Operation Cyberstorm

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CyberInsurgency – A True Story

Friday, July 24th, 2009

One nation under martial law, the military stands guard against the population. This following days of protest by many who feel the results of the recent election were fabricated. The voice of dissent is publicly silenced with lethal force.  Terrestrial and satellite signals are jammed, including cell phones and foreign broadcast.  The modern police state, a heavy net of surveillance monitors all domestic communications.  In a series of arrests hundreds of people become political prisoners. Authorities raid media outlets, journalists are beaten as their equipment confiscated.  In an effort to dilute the information that leaks out of the country, the military has its own legion of users creating thousands of propaganda blogs.  Despite this opposition, protest continues. 

The riots continue today, a month after the election.  Protesters clash with troops who respond with tear gas.  In undisclosed locations, skilled technologists formed loose alliances to assist the people.  Their goals are as simple as educating people in the use of encrypted communications and services providing anonymous network routing.  This offers civilians a chance to send information securely, and speak their minds without fear of repercussions. 

Government restrictions have been well established. The public is allowed only a limited connection; access has been restricted to 128 kilobytes per second. Their traffic thoroughly inspected, routed into proxy servers, the content filtered, websites are blocked, and services rendered unreachable. Dissenting opinions are intercepted, and confirmed with torture and silenced by death.

In public channels outside of the country, people of various ideologies work together. Unable to free the citizens of that country from physical oppression, they hope to at least provide a means of communication. From around the world they have gathered to brainstorm new ways for the oppressed to maintain access to public web services. Political opinions put aside, a diverse group of people discuss various methods of circumventing control systems.   

Having stumbled into one such a meeting of the minds, I recognized it as a rare opportunity to observe and participate in an electronic insurgency. Though the subject serious and the consequences of failure well understood, the discussion mostly remained technical in nature. This separation from the human aspect of the crisis was enough to allow for the sort of wild creativity that seems to come naturally to successful people. For example, the suggestion of utilizing enigma machines transmitting over Morse code is not the simplest solution. However, it is the idea that is an engine for a train of thought that could eventually arrive at some new solution.  In the end, it was not necessary to reinvent the wheel, and the focus turned towards how to spread existing encryption and privacy technology. The solution must be easy to understand and implement by people with limited technical skills.

Instructions were provided to use FirePGP in combination with GnuPG to send and receive encrypted emails in Gmail. Once their messages are secure, the correspondents require a method to protect their identities. Squid and Tor proxy server software were suggested to anonymize the traffic. Additional details are available for the operation of a Tor-relay, with the goal being to prevent the government to locate sources of information. Other systems are under development to offer civilians access to open communications channels outside their country, and away from the control of their regime.

It was several days after the election before the mainstream media started its coverage. CNN was using information from Twitter, from ultimately unverifiable sources.  A psychological operation was under way to influence the rest of the world, and confuse or expose insurgents using the service. Acting as a live forum for dissent, Twitter was asked by the US State Department to delay scheduled maintenance in order to prevent a possible outage.

This is the story of an international community working together to promote freedom of speech, and private communications in Iran. Public dissent is an event that most governments including the United States have plans to suppress.  They too monitor civilian communications for threats against their authority. Protest has already been caged into ‘free speech zones’. Similar to Iran’s jamming of communications, Executive Orders exist in the United States giving the government the ultimate authority over everything including transportation routes, communications, and even the civilian population who could be used for labor. The planning behind readiness exercise 84 (REX84) shows the government is willing to use its power to detain people who question their authority. Studies such as Operation Cyberstorm show that the United States and its allies are already preparing to defend against activist computer operators, foreign and domestic. Coming legislation, if passed, would require a license to practice computer security. This could classify some unlicensed technologists as terrorists, where they would be no better off then their colleagues in Iran just trying to get an unapproved message out to the world.

Sources:

Martial Law in Tehran-Monday June 29th 2009

Martial Law in Tehran-Monday June 29th 2009

U.S. satellite feeds to Iran jammed :: InfoWar Monitor :: Tracking Cyberpower

U.S. satellite feeds to Iran jammed

Iran blocks TV, radio and phones – but web proves more difficult | Technology | guardian.co.uk

Iran blocks TV, radio and phones – but web proves more difficult

Mousavi’s wife blasts arrests | Philadelphia Inquirer | 07/24/2009

More than 500 remain in prison, including many top politicians from pro-reform political parties, human-rights lawyers, journalists, and activists

Google Translate

This week a letter sent to the 10 thousand to 10 thousand blog mobilization base in commissioning and production of the “Mhtvahay value” is the Internet space.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/iran/2008/11/081119_mg_basij_filtering.shtml (original link)

Greenwave Info

dedicated to spreading useful information about the current protests in Iran.

Iran | OpenNet Initiative <–very comprehensive and informative.

