February 2014 Archives

NEBULA: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

NEBULA

(S//SI//FVEY) Multi-Protocol macro-class Network-In-a-Box (NIB) system. Leverages the existing Typhon GUI and supports GSM, UMTS, CDMA2000 applications. LTE capability currently under development.

(S//SI//REL) Operational Restrictions exist for equipment deployment.

(S//SI//REL) Features:

  • Dual Carrier System
  • EGSM 900MHz
  • UMTS 2100MHz
  • CDMA2000 1900MHz
  • Macro-class Base station
  • 32+Km Range
  • Optional Battery Kits
  • Highly Mobile and Deployable
  • Integrated GPS, MS, & 802.11
  • Voice & High-speed Data

(S//SI//REL) Advanced Features:

  • GPS -- Supporting NEBULA applications
  • Designed to be self-configuring with security and encryption features
  • 802.11 -- Supports high speed wireless LAN remote command and control

(S//SI//REL) Enclosure:

  • 8.5"H x 13.0"W x 16.5"D
  • Approximately 45 lbs
  • Actively cooled for extreme environments

(S//SI//REL) NEBULA System Kit:

  • NEBULA System
  • 3 Interchangeable RF bands
  • AC/DC power converter
  • Antenna to support MS, GPS, WIFI, & RF
  • LAN, RF, & USB cables
  • Pelican Case
  • (Field Kit only) Control Laptop and Accessories

(S//SI//REL) Separately Priced Options:

  • 1500 WH LiIon Battery Kit

(S//SI//REL) Base Station Router Platform:

  • Multiple BSR units can be interconnected to form a macro network using 802.3 and 802.11 back-haul.
  • Future GPRS and HSDPA data service and associated application

Status:

Unit Cost: $250K

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 28, 2014 at 2:16 PM9 Comments

Decoding the Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript has been partially decoded. This seems not to be a hoax. And the manuscript seems not to be a hoax, either.

Here's the paper.

Posted on February 28, 2014 at 6:25 AM21 Comments

GENESIS: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

GENESIS

(S//SI//REL) Commercial GSM handset that has been modified to include a Software Defined Radio (SDR) and additional system memory. The internal SDR allows a witting user to covertly perform network surveys, record RF spectrum, or perform handset location in hostile environments.

(S//SI//REL) The GENESIS systems are designed to support covert operations in hostile environments. A witting user would be able to survey the local environment with the spectrum analyzer tool, select spectrum of interest to record, and download the spectrum information via the integrated Ethernet to a laptop controller. The GENESIS system could also be used, in conjunction with an active interrogator, as the finishing tool when performing Find/Fix/Finish operations in unconventional environments.

(S//SI//REL) Features:

  • Concealed SDR with Handset Menu Interface
  • Spectrum Analyzer Capability
  • Find/Fix/Finish Capability
  • Integrated Ethernet
  • External Antenna Port
  • Internal 16 GB of storage
  • Multiple Integrated Antennas

(S//SI//REL) Future Enhancements:

  • 3G Handset Host Platform
  • Additional Host Platforms
  • Increased Memory Capacity
  • Additional Find/Fix/Finish Capabilities
  • Active Interrogation Capabilities

Status: Current GENESIS platform available. Future platforms available when developments are completed.

Unit Cost: $15K

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 2:08 PM15 Comments

Was the iOS SSL Flaw Deliberate?

Last October, I speculated on the best ways to go about designing and implementing a software backdoor. I suggested three characteristics of a good backdoor: low chance of discovery, high deniability if discovered, and minimal conspiracy to implement.

The critical iOS vulnerability that Apple patched last week is an excellent example. Look at the code. What caused the vulnerability is a single line of code: a second "goto fail;" statement. Since that statement isn't a conditional, it causes the whole procedure to terminate.

The flaw is subtle, and hard to spot while scanning the code. It's easy to imagine how this could have happened by error. And it would have been trivially easy for one person to add the vulnerability.

Was this done on purpose? I have no idea. But if I wanted to do something like this on purpose, this is exactly how I would do it.

EDITED TO ADD (2/27): If the Apple auditing system is any good, they would be able to trace this errant goto line not just to the source-code check-in details, but to the specific login that made the change. And they would quickly know whether this was just an error, or a deliberate change by a bad actor. Does anyone know what's going on inside Apple?

EDITED TO ADD (2/27): Steve Bellovin has a pair of posts where he concludes that if this bug is enemy action, it's fairly clumsy and unlikely to be the work of professionals.

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 6:03 AM168 Comments

ENTOURAGE: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

ENTOURAGE

(S//SI//REL) Direction Finding application operating on the HOLLOWPOINT platform. The system is capable of providing line of bearing for GSM/UMTS/CDMA2000/FRS signals. A band-specific antenna and laptop controller is needed to compliment the HOLLOWPOINT system and completes the ground based system.

(S//SI) The ENTOURAGE application leverages the 4 Software Defined Radio (SDR) units in the HOLLOWPOINT platform. This capability provides an "Artemis-like" capability for waveforms of interest (2G,3G,others). The ENTOURAGE application works in conjunction with the NEBULA active interrogator as part of the Find/Fix/Finish capabilities of the GALAXY program.

(S//SI//REL) Features:

  • Software Defined Radio System
  • Operating range 10MHz - 4GHz
  • 4 Receive paths, all synchronized
  • 1 Transmit path
  • DF capability on GSM/UMTS/CDMA2000/FRS signals
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Integrated GPS
  • Highly Mobile and Deployable

(S//SI//REL) Enclosure:

  • 1.8"H x 8.0"W x 8.0"D
  • Approximately 3 lbs
  • 15 Watts
  • Passively cooled

(S//SI//REL) Future Developments:

  • WiMAX
  • WiFi
  • LTE

Status: The system is in the final testing stage and will be in production Spring 09.

Unit Cost: $70K

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 26, 2014 at 2:38 PM21 Comments

DDoSing a Cell Phone Network

Interesting research:

Abstract: The HLR/AuC is considered to be one of the most important network elements of a 3G network. It can serve up to five million subscribers and at least one transaction with HLR/AuC is required for every single phone call or data session. This paper presents experimental results and observations that can be exploited to perform a novel distributed denial of service attack in 3G networks that targets the availability of the HLR/AuC. More specifically, first we present an experiment in which we identified and proved some zero-day vulnerabilities of the 3G network that can be exploited by malicious actors to mount various attacks. For the purpose of our experiment, we have used off-the-shelf infrastructure and software, without any specialized modification. Based on the observations of the experiment, we reveal an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) in 3G networks that aims to flood an HLR/AuC of a mobile operator. We also prove that the discovered APT can be performed in a trivial manner using commodity hardware and software, which is widely and affordably available.

The attack involves cloning SIM cards, then making multiple calls from different handsets in different locations with the same SIM card. This confuses the network into thinking that the same phone is in multiple places at once.

Note that this has not been tested in the field, but there seems no reason why it wouldn't work.

There's a lot of insecurity in the fact that cell phones and towers largely trust each other. The NSA and FBI use that fact for eavesdropping, and here it's used for a denial-of-service attack.

Posted on February 26, 2014 at 6:55 AM14 Comments

EBSR: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

EBSR

(S//SI//REL) Multi-purpose, Pico class, tri-band active GSM base station with internal 802.11/GPS/handset capability.

