Tag Archives: Booz Allen Hamilton

What did I say?

Last night I got a news push from the Washington Post. It took me more than a second to let the news sink in. You see, I have been advocating Common Cyber Sense for a while and apart from the odd General being ignorant beyond belief, I expected for the most that certain players in the SIGINT game would have their ducks in a row. Yet, the opposite seems to be true when we see ‘NSA contractor charged with stealing top secret data‘ (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/government-contractor-arrested-for-stealing-top-secret-data/2016/10/05/99eeb62a-8b19-11e6-875e-2c1bfe943b66_story.html), the evidence becomes blatantly obvious that matters in the SIGINT industry are nowhere near as acceptable as we think they are. The quote “Harold Thomas Martin III, 51, who did technology work for Booz Allen Hamilton, was charged with theft of government property and unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials, authorities said. According to two U.S. officials familiar with the case, he is suspected of “hoarding” classified materials going back as far as a decade in his house and car, and the recent leak of the hacking tools tipped investigators to what he was doing“, so between the lines we read that it took a mistake after a decade for the investigators to find out? No wonder the NSA is now afraid of the PLA Cyber Division!

In this light, not only do I get to tell you ‘I told you so‘, I need to show you a quote from July 1st 2013, where I wrote “So if we consider the digital version, and consider that most intelligence organisations use Security Enhanced Unix servers, then just accessing these documents without others knowing this is pretty much a ‘no no’. EVEN if he had access, there would be a log, and as such there is also a mention if that document was copied in any way. It is not impossible to get a hold of this, but with each document, his chance of getting caught grows quicker and quicker“, so I questioned elements of the Edward Snowden case, because my knowledge of Security Enhanced Unix servers, which is actually an NSA ‘invention’, now it seems to become more and more obvious that the NSA has no flipping clue what is going on their servers. They seem to be unaware of what gets moved and more important, if the NSA has any cloud coverage, there is with this new case enough doubt to voice the concern that the NSA has no quality control on its systems or who gets to see data, and with the involvement of a second Booz Allen Hamilton employee, the issue becomes, have they opened up the NSA systems for their opponents (the PLA Cyber division being the most likely candidate) to currently be in possession of a copy of all their data?

If you think I am exaggerating, then realise that two people syphoned off terabytes of data for the term of a decade, and even after Snowden became visible, Harold Thomas Martin III was able to continue this for an additional 3 years, giving ample worry that the NSA needs to be thoroughly sanitised. More important, the unique position the NSA had should now be considered a clear and present danger to the security of the United States. I think it is sad and not irony that the NSA became its own worst enemy.

This is seen not in just the fact that Harold Thomas Martin III moved top secret data home, whilst he was at work a mere FSB or PLA intern could just jimmy the front door and copy all the USB devices. So basically he was potentially giving away data on Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) systems, which would be nice for the PLA Cyber Unit(s), as they did not have the capacity to create this themselves. So whilst they were accused for allegedly trying to get a hold of data on the laptop of Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez (2008), they possibly laughed as they were just climbing into a window and taking all day to copy all the sweet classified data in the land (presumption, not a given fact). So he in equal measure pissed off the US, India and Russia. What a lovely day that must have been. In that regard, the Affidavit of Special Agent Jeremy Bucalo almost reads like a ‘love story’. With statements like “knowingly converted to his own use, or the use of another, property of the United States valued in excess of $1,000“. Can we all agree that although essential and correct, the affidavit reads like a joke? I mean that with no disrespect to the FBI, or the Special agent. I meant that in regard to the required personal viewed text: “Harold Thomas Martin III, has knowingly and intentionally endangered the safety and security of the United States, by placing top secret information and its multi-billion dollar value in unmonitored locations“, I do feel that there is a truth in the quote “The FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit is working on a psychological assessment, officials said. “This definitely is different” from other leak cases, one U.S. official said. “That’s why it’s taking us awhile to figure it out.”“. It is my personal view that I agree with this, I agree because I think I speculatively figured out the puzzle. He was a reservist, Reserve Navy and a Lieutenant at 51. So the Navy might not see him as ‘full’ or ‘equal’, this might have been his way, to read these documents at night, knowing that they will never have this level of clearance for such an amount of Top Secret information. With every additional document he would feel more in par with Naval Captains and Admirals, he would feel above all the others and if there was ever a conversation with people who did know, he had the option to leave the slightest hint that he was on that level, perhaps stating that he was also an NSA contractor. He star would suddenly be high with Commanders and higher. It is a personal speculation into the mind of Harold Thomas Martin III.

