Patrons of Al-Qaeda

Many people have some form of religion, which is fine. To have a personal believe in something that is bigger than yourself or bigger then that what you see is not a bad thing. Many Christians have their father, their son and their holy ghost. Some go the other way and give credence to Satan, the anti-Christ and the false prophet. I cannot vouch for any of that. I agree that there is more than this in the universe, but what?

No matter how that part falls, it is likely that Al-Qaeda believes in their personal ‘information’ trinity.

They would be Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. These three people have done more to support Al-Qaeda then Osama Bin Laden ever could.

Assange, who is still hiding in an embassy, is the lowest transgressor of the three. First of all, as an Australian he did not really break any laws (although some debate should be had over hindering the actions of an ally under war time conditions). The public view is that on one side he should be nailed to a cross and on the other side he should be heralded. Information is often a lot more complex than many consider. If you want an example, you only need to look at this week’s situation where Assad is now blocking peace talks. Should there be any surprise?

I still am not completely convinced he was directly involved with the Sarin attacks; the issue here is that too much intelligence is questionable. If the USA had shown ALL OF IT publicly, the doubt might not have been there. Yet, the reality is whether they actually had hard evidence on who did it. Let us not forget that the evidence collected in the investigation was all about whether it had happened, not who did it. And guess what, Al-Qaeda was an element in Syria too, so what exactly did happen? Watching Secretary of State John Kerry go on a plane with his briefcase, shown on the news like he is some kind of rock star is not helping anyone either. It seemed as empty to me as a PowerPoint on some concept that no one wants to spend money on.

It shows two possible sides, either they have actual evidence that needs to remain a secret (which no one seemed to be accepting), or they actually didn’t have any and we were watching some version of the Punch and Judy show!

The other side is one that Assange was not into, the acts of terrorism by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not shown, we saw through WikiLeaks just one side of it and it changed the overall balance.

Then WikiLeaks released thousands of diplomatic cables, which I consider to be an act of utter stupidity, the information was one-sided, so the US opposition (all of them) get several free punches into play and as such, US recovery is still being hindered. This is the ‘bad’ side of Julian Assange. Their one sided act destabilised many events. Yes, there is a case to be made, but by not exposing the other side, we get a one-sided situation. In the end, the damage is done and even as there might not be any criminal activity by Julian Assange, we should ask questions.

In case the reader thinks that ‘actions’ against Julian Assange should be made, then consider that many in the financial industry did nothing ‘criminals’ either, even though thousands became homeless because of their ‘non-criminal’ actions.

By the way, remember the quote by CNBC (and many others), somewhere in 2010: “WikiLeaks honcho Julian Assange told Andy Greenberg at Forbes that he was in possession of a trove of documents that ‘could take down a bank or two.’ The documents wouldn’t necessarily show illegality but they would reveal an ‘ecosystem of corruption’ at one of the biggest banks in the United States. WikiLeaks would release it ‘early next year.’

They never came! So was this about intelligence, or about positioning banks in an even stronger place? Is it not interesting that Al-Qaeda’s patron number three and number one patron are all about neutering governments, whilst the banks stay out of play? Is it such a far fetching thought that these two idealists get played by those who believe greed is all?

In the middle we see Bradley Manning. This is not some ‘foreigner’; this was a member of the US military. In my view, he is a traitor plain and simple. A private, without any in depth education thought he had it all figured out, decides on US military policy. Which is interesting as many military members above the rank of Colonel are still trying to figure out what the best course of action is, even those with Ivy League degrees. The only positive thing from all this is that the military needs to seriously start to address its mental health issues, but beyond that small sparkle of recognition, this person was more than a small danger.