(S//SI//REL) Operational Restrictions exist for equipment deployment.

(S//SI//REL) Features:

  • LxT Model: 900/1800/1900MHz
  • LxU Model: 850/1800/1900MHz
  • Pico-class (1Watt) Base station
  • Optional Battery Kits
  • Highly Mobile and Deployable
  • Integrated GPS, MS, & 802.11
  • Voice & High-speed Data
  • SMS Capability

(S//SI//REL) Enclosure:

  • 1.9"H x 8.6"W x 6.3"D
  • Approximately 3 lbs
  • Actively cooled for extreme environments

(S//SI//REL) EBSR System Kit:

  • EBSR System
  • AC/DC power converter
  • Antenna to support MS, GPS, WIFI, & RF
  • LAN, RF, & USB cables
  • Pelican Case
  • (Field Kit only) Control Laptop and Accessories

(S//SI//REL) Separately Priced Options:

  • 90 WH LiIon Battery Kit

(S//SI//REL) Base Station Router Platform:

  • Multiple BSR units can be interconnected to form a macro network using 802.3 and 802.11 back-haul.
  • Supports Landshark/Candygram capabilities.

Status:

Unit Cost: $40K

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 25, 2014 at 2:11 PM6 Comments

Breaking Up the NSA

The NSA has become too big and too powerful. What was supposed to be a single agency with a dual mission -- protecting the security of U.S. communications and eavesdropping on the communications of our enemies -- has become unbalanced in the post-Cold War, all-terrorism-all-the-time era.

Putting the U.S. Cyber Command, the military's cyberwar wing, in the same location and under the same commander, expanded the NSA's power. The result is an agency that prioritizes intelligence gathering over security, and that's increasingly putting us all at risk. It's time we thought about breaking up the National Security Agency.

Broadly speaking, three types of NSA surveillance programs were exposed by the documents released by Edward Snowden. And while the media tends to lump them together, understanding their differences is critical to understanding how to divide up the NSA's missions.

The first is targeted surveillance.

This is best illustrated by the work of the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group, including its catalog of hardware and software "implants" designed to be surreptitiously installed onto the enemy's computers. This sort of thing represents the best of the NSA and is exactly what we want it to do. That the United States has these capabilities, as scary as they might be, is cause for gratification.

The second is bulk surveillance, the NSA's collection of everything it can obtain on every communications channel to which it can get access. This includes things such as the NSA's bulk collection of call records, location data, e-mail messages and text messages.

This is where the NSA overreaches: collecting data on innocent Americans either incidentally or deliberately, and data on foreign citizens indiscriminately. It doesn't make us any safer, and it is liable to be abused. Even the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, acknowledged that the collection and storage of data was kept a secret for too long.

The third is the deliberate sabotaging of security. The primary example we have of this is the NSA's BULLRUN program, which tries to "insert vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems, IT systems, networks and endpoint communication devices." This is the worst of the NSA's excesses, because it destroys our trust in the Internet, weakens the security all of us rely on and makes us more vulnerable to attackers worldwide.

That's the three: good, bad, very bad. Reorganizing the U.S. intelligence apparatus so it concentrates on our enemies requires breaking up the NSA along those functions.

First, TAO and its targeted surveillance mission should be moved under the control of U.S. Cyber Command, and Cyber Command should be completely separated from the NSA. Actively attacking enemy networks is an offensive military operation, and should be part of an offensive military unit.

Whatever rules of engagement Cyber Command operates under should apply equally to active operations such as sabotaging the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in Iran and hacking a Belgian telephone company. If we're going to attack the infrastructure of a foreign nation, let it be a clear military operation.

Second, all surveillance of Americans should be moved to the FBI.

The FBI is charged with counterterrorism in the United States, and it needs to play that role. Any operations focused against U.S. citizens need to be subject to U.S. law, and the FBI is the best place to apply that law. That the NSA can, in the view of many, do an end-run around congressional oversight, legal due process and domestic laws is an affront to our Constitution and a danger to our society. The NSA's mission should be focused outside the United States -- for real, not just for show.

And third, the remainder of the NSA needs to be rebalanced so COMSEC (communications security) has priority over SIGINT (signals intelligence). Instead of working to deliberately weaken security for everyone, the NSA should work to improve security for everyone.

Computer and network security is hard, and we need the NSA's expertise to secure our social networks, business systems, computers, phones and critical infrastructure. Just recall the recent incidents of hacked accounts -- from Target to Kickstarter. What once seemed occasional now seems routine. Any NSA work to secure our networks and infrastructure can be done openly—no secrecy required.

This is a radical solution, but the NSA's many harms require radical thinking. It's not far off from what the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, charged with evaluating the NSA's current programs, recommended. Its 24th recommendation was to put the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command under different generals, and the 29th recommendation was to put encryption ahead of exploitation.

I have no illusions that anything like this will happen anytime soon, but it might be the only way to tame the enormous beast that the NSA has become.

This essay previously appeared on CNN.com.

Slashdot thread. Hacker News thread.

Posted on February 25, 2014 at 6:43 AM56 Comments

CYCLONE Hx9: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

CYCLONE Hx9

(S//SI//FVEY) EGSM (900MGz) macro-class Network-In-a-Box (NIB) system. Uses the existing Typhon GUI and supports the full Typhon feature base and applications.

(S//SI//REL) Operational Restrictions exist for equipment deployment.

(S//SI//REL) Features:

  • EGSM 900MHz
  • Macro-class (+43dBm)
  • 32+Km Range
  • Optional Battery Kits
  • Highly Mobile and Deployable
  • Integrated GPS, MS, & 802.11
  • Voice & High-speed Data
  • GSM Security & Encryption

(S//SI//REL) Advanced Features:

  • GPS -- Supporting Typhon applications
  • GSM Handset Module -- Supports auto-configuration and remote command and control features.
  • 802.11 -- Supports high speed wireless LAN remote command and control

(S//SI//REL) Enclosure:

  • 3.5"H x 8.5"W x 9"D
  • Approximately 8 lbs
  • Actively cooled for extreme environments

(S//SI//REL) Cyclone Hx9 System Kit:

  • Cyclone Hx9 System
  • AC/DC power converter
  • Antenna to support MS, GPS, WIFI, & RF
  • LAN, RF, & USB cables
  • Pelican Case
  • (Field Kit only) Control Laptop and Accessories

(S//SI//REL) Separately Priced Options:

  • 800 WH LiIon Battery Kit

(S//SI//REL) Base Station Router Platform:

  • Overlay GSM cellular communications supporting up to 32 Cyclone Mx9 systems providing full mobility and utilizing a VoIP back-haul.
  • GPRS data service and associated application

Unit Cost: $70K for two months

Status: Just out of development, first production runs ongoing.

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 24, 2014 at 2:44 PM5 Comments

New Results in Software Obfuscation

Amit Sahai and others have some new results in software obfuscation. The papers are here. An over-the top Wired.com story on the research is here. And Matthew Green has a great blog post explaining what's real and what's hype.

