Evidence? Why?

I ignored the news initially, as I saw it, it was nothing more than some bash piece on Saudi Arabia. Yet something hot me, it was just a thought and it was: ‘What if I illuminate parts and let common sense people decide‘ (which takes out many journalists and mostly all politicians). As for me? The issue is that the media is all about bashing any royal part of Saudi Arabia, all whilst ignoring evidence (and debatable evidence to a much greater degree, their pursuit of circulation and agreeing to the beat of shareholders and stakeholders has gone to the heads of too many editors and I get a real rush to illuminate this part.

I have never ignored evidence, yet just like with Huawei, it is seemingly all about the big bully shouting, whilst the deciding world for the most ignores evidence and I think that it is a weird situation. Not merely in this blog, but on a few matters, we will get to hold them to account in a few years, at that point these people will make hastily formulated excuses whilst running to their mummies to get breastfeeding (I reckon).

So, lets begin. In the first we have ‘How the UN unearthed a possible Saudi Arabian link to Jeff Bezos hack‘ (the Guardian at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jan/22/how-the-un-unearthed-a-possible-saudi-arabian-link-to-jeff-bezos-hack) as well as ‘Did Saudi Arabia’s crown prince hack the Amazon king?’ (the Economist at https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2020/01/25/did-saudi-arabias-crown-prince-hack-the-amazon-king), a nice side effect is that the Economist, is viewed and acted on on the 24th of January, whilst the article states that it is the Jan 25th 2020 edition, but enough about that. Let’s start with the Guardian who tells us “The UN’s demand for law enforcement authorities to conduct a proper investigation into the alleged hacking of Jeff Bezos’s mobile phone came after it reviewed the findings of a cybersecurity firm, FTI“, we might not see anything here, yet the UN, who is underfunded and strained has time for this? Is this another US Essay like the one by some French girl on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi? And what about ‘after it reviewed the findings of a cybersecurity firm, FTI‘? This implies that the United Nations called for the inspection, notified a cyber security firm (FTI) and investigated the phone of some so called billionaire (postage and shipping required). So why exactly is this not with the police or an official investigative body like the FBI Cyber division?

Following this we get the real beef with “concluded with “medium to high confidence” that it had been compromised because of actions attributable to a WhatsApp account used by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman“, first of all, if I want to investigate the corruption at an army base, I will not go in as the lawlordtobe, I would enter the situation as some poor schmuck who is from the city of Noonecares. It is almost like an assasination and the official in question uses his own service revolver instead of someone else’s. And what goes with ‘medium to high confidence‘, what evidence was uncovered? Then we get the part where is all falls to shambles. With “The UN was careful not to be definitive. Instead of pointing the finger, its statement said the apparent hack had been achieved using software “such as NSO Group’s Pegasus or, less likely, Hacking Team’s Galileo, that can hook into legitimate applications to bypass detection and obfuscate activity”“, just like the Khashoggi essay fiasco, the UN is all about being not definitive, as such we want to know how accusations can be made when you are not definitive. As such I would like to point the UN troll to a kids game called Clue, there in that games (for ages 8+) we are introduced to the concept of evidence, where you need to collect facts and state “I am accusing Colonel Mustard who killed Dr. Black (aka Mr. Boddy) in the Kitchen using the lead pipe” and then we look at the evidence and see if the claimant had his or her facts straight. None of that CIA BS where we see ‘medium to high confidence‘, I would offer that if the confidence is already medium, what was not looked at and what was discarded. The statement comes directly before “The NSO Group, an Israeli cyber-surveillance firm, strongly denied that its surveillance tools were responsible“, as such we are left with ‘less likely, Hacking Team’s Galileo‘. so there is a mountain of doubt on an article that throws the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in a bad light and there is seemingly an increasing lack of evidence. As we go on, we see the NSO giving the statement that offers direct opposition to some firm called FTI with “These types of abuses of surveillance systems blacken the eye of the cyber-intelligence community and put a strain on the ability to use legitimate tools to fight serious crime and terror. We expect that all actors in this arena put in place stringent procedures and technological controls, such as those that we have put in place, to assure that their systems are not used in an abusive manner“, as such there are larger questions not merely on the UN for setting the stage of something that is not on their plate, they apparently went to another small operation (who knows) and let them set up the stage of doubtful and debatable documentation, doubtful as we get one of the implied companies go directly into denial and setting a document based on evidence that is regarded as ‘medium to high confidence‘.