That part is not addressed even as the news still discusses the winner of this unholy threesome. Three days ago USA today published information on the fact that anti-leak software had still not been installed. I think it is even worse than many think it is. Some of these applications have (as any good application would) powerful log files. Even when we look at non-military solutions we see the following:

“The client’s log file is located at <user_directory>/Palantir/<version>/logs/client.log”

We can see at Palantir’s wiki what it logs, and depending on the settings it can give a lot (at https://wiki.palantir.com/pgkb/does-the-palantir-product-do-any-logging.html)

By the way, one needed only to change three settings to really log a lot:

# log4j.logger.com.palantir.services=error # package level
# log4j.logger.com.palantir.serveres.Nexus=warn # class level
# log4j.logger.MyLabeledLogger=info # specific logger

Removing ‘# ‘ on each line was all it would take.

This one warning gives a final view “Note that we do NOT recommend enabling logging below the warn level for production scenarios.” which means that all logging is possible mapping out the active military network in real time as the user muddles along.

This is not about Palantir, or even anti-Palantir. It is a software solution that part of the Intelligence community is currently using. IBM Modeler and SAS Miner are both data mining tools with similar abilities (and there are more). They all have these options as it is needed to make their products go smoothly. So when Bradley Manning gave it all away, he really gave it all away! The consequence might have (or could be resulting) in deep targeted attacks against a military server system. The question becomes how good is the anti-leak software? As many logging is set at higher levels (read administrator), many of them would be able to log events unhindered by many prying eyes (it is not realistic to monitor all logs on even 1 server). Even if it is all covered, who else has access to just read these log files? It is not uncommon to negate log files, as their users are usually vetted for use of the application. LOG files can however show more than many bargain for.

Unless the server architecture has been re-arranged, there is plenty of worry whether these servers are safe at this time, because log files are inherently their and needed, they are not linked to a password change and often, they do not get reconfigured away from their standard configuration as the case has been with plenty of application that it would hinder smooth operations.

Last on the list of the Patron Threesome is Edward Snowden. I have mentioned him often enough, so I will not go through it all again. He is in my view a traitor and not some ‘holier than thou’ protector. He is not some idealist, too much pointed to him making a getaway with the eye on some quick bucks (and many of them), I might be wrong, but that is how I see him. As he showed us how ‘naughty’ the NSA was, did he show us how unscrupulous Microsoft seems to be?

That view can be seen through an article in Techbeat just 4 days ago. The first quote is “Microsoft is developing a new technology to replace cookies. This work is similar to projects being undertaken by Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Tracking cookies have come under scrutiny recently from regulators by many concerned about privacy; certain types of cookies (Third party tracking cookies) are now easily blocked through built-in functions and extensions/add-ons within main web browsers.

The second one from the same article is “This technology should also include Microsoft services including their search engine Bing. Tracking in mobile devices remains a key point. The big advantage of Microsoft’s emerging technology is that it could track a user across a platform.

So basically, this reads like: ‘we the consumer used to have a little privacy, but soon, thanks to Microsoft, that privacy might be gone forever, allowing for non-stop online harassment wherever we are‘ So, That Snowden fellow never gave us anything on that, did he? Even though the NSA should have been aware of such plans long before Techbeat had a clue. Does the reader still think he is such an idealist?

Yet, on the other side, he has shown one important weakness. The US intelligence branch is on that same low level as the organisation that in the 50’s used to be laughingly referred to as ‘British Intelligence’. The question is not just how weak is the NSA seems to be; it links to questions regarding the weakness that GCHQ and its current Commonwealth peers might have. There are in addition issues with the personal digital safety of people on a global scale. Not because the NSA is scanning to identify terrorist networks, but if one person (Snowden) could get away, is there anyone else who just wanted money and gave their data download to cyber criminals? There is absolute 0% guarantee that this did not happen, so in how much danger are our details?

So, why this blog today? Many do this at the start, but in certain light this had to be done at the very end. It is not just about their acts, but also about the acts you and I undertake. We willingly give out our details to Facebook (including a beheading, but excluding exposed breasts), LinkedIn and Google+, yet many scream about ‘some government‘ seeing what we are doing and who we are doing it with (or without).

The twisted world we allowed to be created is likely to throw us at least two more curve balls before Christmas. Enjoy!

 

 

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