Posted on February 24, 2014 at 6:35 AM22 Comments

Friday Squid Blogging: Squid vs. Owlfish

This video is pretty fantastic:

The narrator does a great job at explaining what's going on here, blow by gross blow, but here are the highlights:

  • Black-eyed squid snares owlfish with its two tentacles, which are tipped with hooks and suckers, and reels it in.
  • Black-eyed squid gnaws away at the owlfish's spinal cord using its very sharp beak.
  • Owlfish is wearing a suit of large, shaggy scales, which it proceeds to shed in an effort to loosen the black-eyed squid's eight-armed grip.
  • Owlfish's scale trick doesn't work, squid burrows deeper into its back muscles, rotating it around [like] a cob of corn
  • Owlfish dies with a gaping, red, meaty hole in its back and the drinks are on black-eyed squid because he's feeling pretty great right now.

Posted on February 21, 2014 at 4:33 PM93 Comments

CROSSBEAM: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

CROSSBEAM

(TS//SI//REL) CROSSBEAM is a GSM module that mates a modified commercial cellular product with a WAGONBED controller board.

(TS//SI//REL) CROSSBEAM is a reusable CHIMNEYPOOL-compliant GSM communications module capable of collecting and compressing voice data. CROSSBEAM can receive GSM voice, record voice data, and transmit the received information via connected modules or 4 different GSM data modes (GPRS, Circuit Switched Data, Data Over Voice, and DTMF) back to a secure facility. The CROSSBEAM module consists of a standard ANT architecture embedded computer, a specialized phone component, a customized software controller suite and an optional DSP (ROCKYKNOB) of using Data Over Voice to transmit data.

Status: Limited Supply Available

Unit Cost: $4k

Delivery: 90 days for most configurations

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 21, 2014 at 2:41 PM6 Comments

Co3 Systems at the RSA Conference

Co3 Systems is going to be at the RSA Conference. We don't have our own booth on the show floor, but there are four ways you can find us. Monday, we're at the Innovation Sandbox: 1:00–5:00 in Moscone North. At the conference, we're in the RSA Security booth. Go to the SecOps section of the booth and ask about us. We'll be happy to show you our incident response coordination system. We're hosting an Incident Response Forum on Tuesday night with partners HP, CSC, and iSight Partners for select companies and individuals. We also have a demo suite in the St. Regis Hotel. E-mail me if you want to get on the schedule for either of those two.

Posted on February 21, 2014 at 2:06 PM19 Comments

Building an Online Lie Detector

There's an interesting project to detect false rumors on the Internet.

The EU-funded project aims to classify online rumours into four types: speculation -- such as whether interest rates might rise; controversy -- as over the MMR vaccine; misinformation, where something untrue is spread unwittingly; and disinformation, where it's done with malicious intent.

The system will also automatically categorise sources to assess their authority, such as news outlets, individual journalists, experts, potential eye witnesses, members of the public or automated 'bots'. It will also look for a history and background, to help spot where Twitter accounts have been created purely to spread false information.

It will search for sources that corroborate or deny the information, and plot how the conversations on social networks evolve, using all of this information to assess whether it is true or false. The results will be displayed to the user in a visual dashboard, to enable them to easily see whether a rumour is taking hold.

I have no idea how well it will work, or even whether it will work, but I like research in this direction. Of the three primary Internet mechanisms for social control, surveillance and censorship have received a lot more attention than propaganda. Anything that can potentially detect propaganda is a good thing.

Three news articles.

Posted on February 21, 2014 at 8:34 AM28 Comments

Brian Krebs

Nice profile of Brian Krebs, cybersecurity journalist:

Russian criminals routinely feed Mr. Krebs information about their rivals that they obtained through hacks. After one such episode, he began receiving daily calls from a major Russian cybercriminal seeking his files back. Mr. Krebs is writing a book about the ordeal, called "Spam Nation," to be published by Sourcebooks this year.

In the meantime, hackers have been competing in a dangerous game of one-upmanship to see who can pull the worst prank on Mr. Krebs. They often steal his identity. One opened a $20,000 credit line in his name. Admirers have made more than $1,000 in bogus PayPal donations to his blog using hacked accounts. Others have paid his cable bill for three years with stolen credit cards.

The antics can be dangerous. In March, as Mr. Krebs was preparing to have his mother over for dinner, he opened his front door to find a police SWAT team pointing semiautomatic guns in his direction. Only after his wife returned home from the grocery store to find him handcuffed did the police realize Mr. Krebs had been the victim of "swatting." Someone had called the police and falsely reported a murder at their home.

Four months after that, someone sent packets of heroin to Mr. Krebs’s home, then spoofed a call from his neighbor to the police. But Mr. Krebs had already been tipped off to the prank. He was tracking the fraud in a private forum -- where a criminal had posted the shipment’s tracking number ­- and had alerted the local police and the F.B.I.

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 4:09 PM11 Comments

CANDYGRAM: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

CANDYGRAM

(S//SI//REL) Mimics GSM cell tower of a target network. Capable of operations at 900, 1800, or 1900 MHz. Whenever a target handset enters the CANDYGRAM base station's area of influence, the system sends out an SMS through the external network to registered watch phones.

(S//SI//REL) Typical use scenarios are asset validation, target tracking and identification as well as identifying hostile surveillance units with GSM handsets. Functionality is predicated on apriori target information.

(S//SI//REL) System HW

  • GPS processing unit
  • Tri-band BTS radio
  • Windows XP laptop and cell phone*
  • 9" wide x 12" long x 2" deep
  • External power (9-30 VDC).
*Remote control software can be used with any connected to the laptop (used for communicating with the CANDYGRAM unit through text messages (SMS).

(S//SI//REL) SW Features

  • Configurable 200 phone number target deck.
  • Network auto-configuration
  • Area Survey Capability
  • Remote Operation Capability
  • Configurable Network emulation
  • Configurable RF power level
  • Multi-Units under single C&C
  • Remote restart
  • Remote erasure (not field recoverable)

Status: Available 8 mos ARO

Unit Cost: approx $40K

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 2:11 PM10 Comments

RCS Spyware and Citizen Lab

Remote-Controlled System (RCS) is a piece of spyware sold exclusively to governments by a Milan company called Hacking Team. Recently, Citizen Lab found this spyware being used by the Ethiopian government against journalists, including American journalists.

More recently, Citizen Lab mapped the software and who's using it:

Hacking Team advertises that their RCS spyware is "untraceable" to a specific government operator. However, we claim to identify a number of current or former government users of the spyware by pinpointing endpoints, and studying instances of RCS that we have observed. We suspect that agencies of these twenty-one governments are current or former users of RCS: Azerbaijan, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Panama, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, and Uzbekistan.

Both articles on the Citizen Lab website are worth reading; the details are fascinating. And more are coming.

Finally, congratulations to Citizen Lab for receiving a 2014 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, along with the $1M prize. This organization is one of the good guys, and I'm happy to see it get money to continue its work.

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 9:19 AM2 Comments

TOTEGHOSTLY 2.0: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

TOTEGHOSTLY 2.0

(TS//SI//REL) TOTEGHOSTLY 2.0 is STRAITBIZARRE based implant for the Windows Mobile embedded operating system and uses the CHIMNEYPOOL framework. TOTEGHOSTLY 2.0 is compliant with the FREEFLOW project, therefore it is supported in the TURBULENCE architecture.

(TS//SI//REL) TOTEGHOSTLY 2.0 is a software implant for the Windows Mobile operating system that utilizes modular mission applications to provide specific SIGINT functionality. This functionality includes the ability to remotely push/pull files from the device, SMS retrieval, contact list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic, camera capture, cell tower location, etc. Command, control, and data exfiltration can occur over SMS messaging or a GPRS data connection. A FRIEZERAMP interface using HTTPSlink2 transport module handles encrypted communications.