And then something beautiful happens. We see “The FTI report cited by the UN special rapporteurs, Agnes Callamard and David Kaye, noted that both NSO and Hacking Team, an Italian company, offered tools that could theoretically have performed the attack” where we are (again) introduced to that UN essay writer, the one that had given us the joke called some Khashoggi report (Agnes Callamard), as well hiding behind ‘tools that could theoretically have performed the attack‘, the idea that this joke from a building based at 760 United Nations Plaza, Manhattan, New York City, New York 10017 and hide behind the word ‘theoretically‘, as such pardon my French (oh, that was funny!) but how the fuck does she still have a job?

For several reasons I will not use the Economist (as I am not a subscriber), but the quotes in their magazine “which was soon used to steal large amounts of data—though the un did not say exactly what, or how it was used” as well as “It called for an “immediate investigation”. The Saudi embassy in Washington, dc, said the accusations were “absurd”.

As I see it, the UN is nothing more than an advertising paper tiger, adhering to the commands of some stakeholder (identity unknown), if this was a direct action by the UN, those people need to be investigated immediately, I feel decently certain I will get both China and Russia to sign off on this, as this has the distinct smell that comes from neither region, so they would score a win, in addition to that, the UN would have to submit data as to what exactly was taken and how it could be identified, which is also an issue that is unclear and optionally unclear to the UN people involved. 

The Verge had a lot more, they had (at https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/23/21078828/report-saudi-arabia-hack-jeff-bezos-phone-fti-consulting) the actual report, and there we see on page one we see the person we need to hackle for information, it is Anthony J. Ferrante who needs to give us the names of who this so called ‘Confidential Report’ was given to, because it seems that it was leaked. And there we see the originator (vice.com) giving us “The report, obtained by Motherboard, indicates that investigators set up a secure lab to examine the phone and its artifacts and spent two days poring over the device but were unable to find any malware on it. Instead, they only found a suspicious video file sent to Bezos on May 1, 2018 that “appears to be an Arabic language promotional film about telecommunications.”“, however, this is not the end. They also give us “Investigators determined the video or downloader were suspicious only because Bezos’ phone subsequently began transmitting large amounts of data. “[W]ithin hours of the encrypted downloader being received, a massive and unauthorized exfiltration of data from Bezos’ phone began, continuing and escalating for months thereafter,” the report states“. In this I state OK, let’s take an actual look.

And they do give us more, quotes like “The digital forensic results, combined with a larger investigation, interviews, research, and expert intelligence information, led the investigators “to assess Bezos’ phone was compromised via tools procured by Saud al Qahtani,” the report states“, as well as “A mobile forensic expert told Motherboard that the investigation as depicted in the report is significantly incomplete and would only have provided the investigators with about 50 percent of what they needed, especially if this is a nation-state attack“, ““They would need to use a tool like Graykey or Cellebrite Premium or do a jailbreak to get a look at the full file system. That’s where that state-sponsored malware is going to be found. Good state-sponsored malware should never show up in a backup,” said Sarah Edwards, an author and teacher of mobile forensics for the SANS Institute“, and “The investigators do note on the last page of their report that they need to jailbreak Bezos’s phone to examine the root file system. Edwards said this would indeed get them everything they would need to search for persistent spyware like the kind created and sold by the NSO Group. But the report doesn’t indicate if that did get done.“, which is as I personally see it the shallow political BS that some people go for. As such we see in the report “The following investigative steps are currently pending“, and more profound, on page 4 we see: “On May 1st, 2018, Bezos received a text from the WhatsApp account used by MBS“, my issue here is that this might have been the infected one, yet if I did that, I would use an originator that was real. And there we have it, the Dailymail gave us ‘New bug allows hackers to send fake messages pretending to be you – and there’s nothing you can do to stop them‘ (at https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-6039533/WhatsApp-users-beware-Hackers-send-fake-messages-pretending-you.html) with the additional text: “First discovered by Israeli cybersecurity group CheckPoint Research, the flaw is incredibly complex and involves a gap within the app’s encryption algorithms. Writing on their website, the team said the vulnerability could make it possible for a hacker ‘to intercept and manipulate messages sent by those in a group or private conversation’ as well as ‘create and spread misinformation’. Hackers could use the bug to alter the text sent in someone else’s reply to a group chat, essentially ‘putting words in their mouth’, the group said.

