which authorities dismissed indicators of an impending disaster and were caught unaware.

From Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/19/cybersecurity-attack-idUSN1E7AH1QU20111119

Picture from kiwicommoms.com

4 Cyberattacks Cost DoE At Least $2 Million: Number of Identified Weaknesses Up by 60% in Year

The Department of Energy’s non-classified IT systems have recently come under successful cyberattacks at least four times, costing the department more than $2 million, the DoE inspector general said in an audit made public Monday.
The report, part of the department’s annual Federal Information Security Management Act review, didn’t provide details on the cyberattacks, except to peg the cost of three of the four breaches at over $2 million.

“As noted by recent successful attacks at four department locations, exploitation of vulnerabilities can cause significant disruption to operations and/or increases the risk of modification or destruction of sensitive data or programs, and possible theft or improper disclosure of confidential information,” Inspector General Gregory Friedman wrote in the report.

In July, a sophisticated cyberattack shut down Internet and e-mail services at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, an Energy Department facility that conducts IT security research.

Though DoE had expanded efforts to mitigate these risks in the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, more steps must be taken to strengthen department IT from attackers seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in applicatons and products, the inspector general audit said.

From GovInfoSecurity.com: http://www.govinfosecurity.com/p_print.php?t=a&id=4184