(TS//SI//REL) The initial release of TOTEGHOSTLY 2.0 will focus on installing the implant via close access methods. A remote installation capability will be pursued for a future release.

(TS//SI//REL) TOTEGHOSTLY 2.0 will be controlled using an interface tasked through the NCC (Network Control Center) utilizing the XML based tasking and data forward scheme under the TURBULENCE architecture following the TAO GENIE Initiative.

Unit Cost: $0

Status: (U) In development

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 2:18 PM9 Comments

TOTECHASER: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

TOTECHASER

(TS//SI//REL) TOTECHASER is a Windows CE implant targeting the Thuraya 2520 handset. The Thuraya is a dual mode phone that can operate either in SAT or GSM modes. The phone also supports a GPRS data connection for Web browsing, e-mail, and MMS messages. The initial software implant capabilities include providing GPS and GSM geo-location information. Call log, contact list, and other user information can also be retrieved from the phone. Additional capabilities are being investigated.

(TS//SI//REL) TOTECHASER will use SMS messaging for the command, control, and data exfiltration path. The initial capability will use covert SMS messages to communicate with the handset. These covert messages can be transmitted in either Thuraya Satellite mode or GMS mode and will not alert the user of this activity. An alternate command and control channel using the GPRS data connection based on the TOTEGHOSTLY impant is intended for a future version.

(TS//SI//REL) Prior to deployment, the TOTECHASER handsets must be modified. Details of how the phone is modified are being developed. A remotely deployable TOTECHASER implant is being investigated. The TOTECHASER system consists of the modified target handsets and a collection system.

(TS//SI//REL) TOTECHASER will accept configuration parameters to determine how the implant operates. Configuration parameters will determine what information is recorded, when to collect that information, and when the information is exfiltrated. The configuration parameters can be set upon initial deployment and updated remotely.

Unit Cost: $

Status:

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 18, 2014 at 2:17 PM7 Comments

What Information Are Stun Guns Recording?

In a story about a stolen Stradivarius violin, there's this:

Information from a stun gun company, an anonymous tip and hours of surveillance paved the way for authorities to find a stolen 300-year-old Stradivarius violin in the attic of a Milwaukee home, police said Thursday.

[...]

Taser International, the maker of the stun gun used in the attack, "provided invaluable information" that the FBI tracked down in Texas and ultimately led police to Universal Allah, a Milwaukee resident, Police Chief Edward Flynn said Thursday.

The criminals stunned a musician as he was leaving a show at church, and drove off with his multimillion-dollar violin. What information could the stun gun company give the police that would be invaluable? Is it as simple as knowing who purchased the weapon, which was dropped at the scene? Or something weirder?

EDITED TO ADD (2/18): This may be it:

As the Milwaukee Police and the FBI began to conduct the investigation they reached out to us at TASER in order to identify possible suspects in the case. This was accomplished thanks to our Anti-Felon Identification tags (AFID). The AFID program enforces accountability for each use of a TASER device. This system releases dozens of confetti-sized markers upon discharge of a CEW cartridge. Each AFID contains a serial number that tracks back to the original purchaser of the cartridge. The large number of AFIDs and their small size makes it impractical to clean up. Therefore, law enforcement can pick up one AFID and contact TASER International for a complete trace on the serial number.

At the time of purchase, we verify the identity and background of the prospective buyer with the understanding that we will not release the information and it will be kept confidential unless a TASER device is used in the commission of a crime. This information proved invaluable during the investigation on the Stradivarius violin. "We worked very closely with TASER International who provided us invaluable information that the FBI was able to track down for us in Texas," said Chief Flynn, "That information led us to an individual who had purchased this device."

Posted on February 18, 2014 at 8:30 AM54 Comments

PICASSO: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

PICASSO

(S//SI//REL) Modified GSM (target) handset that collects user data, location information and room audio. Command and data exfil is done from a laptop and regular phone via SMS (Short Messaging Service), without alerting the target.

(S//SI) Target Data via SMS:

  • Incoming call numbers
  • Outgoing call numbers
  • Recently registered networks
  • Recent Location Area Codes (LAC)
  • Cell power and Timing Advance information (GEO)
  • Recently Assigned TMSI, IMSI
  • Recent network authentication challenge responses
  • Recent successful PINs entered into the phone during the power-on cycle
  • SW version of PICASSO implant
  • 'Hot-mic' to collect Room Audio
  • Panic Button sequence (sends location information to an LP Operator)
  • Send Targeting Information (i.e. current IMSI and phone number when it is turned on -- in case the SIM has just been switched).
  • Block call to deny target service.

(S//SI//REL) Handset Options

  • Eastcom 760c+
  • Samsung E600, X450
  • Samsung C140
  • (with Arabic keypad/language option)

(S//SI) PICASSO Operational Concept

(S//SI//REL) Uses include asset validation and tracking and target templating. Phone can be hot mic'd and has a "Panic Button" key sequence for the witting user.

Status: 2 weeks ARO (10 or less)

Unit Cost: approx $2000

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 17, 2014 at 2:20 PM16 Comments

US Infosec Researchers Against NSA Surveillance

I signed an open letter from US researchers in cryptography and information security on NSA surveillance. It has received a lot of media coverage.

Posted on February 17, 2014 at 12:13 PM15 Comments

Who Should Store NSA Surveillance Data

One of the recommendations by the president's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies on reforming the National Security Agency—No. 5, if you're counting—is that the government should not collect and store telephone metadata. Instead, a private company -- either the phone companies themselves or some other third party -- should store the metadata and provide it to the government only upon a court order.

This isn't a new idea. Over the past decade, several countries have enacted mandatory data retention laws, in which companies are required to save Internet or telephony data about customers for a specified period of time, in case the government needs it for an investigation. But does it make sense? In December, Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith asked: "I understand the Report's concerns about the storage of bulk meta-data by the government. But I do not understand the Report's implicit assumption that the storage of bulk meta-data by private entities is an improvement from the perspective of privacy, or data security, or potential abuse."

It's a good question, and in the almost two months since the report was released, it hasn't received enough attention. I think the proposal makes things worse in several respects.

First, the NSA is going to do a better job at database security than corporations are. I say this not because the NSA has any magic computer security powers, but because it has more experience at it and is better funded. (And, yes, that's true even though Edward Snowden was able to copy so many of their documents.) The difference is of degree, not of kind. Both options leave the data vulnerable to insider attacks—more so in the case of a third-party data repository because there will be more insiders. And although neither will be perfect, I would trust the NSA to protect my data against unauthorized access more than I would trust a private corporation to do the same.

Second, there's the greater risk of authorized access. This is the risk that the Review Group is most concerned about. The thought is that if the data were in private hands, and the only legal way at the data was a court order, then it would be less likely for the NSA to exceed its authority by making bulk queries on the data or accessing more of it than it is allowed to. I don't believe that this is true. Any system that has the data outside of the NSA's control is going to include provisions for emergency access, because ... well, because the word terrorism will scare any lawmaker enough to give the NSA that capability. Already the NSA goes through whatever legal processes it and the secret FISA court have agreed to. Adding another party into this process doesn't slow things down, provide more oversight, or in any way make it better. I don't trust a corporate employee not to turn data over for NSA analysis any more than I trust an NSA employee.

