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16 June 2019

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J

TTG,

What do you think about the Russians backup plans to sever all ties with the internet, and continue their operations in their own national intranet? Putin has been proactive on this as one of their asymmetries, and the Duma has been following his suit with supported legislation.

JamesT

Alas - I can imagine a cyberwar, escalating to an EMP burst, escalating to a hot war. I believe that the unremitting attacks on Trump have been for the express purpose of making it impossible for him to push for negotiations with Russia - about anything.

Pirate Laddie

Let's see. We don't seem to be able to field a team that can prevail in Iraq or Affie. Actions against Syria and Venezuela appear to have "miscarried." Putin & Company are doing quite well in their public relations campaigns against "the West," specifically the US. In the European theater, the whole "Brexit" imbroglio is a G*d-send, ditto the Gilets Jaunes. There's talk of Russian hypersonic weapons while F-35s struggle to get off the ground.

Now we learn of new cyberwarfare initiatives, designed to bait the Bear in one of the areas where they've a demonstrated superiority. Sounds very much like the endgame of Empire.

The Twisted Genius

J, We worked closely with the Russians when preparing for Y2K. They did a lot of that then. Also prepared for manual control. We do the same things as part of continuity of operations planning. Remember, the Iranian centrifuges were not connected to the internet, either.

Liza

TTG:

I have three questions. If you have the time or inclination to answer any of these, I would appreciate it.

1) Walrus wrote that he doubted this was true. Do you believe that it is true ?

2) I assume that this would have not have been disclosed unless US agencies knew that the Russians were aware of it. Last month, there was an unusual cyber operation on a US power grid. Do you think that this could have been a message from the Russians that they are able to respond in kind ?

https://www.npr.org/2019/05/04/720221912/cyber-disruption-affected-parts-of-u-s-energy-grid


3) Could a similar cyber attack have been used to shut down the power grid in Venezuela ? Russian personnel were sent to help repair the power grid. If the cyber attack was in fact similar, is it probable that the Russians would be able to detect and disable malware in their power grid ?

ISL

"An interesting point in the NYT story is that it appears Trump has not been briefed on this stuff. .... Thats disheartening."

I would call it quite alarming. The president making decisions / policy on incomplete and deliberately withheld information.
If he is not informed on this, what else is he not informed on? It seems unlikely that this is the only thing being kept from him to deliberately manipulate his world view.

One might imagine he also is being fed disinformation - the video of the Iran tankers and the unimaginative story of limpet mines (someone has a very low opinion of the US media and public, or is just too lazy to care) likely was presented to Trump as fact.

confusedponderer

Pirate Laddie,
re: "We don't seem to be able to field a team that can prevail in Iraq or Affie"

The orange penal tax lover and his happy henchmen Bolton and Pompeo don't have a problem with war, for one since they themselves won't (have to) fight it and then since they have proved to gain delight from occasional cruise missile orgasms.

Likely the US won't be able to quickly defeat Iran on the ground (large place, difficult terrain and likely skilled and determined resistance), but they can cause a hell of damage from a 'safe distance' and the air or the sea.

There is that joke that Bolton never saw a problem for which war was not his preferred solution. Never let the man crack an egg during breakfast ... you may end up with a thermonuclear fried egg.

Such a dude is a molotov cocktail at the fiery table of a maximum escalation out of 'principal' man, who just invented "Charles, the prince of Whales", and so accidentally explained to the more simpleminded the REAL source of the strength of the Royal Navy. And by the way, it was likely determined delphins, who sinked the Bismarck, but ... shhh!

And as for baiting the bear in cyber war, that incident in Baltimore suggests the US are themselves rather vulnerable in that field, ironically indirectly thanks to the NSA.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/22/baltimore-still-grappling-with-hack-of-government-computers-after-two-weeks

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/25/us/nsa-hacking-tool-baltimore.html

It is not very smart to invite skilled opponents to that sort of game, but then ... the US have now three stable geniusses to deal with that, if not four with Pence if the opponent is gay.

walrus

My problem: What is the difference between what the U. S. is alleged to have done and the Russians saying: “hi, we have just hidden twenty suitcase nuclear weapons in your major cities, just in case.”?

I don’t see much difference.

