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Iran waging ‘cyber warfare’ to ‘disrupt communication of dissidents’ and ‘promote terrorism’ worldwide

A NEW wave of “cyber warfare” is using “mass surveillance” to “actively disrupt the communication of protesters and dissidents” in Iran and “promote terrorism” across the globe, an explosive document has claimed.

This is precisely why Islamic supremacists must never be appeased nor tolerated. They are fascist and expansionist, and while the abuse to which they subject their own people is atrocious enough,  these abuses do not stop at their borders.

“Revealed: How Iran wages ‘CYBER TERRORISM’ to secretly spy on MILLIONS and incite ‘CHAOS,’” by Sam Stevenson, Express, December 28, 2018:

A NEW wave of “cyber warfare” is using “mass surveillance” to “actively disrupt the communication of protesters and dissidents” in Iran and “promote terrorism” across the globe, an explosive document has claimed.

The paper was compiled by the official Iranian resistance movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). It makes damning assertions which implicate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in waging “cyber warfare to preserve the theocracy”. NCRI representative Hossein Abedini has spoken to Express.co.uk about his group’s findings.

Furious Iranians, making use of cyber technology to disseminate their message, have been part of a popular uprising that erupted in Tehran in December 2017.

But now the theocratic regime – led by Iran’s IRGC and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) – is using “cyber attacks” to suppress its people, the Iranian Resistance document seen by Express.co.uk claims.

It explains: “Millions of Iranians have access to the internet and more than 48 million own smartphones.

“Iran’s young and restless population has become increasingly ‘tech-savvy’ over the years to evade the regime’s controls and censorship.

“The continuous cyber resistance by the public has driven the regime to route internet traffic through one of the state-controlled systems, making it very difficult for any subscriber to evade state-sponsored cyber repression.”

The ominous paper argues the Iranian regime is among very few governments in the world where “its testbed of cyber attacks and strategies is its own citizens”.

It contends this approach is “in line with Tehran’s longstanding worldview of instilling fear and repression at home, while promoting terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and chaos abroad”.

The document claims the regime uses malicious malware and spyware embedded within smartphone applications (apps) to “secretly spy” on its people….

EDITORS NOTE: This column with images originally appeared on Jihad Watch. It is republished with permission. The featured photo is by Alireza Heydarifard on Unsplash.

Cyber Warfare — A Clear and Present Danger

In a January 2014 column titled “The Cyber Attacks are coming, the Cyber Attacks are coming!” I wrote:

According to experts like John Jorgenson, CEO and founding partner of the Sylint Group, our government is woefully behind the times in capability and capacity to deal with the threat of cyber attacks let alone the cyber warfare being conducted on a global scale by nation states such as China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.

[ … ]

“Nothing of substance to protect commercial industry, the countries infrastructure, or the citizen has come out of the [Obama] White House. From the attacks being made on the United States on the Cyber Battlefield our advisories are taking Cyber Warfare seriously while we can’t find a credible Field Marshall let alone decide what needs to be done,” notes Jorgenson.

Read more…

On February 26th, 2016 I was interviewed by Denise Simon on The Denise Simon Experience regarding the issue of cyber warfare. I spoke about the clear and present dangers of enemies, both foreign and domestic, using technology to commit crimes, steal national secrets and impact our way of life.

Denise called cyber attacks “the poor man’s nuclear weapon.”

I talked about the current threat (attacks from nation states, cyber hackers and groups like Anonymous) to the looming future threat of cyborgs, chipping and Internables.

Internables are internal sensors that measure well-being in our bodies may become the new wearables. According to Ericsson’s ConsumerLab eight out of 10 consumers would like to use technology to enhance sensory perceptions and cognitive abilities such as vision, memory and hearing.

Fast forward to December 2016 and the media’s obsession with the successful phishing of the DNC and release of John Podesta’s emails. What they are missing is:

  1. As technology has become ubiquitous, cyber warfare has become the preferred method of attacking one’s enemies.
  2. President Obama turned over control of the Internet to the United Nations in October of 2016, which increases the cyber warfare threat against U.S. public and private entities.
  3. All nation states, with the exception of the U.S., conduct offensive cyber warfare as a matter of public policy including: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and ISIS to name a few.
  4. The Obama administration has made neither cyber security nor cyber warfare a priority during the past 8 years.

My greatest concern is that the United States government is only conducting defensive operations against the threat, and not doing that very well. The Obama administration does not conduct effective offensive operations against our enemies which include: China, Russia, Iran, the Islamic State, North Korea and many others.

Our warnings went unheeded by the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and the White House.

So who really is to blame for these unrelenting cyber attacks?

Why its U.S.!

Americans Want More Protections For Emails and Online Communications

WASHINGTON, D.C. /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Digital 4th coalition unveiled new poll results showing broad and diverse support for stronger email privacy protections – both nationally and in early primary states. According to a survey by Vox Populi Polling, 86% of voters nationwide support an update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the 29-year-old law setting standards for government access to emails and online communications. In Iowa, 81% of Democratic voters and 74% of Republican voters are behind ECPA reform. The numbers were similar in New Hampshire, with 84% of Democrat voters and 75% of Republicans in support.

Moreover, 77% of voters across the country believe the government should be required to get a warrant from a judge before obtaining access to emails, photos and documents stored online.

