U.S. and allies manning their battle stations against Iranian, NorK hackers

posted at 5:31 pm on June 8, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are currently edging their ways around one another at a summit in California largely focusing on the quickly metastasizing problem of invasive cyberattacks, but China isn’t the only country that has its sights set on intruding into the many commercial and government computer systems of the United States.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, Iranian-based hackers are also taking a turn at digitally forcing their way into, among other things, the U.S. energy grid — and officials reckon that, because of their openly hostile and disruptive intent, the Iranian hackers’ smaller and less sophisticated operation might actually pose a bigger security threat than even China’s hackers.

Now, reports the New York Times, the Obama administration is starting to help other Middle Eastern countries beef up their own defenses against Iran’s growing arsenal of cyber weapons, and is looking to do the same in Asia to help out allies with cyberattacks from North Korea:

The American officials would not say which countries in the Persian Gulf have signed up for help in countering Iran’s computer abilities. But the list, some officials say, includes the nations that have been the most active in tracking Iranian arms shipments, intercepting them in ports and providing intelligence to the United States about Iranian actions. The three most active in that arena are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

In Asia, the countries most worried about being struck by North Korean computer attacks are South Korea and Japan. …

The presidential directive included the declaration that the United States reserved the right to take “anticipatory action” against “imminent threats,” a reference, it seemed, to the kind of crippling infrastructure attacks that Iran appears to be working on against American and allied targets. …

But deterring cyberattacks is a far more complex problem, and American officials concede that this effort, which will include providing computer hardware and software and training to allies, is an experiment. It has been propelled by two high-profile attacks in the past year. One was against Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s largest, state-run oil producer, and according to American officials it was carried out by Iran. That attack crippled 30,000 computers but did not succeed in halting oil production. The other, an attack on South Korea’s banking and media companies this spring, was later attributed to North Korea. It froze the ability of several banks to operate for days.

The Obama administration has been increasingly tailoring their defensive operations for the brave new world of cyberwarfare that does seem to be fast approaching. Just like the Pentagon might have the military practice naval exercises to keep everyone on the cutting edge of preparedness, joint cyberwar games are going to be increasingly implemented into regular defense operations — although the United States will only be helping allies to develop skills to defend against hostile attacks on their military and critical infrastructure, and will not be sharing any of its offensive cyberweapons.

Iran and North Korea’s hacking prowess is still far beneath the powers of the United States, Israel, China, and others, but they have lately been accelerating their efforts, and they very clearly have belligerence in mind.


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So, the NSA leak actually makes me feel better about the state of US cyber security relative to China and the rest.
Except the part where someone with Top Secret clearance is leaking TS information. Apparently, 1 million people with TS clearance is too many.

Count to 10 on June 8, 2013 at 5:39 PM

Why would anyone in government put any secret information on the internet anyway?

VorDaj on June 8, 2013 at 5:46 PM

A battalion of Breannas?

Blake on June 8, 2013 at 5:51 PM

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are currently edging their ways around one another at a summit in California

That is saying they are sniffing one another’s butts.

I remain unconvinced that the leaker of the NSA spying scandal isn’t China ahead of this meeting. It is messaging. China can hack the NSA. Not that the rat-eared coward is going to admit such vulnerability (nor should he).

Happy Nomad on June 8, 2013 at 6:27 PM

Apparently, 1 million people with TS clearance is too many.

Count to 10 on June 8, 2013 at 5:39 PM

It isn’t about clearance, it is about access. That “need to know” thng.

Bradley Manning- a frustrated gay Army PFC intelligence analysist in Afghanistan was able to access State Department Cables concerning European nations. Why?

The big deal here isn’t about who has the clearance but who has access and why they do. Personally, I want to know who leaked the NSA data to OFA.

Happy Nomad on June 8, 2013 at 6:36 PM

Actually, the most effective deterrent against cyberattacks is “off the table”.

Hint; it’s how the Mossad “deterred” Dr. Gerald Bull from building his “supergun” for Saddam Hussein.

In any “airspace confluence conflict” between a high IQ and a small piece of high-velocity lead, the smart money isn’t on the IQ.

Hacking is a “sophisticated” attack, favored by governments which wish to harass their enemies (even the ones they do not officially acknowledge as such), and retro-adolescent smarta$$es who just like to f**k with people they don’t even know, to prove (to themselves) how superior and untouchable they are.

The answer in both cases should be to disprove the “untouchable” premise. By the most direct means consistent with plausible deniability.