On the corporate side, the corresponding risk is that the data will be used for all sorts of things that wouldn't be possible otherwise. If corporations are forced by governments to hold on to customer data, they're going to start thinking things like: "We're already storing this personal data on all of our customers for the government. Why don't we mine it for interesting tidbits, use it for marketing purposes, sell it to data brokers, and on and on and on?" At least the NSA isn't going to use our personal data for large-scale individual psychological manipulation designed to separate us from as much money as possible -- which is the business model of companies like Google and Facebook.

The final claimed benefit -- and this one is from the president's Review Group -- is that putting the data in private hands will make us all feel better. They write: "Knowing that the government has ready access to one's phone call records can seriously chill 'associational and expressive freedoms,' and knowing that the government is one flick of a switch away from such information can profoundly 'alter the relationship between citizen and government in a way that is inimical to society.'" Those quotes within the quote are from Justice Sonia Sotomayor's opinion in the U.S. v. Jones GPS monitoring case.

The Review Group believes that moving the data to some other organization, either the companies that generate it in the first place or some third-party data repository, fixes that problem. But is that something we really want fixed? The fact that a government has us all under constant and ubiquitous surveillance should be chilling. It should limit freedom of expression. It is inimical to society, and to the extent we hide what we're doing from the people or do things that only pretend to fix the problem, we do ourselves a disservice.

Where does this leave us? If the corporations are storing the data already -- for some business purpose --- then the answer is easy: Only they should store it. If the corporations are not already storing the data, then -- on balance -- it's safer for the NSA to store the data. And in many cases, the right answer is for no one to store the data. It should be deleted because keeping it makes us all less secure.

This question is much bigger than the NSA. There are going to be data -- medical data, movement data, transactional data -- that are both valuable to us all in aggregate and private to us individually. And in every one of those instances, we're going to be faced with the same question: How do we extract that societal value, while at the same protecting its personal nature? This is one of the key challenges of the Information Age, and figuring out where to store the data is a major part of that challenge. There certainly isn't going to be one solution for all instances of this problem, but learning how to weigh the costs and benefits of different solutions will be a key component to harnessing the power of big data without suffering the societal harms.

This essay originally appeared on Slate.com, with a very misleading title.

EDITED TO ADD (2/21): Commentary from Lawfare blog.

Posted on February 17, 2014 at 5:23 AM55 Comments

MONKEYCALENDAR: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

MONKEYCALENDAR

(TS//SI//REL) MONKEYCALENDAR is a software implant for GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) subscriber identity module (SIM) cards. This implant pulls geolocation information from a target handset and exfiltrates it to a user-defined phone number via short message service (SMS).

(TS//SI//REL) Modern SIM cards (Phase 2+) have an application program interface known as the SIM Toolkit (STK). The STK has a suite of proactive commands that allow the SIM card to issue commands and make requests to the handset. MONKEYCALENDAR uses STK commands to retrieve location information and to exfiltrate data via SMS. After the MONKEYCALENDAR file is compiled, the program is loaded onto the SIM card using either a Universal Serial Bus (USB) smartcard reader or via over-the-air provisioning. In both cases, keys to the card may be required to install the application depending on the service provider's security configuration.

Unit Cost: $0

Status: Released, not deployed.

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 14, 2014 at 3:19 PM15 Comments

My Talk on the NSA

Earlier this month, I gave a talk about the NSA at MIT. The video is available.

ETA: The video doesn't display on some Firefox browsers. If you have trouble, try a different browser.

ETA: or you can try this direct link to the video.

Posted on February 14, 2014 at 2:50 PM19 Comments

The Insecurity of Secret IT Systems

We now know a lot about the security of the Rapiscan 522 B x-ray system used to scan carry-on baggage in airports worldwide. Billy Rios, director of threat intelligence at Qualys, got himself one and analyzed it. And he presented his results at the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit this week.

It’s worse than you might have expected:

It runs on the outdated Windows 98 operating system, stores user credentials in plain text, and includes a feature called Threat Image Projection used to train screeners by injecting .bmp images of contraband, such as a gun or knife, into a passenger carry-on in order to test the screener's reaction during training sessions. The weak logins could allow a bad guy to project phony images on the X-ray display.

While this is all surprising, it shouldn’t be. These are the same sort of problems we saw in proprietary electronic voting machines, or computerized medical equipment, or computers in automobiles. Basically, whenever an IT system is designed and used in secret – either actual secret or simply away from public scrutiny – the results are pretty awful.

I used to decry secret security systems as "security by obscurity." I now say it more strongly: "obscurity means insecurity."

Security is a process. For software, that process is iterative. It involves defenders trying to build a secure system, attackers -- criminals, hackers, and researchers -- defeating the security, and defenders improving their system. This is how all mass-market software improves its security. It’s the best system we have. And for systems that are kept out of the hands of the public, that process stalls. The result looks like the Rapiscan 522 B x-ray system.

Smart security engineers open their systems to public scrutiny, because that’s how they improve. The truly awful engineers will not only hide their bad designs behind secrecy, but try to belittle any negative security results. Get ready for Rapiscan to claim that the researchers had old software, and the new software has fixed all these problems. Or that they’re only theoretical. Or that the researchers themselves are the problem. We’ve seen it all before.

Posted on February 14, 2014 at 6:50 AM37 Comments

GOPHERSET: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

GOPHERSET

(TS//SI//REL) GOPHERSET is a software implant for GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) subscriber identity module (SIM) cards. This implant pulls Phonebook, SMS, and call log information from a target handset and exfiltrates it to a user-defined phone number via short message service (SMS).

(TS//SI//REL) Modern SIM cards (Phase 2+) have an application program interface known as the SIM Toolkit (STK). The STK has a suite of proactive commands that allow the SIM card to issue commands and make requests to the handset. GOPHERSET uses STK commands to retrieve the requested information and to exfiltrate data via SMS. After the GOPHERSET file is compiled, the program is loaded onto the SIM card using either a Universal Serial Bus (USB) smartcard reader or via over-the-air provisioning. In both cases, keys to the card may be required to install the application depending on the service provider's security configuration.

Unit Cost: $0

Status: (U//FOUO) Released. Has not been deployed.

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 13, 2014 at 2:05 PM13 Comments

Finding People's Locations Based on Their Activities in Cyberspace

Glenn Greenwald is back reporting about the NSA, now with Pierre Omidyar's news organization FirstLook and its introductory publication, The Intercept. Writing with national security reporter Jeremy Scahill, his first article covers how the NSA helps target individuals for assassination by drone.

Leaving aside the extensive political implications of the story, the article and the NSA source documents reveal additional information about how the agency's programs work. From this and other articles, we can now piece together how the NSA tracks individuals in the real world through their actions in cyberspace.

Its techniques to locate someone based on their electronic activities are straightforward, although they require an enormous capability to monitor data networks. One set of techniques involves the cell phone network, and the other the Internet.

Tracking Locations With Cell Towers

Every cell-phone network knows the approximate location of all phones capable of receiving calls. This is necessary to make the system work; if the system doesn't know what cell you're in, it isn't able to route calls to your phone. We already know that the NSA conducts physical surveillance on a massive scale using this technique.