“ECPA reform is overwhelmingly bipartisan and overwhelmingly supported by Americans across the country. There is tremendous momentum with more than 300 members of Congress co-sponsoring legislation requiring a warrant for emails and online communications. The legislation would simply extend Constitutional protections online,” said Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel and Policy Advisor at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a member of the Digital 4th coalition.

“What’s particularly illuminating is that more than three out of every four voters believe that the government needs to get a warrant before accessing emails and other online communications. Federal agencies like the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) have been advocating to circumvent the warrant requirement. It’s clear that Americans see this as nothing more than a power grab. We hope Congress stands up to federal agencies and preserves our constitutional rights online,” said Katie McAuliffe, Federal Affairs Manager at Americans Tax Reform (ATR) and member of the Digital 4th coalition.

“Support for strengthening online privacy spans across all ages, races and political affiliations. This level of support is typically unheard of in politics today. It is clear from our results that Americans want online privacy laws to be updated,” said Michael Meyers of Vox Populi Polling.

Other notable numbers from the poll include:

  • 84% of voters feel that privacy is important (63% extremely or very important) when it comes to the government accessing their online information. Only 16% of voters feel that it is not very important or not important at all.
  • 77% of voters reported that a warrant should be required to access these online communications. 78% of Democrats and 76% of Republicans supported the requirement of a warrant.
  • ECPA reform does have an effect on presidential candidate choice for a majority of American voters. 53%of all likely general election voters stated that they would be more inclined to vote for a candidate who supported strengthening online privacy through ECPA reform.

To read a memo on the full polling results, click here.

Kosovo Muslim arrested for hacking U.S. Military files for the Islamic State

“A statement from the U.S. Department of Justice said Mr Ferizi, known by his moniker ‘Th3Dir3ctorY’, hacked into a U.S. company’s systems in order to take the personal details of 1,351 U.S. military and government staff.” The repercussions of that theft could be felt for quite some time.

“Malaysia arrests Kosovo man for ‘hacking US files for IS,’” BBC, October 16, 2015 (thanks to Lookmann):

A Kosovan man has been arrested in Malaysia for allegedly hacking into a computer database and providing information on US security officials to the so-called Islamic State group.

The man, who is in his 20s, was detained on 15 September, Malaysian police said in a statement on Thursday.

Separately, the US identified him as Ardit Ferizi, thought to head a hacker group called Kosova Hacker’s Security (KHS).

Mr Ferizi will be extradited to the US.

A statement from the US Department of Justice said Mr Ferizi, known by his moniker “Th3Dir3ctorY”, hacked into a US company’s systems in order to take the personal details of 1,351 US military and government staff.

He will be charged with computer hacking and identity theft, and faces up to 35 years in jail, the statement added….

Between June and August this year, Mr Ferizi is alleged to have passed the data on to IS member Junaid Hussain, also known as Abu Hussain al-Britani, who later posted the details online along with a threat to target the officials….

Malaysia has arrested more than 100 people this year, suspected of links to IS, including ten people in August – six of them members of Malaysia’s security forces.

What? 100 people in modern, moderate Malaysia misunderstood Islam so drastically as to adhere to the Islamic State?

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Should We Fear the Era of Driverless Cars or Embrace the Coming Age of Autopilot? by Will Tippens

Driving kills more than 30,000 Americans every year. Wrecks cause billions of dollars in damages. The average commuter spends nearly 40 hours a year stuck in traffic and almost five years just driving in general.

But there is light at the end of the traffic-jammed tunnel: the driverless car. Thanks to millions of dollars in driverless technology investment by tech giants like Google and Tesla, the era of road rage, drunk driving, and wasted hours behind the wheel could be left in a cloud of dust within the next two decades.

Despite the immense potential of self-driving vehicles, commentators are already dourly warning that such automation will produce undesirable effects. As political blogger Scott Santens warns,

Driverless vehicles are coming, and they are coming fast…. As close as 2025 — that is in a mere 10 years — our advancing state of technology will begin disrupting our economy in ways we can’t even yet imagine. Human labor is increasingly unnecessary and even economically unviable compared to machine labor.

The problem, Santens says, is that there are “over 10 million American workers and their families whose incomes depend entirely or at least partially on the incomes of truck drivers.” These professional drivers will face unemployment within the next two decades due to self-driving vehicles.

Does this argument sound familiar?

These same objections have sprung up at every major stage of technological innovation since the Industrial Revolution, from the textile-working Luddites destroying looming machines in the 1810s to taxi drivers in 2015 smashing Uber cars.

Many assume that any initial job loss accompanying new technology harms the economy and further impoverishes the most vulnerable, whether fast food workers or truck drivers. It’s true that losing a job can be an individual hardship, but are these same pundits ready to denounce the creation of the light bulb as an economic scourge because it put the candle makers out of business?

Just as blacksmithing dwindled with the decline of the horse-drawn buggy, economic demand for certain jobs waxes and wanes. Jobs arise and continue to exist for the sole reason of satisfying consumer demands, and the consumer’s demands are continuously evolving. Once gas heating devices became available, most people decided that indoor fires were dirtier, costlier, and less effective at heating and cooking, so they switched. While the change temporarily disadvantaged those in the chimney-sweeping business, the added value of the gas stove vastly improved the quality of life for everyone, chimney sweeps included.

