There’s no day without a new high-profile cyber attack. The last victim in order of time is The White House which has confirmed to have been targeted by an unsuccessful spear phishing campaign.
According to officials, hackers linked to China’s government have tried to break into the computer network used by the White House Military Office (WHMO), the president’s military office in charge of some of the U.S. government’s most sensitive communications, including strategic nuclear commands. This is considered one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive computer networks, since it is used by the White House Military Office for nuclear commands. The secrets behind the WHMO include data on the so-called “nuclear football,” the nuclear command and control suitcase used by the president to be in constant communication with strategic nuclear forces commanders for launching nuclear missiles or bombers.
The cyber attack took place earlier this month, and the hackers are believed to have used servers located in China. According to officials, this kind of attack is “not infrequent” and hence there are unspecified “mitigation measures in place” which allowed to identify the attack and isolate the system. As a consequence there is no indication that any exfiltration of data took place.
This is not the first time in which alleged state-sponsored Chinese hackers have breached (or at least have tried to breach) high-profile U.S. targets. On July, 14, 2011, The Pentagon revealed to have lost 24,000 files during a cyber attack happening in March of the same year (suspects were directed to China). On May of the same year several U.S. Defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and L-3 Communications were hit by targeted attacks carried on with compromised SecurID tokens as a consequence of the infamous RSA breach.
At this link a non-exhaustive collection of the main cyber attacks carried on by Chinese hackers, maybe it is a little old (and should be updated), in any case it is enough to understand how active the Red Dragon is inside the cyber space.
Here it is the usual compilation for the Cyber Attacks in the first half of September, a period which has apparently confirmed the revamping of hacktivism seen in August.
Several operations such as #OpFreeAssange (in support of Julian Assange), #OpTPB2 against the arrest of The Pirate Bay Co-Founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, and #OpIndipendencia in Mexico have characterized the first half of September. Curiously the hacktivists have also characterized this period for a couple of controversial events: the alleged leak of 1 million of UDIDs from FBI (later proven to be fake) and the alleged attack to GoDaddy (later proven to be a network issue, that is the reason why I not even mentioned it in this timeline). Other actions motivated by hacktivists have been carried on by Pro-Syrian hackers.
From a Cyber Crime perspective, there are two events particularly interesting (even if well different): the alleged leak of Mitt Romney’s tax returns and yet another breach against a Bitcoin Exchange (Bitfloor), worthing the equivalent of 250,000 USD which forced the operator to suspend the operations.
If you want to have an idea of how fragile our data are inside the cyberspace, have a look at the timelines of the main Cyber Attacks in 2011 and 2012 and the related statistics (regularly updated), and follow @paulsparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.
Also, feel free to submit remarkable incidents that in your opinion deserve to be included in the timelines (and charts).
What is a Cyber Weapon? At first glance this seems an immediate question to answer, but should anyone try to analyze the meaning of this term more deeply, probably he would be quite surprised and disappointed in discovering that the answer is not so immediate since an exact definition has not been given (at least so far).
A real paradox in the same days in which The Pentagon, following the Japanese Example, has unveiled its new strategy aimed to dramatically accelerate the development of new Cyber Weapons. And do not think these are isolated, fashion-driven examples (other nations are approaching the same strategy), but rather consider them real needs in the post-Stuxnet age, an age in which more and more government are moving their armies to the fifth domain of war [you will probably remember the (in)famous episode, when F-Secure was able to discover Chinese Government launching online attacks against unidentified U.S. Targets].
Recently Stefano Mele, a friend and a colleague of the Italian Security Professional Group, tried to give an answer to this question in his paper (so far only in Italian but it will be soon translated in English) where he analyzes Cyber Weapons from a legal and strategical perspective.
As he points out “Correctly defining the concept of Cyber Weapon, thus giving a definition also in law, is an urgent and unavoidable task, for being able to assess both the level of threat deriving from a cyber attack, and the consequent political and legal responsibilities attributable to those who performed it”. Maybe this phrase encloses the reason why a coherent definition has not been given so far: a cyber weapon is not only a technological concept, but rather hides behind it complex juridical implications.
Having this in mind, according to Stefano’s definition: a cyber weapon is:
A device or any set of computer instructions intended to unlawfully damage a system acting as a critical infrastructure, its information, the data or programs therein contained or thereto relevant, or even intended to facilitate the interruption, total or partial, or alteration of its operation.
The above definition implies that cyber weapons may span in theory a wide range of possibilities: from (D)DoS attacks (which typically have a low level of penetration since they target the “surface” of their targets), to “tailored” malware like Stuxnet, characterized by a high intrusiveness and a low rate of collateral damages.