By triangulating location information from different cell phone towers, cell phone providers can geolocate phones more accurately. This is often done to direct emergency services to a particular person, such as someone who has made a 911 call. The NSA can get this data either by network eavesdropping with the cooperation of the carrier, or by intercepting communications between the cell phones and the towers. A previously released Top Secret NSA document says this: "GSM Cell Towers can be used as a physical-geolocation point in relation to a GSM handset of interest."

This technique becomes even more powerful if you can employ a drone. Greenwald and Scahill write:

The agency also equips drones and other aircraft with devices known as "virtual base-tower transceivers"—creating, in effect, a fake cell phone tower that can force a targeted person's device to lock onto the NSA's receiver without their knowledge.

The drone can do this multiple times as it flies around the area, measuring the signal strength—and inferring distance—each time. Again from the Intercept article:

The NSA geolocation system used by JSOC is known by the code name GILGAMESH. Under the program, a specially constructed device is attached to the drone. As the drone circles, the device locates the SIM card or handset that the military believes is used by the target.

The Top Secret source document associated with the Intercept story says:

As part of the GILGAMESH (PREDATOR-based active geolocation) effort, this team used some advanced mathematics to develop a new geolocation algorithm intended for operational use on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flights.

This is at least part of that advanced mathematics.

None of this works if the target turns his phone off or exchanges SMS cards often with his colleagues, which Greenwald and Scahill write is routine. It won't work in much of Yemen, which isn't on any cell phone network. Because of this, the NSA also tracks people based on their actions on the Internet.

Finding You From Your Web Connection

A surprisingly large number of Internet applications leak location data. Applications on your smart phone can transmit location data from your GPS receiver over the Internet. We already know that the NSA collects this data to determine location. Also, many applications transmit the IP address of the network the computer is connected to. If the NSA has a database of IP addresses and locations, it can use that to locate users.

According to a previously released Top Secret NSA document, that program is code named HAPPYFOOT: "The HAPPYFOOT analytic aggregated leaked location-based service / location-aware application data to infer IP geo-locations."

Another way to get this data is to collect it from the geographical area you're interested in. Greenwald and Scahill talk about exactly this:

In addition to the GILGAMESH system used by JSOC, the CIA uses a similar NSA platform known as SHENANIGANS. The operation—previously undisclosed—utilizes a pod on aircraft that vacuums up massive amounts of data from any wireless routers, computers, smart phones or other electronic devices that are within range.

And again from an NSA document associated with the FirstLook story: "Our mission (VICTORYDANCE) mapped the Wi-Fi fingerprint of nearly every major town in Yemen." In the hacker world, this is known as war-driving, and has even been demonstrated from drones.

Another story from the Snowden documents describes a research effort to locate individuals based on the location of wifi networks they log into.

This is how the NSA can find someone, even when their cell phone is turned off and their SIM card is removed. If they're at an Internet café, and they log into an account that identifies them, the NSA can locate them—because the NSA already knows where that wifi network is.

This also explains the drone assassination of Hassan Guhl, also reported in the Washington Post last October. In the story, Guhl was at an Internet cafe when he read an email from his wife. Although the article doesn't describe how that email was intercepted by the NSA, the NSA was able to use it to determine his location.

There's almost certainly more. NSA surveillance is robust, and they almost certainly have several different ways of identifying individuals on cell phone and Internet connections. For example, they can hack individual smart phones and force them to divulge location information.

As fascinating as the technology is, the critical policy question—and the one discussed extensively in the FirstLook article—is how reliable all this information is. While much of the NSA's capabilities to locate someone in the real world by their network activity piggy-backs on corporate surveillance capabilities, there's a critical difference: False positives are much more expensive. If Google or Facebook get a physical location wrong, they show someone an ad for a restaurant they're nowhere near. If the NSA gets a physical location wrong, they call a drone strike on innocent people.

As we move to a world where all of us are tracked 24/7, these are the sorts of trade-offs we need to keep in mind.

This essay previously appeared on TheAtlantic.com.

Edited to add: this essay has been translated into French.

Posted on February 13, 2014 at 6:03 AM38 Comments

DROPOUTJEEP: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

DROPOUTJEEP

(TS//SI//REL) DROPOUTJEEP is a STRAITBIZARRE based software implant for the Apple iPhone operating system and uses the CHIMNEYPOOL framework. DROPOUTJEEP is compliant with the FREEFLOW project, therefore it is supported in the TURBULENCE architecture.

(TS//SI//REL) DROPOUTJEEP is a software implant for the Apple iPhone that utilizes modular mission applications to provide specific SIGINT functionality. This functionality includes the ability to remotely push/pull files from the device, SMS retrieval, contact list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic, camera capture, cell tower location, etc. Command, control, and data exfiltration can occur over SMS messaging or a GPRS data connection. All communications with the implant will be covert and encrypted.

(TS//SI//REL) The initial release of DROPOUTJEEP will focus on installing the implant via close access methods. A remote installation capability will be pursued for a future release.

Unit Cost: $0

Status: (U) In development

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 12, 2014 at 2:06 PM26 Comments

DRM and the Law

Cory Doctorow gives a good history of the intersection of Digital Rights Management (DRM) software and the law, describes how DRM software is antithetical to end-user security, and speculates how we might convince the law to recognize that.

Every security system relies on reports of newly discovered vulnerabilities as a means of continuously improving. The forces that work against security systems -- scripts that automate attacks, theoretical advances, easy-to-follow guides that can be readily googled -- are always improving so any system that does not benefit from its own continuous improvement becomes less effective over time. That is, the pool of adversaries capable of defeating the system goes up over time, and the energy they must expend to do so goes down over time, unless vulnerabilities are continuously reported and repaired.

Here is where DRM and your security work at cross-purposes. The DMCA's injunction against publishing weaknesses in DRM means that its vulnerabilities remain unpatched for longer than in comparable systems that are not covered by the DMCA. That means that any system with DRM will on average be more dangerous for its users than one without DRM.

Posted on February 12, 2014 at 7:15 AM20 Comments

SURLYSPAWN: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

SURLYSPAWN

(TS//SI//REL TO USA,FVEY) Data RF retro-reflector. Provides return modulated with target data (keyboard, low data rate digital device) when illuminated with radar.

(U) Capabilities
(TS//SI//REL TO USA,FVEY) SURLYSPAWN has the capability to gather keystrokes without requiring any software running on the targeted system. It also only requires that the targeted system be touched once. The retro-reflector is compatible with both USB and PS/2 keyboards. The simplicity of the design allows the form factor to be tailored for specific operational requirements. Future capabilities will include laptop keyboards.

(U) Concept of Operation
(TS//SI//REL TO USA,FVEY) The board taps into the data line from the keyboard to the processor. The board generates a square wave oscillating at a preset frequency. The data-line signal is used to shift the square wave frequency higher or lower, depending on the level of the data-line signal. The square wave, in essence, becomes frequency shift keyed (FSK). When the unit is illuminated by a CW signal from a nearby radar, the illuminating signal is amplitude-modulated (AM) with this square wave. The signal is re-radiated, where it is received by the radar, demodulated, and the demodulated signal is processed to recover the keystrokes. SURLYSPAWN is part of the ANGRYNEIGHBOR family of radar retro-reflectors.

Unit Cost: $30

Status: End processing still in development.