There were no auto mechanics before the automobile and no web designers before the Internet. It is impossible to predict all the new employment opportunities a technology will create beforehand. Countless jobs exist today that were unthinkable in 1995 — and 20 years from now, people will be employed in ways we cannot yet begin to imagine, with the driverless car as a key catalyst.

The historical perspective doesn’t assuage the naysayers. If some jobs can go extinct, couldn’t all jobs go extinct?

Yes, every job we now know could someday disappear — but so what? Specific jobs may come and go, but that doesn’t mean we will ever see a day when labor is no longer demanded.

Economist David Ricardo demonstrated in 1817 that each person has a comparative advantage due to different opportunity costs. Each person is useful, and no matter how unskilled he or she may be, there will always be something that each person has a special advantage in producing. When this diversity of ability and interest is coupled with the infinite creativity of freely acting individuals, new opportunities will always arise, no matter how far technology advances.

Neither jobs nor labor are ends in themselves — they are mere means to the goal of wealth production. This does not mean that every person is concerned only with getting rich, but as Henry Hazlitt wrote in Economics in One Lesson, real wealth consists in what is produced and consumed: the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in. It is railways and roads and motor cars; ships and planes and factories; schools and churches and theaters; pianos, paintings and hooks.

In other words, wealth is the ability to fulfill subjective human desires, whether that means having fresh fruit at your local grocery or being able to easily get from point A to point B. Labor is simply a means to these ends. Technology, in turn, allows labor to become far more efficient, resulting in more wealth diffused throughout society.

Everyone knows that using a bulldozer to dig a ditch in an hour is preferable to having a whole team of workers spend all day digging it by hand. The “surplus” workers are now available to do something else in which they can produce more highly valued goods and services.  Over time, in an increasingly specialized economy, productivity rises and individuals are able to better serve one another through mutually beneficial exchanges in the market. This ongoing process of capital accumulation is the key to all meaningful prosperity and the reason all of humanity has seen an unprecedented rise in wealth, living standards, leisure, and health in the past two centuries.

Technology is always uncertain going forward. Aldous Huxley warned in 1927 that jukeboxes would put live artists out of business. Time magazine predicted the computer would wreak economic chaos in the 1960s.

Today, on the cusp of one of the biggest innovations since the Internet, there is, predictably, similar opposition. But those who wring their hands at the prospect of the driverless car fail to see that its greatest potential lies not in reducing pollution and road deaths, nor in lowering fuel costs and insurance rates, but rather in its ability to liberate billions of hours of human potential that truckers, taxi drivers, and commuters now devote to focusing on the road.

No one can know exactly what the future will look like, but we know where we have been, and we know the principles of human flourishing that have guided us here.

If society is a car, trade is the engine — and technology is the gas. It drives itself. Enjoy the ride.

Will Tippens

Will Tippens is a recent law school graduate living in Memphis.

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The Ghosts of Spying Past by Gary McGath

In the 1990s, the Clinton administration fought furiously against privacy and security in communication, and we’re still hurting from it today. Yet people in powerful positions are trying to commit the same mistakes all over again.

In the early days, the Internet was thoroughly insecure; its governmental and academic users trusted each other, and the occasional student prank couldn’t cause much damage. As it started becoming available to everyone in the early ‘90s, people saw the huge opportunities it offered for commerce.

But doing business safely requires data security: If unauthorized parties can grab credit card numbers or issue fake orders, nobody is safe. However, the Clinton administration considered communication security a threat to national security.

Attorney General Janet Reno said, “Without encryption safeguards, all Americans will be endangered.” She didn’t mean that we needed the safeguard of encryption, but that we had to be protected from encryption.

In a 1996 executive order, President Clinton stated:

I have determined that the export of encryption products described in this section could harm national security and foreign policy interests even where comparable products are or appear to be available from sources outside the United States, and that facts and questions concerning the foreign availability of such encryption products cannot be made subject to public disclosure or judicial review without revealing or implicating classified information that could harm United States national security and foreign policy interests.

The government prohibited the export of strongly secure encryption technology by calling it a “munition.” Putting code on the Internet makes it available around the world, so the restriction crippled secure communication. The Department of Justice investigated Phil Zimmerman for three years for making a free email encryption program, PGP, available.

The administration also tried to mandate government access to all strong encryption keys. In 1993 it proposed making the Clipper Chip, with a built-in “back door” for government spying, the standard for serious encryption. Any message it sent included a 128-bit field that would let government agencies (and hopefully no one else) decrypt it.

But the algorithm for the Clipper was classified, making independent assessments impossible. However strong it was, it would have offered a single point to attack, with the opportunity to intercept virtually unlimited amounts of data as an incentive to find weaknesses. Security experts pointed out the inherent risks inherent in the key recovery process.

By the end of the ‘90s, the government had apparently yielded to public pressure and common sense and lifted the worst of the restrictions. It didn’t give up, though — it just got sneakier.

Documents revealed by Edward Snowden show that the NSA embarked on a program to install back doors through secret collaboration with businesses. It sought, in its own words, to “insert vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems, IT systems, networks, and endpoint communications devices” and “shape the worldwide cryptography marketplace to make it more tractable to advanced cryptanalytic capabilities being developed by NSA/CSS.”

