Welcome!

GovIT Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Wallace Sann, Elizabeth White, Kevin Jackson

Related Topics: Security, GovIT

Security: Blog Post

Burning Down the House for Fun and Profit

The Pros and Cons of Naming and Shaming

In October of 1962, during the buildup to the Cuban Missile Crisis, a debate between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Alexandrovich Zorin at the United Nations Security Council, revealed how far the U.S. was willing to go to produce evidence that the Soviet Union was indeed stockpiling tactical nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in North America. The Soviets, reluctance to be truthful "in the court of world opinion", forced the hand of the U.S. to produce the very intelligence that the Soviets' claimed the U.S. did not have. Once the overhead photos of the missiles were shared publicly, the Soviets immediately countered that the imagery was fake. We knew the truth then and we know it today, the Soviets had been caught in their lie.

What we saw this week was very similar to what we saw in 1962.  What is most interesting in this case is that the bombshell was not dropped in a stuffy chamber full of wrinkly policy makers, nor was it used by the administration to draw a hard line under Executive Order 13636 that President Obama signed last week. No, the story was brought to light by a single, private sector entity using unclassified information that was publicly available for anyone to put together. By doing so, a precedent has been set. Finally, the veil has been lifted. Now, the public was able take a glimpse at an unseen threat that many within the security industry have been following closely for nearly a decade.  A complex, intangible idea has a face, or rather a building, attached to it.

So what does this mean? Is this good, bad or somewhere in the middle?

Operational Caveat:
Since 13 February, Cyber Squared's ThreatConnect.com has detected an unknown security research group, (believed to be Mandiant) sink-holing known "Comment Group" command and control infrastructure to a variety of named Virtual Private Servers (VPS) ahead of their 19 February report release. All "Comment Group" infrastructure has been freely available to vetted ThreatConnect users since November 2012.

The Pros:
Unfortunately, there are no lanes in the road that point out clear-cut standards by which organizations can measure if they are responsibly or irresponsibly disclosing cyber threat information. While not everyone supports public disclosures of this nature, we can look at both sides of what has occurred and find the benefits and cost of this massive disclosure.

PRO1: Finally an organization has developed a public attribution picture, publicly naming and shaming China for behavior that many have observed internationally for over a decade.

PRO2: A precedent has now been set for the entire security community; there are many others who have chosen to hold off on disclosing details of attacks or operationalizing infrastructure take downs out of concerns with tipping the threat actors and forcing them to change their TTPs and operational security. Now a green-light has been given to disclose similar details and to unilaterally act to take down large chunks of malicious infrastructure associated with APT's.

PRO3: The United States Government (USG) appears to have handed over the issue of Chinese cyber espionage to commercial industry. Some may argue that this level of disclosure should only be part of an official USG response. However, allowing industries to self-regulate and establish norms of internet behavior may serve as a more efficient way to manage threats of this nature.

PRO4: This now gives the security industry something to measure against.  Not only can the industry observe and measure how "Comment Group" will respond to the disclosure, but also their reactions to sweeping sinkhole operations in addition to target reacquisition efforts.  The industry can also pay attention to general responses from other Chinese APT groups.

PRO5: A disclosure at this level raises the issue of nation state sponsored or sanctioned cyber espionage to a larger audience, keeping the issue in the spotlight and increasing overall global awareness of the threat posed by Chinese cyber espionage.

The Cons:
On the flipside, despite the new opportunities that this may present the industry, there are untold numbers of secondary effects that could come to light because of this disclosure.

CON1: The USG appears to be sidestepping a strategic national policy issue by allowing a commercial entity to assume all of the risk by acting as the mouthpiece that may influence U.S.-China relations. If the USG is to send a message, it needs to send it unequivocally with no appearance of a puppet.

CON2: This may increase the precedent for foreign governments or non-U.S. companies that wish to embarrass the U.S. or western allies by attributing details of other sophisticated threats to western powers.

CON3: "Comment Group", while quite effective, could be considered "low hanging fruit".  There were many "eyes on" from across the global security community which were actively monitoring the threat. Many organizations that had adequate visibility of "Comment Group" infrastructure, capabilities and operations now find themselves exposed to the unknown.  Assuming a Chinese military intelligence unit isn't just going to give up and go home, everyone is now equally vulnerable to whatever they use next.