Mathias Alexander

If the Iranian centrifuges were not connected to the internet then how did Stuxnet get in?

Ghost Ship

Have the Iranians ever admitted the alleged damage to their centrifuges? Not that I know of, so as far as I can see they are the only ones who really know what happened at the sharp end. All the claims by the Israelis and US IC are just conjecture.

As for the Russian grid, it might use a computer network for communications monitoring and administration but I have my doubts about them using it to actually control the operation of the grid, so while this alleged malware might complicate the operations of the agency responsible for the Russian grid, it seems to me it would be unlikely to be able to actually take over the operation of the grid.

BTW, I can believe that even if Russia knew about this malware (Kaspersky), they wouldn't tell anyone or complain about it, but just wait for someone to throw the switch. There's nothing like watching an antagonist waste billions on systems that don't work and the US has a solid recent history of that.

Barbara Ann

Very interesting TTG.

Agree re the urgent need for a Cyber equivalent of the NPT, but given that the current direction of travel in that area is the exact opposite, I am not holding my breath. And there are other problems, such as monitoring & attribution. Nuclear weapons controls are associated with inspections of weapons and production facilities, the work of the IAEA etc. How would it be possible to audit the use of computer code? And even code in violation of a treaty can be easily spoofed to appear to have "Iran written all over it", for example. I cannot see how any sort of treaty would be a practical possibility.

There is another critical difference between offensive cyber weapons and nukes. Stuxnet was discovered thru reports of infections in Siemens PLCs in countries right around the globe. In the documentary Zero Days it was alleged that Israeli insistence on inserting the code into Natanz ASAP led to a relaxation of the methods by which it could be transmitted. The result was a scatter gun, with an uncontrolled spread. What just happened in Argentina & Uruguay might be entirely unrelated, but it is exactly the sort of outcome we can expect if these weapons are handled carelessly.

And if we must learn to love the "Cyber-Bomb" we'd better all prepare ourselves for the day a non-state actor gets hold of a suitcase version. Only you don't need a suitcase, just a memory stick.

joanna

I believe that the unremitting attacks on Trump have been for the express purpose of making it impossible for him to push for negotiations with Russia - about anything.

I always believed whatever Trump said concerning Russia during his campaign had to be taken with a grain of salt, since most of it was purely a reaction to the inner US campaign dynamics. In other words a reaction to ... guess who ...

There are rumors, who made him choose Bolton, and all that sponsor needed were other relevant promises during his election campaign. They were mostly ignored here on SST as relevant, although all over the place. But those he fulfilled almost all so far.

joanna

oh dear, what did it feel inside the upcoming Y2K disaster?

For whatever reason this triggers a temporary Blackstone takeover of a southern* integrated internet electricity grid over here. Well forget it.

* ...

Barbara Ann

Re "..how did Stuxnet get in?".

I heard of a study once which slipped CD ROMs (it was a while back) printed with the company logo into the personal effects, of various executives (outside the office). A good proportion of the sample inserted the CD ROM into a drive at work, out of curiosity I guess. The CD ROM just left a digit fingerprint for research purposes in this case, but it could have been carrying anything.

It's called crossing an 'air gap' (from the internet) and the people that do this stuff are an imaginative bunch. In Stuxnet's case, as far as I understand it, the software got to the PLCs which controlled the centrifuges via a software update. To do this its designers had stolen digital 'keys' so that the malware could masquerade as a legitimate update from the vendor. Think Microsoft Windows Update, only not from Microsoft...

Fred

People like Chelsea Manning only take files out of networks and would never put things in;like the people who put child pornography on Alex Jones' network servers. Such things would never be done to discredit someone as part of a campaign of perception management.

prawnik

Trump's supporters claimed that he would dismantle the Deep State. Turns out that Trump has so little authority in his own house that the Deep State blithely commits an act of war against a nuclear power and doesn't even bother to inform the commander-in-chief.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/15/us/politics/trump-cyber-russia-grid.html

Fred

walrus,

why bother with that, and probably lose control of one or more nuclear weapons, when you can just infiltrate one or more NGOsand convince them to pay for some Congolese to migrate to the US via the Mexican border during the same timeframe as an Ebola outbreak?