The NSA isn’t just a spy agency; it’s one of the leading centers of expertise in encryption, perhaps the best in the world. Businesses and other organizations trying to maximize their data security trust its technical recommendations — or at least they used to. If it can’t get the willing collaboration of tech companies, it can deceive them with broken standards.

Old software with government-required weaknesses from the nineties is still around, along with newer software that may have NSA-inspired weaknesses. There are still restrictions on the exporting of cryptography in many cases, depending on a complicated set of criteria related to the software’s purpose. Even harmless file identification software, used mostly by librarians, may have to carry a warning that it contains decryption code and might be subject to use restrictions.

With today’s vastly more powerful computers, encryption that was strong two decades ago can be easily broken today. Some websites, especially ones outside the United States that were denied access to strong encryption, still use the methods which they were stuck with then, and so do some old browsers.

To deal with this, many browsers support the old protocols when a site offers nothing stronger, and many sites fall back to the weak protocols if a browser is limited to them. Code breakers have found ways to make browsers think only weak security is available and force even the stronger sites to fall back on it. Some sites have disabled weak encryption, only to be forced to restore it because so many users have old browsers.

You’d think that by now people would understand that secure transactions are essential, but politicians in the US and other countries still want to weaken encryption so they can spy on people’s communications.

The FBI’s assistant director of counter-terrorism claims that strong encryption gives terrorists “a free zone by which to radicalize, plot, and plan.” NSA Director Michael S. Rogers has said, “I don’t want a back door. I want a front door.” UK Prime Minister Cameron says,

In extremis, it has been possible to read someone’s letter, to listen to someone’s call, to mobile communications. The question remains: are we going to allow a means of communications where it simply is not possible to do that? My answer to that question is: no, we must not.

In 2015 over eighty civil society organizations, companies, and trade associations, including Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Adobe, sent a public letter to President Obama expressing concern about such actions. The letter states:

Strong encryption is the cornerstone of the modern information economy’s security. Encryption protects billions of people every day against countless threats — be they street criminals trying to steal our phones and laptops, computer criminals trying to defraud us, corporate spies trying to obtain our companies’ most valuable trade secrets, repressive governments trying to stifle dissent, or foreign intelligence agencies trying to compromise our and our allies’ most sensitive national security secrets.

In the United States, we have a tradition of free speech, but in many countries, even mild criticism of the authorities needs to travel in secret.

A country can pass laws to weaken its law-abiding citizens’ access to cryptography, but criminals and terrorists exchanging secret messages would have no reason to pay attention to them. They can keep using the strong encryption methods that are currently available and get new software from countries that don’t have those restrictions.

Governments would gain increased ability to spy on people who follow the law, and so would free-lance data thieves, while competent criminals would still be able to communicate in secret. To crib David Cameron, we must not let that happen — again.

Gary McGath

Gary McGath is a freelance software engineer living in Nashua, New Hampshire.

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Celebrate Independence With a Revolution Against the Surveillance State by Ryan Hagemann

In the decade before 1776, British courts began issuing “writs of assistance” for the general search and seizure of colonists’ documents. The intention was to permit British troops to inspect properties for smuggled goods, but these writs gave officials broad power to enter private homes to search for, and seize, anything and everything that might be considered contraband by the British Empire.

Such general warrants were among the many complaints the colonists levied against the crown and played no small part in the American Revolution.

This Independence Day, it would behoove us all, as Americans, to reflect on the motivations for the colonists’ revolt against Britain. In a 2013 piece at the Huffington Post, Radley Balko spoke on the core meaning of the Fourth of July:

Independence Day isn’t for celebrating the American government and whoever happens to be currently running it, but for celebrating the principles that make America unique.

And in fact, celebrating the principles that [animated] the American founding often means celebrating the figures who have defended those principles in spite of the government.

The list of modern Americans who have stood as stalwart guardians of the principles of liberty is regrettably short. More concerning, however, is what has happened in the years since 9/11, as fear and paranoia over terrorism gripped the American electorate and absconded with many of the basic liberties that the founding generation fought and died to uphold. America just isn’t what it used to be.

But the tides of unrestrained surveillance seem to be receding.

A few weeks ago, thanks to a vibrant and broad coalition of civil libertarians, grassroots organizations, and cross-aisle partners, America finally took the first step in reining in the secret surveillance state that Edward Snowden revealed to us almost two years ago to the day. The USA FREEDOM Act, for all its flaws, stands as the most significant piece of surveillance reform legislation since 1978 and signals Congress’s willingness to work on surveillance reform.

While there is much to do in preparing for upcoming battles over government surveillance, a look back at recent events can help shed light on how we as libertarians can best move forward.

Not surprisingly, the debate left some dissatisfied that the reforms did not go far enough, while others considered anything short of a full USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization to be an unacceptable compromise.

Filled with riotous rhetorical broadsides, the debate featured civil libertarians supporting reform against civil libertarians backing a complete, uncompromising end to the surveillance state, pitting Republican hawks against centrists and Democrats, and Sen. Rand Paul against pretty much everyone.

In a story of strange political bedfellows, Sen. Paul joined hawks such as Sen. John McCain and Sen. Richard Burr in voting against the USA FREEDOM Act. While Paul criticized components of the bill for not going far enough (all criticisms being perfectly fair and true), the political reality was such that this bill, however imperfect, was by far the best chance for reform in the near term.