When we look at 18 U.S. Code Chapter 115 – TREASON, SEDITION, AND SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITIES. We see at paragraph 2381 “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States“, now if we see the following elements ‘giving them aid and comfort within the United States‘ and the other elements are clearly stated as ‘or’ a case of treason could be made. In my view a person like that was guilty of treason the moment Top Secret materials were removed or copied from there assigned location and without proper clearance moved to an unsecure location. As an IT person Harold Thomas Martin III should have known better, there is no case of presumption of innocence. The fact that I made a case that he might have a mental issues does not mitigate it in any way, to do this in excess of a decade and even more insidious to do this for years after Edward Snowden got found out is also matter of concern.

The NSA has a sizeable problem, not just because of these two individuals, but because their servers should have has a massive upgrade years ago, in addition, the fact that contractors got away with all this is in equal measure even more insulting to a failing NSA. I can only hope that GCHQ has its ducks properly in a row, because they have had 3 years to overhaul their system (so tempted to put an exclamation mark here). You see, we have all known that for pretty much all of us, our value is now data. No longer people, or technologies, but data and to see 2 cases at the NSA, what was once so secret that even the KGB remained clueless is now, what we should regard as a debatable place. This should really hurt in the hearts of those who have faithfully served its corridors in the past and even today. In addition, the issues raised around 2005 by the CIA and other agencies regarding the reliability of contractors is now a wide open field, because those opposing it and those blocking data integration are proven correctly.

This now gets us to a linked matter. You see, it is not just the fact that the government is trailing in this field, because that has been an eternal issue. The issue is that these systems, due to the likes of Harold Thomas Martin III and Edward Snowden could be in danger of intrusions by organised crime.

For those thinking that I am nuts (on the road to becoming a Mars bar), to them I need to raise the issue of USB security, an issue raised by Wired Magazine in 2014. The fact that the USB is not just used to get data out, if malware was added to the stick, if it was custom enough, many malware systems might not pick up on it and that means that whomever got into the house, they could have added software, so that on the next run to copy a project, the system might have been opened up to other events. There is no way to prove that this happened, yet the fact remains that this is possible and the additional fact that this was happening for over 10 years is equally disturbing, because it means that the NSA monitoring systems are inadequate to spot unauthorised activities. These elements have at present all been proven, so there.

I think it is time for TRUSIX to convene again and consider another path, a path where USB sticks get a very different formatting and that its embedded encryption require the user, the location and the hardware id to be encrypted within the stick, in addition the stocks need to work with a native encryption mode that does not allow off site usage. Perhaps this is already happening, yet it was possible for Judas tainted Highwayman Harold to walk away with the goods, so something is not working at present. I am amazed that a system like that was not in place for the longest of times. I certainly hope that Director Robert Hannigan at GCHQ has been convening with his technology directors. In addition that there are some from Oxford and some from Cambridge, so that their natural aversion to the other, will bring a more competitive product with higher quality, which would serve all of GCHQ. #JustSaying

The one part where this will have an impact is the election, because this has been happening during an entire Democratic administration, so that will look massively sloppy in the eyes of pretty much every one, too bad Benghazi emails were not left that much under the radar, because that could have helped the Clinton election campaign immensely. Still, there are technology and resource issues. The fact that Booz Allen Hamilton gets mentioned again is unfortunate, yet this should only be a partial focus as they have 22,000 employees, so statistically speaking the number of transgressions is in that regard insignificant. What is significant is how these two got vetted and passed all their clearances. In addition to this there is the issue of operation centres. You see, if there has been data breaches, have there been system breaches? The question derives directly from the fact that data was taken off site and there were no flags or alerts for a decade. So at this point the valid question becomes whether NSOC and NTOC have similar flaws, which now places US Homeland Security in speculated direct data dangers. My consideration in this regard came from earlier mentions in this article. If any US opponent has a clue in this regard, what would be the repercussions, in addition, the question (due to my admitted ignorance) would be, did Edward Snowden have any knowledge of Harold Thomas Martin III, if so, was this revealed in any conversation Snowden would have had with a member of the FSB (there is absolutely no doubt that they had a ‘conversation’ with Edward Snowden whilst he was in sunny Moscow. If so, what data dangers is Homeland Security facing? If data was copied, it is not impossible that data was moved. If that has happened, any data event with any specific flag?