One could probably argue whether a cyber weapon must necessarily generate physical damages or not, in which case, probably, Stuxnet, would be the one, so far, to encompass all the requirements. In any case, from my point of view, I believe the effects of a cyber weapon should be evaluated from its domain of relevance, the cyberspace, with the possibility to cross the virtual boundaries and extend to the real world (Stuxnet is a clear example of this, since it inflicted serious damages to Iranian Nuclear Plants, including large-scale accidents and loss of lifes).
With this idea in mind, I tried to build a model to classify the cyber weapons according to four parameters: Precision (that is the capability to target only the specific objective and reduce collateral damages), Intrusion (that is the level of penetration inside the target), Visibility (that is the capability to be undetected), and Easiness to Implement (a measure of the resource needed to develop the specific cyber weapon). The results, ranging from paintball pistols to smart bombs, are summarized in the above chart.
As you may notice, in these terms a DDoS attack is closer to a paintball pistol: the latter has a low level of penetration and the effects are more perceived than real (it shows the holder’s intention to harm the victim rather than constituting a real danger ), nevertheless it may be used to threaten someone, or worst to make a robbery. The same is true for a DDoS, it is often used to threaten the target, its action stops at the surface and usually the effects are more relevant in terms of reputation of the victims than in terms of damages done. Nevertheless, for the targets, it may lead to an interruption of service (albeit with no physical damages) and monetary losses.
On the opposite site there are specific “surgical” APTs: they have a high level of penetration with reduced collateral damages, they are able to go hidden for long time, but require huge investments to be developed, which ultimately make their adoption not so easy.
Of course, in between, there is a broad gray area, where the other Cyber Weapons reside depending on their positioning according to the four classification parameters identified… So, at the end what do you think? Do you agree with this classification?
Cross Posted from TheAviationist.
2011 has been an annus horribilis for information security, and aviation has not been an exception to this rule: not only in 2011 the corporate networks of several aviation and aerospace industries have been targeted by digital storms (not a surprise in the so-called hackmageddon) but, above all, last year will be probably remembered for the unwelcome record of two alleged hacking events targeting drones (“alleged” because in the RQ-170 Sentinel downed in Iran episode, several doubts surround the theory according to which GPS hacking could have been the real cause of the crash landing).
But, if Information Security professionals are quite familiar with the idea that military contractors could be primary and preferred targets of the current Cyberwar, as the infographic on the left shows, realizing that malware can be used to target a drone is still considered an isolated episode, and even worse, the idea of a malware targeting, for instance, the multirole Joint Strike Fighter is still something hard to accept.
However, things are about change dramatically. And quickly.
The reason is simple: the latest military and civil airplanes are literally full of electronics, which play a primary role in managing avionics, onboard systems, flight surfaces, communcation equipment and armament.
For instance an F-22 Raptor owns about 1.7 millions od line of codes , an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter about 5.7 millions and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner about 6.5 millions. Everything with some built in code may be exploited, therefore, with plenty of code and much current and future vulnerabilities, one may not rule out a priori that these systems will be targeted with specific tailored or generic malware for Cyberwar, Cybercrime, or even hacktivism purposes.
Unfortunately it looks like the latter hypothesis is closer to reality since too often these systems are managed by standard Windows operating systems, and as a matter of fact a generic malware has proven to be capable to infect the most important U.S. robots flying in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Indian Ocean: Predator and Reaper Drones.
As a consequence, it should not be surprising, nor it is a coincidence, that McAfee, Sophos and Trend Micro, three leading players for Endpoint Security, consider the embedded systems as one of the main security concerns for 2012.
Making networks more secure (and personnel more educated) to prevent the leak of mission critical documents and costly project plans (as happened in at least a couple of circumstances) will not be aviation and aerospace industry’s information security challenge; the real challenge will be to embrace the security-by-design paradigm and make secure and malware-proof products ab initio.
While you wait to see if an endpoint security solution becomes available for an F-35, scroll down the image below and enjoy the list of aviation and aerospace related cyber attacks occurred since the very first hack targeting the F-35 Lightning II in 2009.
Of course aviation and aerospace industries are not the only targets for hackers and cybercriminals. So, if you want to have an idea of how fragile our data are inside the cyberspace, have a look at the timelines of the main Cyber Attacks in 2011 and 2012 (regularly updated) at hackmageddon.com. And follow @pausparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.
As usual the references are after the jump…
Update December 26: 2011 is nearly gone and hence, here it is One Year Of Lulz (Part II)
This month I am a little late for the December Cyber Attacks Timeline. In the meantime, I decided to collect on a single table the main Cyber Attacks for this unforgettable year.
In this post I cover the first half (more or less), ranging from January to July 2011. This period has seen the infamous RSA Breach, the huge Sony and Epsilon breaches, the rise and fall of the LulzSec Group and the beginning of the hot summer of Anonymous agsainst the Law Enforcement Agencies and Cyber Contractors. Korea was also affected by a huge breach. The total cost of all the breaches occurred inthis period (computed with Ponemon Institute’s estimates according to which the cost of a single record is around 214$) is more than 25 billion USD.
