As promised – here is the “official” cross-post from my guest appearance on fudsec.com. Enjoy!
I’ve been intravenously fed with FUD for as long as I’ve been in the business.
The main strategy for understanding that you are facing FUD is to realize that there is a financial motivation behind the FUD-spreading entity. This has served me well over the years and managed to keep me out of trouble (i.e. buying/selling/liking any “you gotta have this!!!” technology).
I have to admit that when I started seeing what the media is doing to the term CyberWar, I was a bit baffled. What’s the motivation? It’s not like we can run to the local RadioShack and buy an Anti-CyberWar overpriced box of solutions for just $39.99 (not including annual license renewal of $99.99).
Nevertheless, as someone who likes security (yeah, I know… sorry…) and actually spends most of his time playing around with computers (my semi-formal job definition), I had to dig into this.
I decided to start off with my prior knowledge of CyberCrime (again – definitions aside, some say eCrime, some CyberCrime, some tomato…) to cover the more “traditional” attack vectors and risk surfaces. Armed with these, I wore my thinking hat and ventured back in history to re-inspect some of the cyberwar incidents of our past. The main incidents that brought the most media attention were the Estonia and the Georgia ones.
Estonia being dubbed the “first true cyberwar” in some publications (and by some “professionals”) turned out to be mostly civilian – meaning that there didn’t seem to be a Kremlin general high on Vodka that marched his army of hackers into cyberspace to crush the Estonia internet!!! On the other hand, reality seemed much more familiar that expected – a couple of defacements from skiddies on the hacktivism side, and a fairly traditional DDoS using a botnet that – behold – is attributed to CyberCrime. Almost like someone was trying to push me back to my “place”.
To be completely honest, there was a bit more to it. For anyone who is familiar with the RBN, you probably are aware of the close ties it has with Russian authorities that allow it to operate almost uninterrupted. The timing of the attacks, and the scale of it indicate that either some hacktivists got a huge favor from a highly commercially inclined organization, or that some kind of quid-pro-quo between RBN and a Kremlin rep was in place to put a little pressure on the Estonia neighbors.
But from some greased hands that allow RBN to keep running aloof to “the first true cyberwar” is a long haul…
The second example was the Georgia-Russia front. While getting somewhat less attention in the media, this was more closely a “CyberWar”, or an act of cyberwarfare, as it has been closely coordinated with kinetic actions taken on the ground by the Russian forces. Nevertheless, the same deniability factor plays well here – use of botnets operated mainly by CyberCriminal groups was the main attack surface.
Interestingly enough – true cyberwar acts failed to truly make a media hit (look for the alleged bombing of the alleged nuclear plant in Syria by alleged Israeli F-16s… These allegedly did not show up on any radar screen. Not in Turkey, nor in Syria or Lebanon. Go figure 🙂 ).
But the real cherry on top has been APT! When I first heard that there was an APT and it was very malicious and scary I thought that there goes my favorite Linux distribution… Yeah – I’m such a sucker for the media 🙁
Too bad that the latest APT (and that’s the last time you’ll see this acronym here) is just another FUD-happy name for – wait for it – TROJANS!!! Trojans, and rootkits, and keyloggers and viruses!!! run for your lives…
Seriously now. Whether state sponsored (possible…) or just another highly targeted criminal attack on select organizations (seen it before, handling some on a daily basis, not calling it funny names…), we go back again to the FUD motivation.
According to the latest one (FUD that is), CyberWar is full of APT (broke my promise. deal with it), and it can only be protected by – you guessed it – AntiVirus! (or whatever new fancy names our beloved vendors find for the same software they have been pushing us in the last 20 years).
So cheer up! The sky is not falling. It’s just a little cloudy, and the usual bad people are still around doing their thing. The only difference is that you need to realize that ANYONE can hire these bad guys. Yes – even your government (or whatever shell company used to disguise it). Just like we are used to do with more conventional arms dealing.
Hope this was some food for thought. For more on the topic you can check out my past coverage of Cybercrime (BlackHat, DefCon, HackerHalted, Excaliburcon, etc.) and the up-and-coming coverage of Cyber[Crime|War] connections in BlackHat EU and the FIRST conference.