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 11, 2014 at 2:55 PM15 Comments

"The Mask" Espionage Malware

We’ve got a new nation-state espionage malware. "The Mask" was discovered by Kaspersky Labs:

The primary targets are government institutions, diplomatic offices and embassies, energy, oil and gas companies, research organizations and activists. Victims of this targeted attack have been found in 31 countries around the world -- from the Middle East and Europe to Africa and the Americas.

The main objective of the attackers is to gather sensitive data from the infected systems. These include office documents, but also various encryption keys, VPN configurations, SSH keys (serving as a means of identifying a user to an SSH server) and RDP files (used by the Remote Desktop Client to automatically open a connection to the reserved computer).

"Several reasons make us believe this could be a nation-state sponsored campaign. First of all, we observed a very high degree of professionalism in the operational procedures of the group behind this attack. From infrastructure management, shutdown of the operation, avoiding curious eyes through access rules and using wiping instead of deletion of log files. These combine to put this APT ahead of Duqu in terms of sophistication, making it one of the most advanced threats at the moment," said Costin Raiu, Director of the Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) at Kaspersky Lab. "This level of operational security is not normal for cyber-criminal groups."

It's been in operation, undetected, for at least seven years.

As usual, we infer the creator of the malware from the target list.

We counted over 380 unique victims between 1000+ IPs. Infections have been observed in: Algeria, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and Venezuela.

Based on the prevalence of Spanish-speaking victims, the number of infected victims in Morocco, and the fact that Gibraltar is on the list, that implies Spain is behind this one. My guess is that soon countries will start infecting uninteresting targets in order to deflect blame, but that they still think they’re immune from discovery. So Spain, if it is you, attack a few sites in the Falklands next time -- and use a separate tool for Morocco.

There are several news articles.

Posted on February 11, 2014 at 6:57 AM60 Comments

WISTFULTOLL: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

WISTFULTOLL

(TS//SI//REL) WISTFULTOLL is a UNITEDRAKE and STRAITBIZZARE plug-in used for harvesting and returning forensic information from a target using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) calls and Registry extractions.

(TS//SI//REL) This plug-in supports systems running Microsoft Windows 2000, 2003, and XP.

(TS//SI//REL) Through remote access or interdiction, WISTFULLTOLL is executed as either a UNITEDRAKE or STRAITBAZZARE plug-in or as a stand-alone executable. If used remotely, the extracted information is sent back to NSA through UNITEDRAKE or STRAITBAZZARE. Execution via interdiction may be accomplished by non-technical operator through use of a USB thumb drive, where extracted information will be saved to that thumb drive.

Status: Released / Deployed. Ready for Immediate Delivery

Unit Cost: $0

Note: Inconsistencies in spelling are all [sic].

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 10, 2014 at 2:58 PM22 Comments

NSA/GCHQ Accused of Hacking Belgian Cryptographer

There has been a lot of news about Belgian cryptographer Jean-Jacques Quisquater having his computer hacked, and whether the NSA or GCHQ is to blame. There have been a lot of assumptions and hyperbole, mostly related to the GCHQ attack against the Belgian telecom operator Belgacom.

I'm skeptical. Not about the attack, but about the NSA's or GCHQ's involvement. I don't think there's a lot of operational value in most academic cryptographic research, and Quisquater wasn't involved in practical cryptanalysis of operational ciphers. I wouldn't put it past a less-clued nation-state to spy on academic cryptographers, but it's likelier this is a more conventional criminal attack. But who knows? Weirder things have happened.

Posted on February 10, 2014 at 6:57 AM26 Comments

Friday Squid Blogging: Radioactive Giant Squid Washes Ashore in California

Uh oh.

And the real story.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

Posted on February 7, 2014 at 4:54 PM109 Comments

TRINITY: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

TRINITY

(TS//SI//REL) TRINITY is a miniaturized digital core packaged in a Multi-Chip Module (MCM) to be used in implants with size constraining concealments.

(TS//SI//REL) TRINITY uses the TAO standard implant architecture. The architecture provides a robust, reconfigurable, standard digital platform resulting in a dramatic performance improvement over the obsolete HC12 microcontroller based designs. A development Printed Circuit Board (PCB) using packaged parts has been developed and is available as the standard platform. The TRINITY Multi-Chip-Module (MCM) contains an ARM9 microcontroller, FPGAA, Flash and SDRAM memories.

Status: Special Order due vendor selected.

Unit Cost: 100 units: $625K

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 7, 2014 at 2:53 PM21 Comments

SWAP: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

SWAP

(TS//SI//REL) SWAP provides software application persistence by exploiting the motherboard BIOS and the hard drive's Host Protected Area to gain periodic execution before the Operating System loads.

(TS//SI//REL) This technique supports single or multi-processor systems running Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, or Solaris with the following file systems: FAT32, NTFS, EXT2, EXT3, or UFS1.0.

(TS//SI//REL) Through remote access or interdiction, ARKSTREAM is used to reflash the BIOS and TWISTEDKILT to write the Host Protected Area on the hard drive on a target machine in order to implant SWAP and its payload (the implant installer). Once implanted, SWAP's frequency of execution (dropping the playload) is configurable and will occur when the target machine powers on.

Status: Released / Deployed. Ready for Immediate Delivery

Unit Cost: $0

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 6, 2014 at 2:07 PM32 Comments

Dispute Resolution Systems for Security Protocols

Interesting paper by Steven J. Murdoch and Ross Anderson in this year's Financial Cryptography conference: "Security Protocols and Evidence: Where Many Payment Systems Fail."

Abstract: As security protocols are used to authenticate more transactions, they end up being relied on in legal proceedings. Designers often fail to anticipate this. Here we show how the EMV protocol -- the dominant card payment system worldwide -- does not produce adequate evidence for resolving disputes. We propose five principles for designing systems to produce robust evidence. We apply these to other systems such as Bitcoin, electronic banking and phone payment apps. We finally propose specific modifications to EMV that could allow disputes to be resolved more efficiently and fairly.

Ross Anderson has a blog post on the paper.

Posted on February 6, 2014 at 6:05 AM17 Comments

SOMBERKNAVE: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

SOMBERKNAVE

(TS//SI//REL) SOMBERKNAVE is Windows XP wireless software implant that provides covert internet connectivity for isolated targets.

(TS//SI//REL) SOMBEKNAVE is a software implant that surreptitiously routes TCP traffic from a designated process to a secondary network via an unused embedded 802.11 network device. If an Internet-connected wireless Access Point is present, SOMBERKNAVE can be used to allow OLYMPUS or VALIDATOR to "call home" via 802.11 from an air-gapped target computer. If the 802.11 interface is in use by the target, SOMBERKNAVE will not attempt to transmit.

(TS//SI//REL) Operationally, VALIDATOR initiates a call home. SOMBERKNAVE triggers from the named event and tries to associate with an access point. If connection is successful, data is sent over 802.11 to the ROC. VALIDATOR receives instructions, downloads OLYMPUS, then disassociates and gives up control of the 802.11 hardware. OLYMPUS will then be able to communicate with the ROC via SOMBERKNAVE, as long as there is an available access point.

Status: Available -- Fall 2008

Unit Cost: $50K

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

EDITED TO ADD (2/6): It's implants like this that illustrate why I believe the world's major intelligence services have copies of the entire Snowden archive. While I don't believe they can decrypt Snowden's archive, they can certainly jump the air gaps that the reporters have set up.

