The Times of London is reporting that Russian agents are in Ireland probing transatlantic communications cables.
Ireland is the landing point for undersea cables which carry internet traffic between America, Britain and Europe. The cables enable millions of people to communicate and allow financial transactions to take place seamlessly.
Garda and military sources believe the agents were sent by the GRU, the military intelligence branch of the Russian armed forces which was blamed for the nerve agent attack in Britain on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer.
This is nothing new. The NSA and GCHQ have been doing this for decades.
Boing Boing post.
Posted on February 24, 2020 at 6:27 AM •
Interesting details on Olympic Destroyer, the nation-state cyberattack against the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. Wired’s Andy Greenberg presents evidence that the perpetrator was Russia, and not North Korea or China.
EDITED TO ADD (11/13): Attribution to Russia is not new.
Posted on October 21, 2019 at 6:23 AM •
Kaspersky has a detailed blog post about a new piece of sophisticated malware that it’s calling Reductor. The malware is able to compromise TLS traffic by infecting the computer with hacked TLS engine substituted on the fly, “marking” infected TLS handshakes by compromising the underlining random-number generator, and adding new digital certificates. The result is that the attacker can identify, intercept, and decrypt TLS traffic from the infected computer.
The Kaspersky Attribution Engine shows strong code similarities between this family and the COMPfun Trojan. Moreover, further research showed that the original COMpfun Trojan most probably is used as a downloader in one of the distribution schemes. Based on these similarities, we’re quite sure the new malware was developed by the COMPfun authors.
The COMpfun malware was initially documented by G-DATA in 2014. Although G-DATA didn’t identify which actor was using this malware, Kaspersky tentatively linked it to the Turla APT, based on the victimology. Our telemetry indicates that the current campaign using Reductor started at the end of April 2019 and remained active at the time of writing (August 2019). We identified targets in Russia and Belarus.
Turla has in the past shown many innovative ways to accomplish its goals, such as using hijacked satellite infrastructure. This time, if we’re right that Turla is the actor behind this new wave of attacks, then with Reductor it has implemented a very interesting way to mark a host’s encrypted TLS traffic by patching the browser without parsing network packets. The victimology for this new campaign aligns with previous Turla interests.
We didn’t observe any MitM functionality in the analyzed malware samples. However, Reductor is able to install digital certificates and mark the targets’ TLS traffic. It uses infected installers for initial infection through HTTP downloads from warez websites. The fact the original files on these sites are not infected also points to evidence of subsequent traffic manipulation.
The attribution chain from Reductor to COMPfun to Turla is thin. Speculation is that the attacker behind all of this is Russia.
Posted on October 10, 2019 at 1:49 PM •
There’s some interesting new research about Russian APT malware:
The Russian government has fostered competition among the three agencies, which operate independently from one another, and compete for funds. This, in turn, has resulted in each group developing and hoarding its tools, rather than sharing toolkits with their counterparts, a common sight among Chinese and North Korean state-sponsored hackers.
“Every actor or organization under the Russain APT umbrella has its own dedicated malware development teams, working for years in parallel on similar malware toolkits and frameworks,” researchers said.
“While each actor does reuse its code in different operations and between different malware families, there is no single tool, library or framework that is shared between different actors.”
Researchers say these findings suggest that Russia’s cyber-espionage apparatus is investing a lot of effort into its operational security.
“By avoiding different organizations re-using the same tools on a wide range of targets, they overcome the risk that one compromised operation will expose other active operations,” researchers said.
This is no different from the US. The NSA malware released by the Shadow Brokers looked nothing like the CIA “Vault 7” malware released by WikiLeaks.
The work was done by Check Point and Intezer Labs. They have a website with an interactive map.
Posted on October 2, 2019 at 8:00 AM •
Yahoo News reported that the Russians have successfully targeted an FBI communications system:
American officials discovered that the Russians had dramatically improved their ability to decrypt certain types of secure communications and had successfully tracked devices used by elite FBI surveillance teams. Officials also feared that the Russians may have devised other ways to monitor U.S. intelligence communications, including hacking into computers not connected to the internet. Senior FBI and CIA officials briefed congressional leaders on these issues as part of a wide-ranging examination on Capitol Hill of U.S. counterintelligence vulnerabilities.