As Cato’s Julian Sanchez noted prior to its passage: “While ‘Sunset the Patriot Act’ makes for an appealing slogan, the fact remains that the vast majority of the Patriot Act is permanent — and includes an array of overlapping authorities that will limit the effect of an expiration.”

In other words, the limitations of USA FREEDOM would actually be more effective than simply letting a two or three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act (temporarily) expire.

The heroes of this debate were a broad coalition of civil-society groups, technology firms, and nonprofits dedicated to moving the ball forward on reform, no matter how small the gain.

However, even as some are celebrating this small but important victory, there are troubled waters ahead for privacy advocates and civil libertarians. The upcoming Senate vote on the Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Act (CISA) is the next battle in the ongoing war against the surveillance apparatus. If passed, it would be one step forward, two steps back for the small victories privacy advocates have won over the past month.

I’ve written quite a bit on the issues that many civil libertarian organizations have with CISA, which is little more than a surveillance Trojan Horse containing a host of “information-sharing” provisions that would allow intelligence agencies to acquire information from private firms and use it to prosecute Americans for garden-variety crimes unrelated to cybersecurity, due process be damned.

A broad coalition of organizations has once more come together, this time to oppose CISA, to continue the battle against expanding the surveillance state.

In public policy, the Overton window refers to the spectrum of policy prescriptions and ideas that the public views as tolerable: the political viability of any idea depends not on the personal preferences of politicians, but on whether it falls within the range of publicly acceptable options.

That is why a willingness to compromise is so vital in public-policy discussions. Marginal reforms should be seen as victories in the slow but consistent effort to rein in the excesses of our Orwellian security order.

USA FREEDOM is far from ideal, and the expiration of provisions of the PATRIOT Act, such as Section 215, will not stop government surveillance in its tracks. The government can still use National Security Letters (NSL), and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act can still be creatively interpreted by the intelligence community to justify continued mass surveillance, to say nothing of Executive Order 12333, which covers surveillance conducted outside of the United States.

Nonetheless, the new law is an important first step towards tearing down the most onerous provisions of the PATRIOT Act in a piecemeal fashion. This may seem a daunting and less-than-ideal approach for many libertarians, but the alternative is merely symbolic gesticulation.

So where do we go from here?

Libertarians need to start working with nontraditional allies to support, on an issue-by-issue basis, real, practical reforms to the surveillance state. If we do not, we cannot hope to be effective and valuable partners to those individuals and organizations working tirelessly in support of the same values and freedoms that we all hold dear.

We must also recognize that there are limitations to compromise, and we should never forsake our core principles in favor of political expediency. But, on the margins, we can make significant contributions to civil liberties, especially in the ongoing surveillance reform debate. Recognizing the reality of what is achievable in the current political landscape is necessary for identifying and taking advantage of the available opportunities for restoring liberty.

We have a choice in the upcoming surveillance-reform fights: We can be positive contributors to a legacy of liberty for future generations, or we can continue to fancy ourselves armchair philosophers, ignoring public-policy realities and taking comfort in the echo chamber that never challenges our worldview.

Given political realities, marginal reforms constitute the fastest path forward. The American people are owed their civil liberties; hence, we must fight to move, however incrementally, towards a freer, more civil society.


Ryan Hagemann

Ryan Hagemann is a civil liberties policy analyst at the Niskanen Center.

RELATED ARTICLE: Cyber Security: Where are we now and where are we headed?

Are Fake Virus Warnings a New Method to Disrupt Free Speech?

This has been driving me nuts: Avast, an Anti-Virus product that I have in the past recommended, has been flagging JihadWatch.org as having malware, with warnings such as “Infection Blocked,” “Avast WebShield has blocked a harmful web page or file,” and “A threat has been detected.” Of course, this is not true. There is no virus.

avastI first got notification of the issue last week. As it happens, I’ve seen it a couple of times before; in fact, AVG, another anti-virus company, followed Avast and also started flagging JihadWatch.org, but a simple email asking them to look again was sufficient to get them to correct their signatures and apologise for getting it wrong.

McAfee has no issue with Jihad Watch:

http://www.siteadvisor.com/sites/www.jihadwatch.org?ref=safe&locale=en-US

Neither does Norton:

https://safeweb.norton.com/report/show?url=www.jihadwatch.org

Or WOT:

https://www.mywot.com/en/scorecard/www.jihadwatch.org

Or any of the other 63 malware scanning sites listed here.

Avast has been sent dozens of complaints. Most received a response, although I did not. They even admit that there is no malware in a few of the responses. Here is one:

Hello X,

Thank you for contacting Avast.

…Once they stop using useless obfuscation, it will not be blocked (it is the obfuscation that is being detected, not the actual deobfuscated code!) .