Posted on February 5, 2014 at 2:04 PM31 Comments

1971 Social Engineering Attack

From Betty Medsger's book on the 1971 FBI burglary (page 22):

As burglars, they used some unusual techniques, ones Davidon enjoyed recalling years later, such as what some of them did in 1970 at a draft board office in Delaware. During their casing, they had noticed that the interior door that opened to the draft board office was always locked. There was no padlock to replace, as they had done at a draft board raid in Philadelphia a few months earlier, and no one in the group was able to pick the lock. The break-in technique they settled on at that office must be unique in the annals of burglary. Several hours before the burglary was to take place, one of them wrote a note and tacked it to the door they wanted to enter: "Please don't lock this door tonight." Sure enough, when the burglars arrived that night, someone had obediently left the door unlocked. The burglars entered the office with ease, stole the Selective Service records, and left. They were so pleased with themselves that one of them proposed leaving a thank-you note on the door. More cautious minds prevailed. Miss Manners be damned, they did not leave a note.

Posted on February 5, 2014 at 6:02 AM22 Comments

MAESTRO-II: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

MAESTRO-II

(TS//SI//REL) MAESTRO-II is a miniaturized digital core packaged in a Multi-Chip Module (MCM) to be used in implants with size constraining concealments.

(TS//SI//REL) MAESTRO-II uses the TAO standard implant architecture. The architecture provides a robust, reconfigurable, standard digital platform resulting in a dramatic performance improvement over the obsolete HC12 microcontroller based designs. A development Printed Circuit Board (PCB) using packaged parts has been developed and is available as the standard platform. The MAESTRO-II Multi-Chip-Module (MCM) contain an ARM7 microcontroller, FPGA, Flash and SDRAM memories.

Status: Available -- On The Shelf

Unit Cost: $3-4K

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

Finally -- I think this is obvious, but many people are confused -- I am not the one releasing these documents. Der Spiegel released these documents in December. Every national intelligence service, Internet organized crime syndicate, and clued terrorist organization has already pored over these pages. It's us who haven't really looked at, or talked about, these pages. That's the point of these daily posts.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 4, 2014 at 2:09 PM17 Comments

Hacking Airline Lounges for Free Meals

I think this is a great hack:

A man bought a first-class ticket and used it to have free meals and drinks at the airport's VIP lounge almost every day for nearly a year, Kwong Wah Yit Poh reported.

The itinerary for the ticket was found to have been changed more than 300 times within a year, and the owner of the ticket used it to enjoy the facilities at the airport's VIP lounge in Xi'an in Shaanxi, China.

[...]

When the ticket's validity was almost up, the passenger cancelled it for a refund.

It's such a weird occurrence that I'm not even sure it's worth bothering to defend against.

EDITED TO ADD (2/4): Hacker News thread.

Posted on February 4, 2014 at 6:45 AM39 Comments

JUNIORMINT: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today's item from the NSA's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:

JUNIORMINT

(TS//SI//REL) JUNIORMINT is a digital core packaged in both a mini Printed circuit Board (PCB), to be used in typical concealments, and a miniaturized Flip Chip Module (FCM), to be used in implants with size constraining concealments.

(TS//SI//REL) JUNIORMINT uses the TAO standard implant architecture. The architecture provides a robust, reconfigurable, standard digital platform resulting in a dramatic performance improvement over the obsolete HC12 microcontroller based designs. A mini Printed Circuit Board (PCB) using packaged parts will be developed and will be available as the standard platform for applications requiring a digital core. The ultra-miniature Flip Chip Module (FCM) will be available for challenging concealments. Both will contain an ARM9 microcontroller, FPGA, Flash, SDRAM and DDR2 memories.

Status: Availability -- mini-PCB and Dev Board by April 2009, FCM by June 2010

Unit Cost: Available Upon Request

Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 3, 2014 at 2:09 PM16 Comments

CSEC Surveillance Analysis of IP and User Data

The most recent story from the Snowden documents is from Canada: it claims the CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada) used airport Wi-Fi information to track travelers. That's not really true. What the top-secret presentation shows is a proof-of-concept project to identify different IP networks, using a database of user IDs found on those networks over time, and then potentially using that data to identify individual users. This is actually far more interesting than simply eavesdropping on airport Wi-Fi sessions. Between Boingo and the cell phone carriers, that's pretty easy.

The researcher, with the cool-sounding job-title of "tradecraft developer," started with two weeks' worth of ID data from a redacted "Canadian Special Source." (The presentation doesn't say if they compelled some Internet company to give them the data, or if they eavesdropped on some Internet service and got it surreptitiously.) This was a list of userids seen on those networks at particular times, presumably things like Facebook logins. (Facebook, Google, Yahoo and many others are finally using SSL by default, so this data is now harder to come by.) They also had a database of geographic locations for IP addresses from Quova (now Neustar). The basic question is whether they could determine what sorts of wireless hotspots the IP addresses were.

You'd expect airports to look different from hotels, and those to look different from offices. And, in fact, that's what the data showed. At an airport network, individual IDs are seen once, and briefly. At hotels, individual IDs are seen over a few days. At an office, IDs are generally seen from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. And so on.

Pretty basic so far. Where it gets interesting his how this kind of dataset can be used. The presentation suggests two applications. The first is the obvious one. If you know the ID of some surveillance target, you can set an alarm when that target visits an airport or a hotel. The presentation points out that "targets/enemies still target air travel and hotels"; but more realistically, this can be used to know when a target is traveling.

The second application suggested is to identify a particular person whom you know visited a particular geographical area on a series of dates/times. The example in the presentation is a kidnapper. He is based in a rural area, so he can't risk making his ransom calls from that area. Instead, he drives to an urban area to make those calls. He either uses a burner phone or a pay phone, so he can't be identified that way. But if you assume that he has some sort of smart phone in his pocket that identifies itself over the Internet, you might be able to find him in that dataset. That is, he might be the only ID that appears in that geographical location around the same time as the ransom calls and at no other times.

The results from testing that second application were successful, but slow. The presentation sounds encouraging, stating that something called Collaborative Analysis Research Environment (CARE) is being trialed "with NSA launch assist": presumably technology, money, or both. CARE reduces the run-time "from 2+ hours to several seconds." This was in May 2012, so it's probably all up and running by now. We don't know if this particular research project was ever turned into an operational program, but the CSEC, the NSA, and the rest of the Five Eyes intelligence agencies have a lot of interesting uses for this kind of data.

Since the Snowden documents have been reported on last June, the primary focus of the stories has been the collection of data. There has been very little reporting about how this data is analyzed and used. The exception is the story on the cell phone location database, which has some pretty fascinating analytical programs attached to it. I think the types of analysis done on this data are at least as important as its collection, and likely more disturbing to the average person. These sorts of analysis are being done with all of the data collected. Different databases are being correlated for all sorts of purposes. When I get back to the source documents, these are exactly the sorts of things I will be looking for. And when we think of the harms to society of ubiquitous surveillance, this is what we should be thinking about.

EDITED TO ADD (2/3): Microsoft has done the same research.

EDITED TO ADD (2/4): And Microsoft patented it.

Posted on February 3, 2014 at 5:09 AM58 Comments

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