It took me 5 minutes and Google search to find this. I am not stating that this is true and that the Daily Mail is the source to use (they often are not), yet this is a larger failing, I expected this from the very beginning, the origins of the setting was not properly investigated. Then Vice.com gave us “the report is significantly incomplete and would only have provided the investigators with about 50 percent of what they needed“, which is what I expected before I read one word of the accusation, and with US Essay writer Callamard involved (yes again it is her) we see what this is, another mindless attack on a nation and one person. They did not even bother getting him properly smeared, and no one is asking questions, I reckon that the involved stakeholders are likely to go for the, if we create enough barbeques, someone will shout fire: ‘I ran’ for office! Anyone?

what is the most irritating part is that the UN is again used as the cheap tool that they are. In this there is also the involvement of the FTI and more interesting that a Cyber Security firm did not look past the simplest trappings, as as we consider the optional involvement of Anthony J. Ferrante we need to consider sending quota to all 49 of the Global 100 companies that are FTI clients. Even if it was merely to make a few people sweat. When a non Cyber adapt like me can see through this part they have a clear problem and whether Anony Mouse Bezos was part of this or not will not matter. There is one other part in the report that should be considered. On page 2 we see “More significantly. al Qahtani is known to have played a key and senior role in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.” In the first, he was acquitted (in a Saudi trial) and there has been no other trials, as such the statement should be read as false, no clear evidence was ever presented. In the second, as this is part of the executive summary, it seems that this was a way to blatantly strike out against one individual and the evidence is not corroborating any of this, too many questions are left unanswered and the media is not asking them either, as such I wonder what is to be believed, especially in light of the Daily Mail ‘revelation’ last August, which implies long in advance of this report. The fact that this (optional) fact is ignored gives out a much larger issue, the work in incomplete, debatable and political, not factual, as such sending serious cyber letters to the 49 of the Global 100 companies that are FTI clients, as I personally see it, these players are all about facts and when their provider and be painted as open for considerations, we should entertain all kinds of questions. 

I would also look at the footnotes and take a larger look at that descriptive part, I wonder what is left once I have had the chance to take a red pencil through this report. Now, I am not stating that Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud is innocent, I am merely considering that his evidence is so shallow, that I would never accuse him of anything, not before a lot more work was done (and a lot more footnotes were properly weighed), in this consider on page 3 footnote 8. When we go there, we see that the article is Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai a member of Motherboard (so why is there no Motherboard article that is the source), we see “An investor from Saudi  Arabia is apparently behind a company that bought a stake in the controversial spyware vendor” where ‘apparently‘ is the operative word. It is also where we see: “Hacking Team was thoroughly owned, with its once-secret list of customers, internal emails, and spyware source code leaked online for anyone to see“, were all these customers on a secret list investigated? There is also ‘spyware source code leaked online for anyone to see‘, a small fact that is apparently not investigated, additional players all optionally ready to give someone called Bezos the time of his on-line life. Then we get “this apparent recovery is in part thanks to the new investor, who appears to be from Saudi Arabia“, a line ruled by, you guessed it ‘apparent‘ and ‘who appears‘, so much filtering and doubt, and in this FTI used that as a footnote source? A program co-owned for 80% by none other then David Vincenzetti. That does NOT make HIM a guilty party and neither is there any convincing evidence of any kind towards the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud.

When I see all this I wonder if the UN (or FTI) has any clue how much we should regard them as tools. I cannot tell at present what kind of tools they are, but my personal view is that if this is the debatable level of evidence that some employ, we all are in so much more trouble then we ever thought.

 

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