The Twisted Genius

Liza, I don't know if this story is true, but it tracks with everything I've seen before my retirement. Hacking the power grid has been a holy grail of cybergeeks since the dawn of dial in modems. Until fairly recently, these probes and attacks have been done between Russia and the US quietly with great finesse and a great deal of deniability. I've seen that change with the 2015 attack on the JCS and DOS networks. These attacks were noisy, bold and persistent. These attacks were witnessed by the Dutch AIVD penetration of the hacker's office in Moscow. I also saw how the probably Russian penetration of our classified JWICS and SIPRNET in 2008 affected our cyber people. All those nerds and geeks wanted vengeance. Given these events, I would not be at all surprised if our implantation of destructive tools within the Russian power grid is confirmed.

Can the Russians, and others, respond in kind? Sure. However, not every power grid failure is due to a hack. Things break. Operators make mistakes. To assume every glitch whether it be in Venezuela, Argentina or our own Target stores is a mistake. This other war in the shadows has been going on since the days of "The Cuckoo's Egg" and it will only intensify. I think it is imperative that we all maintain our cool and not equate every network attack, power grid failure or information operation with a full on nuclear attack. BTW, I heartedly recommend that book. It describes the nature of the attacker-defender relationship which continues to this day.

Barbara Ann

ISL

The bit about Trump not being in the loop, right after mention of Bolton's name associated with the program could be read another way: Someone has knives out for President Bolton, as Fred here recently referred to him. NYT sources maybe saner members of the IC refusing to drink Bolton's Iranian Kool-Aid?

Alternatively, it could just as likely be BS and just general sh*t stirring by the NYT to try and further paint Trump as rogue POTUS who can't be trusted by his administration. That would certainly fit the editorial line.

Keith Harbaugh

What I have been noticing is the amount of clearly TS/SI, etc. data appearing on the front page of the NYT, information whose publication, on the face of it, harms the U.S. national interest.
Should this article be such?
If the statement is true, I don't see why we would want to give away the fact.
That makes it so much more likely that the Russkis will be able to disable those "implants", does it not?

Here is another probably harmful leak on the NYT's front page:
“Potential Clash Over Secrets Looms Between Justice Dept. and C.I.A.”, NYT, 2019-05-24

[O]fficials said Mr. Barr wanted to learn more about sources in Russia, including
a key informant who helped the C.I.A. conclude that President Vladimir V. Putin ordered the intrusion on the 2016 election.
That statement, on its very face, is revealing a source.
You can report you have intelligence information, without revealing whether it was derived from HUMINT, SIGINT, or whatever.
Why narrow the Russkis search for who/whatever revealed that information, assuming that the report is an accurate one?

turcopolier

KH

IMO there is no Russia source on this matter. Steele made the whole thing up based on his instructions from people in the UK intelligence and propaganda apparat acting on coordination with Clapper and Brennan. Both these men have always been on the Left and hated the idea of a DJT led counter-revolution. You may not like DJT, I do not, but for whatever reasons he certainly has been leading a counter-revolution against the steady movement toward globalist policies. As to the present story about the Russia grid, IMO Bolton and the neocons have been leaking this material as part of their drive toward war with Russia and Iran. The tanker attacks IMO have been put on by local surrogates in th ME to advance these policies. Unless the president told them personally to leak the material they should be prosecuted.

turcopolier

TTG - Too technical for me. I am basically a grunt who wandered into the world of covert action, strategic analysis and clan HUMINT. IOW, if you don't have a rusty AK in your closet you would not have been a subject of interest for me.

Keith Harbaugh

War with Russia? My God, I hope not.
War with Iran would be a terrible and costly disaster for the U.S.,
but war with Russia, whatever damage we could/would do to them,
would really mean the end to the U.S. as we have known it.
Could such war be kept limited? I highly doubt it. It would escalate to the thermonuclear cataclysm long feared.
A long ago reference some may remember:
On Thermonuclear War by Herman Kahn, 1960
Do you really think "Bolton and the neocons" are driving toward war with Russia?

turcopolier

KH
The hard core neocons have convinced them selves that they could ride out a war with Russia or the Russians would cave in brfore the crunch came.

JJackson

I heard that in this case the Israeli agent dropped blank memory sticks. These, once picked up and used on the Engineers laptops, overcame the air gapping.

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