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Cyberespionage

Someone is Probing to Take Down the Internet, Warns Cryptographer

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The pillars that provide the basic infrastructure of the internet are being probed by an unknown entity, probing for that point where the foundation cracks and the internet breaks.

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The internet’s critical and underlying basic infrastructure is being probed by an unknown attacker who is – patiently – looking for vulnerabilities, revealed cybersecurity expert and cryptographer Bruce Schneier.

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A board member at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Tor project, Schneier is also the chief technology officer at Resilient, a cybersecurity firm recently acquired by IBM.

In a blog post, Schneier states that some of the companies that run “critical pieces of the internet” are being probed by an unknown quantity, with “precisely calibrated attacks.”,

Much like raptors did fences on Isla Nublar, these attacks are systematic and well-planned, seeking to understand the defenses employed by these vitally important companies.

“These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down,” Schneier wrote.

DDoS Disruptions

While Schneier did not disclose the companies – whom he spoke to in the condition of anonymity – he did reveal the attacks occurred in the way of distributed denial-of-service or DDoS attacks. While this form of attack isn’t anything new, Schneier revealed that the companies are seeing a changes in the way these DDoS attacks are being carried out. Not only are these attacks larger in bandwidth, they are also longer. They’re sophisticated and more notably, they’re probing.

He wrote:

One week, the attack would start at a particular level of attack and slowly ramp up before stopping. The next week, it would start at that higher point and continue. And so on, along those lines, as if the attacker were looking for the exact point of failure.

In speculating, it’s possible that the companies Schneier is referring to include registrars (the companies that provide domains like .com etc.) and DNS providers.

DDoS flood

Schneier’s findings are in line with a DDoS trends report [PDF] by Verisign, the registrar for domains such as .com and .net. If Verisign is taken down, your favorite websites and even your emails are likely to stop working.

Furthermore, one of the companies even revealed that – in addition to DDoS attacks – intrusions that attempted to modify and manipulate internet addresses and tunnels, were also discovered. Again, to test the company or its security defense’s response times.

Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services.

No Mischief Here

Schneier looks beyond activists and cybercriminals as the instigators of these systematic and calibrated attacks, pointing instead to the forces of cyberespionage. Such capabilities are, as history shows, possessed by the likes of China, Russia, North Korea and the United States, among others.

He wrote:

It feels like a nation’s military cybercommand trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar. It reminds me of the US’s Cold War program of flying high-altitude planes over the Soviet Union to force their air-defense systems to turn on, to map their capabilities.

If the assertion does come true someday, the world could see an unparalleled blackout that could disrupt the way we live in the present day, to the very core.

And what can we do about it?

“Nothing, really,” Schneier added.

Nothing until we are aware and talking about it and do some probing of our own to look for that unknown intruder.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Pete RePete

    September 14, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Surely we know the source of the ddos probe no?

    • unpundit

      September 14, 2016 at 10:01 pm

      DDOS attacks do not have a sing’e source, by definition.

  2. Илья Найдов

    September 14, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    It’s done by our country’s cyberweaponry… Russia…

  3. Wild Bill Kinda

    September 14, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    That was how the banking sites were affected a while back with a DDOS attack, by taking down their DNS server.

  4. tinus42

    September 14, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    This article is useless without specifics, “Someone” maybe just one guy in his mom’s basement. I bet there is someone who has plans to nuke the sun.

    • Giulio Prisco

      September 15, 2016 at 5:35 am

      Schneier says “I am unable to give details, because these companies spoke with me under condition of anonymity.”

  5. Lord Diamond

    September 17, 2016 at 5:09 am

    zionists, fbi, russia? who knows… as long as tech and cyber security continue to rapidly evolve we’ll be fine.

  6. Ade

    September 19, 2016 at 1:24 am

    Hopefully defences are being shored up and strengthened as we speak.

  7. Orchideric

    September 19, 2016 at 4:09 am

    A cryptographer warns us about the internet having DDoS attacks. You’ve gotta be kidding me?

  8. newsuperhuman

    October 3, 2016 at 5:50 am

    We know who the “unknown quantities” are – the US, China, Russia, UK, Germany, etc. No mystery here.

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Cyberespionage

Apple Watches Banned from UK Cabinet Meetings for Hacking Fears

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Cabinet ministers have voiced concerns that Apple Watches could be hacked by Russian spies, prompting the devices to be barred from meetings, according to a report from The Telegraph.

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Under the new leadership of Theresa May, U.K cabinet ministers have been barred from wearing the watch during meetings after concerns were raised that the gadgets could be employed as listening devices.

The Apple Watches join the list of banned items alongside mobile phones after these were barred for similar reasons.

According to a survey conducted by research firm IDC, Apple Watches account for seven percent of the market compared to FitBit, which is reported to account for 25.4 percent.

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A Threat from Russian Hackers

This latest news comes amid concerns of a possible threat from Russian hackers who have recently been in the news.

Russian hackers are alleged to have been able to obtain confidential emails from the Democratic National Congress during the U.S. elections despite Russian president, Vladimir Putin, denying this was the case. Surprisingly, congressional leaders are reported to have known about the hacking a year before it was officially announced.

Not only that, but at the recent Rio Olympics, which saw many Russian athletes banned from competing after it was revealed that there was a state-run doping program in the country, Russian hackers have retaliated.