Iran continues to strengthen the legal, administrative and technical aspects of its Internet filtering systems. The Internet censorship system in Iran is one of the most comprehensive and sophisticated in the world. Advances in domestic technical capacity have contributed to the implementation of a centralized filtering strategy and a reduced reliance on Western technologies. Despite the deeply held commitment to regulating Internet content, authorities continue to be challenged in their attempts to control online speech. Political filtering related to the 2009 presidential campaign, including the blocking of Facebook and several opposition party Web sites, brought renewed attention to the role of filtering in Iran.

pastebin – FirePGP tutorial – post number 1465774

Instructions on how to use the Firefox extension, FirePGP, in combination with GnuPG, to send and receive encrypted emails in Gmail.

rbox

rbox: Squid proxy server

rbox-tor: easy to use Tor server

Tor: Relay Configuration Instructions

Configuring a Tor relay

Twitter Retains Spotlight in Iran Coverage – Digits – WSJ

Another delay is being requested, this time by the State Department

NedaNet Resource Page

resource page for NedaNet, a network of hackers formed to support the democratic revolution in Iran.

NSA Spying | Electronic Frontier Foundation

The U.S. government, with assistance from major telecommunications carriers including AT&T, has engaged in a massive program of illegal dragnet surveillance of domestic communications and communications records of millions of ordinary Americans since at least 2001.

Executive Orders | Bill Clinton’s Executive Order 12919

EXECUTIVE ORDER 12919

Rex 84 – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rex 84, short for Readiness Exercise 1984, is a plan by the United States federal government to test their ability to detain large numbers of American citizens in case of civil unrest or national emergency.


http://cryptome.org/cyberstorm.pdf

National Cyber Exercise: Cyber Storm
National Cyber Security Division

GovTrack: S. 773: Text of Legislation, Introduced in Senate

a) IN GENERAL- Within 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Commerce shall develop or coordinate and integrate a national licensing, certification, and periodic recertification program for cybersecurity professionals.

(b) MANDATORY LICENSING- Beginning 3 years after the date of enactment of this Act, it shall be unlawful for any individual to engage in business in the United States, or to be employed in the United States, as a provider of cybersecurity services to any Federal agency or an information system or network designated by the President, or the President’s designee, as a critical infrastructure information system or network, who is not licensed and certified under the program.

CyberWar is a Racket

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Inspired by ‘War is a Racket’ by Maj. Gen. Smedly Darlington Butler U.S.M.C

CyberWar is a Racket

Under the threat of war, the cost of defense is never too high. A nation is under significant obligation to protect its investments where ever they may be. What we see now, is the transition from physical to electronic defense. The United States is returning to Cold War status. In preparation for this the advancement of technology and the power of the intelligence community is of the foremost importance. In order to maintain a position of dominance, the government must sustain its partnership with wartime industry. Through a metamorphosis of the “military industrial complex”, into a new “intelligence industrial complex”, this accomplishment can be witnessed. The ever present fear of terrorism will still be used as justification for sustained engagement. The new terrorist threat comes from what the media refers to as hackers.

The United States’ trade deficit is in the trillions of dollars. The nation must possess assets for which they use to back the value of money sent overseas. China, for example, has accumulated a surplus of US currency. The deficit exists due to the lack of goods being sold in return. These dollars are then stockpiled or used to buy fuel. The oil cartel uses this petro-dollar as the international rate of exchange. There is already discussion to take the world off of this standard. The dollar has already been abandoned in places where once it was used it as a common currency. The United States needs to be ready to compete in the global market, or in default will continue to forfeit property as payment. If the international oil standard were to shift from the dollar, the American economy could be crushed. Places like China would have no reason to continue accepting currency from the United States as a form of trade. In order to continue doing global business, and maintain the standard of living for most Americans, the United States would need to find an acceptable financial solution. It would be necessary to provide a product or service which can be sold on the international market.

With a shift of strategy by the public-private sector, there is the beginning of what could be a record breaking transition. The same corporations, agencies, and institutions which traditionally have been government contractors understand this move, and are shifting production accordingly. International finance, which in the past has funded one or more sides of various conflicts, is already buying into this new deal. With the new President and his many supporters, the official war should be concluded soon. Although there will always be justification for troops stationed around the globe, much funding for war expenses would no longer be necessary. The companies which produced the equipment, supplied the fuel for the machinery, and paid the workers, would be looking at a massive drop in revenue. To compensate they will begin to offer services in line with the new focus on infrastructure protection. War profits can be an increase of 7856% over peace time. That is a real historical figure of seven-thousand eight-hundred and fifty-six percent. Profit is the only motivation for the existence of a corporation. Existing funding could be redirected towards new projects and a new war. A nation needs a real or fabricated threat to justify taxation to its people, for the necessity of its defenses. In Orwell’s 1984 we saw Emmanuel Goldstein as the fictional ‘enemy of the people’. The character was a phantom used to justify the actions of the state. Some would say there is a modern analogue to the Goldstein character.

It is claimed that Tim Osman, in only 30 years, was partly responsible for the near collapse of not one, but two world empires. He has never been permanently detained despite a concerted global effort. In fact, he taunts the world by sending recordings of himself to media outlets, which use his image as a rallying symbol of fear comparable to Orwell’s construct. It is hard to imagine how a person in need of regular medical attention, can evade the worlds most advanced intelligence gathering network, and continue to avoid capture. A sufficiently disruptive electronic attack would be an excellent pretense to create a new phantom enemy. Sophisticated attacks on domestic infrastructure by unknown foreign entities, could easily be sold to the people as ‘the cost of war hitting home’, against enemies which must be defeated ‘at any cost’. Create a little fear, combined with nationalism, and a popular charismatic leader, and one can accomplish almost anything through the mob mentality.