“Who, us? We’d never do thaaatttt….

Considering the potential damage from hacking, it should be considered at least as serious as a direct terrorist attack, with guns, bombs, etc.

And warrant an equally serious response. Not restricted to The Testy Letter.

clear ether

eon

eon on June 8, 2013 at 6:37 PM

We could hack these people to pieces. But who would give that order? Not Bambi.

AshleyTKing on June 8, 2013 at 6:50 PM

Iran and North Korea’s hacking prowess is still far beneath the powers of the United States, Israel, China, and others, but they have lately been accelerating their efforts, and they very clearly have belligerence in mind.

A related story:
What If China Hacks the NSA’s Massive Data Trove?

whatcat on June 8, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Hey the good news, if china hacks NSA data files they will know I love Chinese food and maybe to try to bribe to give them my secrets I know about making southern pork bar b q they will ply me with massive amounts of Peking duck. It would be hard for me too hold out.

losarkos on June 8, 2013 at 9:33 PM

Considering the potential damage from hacking, it should be considered at least as serious as a direct terrorist attack, with guns, bombs, etc.

And warrant an equally serious response. Not restricted to The Testy Letter.

eon on June 8, 2013 at 6:37 PM

I hate to say this but the Western world was not ready for the consequences of the tech boom and frankly still isn’t. Not the average Joe or Jane, not a good many corporations, not the feds. We absolutely refuse to acknowledge the danger hackers pose in our internetworked world.

Once upon a time civilized nations endured piracy until they got fed up enough to storm the pirates’ safe havens and extradite and hang those they didn’t shoot in the invasion. The modern world thinks that’s just too mean, and look at that, pirates run amok all over the place. From professional Communist/Arab hackers to booga-booga tribals who’ve figured out just how dumb and gullible Westerners are.

A related story:
What If China Hacks the NSA’s Massive Data Trove?

whatcat on June 8, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Unless they stage a land invasion, we’re in more danger from the tyrants right here by an order of magnitude.

MelonCollie on June 8, 2013 at 10:34 PM

Once upon a time civilized nations endured piracy until they got fed up enough to storm the pirates’ safe havens and extradite and hang those they didn’t shoot in the invasion. The modern world thinks that’s just too mean, and look at that, pirates run amok all over the place. From professional Communist/Arab hackers to booga-booga tribals who’ve figured out just how dumb and gullible Westerners are.

Agreed. Historically, pirates have operated high, wide and handsome along major trade routes, until they got a major naval power pissed off enough to send in the fleet to run them home under the bed, set fire to the hut, and shoot anyone trying to get out the back.

Rome under Pompey the Great vs. the Cilicians, the British vs. the Red Sea/Indian Ocean pirates raiding the East India Company (where one “Captain Kidd” made a fool of himself and got hanged for his trouble), the British vs. Bartholomew Roberts & Friends (which would make a lot better movie than either The Princess Bride or Pirates of the Caribbean), and of course the Barbary pirates against everybody, until the “infant” United States Navy kicked their a$$es. (Hence “the shores of Tripoli” in The Marine Corps Hymn.)

Our response to the Somali pirates should have been cluster-bombing their bases, not trying to buy them off. Ditto the upwelling maritime bandits in the Java Sea/Malacca Strait Area.

I could see buying a few “retired” Typhoons off the RAF to conduct “aerial surveying” of the latter waters. Armed with Harpoons and BLU 755s.

A related story:
What If China Hacks the NSA’s Massive Data Trove?

whatcat on June 8, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Unless they stage a land invasion, we’re in more danger from the tyrants right here by an order of magnitude.

MelonCollie on June 8, 2013 at 10:34 PM

When the People’s Liberation Army Navy (what a name for a navy- Akk!) starts building big, capable UNREP oilers, and warships good for something beside littoral warfare and “showing the flag” (which is the only doable mission for their one light carrier, which doesn’t even have adequate escorts), then I’ll start worrying about their ambitions in WESPAC and elsewhere, other than subversion. Which they are very good at, and already practicing in Latin America.

Just like they did in Indonesia when I was a kid. It ended badly for them there, as I recall.

cheers

eon

eon on June 8, 2013 at 11:15 PM

although the United States will only be helping allies to develop skills to defend against hostile attacks on their military and critical infrastructure, and will not be sharing any of its offensive cyberweapons.

So they say.

AesopFan on June 9, 2013 at 9:57 PM