Now the next example is purely fictional!

What if conditionally an <!important> (or whatever flag the NSA uses in their data sets) was added or removed? If it was used to give weight to certain data observations, like a cleaning pass, the pass would either be useless, or misdirecting. All possible just because Harold Thomas Martin III had to ‘satisfy’ his ego. This is not whether it happened or not, this is about whether it was possible, which would give added voice to the NSA issues in play and the reliability of data. This is a clear issue when we consider that false journalistic stories give way to doubt anything the journalist has written, any issue with a prosecutor and all those cases need reviewing, so do you think it is any different for IT people who have blatantly disregarded data security issues? This is not some Market Researcher who faked response data, this is collected data which would have been intervened with, endangering the people these systems should protect. As stated, this is speculative, but there is a reality in all this, so the NSA will need to sanitise data and sources from the last 10 years. There is no telling what they will dig up. For me it is interesting to see this regarding Snowden, because I had my issues with him and how he just got data away from there. Now there is a chance that the NSA gets to rename their servers to NSA_Siff_01 to NSA_Siff_nn, wouldn’t that be the rudest wake up call for them? I reckon they forgot the old rules, the one being that technology moves at the speed of your fastest employee + 1 and the human ego remain the most dangerous opponent when it involves security procedures.

 

 

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Is SIGINT a joke?

The news has been rampant on several levels these last few days. Whether it is revelation 16 (roughly) by the traitor Snowden, whether it is the historic event that the top three in British intelligence were in one line, as requested by British parliament, or the fact of revelations we read in the press, whilst (former) press members find themselves prosecuted for blatant and indiscriminate invasion of privacy. The list goes on and on and on.

There is a lot more, but let us confine ourselves to these three events.

For the Commonwealth the event in Parliament was likely the ‘important’ one. Was it truly about the events there? Some might want to question the questions, the answers and what follows. I, with my sense of perspective wondered about the choice of the green tie that Sir John Sawers was wearing. Does it matter? It is all as trivial as choosing pancakes for breakfast!

Yes, we all think we know it, we all think we have an inkling of an idea. I did have an idea, but that was almost 29 years ago. Now, I still have an idea from my specialised view of data, data technologies as well as data collection techniques and none of that falls with MI-6 (only a small part of it). The gem of the event was with Sir Iain Lobban, director of GCHQ, which gave us the part we need to care about. You see, as the press was so willing to give out the details as the people had a right to know, as we have allowed our wrists to get cut because the press is all about advertising profits, gang bang sensation and visibility, it was willing to sacrifice safety and progress for PR and visibility. To go deep and give both criminals and terrorists the information on how to avoid certain paths of detection we see the limits of their use. These same reporters that are part of a group listening in on voice mails to get the scoop, who will sanctimoniously proclaim freedom of the press, will not hesitate to sell their neighbour down the drain for the commission of another column of text, paid per letter.

From my point, if I had the option of making the killing shot ending Edward Snowden’s life I would, even if that gets me 20 years in prison, because traitors do not deserve consideration of any kind. The entire situation of laughable as an American ran to their Communist opponent and almost 50% of the American population considered it a good thing. In addition, if in light of the revealed information a child of Guardian editor in chief Alan Rusbridger would get molested, then he would blame the system on the front page of his newspaper immediately. I do not wish anything bad on him or his family ever! He is not likely to be worried as his four hundred thousand pound a year job allows for secure private schools, but what about the other children? Those children who are not that safe environment, possibly in danger to be at the mercy of predators, whom now with knowledge of longer avoidance and as such pose even more danger to innocent victims. What about them?

It is a level of what I see as utter short-sightedness. An assault on three groups that have lived in a world of ambiguity to get their work done, now that world is in turmoil, especially as some traitor comes with information that is for the most non confirmable, too much goes from the air of ‘Snowden told us, so it must be true’. Several questions are not dealt with on many levels, especially by the press. It just drains the gravy train as it sells more and more news (papers).

The second part is directly linked to all this. Two news messages:

1. Snowden persuaded other NSA workers to give up passwords (at http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSBRE9A703020131108)
2. Snowden has stolen 50,000 to 200,000 Classified Items from NSA.

The second had no verifiable source and as such there is no way to tell how correct that is, the first one is more of an issue. How stupid are Americans? That is of course if there is any truth in that part.

YOU NEVER GIVE OUT THAT INFO!