Operation Cyberstorm has introduced us to the next generation of hypothetical threats. These new terrorists are individuals and groups of technically skilled people. United by a popular voice of dissent, these groups have formed a loosely knit alliance with a common goal of disrupting the global economy. There are individual actors, the known unknowns, who may assist and possibly increase the severity of an electronic attack. To defend the global financial system and domestic infrastructure, the federal government partnered with private industry, and is spear heading the effort to crack down on criminal activity within these groups. It is not an eAl-Queada, or the iTaliban, the new terrorists are hackers. They are the poltergeist in the machine, whenever there is a disruption in internet service, or a random power outage, or any other system the public has come to depend on is interrupted, there will be the suspicion and speculation as to the root cause. If a server catches fire in Phoenix, or suzie1865 can not get to her mytwitterface account, someone is going to cry wolf. When this occurs the justification for more funding is shown to be necessary, the cycle of funding continues. Operation Cyberstorm was not focused on international state sponsored crime, or independent groups of foreign nationals conducting espionage. Though these are the fears represented in the recent legislation and government reviews. The very intangible nature of cyber-bogeymen provides the vagueness needed to justify any measure of prevention, or manner of retaliation.

It is possible that we could see the war funding re-purposed for the improvement of infrastructure, the advancement of technology, and the defense of communications networks. These billions of dollars will continue to flow into the same hands. The nature of security allows the defender to only divulge knowledge when it is to their advantage. The knowledge of potential threats, or even past incidents, is just another form of information which could be released for profit. When the industry shifts from traditional combat to electronic engagement, the resources allocated would create a world class institution. The heavy corporate involvement will open up the opportunity for those holding a large number of dollars to trade them in. The sale of data, proprietary and patented new technologies, and accompanying services, would create an outlet for stockpiled petro-dollars.

However this is not the end of physical combat. With industry there is the necessity for natural resources, the foreign and domestic sources of these materials would continue to require physical protection. To prevent against supply line attacks involving sabotaged materials, increased international oversight would be required at these facilities, which produce today’s high-tech components. Government contractors will supply both electronic and physical security to protect their assets. Tax money is used to fund corporations which are not interested or obligated to protect people’s rights. By partnering with the private sector, the government has relieved itself of much responsibility to the people. This responsibility is transferred to the private sector, which only has the single minded goal of increasing its own profit. This could explain why corporate representatives testify before congress to the need for the very services they provide. The agencies which use their services sit alongside them in agreement. This gives the illusion of a clear and present threat which must be eliminated as soon as possible.

The corporations are lined up with their hands out for increasingly larger slices of the federal pie. Sadly, with the lack of resistance and competition, there will be no organic incentive for innovation. Like a pack of wolves they will only destroy each other fighting over the scraps. Those who rely on the contracts to continue operation are forced into compliance for their ration, forever submitting to the alpha of the pack. The market would not be free, and likely would eventually create a situation where it will be too hollow to support itself and collapse, leading to a very real threat to national security. On the other hand there is a great risk for the continued creation of a technocratic fascist state. In which we would see constant and holistic surveillance to protect against foreign or domestic threats, among which the government themselves admit, is public dissent. America was founded on the principle of dissent against tyranny. It is a patriotic duty to question the motivations of government. Technology can be the key that sets us free, or the yoke under which the many exist to serve the few.

With the end of the war, the media will further turn its attention to programming which numbs the mind. Without the constant reminder of the hellish nature of war the protesters will slowly go away. When the international terrorist computer criminals allegedly cripple some piece of critical infrastructure, and the justification for increased spending be comes a reality, the new victims of war will not draw the public sympathy as do dead and dieing solders in the field. When the power grid is compromised, or restrictions are placed on internet usage, even the anti-war crowd will stand behind the government looking for justice against the terrorists, which have caused their inconvenience. The intelligence assurance community, a government and corporate body, would expand as protectorate of the national electronic infrastructure.

Anyone who operates critical equipment, including networks of computers, will be biometricly catalogued. Some existing uses, of similar government systems, also employ operators in real time remote connection monitoring, as a security measure to ensure the validity of the information transfer, and that standard protocols are being observed. Most domestic communications are intercepted and recorded by the intelligence agencies at various points in the network. Private companies index this information, protecting it from Freedom of Information Act requests. Like so many baseball cards, profiles are bought, sold, and traded.

Information is the new currency. The data centers are the new vaults, the processing facilities the new banks. Where there are banks there will always be robbers. Where there are robbers there will always be lawmen to make pursuit. In their way are things like privacy, the Constitution, and international boundaries. The intelligence agencies are more then willing to put themselves above the law when it suits them. Their collaboration with the private sector gives them special access to infrastructure, which they have already shown the willingness to abuse. Unlike land, gold, and oil, persons and their information are renewable resources, so this new market has infinite growth potential.

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