A Russian cyberespionage group known as Fancy Bear recently accessed and leaked data from several high-profile Olympic athletes, by targeting a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) database. This is the same agency that placed a recommendation to ban all Russian athletes from the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Unsurprisingly, with the threat of Russian hackers high, and with devices such as mobile phones and watches now being considered as vulnerable gadgets that can be hacked into, it seems as though banning them from important meetings is the only way that will remove any possible threat to state security.

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Cyberespionage

U.S. Officials Say Defenses Are up against Alleged Russian Hacking

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The U.S. has put measures into place that is reported to stop Russia from hacking into emails that could influence the upcoming presidential election, reports NBC News.

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Back in July, it was reported that Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook said that Russian state-sponsored hackers may have hacked the Democratic Party’s network and email system in an attempt to help Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

He said:

…experts are now saying that the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump…that’s disturbing.

But could Russia really be looking into hacking the U.S. presidential elections?

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It seems that rather than take the chance of finding it out too late, U.S. officials have put defensive measures in place designed to block hacking paths that the Russians are alleged to have utilized.

It has been reported that emails were stolen from high-profile Democrats which were made public through WikiLeaks, DCleaks, and Guccifer 2.0.

However, while these defensive measures are being put into place, how long will it take before ways are found that can infiltrate the new measures?

According to Juan Zarate, a top counterterrorism official from 2005 to 2009, who spoke to NBC News, he said it wouldn’t take long before the Russians – both the state actors and their proxies – were able to find vulnerabilities.

He said:

This isn’t going to be the end of the story by any stretch.

WikiLeaks

When it comes to WikiLeaks they have not been shy releasing information pertaining to government and state documents.

Earlier this month, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, spoke via a video conference from the Ecuador embassy in London. He has been in asylum since August 2014.

He announced that the upcoming release of information WikiLeaks had access to could impact the U.S. presidential elections.

He said:

[They] are revealing, but also the government/state reactions to the releases are revealing also.

Even though leak sites and hackers are believed to have access to emails that have yet to be made public, U.S. officials are confident that its new defensive measures have stopped Russians from stealing further information, according to NBC News.

It remains to be seen whether or not this is in fact the case.

The U.S. Hits Back

Naturally, the U.S. doesn’t plan on taking these hacks lying down.

So-much-so, that it was reported earlier this month that the White House is planning a massive, unprecedented cyberattack on the Russian government. This is in retaliation for the alleged Russian hacking into the U.S. presidential elections.

This news doesn’t seem too surprising considering the fact that President Obama revealed that he had concerns over the government’s cybersecurity measures particularly after he admitted that the White House had been the target of hackers.

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Cyberespionage

US Reportedly Planning An “Unprecedented” Cyberattack Against Russia

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According to several news outlets citing current and former US government officials, the White House is in the planning stages of a massive, unprecedented cyberattack on the Russian government in retaliation for Russian meddling in the US presidential race. The goal of such an attack is to “harass and embarass” the Russian government. The CIA has been directed to gather options and deliver them to the White House, and according to former intelligence officers, agents have already gathered documents which will expose tactics employed by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

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Joe Biden told the NBC news program “Meet the Press” that the US is “sending a message” and that it will be at the leisure of the US government. Reportedly, the government will seek to weaken internal censorship powers in Russia, and also expose financial dealings of Vladimir Putin in order to compromise his credibility with the Russian people and potentially give his political foes leverage.

While not as destabilizing as, say, the invasion of Baghdad, such a move will leave an obvious American footprint on the Putin administration’s proverbial rear end. Biden explained that the President can’t just make an accusation and then fail to deliver some form of retribution, for it would weaken the “response capability” of US defense.

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Former CIA director Michael Morrell doubted the US would set the precedent of an actual, physical attack on Russian internal networks. He also said this operation is not the sort that should be carried out in secret, but rather in plain sight.

The Obama administration is reportedly also considering sanctions against Russia. Retired General Mike Hayden, who worked at both the NSA and the CIA, indicated earlier this year that the CIA is capable of running such an operation. He compared CIA computer operations to Marine Corps aviation and NSA computer operations to the United States Air Force – meaning that the NSA is clearly more capable, but the CIA is not inert. Retired Admiral James Stavridis said:

I think unless we stand up to this kind of cyber attack from Russia, we’ll only see more and more of it in the future.

A Swan Song of Nuclear War?

Cyber networks are vital in today’s society. Following the 2014 Sony hacks, which were blamed on North Korea, much of North Korea’s limited internet access went down. Then, as now, President Obama had promised a “proportional response.”

While the US may be wont to offer cyber attack for cyber attack, Russian insiders have already told the news media that the election of Hillary Clinton in and of itself could lead to nuclear war. The conflict in Syria has been heightening tensions unlike anything between the two powers in decades. Barack Obama seems intent on getting a last strike in on Russia before he goes out of office, but could the ramifications of such a move be unpredictable, even nuclear?

Depending on the success of the planned attacks, the Russians could very well perceive a physical, weaponized response as likewise “proportional.” This is how many wars between large powers begin: an escalation of tensions followed by an escalation of actions.

Let’s hope these fears are just the irrational speculation of a hacked.com reporter and not a coming reality.

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