Thank you

Best regards

Richard Šrank

Avast Technical Support Specialist

That “obfuscation” he is talking about is the Counter DDoS prevention code that JihadWatch.org uses. It’s essential to keep the site available, as we are literally seeing tens of millions of attacks every day. Obviously we need to stay one step ahead. Yet Avast is saying that we should remove that protective code, and then they will stop saying we have malware, even though they know we don’t have malware in the first place. Apart from the sheer lunacy of this demand, one has to question their honesty and competence in checking anything: if they can say something is unsafe when they know it isn’t and admit that they know, how can anyone be sure that when they say something is safe that it really is?

ddos-encodedb64Now about this code. I won’t post it here as text, as we know they will flag that also, but any competent developer can tell there is nothing malicious there. It’s no secret. It’s simple base64 encoding, easily decoded, not that it will mean much. The point is, it’s easy to see it’s not malicious. It’s easy for Avast to add a signature to their scanners even if they did see this scary “obfuscation.” Their choice of words is interesting: when script is “encoded” for good reason, as this is, we just call it “encoded,” not obfuscation, as developers can easily decode it to see the real code behind it, using any number of tools.

So is this sheer incompetence on Avast’s part or another method to disrupt free speech? I can’t tell, but in the meantime, please report these false positives to Avast at avast.com, choosing report false virus alert, and let any of your friends know that JihadWatch.org is not infected in any way. Those who encounter Avast’s virus alert should click ignore, which is sometimes an option, or switch to a more reliable Anti-Virus solution (it should be noted that although AVG got it wrong initially, they were quick to correct their mistake).

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A New Age – The Cyber Information Age

As you know, our firm The Sylint Group, Inc., is composed of engineers from the Intelligence Community, Department of Defense and other government agencies and have been involved with digital data communications and cyber security since the ‘70’s.  In fact the name Sylint is derived from the intelligence community jargon.  “Syl” is Greek for “with” or “together” and “int” is used with various prefixes as intelligence community descriptors such as “commint”, “humint”, etc.  Sylint is therefore bringing together the disciplines of the intelligence world into Cyber Security and Digital Data Forensics. And of course, it’s sounded like “Silent” and therefore a play on the word.

So, Sylint has a certain developed perspective on what people today are recognizing as cyber security. 

Personally, I’ve done everything from programming low orbiter satellites in assembly language as they sped by on their 450 nautical mile orbit, to intercepting digital data communications systems following terrorists across the continents.  That’s before digital data became an integral part of each person’s daily life; cell phone messaging, nanny cameras, “world news” on demand, Facebook, Twitter, digital pictures to be shared in an instant.  I remember when bleeding edge data storage was performed on a RM05, about the size of a washing machine, with a disk pack about 14” in radius, with 12 platters and 250 Mega Bytes (MB) of storage capability.  Today that equals storage for about 10 high resolution photos.  In today’s age my SD storage card, which slips into my pocket, holds 128 Giga Bytes (GB) of data.  Or, consider my digital photography SD (Secure Data) card with 32GB of storage and wireless communications capability from my camera to my tablet.  Data storage and handling has changed dramatically in the last 30 years.  But, so has the amount and types of data communicated.

We are connected to each other electronically through communications systems that we don’t understand and to people we don’t know personally, and maybe don’t know that they are connected to us.  Our lives bleed out through on-line personal accounts and everyone knows our foibles and sins. Our hard earned money is stolen from our bank accounts by somebody in a mid-eastern country, which we didn’t know existed.  And all of this is accomplished using 1’s and 0’s in a nanosecond of time from thousands of miles away.

I notice that the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is held a conference titled “Road Ahead to Cybersecurity”.  I don’t think that there is a “road ahead” for cybersecurity.  There isn’t a road at all!  The whole playing field has changed and there are no defined roads in or out.

I firmly believe that we are stuck in a quagmire alongside that “road” to the playing field and it dead ended at the entry to a new age called “the Cyber Information Age”. 

We have entered this new age, the Cyber Age, and no one realizes it.  A “new age” means that life as we know it has changed dramatically and the forces that shape the economy, world order, international boundaries, social structure, centers of military and political power, level of conflict between countries, and societies moral and ethical foundation are being driven by a new impetus and energy; something called Cyber Information.  Cyber information is different than anything that society has dealt with in the past.  Cyber information is instantaneously created, changed, modified, reformatted and retransmitted.  It’s a lie, half-truth, or fact that is immediately thrown into the world, globally, from unknown sources without vetting, modulation or consideration for its consequences.

Cyber information can be news, control software for a power grid, Programmable Logic Controllers for manufacturing, communications between First Responders, infrastructure support for large buildings, corporate intellectual property, charge card information, a city sewer system, the processor for a pacemaker.  Cyber information has created a virtual world and real world that exist side by side, interact with one another, and impact one another.

Cyber information cannot be easily secured, stopped, acknowledged, or controlled. No leadership has arisen that can formulate a means to force the direction of cyber information for the good of society.  Rather, just the opposite, forces both immoral and unethical are using cyber information for nefarious purposes because it’s a crime against society which goes unpunished and yields huge rewards.

To address Cyber Security we must first understand that we are in a new age, an age of Cyber Information and what that means for society, business and the world order.

Just a few thoughts for a Monday morning surrounded by ones and zeroes.

RELATED ARTICLE: What Was Stolen?: Massive Cybersecurity Breach Raises Concerns About What Hackers Stole [+video]

RELATED VIDEO: June 14, 2014 AEI Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy conference – After Snowden: The Road Ahead for Cybersecurity

Bit9+Carbon Black and FL based Sylint Group partner to provide global cybersecurity services

WALTHAM, Mass.— Bit9, the leader in advanced threat protection for endpoints and servers, today announced the Bit9 Connect Alliance Partner Program. The program integrates the leading endpoint and server security solution from Bit9 + Carbon Black with top network security, analytics and SIEM, threat intelligence and security service provider solutions so organizations can choose best-of-breed solutions from different vendors to create a unified defense against cyber threats.