As usual after the page break you find all the references.
A week ago, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive published a report to Congress concerning the use of cyber espionage to attempt to gain business and industrial secrets from US companies. Easily predictable, the results present a frightening picture!
With no surprise it turned out that the biggest dangers and perpetrators of cyber-espionage operations against American business are China and Russia.
- Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage. US private sector firms and cybersecurity specialists have reported an onslaught of computer network intrusions that have originated in China, but the Intelligence Community cannot confirm who was responsible.
- Russia’s intelligence services are conducting a range of activities to collect economic information and technology from US targets.
- Some US allies and partners use their broad access to US institutions to acquire sensitive US economic and technology information, primarily through aggressive elicitation and other human intelligence tactics. Some of these states have advanced cyber capabilities.
Unfortunately the predictions for the near future are not encouraging: the authors of the report judge that the governments of China and Russia will remain aggressive and capable collectors of sensitive US economic information and technologies, particularly in cyberspace.
This is mainly due to three factors: a technological shift with a growing number of devices connected to the Internet (according to a Cisco Systems study, the number of devices connected to the Internet is expected to increase from about 12.5 billion in 2010 to 25 billion in 2015). An economical shift driven by the Cloud Paradigm which requires the information to be ubiquitous and always available and, last but not least, a cultural shift which bring users to a growing use of social media for personal and professional use with a dangerous overlapping.
With these considerations in mind I decided to concentrate on a single table all the attacks with cyber espionage implications reported in 2011 for which China was directly or indirectly (or allegedly) considered responsible. The details (and links) of each single attack can be found on my 2011 Cyber Attacks Timeline Master Index (of course the list does not include the infamous Operation Aurora and the attack to G20 during the French Leadership since these events occurred during 2010).
U.S., Canada, Japan and Korea are among the countries hit by the Cyber Attacks from Far East. The most known attack is for sure the one perpetrated against RSA, whose wake affected several U.S. Contractors. Moreover the same attack was not an isolated episode, but the tip of an iceberg hiding 760 affected organizations worldwide.
Shady Rat and the IMF attack were other noticeable events as also the breach reported against the Cyworld the Korean Social Networks in which 37 million users were affected.
A frightening scenario that also generated some resounding fake attacks during 2011 (do you remember the Renault affair?)
A new cold (cyber)war at the gates?
- Cyber-espionage attempts on US businesses are on rise (arstechnica.com)
The Antisec Typhoon seems unstoppable and has apparently hacked another Defense Contractor. Continuing their campaign against law enforcement agencies and related organizations, driven by the infamous hash #FFFriday, this time they have targeted Richard Garcia, the Senior Vice President of Vanguard Defense Industries (VDI). During the Breach nearly 4,713 emails and thousands of documents were stolen.
According to TechHerald, AntiSec targeted VDI’s website due to their relationship with several law enforcement agencies from Texas and other parts of the U.S., as well as their relationship with the FBI, the DHS, and U.S. Marshals Service. Moreover, with this hack Antisec (in)directly targeted FBI since Richard Garcia is the former Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s field office in Los Angeles. To those supporting AntiSec, this alone is reason enough to target VDI and release Garcia’s corporate email to the public.
As usual the attack had been anticipated by an enigmatic and threatening tweet:
The emails were taken after AntiSec breached VDI’s website, based on the popular WordPress platform. According to Antisec source, VDI had two outdated plugins installed on their website, which had its development outsourced to a local marketing company in Texas. Although the person from AntiSec did not disclose the exact method used to access Garcia’s email, he stated that the hack was performed through the VDI website, and that his password was rather weak.
VDI is the responsible for ShadowHawk, an unmanned helicopter that can be tasked with aerial surveillance or equipped for military usage. At its base, the ShadowHawk comes with CCD TV optics, or an upgraded version includes CCD TV optics and FLIR optics. A third version, for military or law enforcement usage only, can be equipped with a single or multiple shot 37 mm or 40mm grenade launcher, as well as a 12g shotgun, and thermal cameras.
The is only the last leak to Defense Contractor, scroll down the list for attacks targeting Defense Contractors in this very troubled year:
| Feb 5
Anonymous hacks HBGary Federal Web Site, copies tens of thousands of documents, posts tens of thousands of emails online and usurps CEO Aaron Baar’s Twitter Account.
| Apr 6
An E-mail dated April 6, sent to 5,000 employees of U.S. Defense Contractor L-3 warns of an attack attempt made with compromised SecureIDs. It is not clear if the attack was successful (it was revelead half a month later). This is in absolute the first attack perpetrated with RSA Seeds.