You can leave your partner/spouse/lover at some university frat party to have all the sex he/she needs, you give your credit card to your kids to buy all the toys they want, giving out login information is beyond utterly stupid. Snowden would not have needed it. As an IT person he either has rights to make changes, or he does not. If he did not, then giving out login info is the worst anyone could do. If this ever went to court then he could blame the original account holder. It is a level of non-repudiation!

So were the people at the NSA born stupid and stopped evolving after birth? That remains to be seen! The point is that the press is not that trustworthy either! The second part in regards to the classified items was from a non-disclosed, but also non verifiable source. There is no way for me to know. The question from this part is the one you do not see discussed openly on the news. How did all this info leave the building? Who was in charge? Issues that are also in play for Sir Iain Lobban! How vulnerable is GCHQ? What is in play to prevent this to happen in the UK? Even though Booz Allen Hamilton was cleared as they are the official boss of Edward Snowden, yet how was the clearing process? What are the checks in place for civilian contractors? The Washington Post published a large article questioning civilian contractor issues, from this part we wonder if it was deep enough. Even more, why were these issues not looked at more than a YEAR before the Snowden issues started?

If it was up to me (Sir Iain Lobban is likely secure in the knowledge that this is the last option that should ever happen), then I would like to make a small change at GCHQ. I would add a new inner circle, consisting of a Law Lord and two members from both MI-5 and MI-6 to watch the watchers. My only worry is that whoever oversees GCHQ internally is part of the ‘problem’ (no illegal or negative inclination implied). It does not harm for a set of cleared fresh eyes to look at the system to see if there is a danger. Something similar would need to happen at the NSA, but with their systems and such it might be a different source of people (like members of cyber command FBI and cyber command military).

There is too much info out there supporting the idea that US intelligence (and other governmental departments) seems to be oblivious to the need for Common Cyber Sense (at present with the amount of published info, it is unlikely that my thought on this is wrong).

Here is the third part, the PRESS part!

Their phone hacking was all about exploitation, revenue, profit and personal gain. The Intelligence community is about keeping people safe. There is a massive difference. If you wonder about these events, then consider the fact that because of greed and revenue, no steps have been taken on a global scale to see who buys your personal details and who has them. It could influence your insurance premium, your credit rating and your financial options. No one seems to be on par to get that properly regulated, because in America, Cash is king and the president to the United States is simply a number with a possible temporary status elevation, the rest is data cattle, sold at a moment’s notice. This risk is very real in the UK and Europe too. A consumer is nothing more than a customer number with an address and with a possible shipment of goods under way, that is their value and only for as long as they need products. To some extent the Washington Post covered this a week ago at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/michael-chertoff-what-the-nsa-and-social-media-have-in-common/2013/10/31/b286260e-4167-11e3-8b74-d89d714ca4dd_story.html

what is less known is that they are one of the few who took a decent look at it (the Washington post), the rest remains on the Snowden gravy train, not informing anyone, they simply re-quote a Reuters line. Seems a little wrong doesn’t it? The article by Michael Chertoff sees the gem no one properly questions half way through where he wrote “there is no assurance that what is disseminated has context or news value“.

The true part, the real smart and the questionable art! The intelligence world is ALL about disseminating information and giving proper weight to the information acquired. It is about finding the bad guys, without that weight it is all media gossip used by the press and as we saw, the disciples of Rupert Murdoch have truly dented that group’s reliability, perhaps for a long time.

So is today’s SIGINT a joke? I hope not, because if so, the questions had been phrased at the wrong people. At some point parliament gets to answer the questions asked by the innocent and the victims on how parliament asked all about data and left corporations to do whatever they liked with our personal details. How many UK companies have had a backup data server in the US?

Consider this quote by Salesquest “The Siebel Customer Intelligence List consists of 265 Fortune 1000 or Global 500 companies that have deployed Siebel in their enterprise application environment. The first tab in the spread sheet lists the 265 Siebel customers, industries, corporate headquarter addresses, phone numbers, and web site addresses.” (At http://www.salesquest.com/resources/siebel-customer-list/)

How many of those are backing up their data to some server park in San Antonio? Consider those places, all their customer data, their financial data and forecast information. In some cases, the data will come from over a dozen nations. It is nice to ask where their data is, but what about the data dumps, the logs and the backups, where were they kept?

Let the intelligence community do what it needs to do, if not, then neither we nor the press gets to point fingers at them when things truly go very wrong.

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