Companies participating in the program represent the best of the best in their respective segments of security. The end result is enterprises that deploy the Bit9 Security Platform with any or all of the alliance partners’ offerings will strengthen their security posture, decrease their total costs of ownership, achieve faster deployment times, and gain increased value from their integrated solutions. Participating vendors’ solutions are certified to fully integrate with the Bit9 platform.

The new program, which is being introduced a week following Bit9’s merger with Carbon Black, covers the complete security ecosystem, including:

  • Network Security–Bit9 and Carbon Black partner with vendors in the network security space to enable customers to correlate their network data with their endpoint and server data. As network security solutions detect malware on the network, Bit9 and Carbon Black consume the network alerts and automatically determine where the malware landed, if it executed, and how many machines were affected. This instant visibility enables security analysts to filter out non-actionable events, prioritize high-impact alerts, and rapidly respond to security incidents. Likewise, when Bit9 detects unknown or suspicious executable files on endpoints and servers, it can send the file to a detonation engine for analysis. If a risk analysis determines that the file is malicious, Bit9 can automatically ban it from spreading to other endpoints or servers within a customer’s environment. Certified network security solutions include Check Point Next Generation FirewallGeneral Dynamics Fidelis Cybersecurity SolutionsFireEye EXFireEye NX, and Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewall.
  • Analytics and SIEM—Bit9 works with vendors in the data analytics and security information and event management (SIEM) space to enable customers to view all of their security information from one centralized data repository. Bit9 offers standards-based and proprietary integrations with leaders in this space so security analysts can view endpoint and server events alongside other security information. Certified analytics and SIEM solutions in the program include HP ArcSightIBM QRadarLogRhythm, and RSA NetWitness.
  • Threat Intelligence—Bit9 partners with threat intelligence vendors to bolster the power of the Bit9 Software Reputation Service (SRS). The Bit9 SRS is a cloud-based intelligence database that provides insight into known-good, known-bad and unproven software, giving IT and security teams actionable intelligence about the software installed within their enterprise. Our threat intelligence partners provide valuable feeds so Bit9 can provide customers with the most accurate and up-to-date software reputation data. Bit9’s threat intelligence partners include OPSWAT and Team Cymru. Bit9 will announce additional threat intelligence partners later this quarter.
  • Security Service Providers—Bit9 partners with managed security service providers (MSSP) to fully empower security analysts to detect, respond and remediate advanced threats that target their customers. Bit9 also works closely with incident response (IR) consulting firms to help clients gain immediate access to the Bit9 + Carbon Black solution to aid in remediation efforts. As IR teams identify the malicious files used to execute an attack, Bit9 can identify each endpoint and server on which the malware has landed. This immediate visibility enables IR teams to rapidly contain attacks and accelerate remediation. Certified security service provider partners in the Bit9 Connect program include AccuvantFishNet Security and Sylint.

Bit9 Executive Quote: Tom Barsi, vice president of business development
“Legacy security systems do not solve the problem for today’s advanced threats. Customers are defending themselves against advanced threats with a completely new approach across their security stack. I’m excited to announce that today, Bit9 is taking a step forward to create a holistic ecosystem of security partners that helps close the security gap and provides a 360-degree view of advanced threat security.”

Palo Alto Networks Executive Quote: Scott Gainey, vice president of marketing and programs
“Bit9 is setting the pace for Endpoint Threat Detection, Response and Prevention solutions. Since our partnership began in 2013, we have been consistently impressed with Bit9’s execution, and our customers have demonstrated strong interest in our integrated network and endpoint security offerings. The Bit9 Connect Program will only deliver further value as customers continue to build out next-generation security infrastructures.”

IBM QRadar Executive Quote: Jason Corbin, director of security intelligence strategy and product management
“With today’s increasingly complex threats, more network context helps security teams detect attacks and remediate breaches faster. The Bit9 Security Platform provides the QRadar Security Intelligence solution with in-depth visibility around endpoint security. Our joint solution identifies where files originate, any propagation to other machines, and whether they’re executable, malicious or involved in a current attack. We’re excited about Bit9 adding more intelligence and visibility around security threats such as malware and zero-day attacks to QRadar’s leading analytical capabilities.”

Sylint Executive Quote: Serge Jorgensen, chief technology officer
“The Bit9 team and product suite bring a strong new set of capabilities to any incident response toolkit. Bit9’s technology consistently increases the accuracy, speed and efficiency of our incident response process by precisely identifying key files and machines and allowing a more effective triage and mitigation.”

About Sylint

Formed in 1998, our firm has developed a national reputation as a leader in its field. We serve clients from Fortune 50 to small firms and municipalities. Our professionals combine experience from National Intelligence Agencies, Department of Defense, law enforcement, and corporate entities Sylint provides comprehensive cyber security and investigative services to keep our clients secure in a cost efficient manner. Our services include detection and remediation of corporate espionage, fraud identification, cyber security posture review, and regulatory compliance.