These compromises, the full gravity of which became clear to U.S. officials in 2012, gave Russian spies in American cities including Washington, New York and San Francisco key insights into the location of undercover FBI surveillance teams, and likely the actual substance of FBI communications, according to former officials. They provided the Russians opportunities to potentially shake off FBI surveillance and communicate with sensitive human sources, check on remote recording devices and even gather intelligence on their FBI pursuers, the former officials said.
It’s unclear whether the Russians were able to recover encrypted data or just perform traffic analysis. The Yahoo story implies the former; the NBC News story says otherwise. It’s hard to tell if the reporters truly understand the difference. We do know, from research Matt Blaze and others did almost ten years ago, that at least one FBI radio system was horribly insecure in practice — but not in a way that breaks the encryption. Its poor design just encourages users to turn off the encryption.
Posted on September 24, 2019 at 6:33 AM •
Interesting analysis of the possibility, feasibility, and efficacy of deliberately fake scientific research, something I had previously speculated about.
Posted on August 27, 2019 at 5:14 AM •
More nation-state activity in cyberspace, this time from Russia:
Per the different reports in Russian media, the files indicate that SyTech had worked since 2009 on a multitude of projects since 2009 for FSB unit 71330 and for fellow contractor Quantum. Projects include:
- Nautilus — a project for collecting data about social media users (such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn).
- Nautilus-S — a project for deanonymizing Tor traffic with the help of rogue Tor servers.
- Reward — a project to covertly penetrate P2P networks, like the one used for torrents.
- Mentor — a project to monitor and search email communications on the servers of Russian companies.
- Hope — a project to investigate the topology of the Russian internet and how it connects to other countries’ network.
- Tax-3 — a project for the creation of a closed intranet to store the information of highly-sensitive state figures, judges, and local administration officials, separate from the rest of the state’s IT networks.
BBC Russia, who received the full trove of documents, claims there were other older projects for researching other network protocols such as Jabber (instant messaging), ED2K (eDonkey), and OpenFT (enterprise file transfer).
Other files posted on the Digital Revolution Twitter account claimed that the FSB was also tracking students and pensioners.
Posted on July 22, 2019 at 6:17 AM •
Yesterday, I visited the NSA. It was Cyber Command’s birthday, but that’s not why I was there. I visited as part of the Berklett Cybersecurity Project, run out of the Berkman Klein Center and funded by the Hewlett Foundation. (BERKman hewLETT — get it? We have a web page, but it’s badly out of date.)
It was a full day of meetings, all unclassified but under the Chatham House Rule. Gen. Nakasone welcomed us and took questions at the start. Various senior officials spoke with us on a variety of topics, but mostly focused on three areas:
- Russian influence operations, both what the NSA and US Cyber Command did during the 2018 election and what they can do in the future;
- China and the threats to critical infrastructure from untrusted computer hardware, both the 5G network and more broadly;
- Machine learning, both how to ensure a ML system is compliant with all laws, and how ML can help with other compliance tasks.
It was all interesting. Those first two topics are ones that I am thinking and writing about, and it was good to hear their perspective. I find that I am much more closely aligned with the NSA about cybersecurity than I am about privacy, which made the meeting much less fraught than it would have been if we were discussing Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, Section 215 the USA Freedom Act (up for renewal next year), or any 4th Amendment violations. I don’t think we’re past those issues by any means, but they make up less of what I am working on.
Posted on May 22, 2019 at 2:11 PM •
A pair of Russia-designed cryptographic algorithms — the Kuznyechik block cipher and the Streebog hash function — have the same flawed S-box that is almost certainly an intentional backdoor. It’s just not the kind of mistake you make by accident, not in 2014.
Posted on May 10, 2019 at 6:30 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.