Tag Archives: nsa

Moving forward: Who cared about encrypted phone calls to begin with…The Great SIM Heist

key-slide-540x351

TOP-SECRET GCHQ documents reveal that the intelligence agencies accessed the email and Facebook accounts of engineers and other employees of major telecom corporations and SIM card manufacturers in an effort to secretly obtain information that could give them access to millions of encryption keys.

-The Great SIM Heist: How Spies Stole the Keys to the Encryption Castle.

This news made a number of people upset, but after studying it for several weeks and trying to consider the macro effects to regular end users and corporations I have reached a contrarian point in my analysis.

Who cared?  Nobody (enough)

Sure the implications are published and are known, but who ever considered their cell phone encrypted and secure mobile device? I don’t think any consumer ever had that feeling and most professionals that WANT security in their communications use special precautions – such as the Black Phone.

So, if nobody expected it, demanded it, and the feature was primarily used to help billing than what SHOULD happen moving forward?

  • The primary lesson here is that our assumptions must be revisited, challenged, valued, and addressed at the base level of service providers
  • Second, businesses that depend (if they ever did so for instance on mobile device encrypted communication) on such safeguards – must pay for it

I would be interested in others points of view on the lessons forward. I have spent a good deal of time coordinating with leaders in this space and believe we can make a difference if we drop the assumptions, hopes, and focus on actual effective activities.

Helpful links on the Black Phone by SGP:

Attribution & Intent challenges: Comparing Regin module 50251 and “Qwerty” keylogger

Kaspersky Labs (a pretty wicked good set of researchers) published an analysis on the Snowden shared source code and found it identical in part to a piece of malware known as Regin. Regin has been in the digital space for nearly 10 years and has been attributed to a number of infected systems globally.

I would encourage everyone to read and understand the analysis as it is quite thorough and interesting .. go ahead, I’ll wait .. Comparing the Regin module 50251 and the “Qwerty” keylogger – Securelist.

While I cannot speak to the course and reason behind this tool, beyond the obvious conjectures, I would stress one critical point.  Attribution and intent.

Attribution is hard and of little value

As we find with other digital attacks, attribution is very difficult and I often tell clients to not focus on that as a basis for sanity and response. This is obvious in the difficulty in attributing such attacks, but also the problems with incorrectly making such assertions. I.e., JP Morgan’s “Russian attack on the bank due to their activities” during Ukraine incident was in fact a breach due to simple human error on configuring a server.

Intent

We as the observers do not know the intent of the operatives with the malware. In this case with the NSA we have identified malware in various locations, but as we all know … malware code spreads pretty freely without much direction. The concept that one system was infected unintentionally or without purpose from the operators is pretty high.

This comes to the forefront with our own internal analysis of attacks and breaches in our corporate environments. We must seek out all of the possible vectors, and not allow our bias or evidence on hand sway us incorrectly.

Spiegel.de article on Kaspersky report and other thoughts

Thoughts?

James