About Bit9 + Carbon Black

Bit9 and Carbon Black have joined together to offer the industry’s most complete solution for advanced threat protection for endpoints and servers. The merged company helps organizations protect themselves from advanced threats in two critical ways: by reducing their attack surface through new signature-less forms of prevention, and rapidly detecting and responding to threats. We do this by leveraging the powerful combination of Carbon Black’s lightweight endpoint sensor, which can be rapidly deployed with no configuration to deliver “incident response in seconds,” and Bit9’s industry-leading prevention technologies to continuously monitor and record all activity on endpoints and servers and stop cyber threats that evade traditional security defenses. Our lightweight real-time sensor and recorder, cloud-based services, and real-time enforcement engine give organizations immediate visibility into everything running on their endpoints and servers; real-time signature-less detection of and protection against advanced threats; a recorded history of all endpoint and server activity to rapidly respond to alerts and incidents; and real-time integration with network security devices such as Check Point, FireEye and Palo Alto Networks. 1,000 organizations worldwide—from 25 Fortune 100 companies to small businesses—use Bit9 and Carbon Black to increase security, reduce operational costs and improve compliance.

The Cyber Attacks are coming, the Cyber Attacks are coming!

If you Google the words “cyber attacks” you will get 164 million results. So where is our government on defending you and me against this growing peril? According to experts like John Jorgenson, CEO and founding partner of  the Sylint Group, our government is woefully behind the times in capability and capacity to deal with the threat of cyber attacks let alone the cyber warfare being conducted on a global scale by nation states such as China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.

Today the cry across America is the cyber attacks are coming, the cyber attacks are coming! But no one is taking action. No one that is except those few who, like Jorgenson, truly understand the catastrophic nature of the threat.

The most recent cyber attack was against our federal court system. Politico’s Tony Romm reports, “Unidentified hackers took aim at the federal court system Friday [January 24, 2014], blocking access to its public website while preventing lawyers and litigants from filing legal documents online. The incident affected uscourts.gov the federal court’s public hub, as well as most if not all federal court sites — not to mention the federal court system’s electronic filing system and its access page, PACER, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said Friday.” The site remained down when this column was posted.

john jorgenson

John Jorgensen, CEO and a founding partner of the Sylint Group.

Jorgenson notes, “Since President Obama created a White House ‘cyber czar‘ position in 2009 there have been six appointed and then leave the position. The reason is a lack of support and funding for the program.”

In an email Jorgenson states, “The Cyber Czar count is difficult to do because of the people who temporarily held the post and the ‘Cyber Czar’ post being identified with the Obama Administration and DHS both. It is not easy to find the names of those who resigned. The press makes it out that there has been only one Cyber Czar under Obama, Schmidt. You have to really search to find the others.” The players since President Obama first took office are:

  • Rod Beckstrom – Resigned/Replaced, White House
  • Melissa Hathaway – Resigned. Hathaway was said to have been temporary, White House. But was she temporary because she resigned so quickly after making negative comments about the administration?
  • Howard Schmidt – Retired (Stated at RSA, 2010 or 2011, that there is no Cyber Warfare), White House.
  • Unknown – There was talk of a woman who took Schmidt’s place but soon resigned and Schmidt stayed on, White House.
  • Mark Weatherford – DHS / resigned.
  • Bruce McConnell – DHS / Temporary.
  • Michael Daniel – Current, White House.

“At issue is that a post as important as this, has had enormous turnover and turmoil, and we are only five years into the administration ‘leadership’. Nothing of substance to protect commercial industry, the countries infrastructure, or the citizen has come out of the White House. From the attacks being made on the United States on the Cyber Battlefield our advisories are taking Cyber Warfare seriously while we can’t find a credible Field Marshall let alone decide what needs to be done,” notes Jorgenson.

John Kelly from HowStuffWorks.com wrote, “In 2009, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared that the U.S. ‘is under cyber-attack virtually all the time, every day’ [source: Farrell]. He wasn’t joking. That year, computer spies gained access to files about the Pentagon’s $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project, intruders breached the Air Force’s air-traffic-control system, Chinese hackers penetrated computers at Google, and Russian cyber-thieves stole tens of millions of dollars from Citibank.”

On June 23, 2009, the Secretary of Defense directed the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command to establish a sub-unified command, United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM). Full Operational Capability (FOC) was achieved Oct. 31, 2010. The command is located at Fort Meade, Maryland.

NextGov.com reports, “In the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act passed by House lawmakers last week, Congress required the Defense Department appoint a high level Principal Cyber Advisor with a broad oversight portfolio that includes offensive and defensive cyber missions, resources, personnel, acquisition and technology. A Senate vote on the bill is expected this week. The new cyber advisor will have ‘overall supervision’ of all Defense cyber operations and will oversee a team that will integrate the cyber expertise of the four services, combatant commands and Defense agencies.”

Jorgenson believes that “major government systems have been compromised, including the US electrical grid.” Jorgenson stated that other systems such as health care, hospitals and our food supply systems are targets of cyber attacks. These attacks are dangerous because according to Jorgenson, “they place malware on corporate and government computer systems with the intent of controlling manufacturing, distribution and information system processes.”

The danger is real, clear and present. However, it appears the federal government and Congress is less concerned with the threat as it is with making political points over the dysfunctional HeathCare.gov website. Which by the way has been compromised!