CON4: A single Chinese APT group out of an average of approximately 20 APT groups would only address 5% of the overall problem. By disclosing details of just one threat group, the effect to Chinese cyber espionage operations would be minimal.

CON5: A detailed disclosure at this level reveals a laundry list of specific items that the Chinese can now use as lessons learned to improve upon overall tradecraft. This increases the probability of Chinese counter intelligence operations, operations security, oversight and an overall process improvement which will diminish the security industries ability to effectively combat the threat of Chinese APT's in the future.

Conclusion
Only time will tell if the gains outweigh any losses associated with the disclosure.  Despite growing evidence that this is the work of the Chinese, the official response has been no different than what we have seen before.  A poor embassy spokesperson, followed by spokespeople for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense, are forced to respond with the standard canned and reflexive denial stating that accusing China without evidence is "irresponsible" and "unprofessional" or that China is ultimately the victim and would never do such a thing. What this spokespersons probably doesn't understand, through the layers of party bureaucracy, is how "irresponsible" and "unprofessional" the Chinese Computer Network Exploitation (CNE) machine actually is. If this is the case, it highlights how intentionally deceptive the PRC is or that the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing in the shadows.

Ultimately, what is truly "irresponsible" and "unprofessional" is targeting the same individual four times a day through emails written in broken English with an attached implant embedded in a self extracting archive. For those who bear the scars of APT attacks or organizations who specialize in protecting customers from such threats, it becomes quite clear, the Chinese, in their hunger to support their modernization and economic rise, have compromised themselves before a global economy.

More Stories By Rich Barger

Rich is the Chief Intelligence Officer for Cyber Squared and the ThreatConnect Intelligence Research Team (TCIRT) Director. Rich has over 17 years of experience supporting the commercial sector, defense industry, and intelligence community with threat intelligence and computer network operations. Rich is a passionate and creative thought leader that has led talented teams of researchers in producing quality analysis and actionable intelligence. After his commitment to the United States Army, Rich has supported the U.S. Army Command and Control Support Agency, the U.S. Army 1st Information Operations Command, the Joint Task Force Global Network Operations, and the NSA/CSS Threat Operations Center. Rich possesses a variety of industry certifications and a BS in Information Systems Security with Honors from American Military University.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
There is no doubt that Big Data is here and getting bigger every day. Building a Big Data infrastructure today is no easy task. There are an enormous number of choices for database engines and technologies. To make things even more challenging, requirements are getting more sophisticated, and the standard paradigm of supporting historical analytics queries is often just one facet of what is needed. As Big Data growth continues, organizations are demanding real-time access to data, allowing immediate and actionable interpretation of events as they happen. Another aspect concerns how to deliver ...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP and chief architect at BSQUARE Corporation; Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc.; and Andris Gailitis, C...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
In this Women in Technology Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO at MetraTech; Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems; Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies; Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell Inc.; Anne Hungate, Senior Director of Software Quality at DIRECTV, discussed what path they took to find their spot within the technology industry and how do they see opportunities for other women in their area of expertise.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
“With easy-to-use SDKs for Atmel’s platforms, IoT developers can now reap the benefits of realtime communication, and bypass the security pitfalls and configuration complexities that put IoT deployments at risk,” said Todd Greene, founder & CEO of PubNub. PubNub will team with Atmel at CES 2015 to launch full SDK support for Atmel’s MCU, MPU, and Wireless SoC platforms. Atmel developers now have access to PubNub’s secure Publish/Subscribe messaging with guaranteed ¼ second latencies across PubNub’s 14 global points-of-presence. PubNub delivers secure communication through firewalls, proxy ser...
We’re no longer looking to the future for the IoT wave. It’s no longer a distant dream but a reality that has arrived. It’s now time to make sure the industry is in alignment to meet the IoT growing pains – cooperate and collaborate as well as innovate. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine the key ingredients to IoT success and identify solutions to challenges the industry is facing. The deep industry expertise behind this presentation will provide attendees with a leading edge view of rapidly emerging IoT oppor...