This is the first known (and the only officially recognized so far) attack perpetrated with compromised SecureID seeds targeting a U.S. Defense Contractor. This Attack was detected before any sensitive information could be stolen. 100,000 accounts were locked as a precaution.
Third U.S. Defense Contractor attacked using Compromised RSA Seeds. Attacked detected before any sensitive data was stolen.
| Jun 3
As part of the FFFriday campaign, LulzSec steals 180 usernames, real names, hashed and plain text passwords, are acquired and posted publicily
| Jul 8
Anonymous attacks IRC Federal and dumps the content of the attack on a torrent available at The Pirate Bay. The dumped content include databases, private emails, contracts, development schematics, and internal documents for various government institutions.
Anonymous attacks consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton and releases details of internal data including 90,000 military emails and passwords. Estimated cost of the breach is around $5,400,000.00.
The Pentagon reveals to have suffered a breach of 24,000 documents in March, during a single intrusion believed to have been perpetrated by a Foreign Country. As a consequence of the Intrusion, a classified U.S. Military Weapon System will need to be redesigned after specs and plans were stolen during the breach.
| Jul 28
Anonymous hacks Mantech International Corporation, another FBI Contractor, as a consolidated tradition on Friday, and releases details of internal data and documsnts.
| Jul 29
As part of the Antisec operation and in retaliation for the raids and the arrest again alleged Anonymous and LulzSec members, Anonymous attacks 77 U.S. Law Enforcement Institutions, defacing and destroying their servers.
| Aug 1
||PCS ConsultantsAnother U.S. Government contractor, PCS Consultants gets hacked by Anonymous & Antisec. Hackers extract website Database and leak it on the internet via Twitter on Pastebin (as usual!). Leaked Data include Admin’s and 110 users emails, plus passwords in encrypted hashes.||?|
| Aug 16
Antisec targets Richard Garcia, the Senior Vice President of Vanguard Defense Industries (VDI). During the Breach nearly 4,713 emails and thousands of documents are stolen. As consolidated tradtion, the torrent is released on Friday, August the 19th.
|Vulnerability in WordPress Hosting Platform|
- Vanguard Defense Industries compromised by AntiSec (thetechherald.com)
Update July 15: Reuters reports that hat a classified US military weapons system will now need to be redesigned after specs and plans for the system were stolen from a defense contractor database during the breach of March,
According to an AP Statement, on Thursday the Pentagon revelead to have suffered a breach of 24,000 documents in March, during a single intrusion. Particularly interesting is the fact that sources believe the attack was perpetrated by a Foreign Country, confirming the fact that cyberspace has really become the fifth domain of war (earlier in this year China had been charged to have hacked some gmail accounts including those of senior US and South Korean government officials, and similarly at the end of 2009 some gmail accounts belonging to dissidents).
According to the original statement by AP:
William Lynn, the deputy secretary of defense, said in a speech outlining the strategy that 24,000 files containing Pentagon data were stolen from a defense industry computer network in a single intrusion in March. He offered no details about what was taken but in an interview before the speech he said the Pentagon believes the attacker was a foreign government. He didn’t say which nation.
“We have a pretty good idea” who did it, Lynn said the interview. He would not elaborate.
For the chronicle, DoD operates over 15,000 networks and seven million computing devices across hundreds of installations in dozens of countries around the globe.
It is not a coincidence that at the beginning of the year Pentagon declared that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that
for the first time opened the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force (probably at that time they were alre
ady aware of the above attack, which explains the change in strategy).
In the same wake, yesterday the Department of Defence announced its Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace, which relies on five strategic initiatives. At first glance the strategy aims to defend and prevent with a measured, reasonable approach focused on good network hygiene and data-sharing, rather than bombing hackers into submission.
- Strategic Initiative 1: Treat cyberspace as an operational domain to organize, train, and equip so that DoD can take full advantage of cyberspace’s potential;
- Strategic Initiative 2: Employ new defense operating concepts to protect DoD networks and systems;
- Strategic Initiative 3: Partner with other U.S. government departments and agencies and the private sector to enable a whole-of-government cybersecurity strategy;
- Strategic Initiative 4: Build robust relationships with U.S. allies and international partners to strengthen collective cybersecurity;
- Strategic Initiative 5: Leverage the nation’s ingenuity through an exceptional cyber workforce and rapid technological innovation.
Honestly Speaking I must confess that, as soon as I stumbled upon this report I could not help thinking (but this is a mere personal speculation) to the RSA Breach. Details of the Pentagon breach are not known so far, but I would not be surprised if they were somehow related. On the other hand the RSA breach happened in mid-March and was followed to attacks towards three US Defense Contractors (L-3, happened at the beginning of April but disclosed at the end of May, Lockheed Martin, discovered on May, the 22nd, and Northrop Grumman on May, the 26th). Only a coincidence?