Either Microsoft is on their toes – or the stuff hackers steal from the NSA really is past its sell by-date

❝ Just as the Shadow Brokers hacker group started crowing about a dump of never-seen-before flaws in Windows, Microsoft announced it already had fixed most of the exploits.

“Today, Microsoft triaged a large release of exploits made publicly available by Shadow Brokers,” Microsoft Principal Security Group Manager Phillip Misner wrote in a Friday post.

“Our engineers have investigated the disclosed exploits, and most of the exploits are already patched,” he added.

Three of the dozen zero day vulnerabilities aired by the hackers, which they claimed were part of a large cache of data leaked from the U.S. National Security Agency, did not work at all on Windows 7 and above…

❝ As of the most recent patch cycle, no supported versions of Windows were vulnerable to the Shadow Brokers exploits, said Bobby Kuzma, a system engineer at Core Security.

“In other words,” he told TechNewsWorld, “for the love of God get XP, Vista and 2003 Server off of your networks.”

Har.

I know Microsoft users aren’t the most diligent of users of contemporary computing software and hardware. It was true through the 22 years I functioned within that milieu. I left over a decade ago and from what I read and hear – ain’t anything improved.

Basic security procedures still require regular backups and keeping your patches up-to-date. There’s more; but, too many folks don’t make it to the minimum.

The latest dump of NSA tools means – get up-to-date with Microsoft Patches, folks!

❝ UPDATE: Microsoft has patched the majority of the exploits released by The Shadow Brokers. More details can be found here, and the company recommends updating to a supported version of Windows and downloading security fixes.

The original story follows below:

❝ On Friday, the group known as The Shadow Brokers dropped the hacking equivalent of a bomb, or perhaps several bombs, giving hackers all over the world the tools to easily break into millions of Windows computers

This is bad news not just for the NSA, but for the internet as a whole, according to security researchers who are poring through the dump. As someone called it, this is “cyber chaos.”

❝ Perhaps the worst tool released by the hackers is called “FUZZBUNCH.” This is a hacking suite or toolkit that contains several plug-and-play exploits to attack several versions of Windows operating system. Some researchers described it as something akin to Metasploit, a popular open source hacking framework…

In fact, the latest Shadow Brokers dump contains several working Windows zero-days in executable (.exe) binaries with “step-by-step logs laying out how they’re used and the commands to run”…

That means that pretty much anyone, from low-level cybercriminals to so-called “script kiddies” — hackers who are only good at reusing other hackers’ tools — could repurpose them to attack Windows computers…

❝ In the meantime, you can either shut down your Windows machine or block incoming connections to port 445 and 139 with the firewall to prevent some of the attacks, according to security researchers.

❝ The leaked tools are dated around 2013, so they don’t affect modern Windows operating systems such as Windows 10. But according to Hacker Fantastic, the FUZZBUNCH framework supports all kinds of Windows systems: server versions from NT, 2000, 2003, 2008 and up to 2012, as well as the consumer versions XP, Vista, 7 and Windows 8.

I worked within the Microsoft/IBM framework for 22 years before moving to Apple’s OSX [and following mobile OS’] over a decade ago. Yeah, anything can be hacked; but, ain’t much need to make it easy.

Would you buy your kid a doll that can be compromised by the NSA?

❝ It’s nice to have a friend who’s a good listener, but a doll called My Friend Cayla listens a little too well, according to German regulators who say the toy is essentially a stealthy espionage device that shares what it hears and is also vulnerable to takeover by third parties.

“Cayla ist verboten in Deutschland,” says Jochen Homann, the president of Germany’s Federal Network Agency…announcing a ban on the doll in Germany on Friday. His agency oversees electronic privacy as part of its telecommunications mandate; Homann also cites a special obligation to protect the privacy of children, calling them the most vulnerable members of society.

❝ The heart of the problem, Homann says, is that Cayla looks like an everyday doll and gives no notice that it collects and transmits everything it hears — in this case, to a voice-recognition company in the U.S. whose other customers include intelligence agencies.

❝ Nuance, the U.S. company in question, has said in response to similar criticisms that it “does not share voice data collected from or on behalf of any of our customers with any of our other customers.”

❝ The test question — “Can I tell you a secret?” — brought this reply: “Sure go ahead; be very quiet, though. I promise not to tell anyone; it’s just between you and me because we are friends.”

Regardless what the folks making a living off the doll tell you — Do you think the NSA asks permission from the people they bug?

Six agencies, federal cops, investigate Russia paying for pro-Trump hackers


“Oh, Look. This one has Donald’s name engraved on it.”

❝ The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump…

The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence…

❝ Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers…two sources said.

The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump…

❝ Trump’s presidential transition team did not respond to a request for comment about the inquiry.

❝ FBI Director Comey refused at a recent Senate hearing to comment on whether the bureau was investigating Russia’s hacking campaign for possible criminal prosecutions. Spokespeople for the FBI, the Justice Department and the national intelligence director declined to comment…

❝ The BBC reported that the FBI had obtained a warrant on Oct. 15 from the highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing investigators access to bank records and other documents about potential payments and money transfers related to Russia…

RTFA for the whole context. Importantly, this started before the Chris Steele dossier surfaced with the FBI. That the FBI was able to get a FISA warrant indicates they were able to establish probable cause the target was a foreign power – and the surveillance was likely to produce foreign intelligence.

Feds say they will disclose an estimate of Americans spied upon early in 2017


I’ll be keeping an eye on all of you

❝ The U.S. intelligence community will soon disclose an estimate of the number of Americans whose electronic communications have been caught in the crosshairs of online surveillance programs intended for foreigners…

The estimate, requested by members of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, is expected to be made public as early as next month…Its disclosure would come as Congress is expected to begin debate in the coming months over whether to reauthorize or reform the so-called surveillance authority, known as Section 702, a provision that was added to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 2008…

❝ The government has long held that calculating the number of Americans subject to Section 702 surveillance might be technically impossible and would require privacy intrusions exceeding those raised by the actual surveillance programs…blah, blah, blah…!

Intelligence officials have said that online data about Americans is “incidentally” collected under Section 702, due to a range of technical and practical reasons. Critics have assailed such collection as back-door surveillance of Americans without a warrant.

❝ Section 702 will expire on Dec. 31, 2017, absent congressional action. It enables two internet surveillance programs called Prism and Upstream that were revealed in a series of leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden more than three years ago.

Prism gathers messaging data from…Google, Facebook , Microsoft, Apple and other major tech companies that is sent to and from a foreign target under surveillance. Upstream allows the NSA to copy web traffic flowing along the internet backbone located inside the United States and search that data for certain terms associated with a target.

The priority for government spooks, from the NSA to the FBI is mining data. The more the merrier as far as official scumbags are concerned. Privacy is meaningless, not a human right, not constitutionally protected…for their remit as spies. None of us are exempt.

Our Congress-critters have collectively rolled over and stuck their feet in the air, time and again. They may as well be listening to Gulf of Tonkin declarations or Dick Cheney’s contrived WMDs. No serious questioning comes from pimps for the military-industrial complex. Only a few voices from a few souls touched with integrity.

The future of propaganda – Q&A about big data and the War of Ideas


One pair of these feet belongs to George W. Bush

❝ In 2009, Sean Gourley, an Oxford-trained physicist, gave a TED talk called “The Mathematics of War.” Gourley had been working with the Pentagon, the United Nations and the Iraqi Government to help them better understand the nature of the insurgency in Iraq, and in his presentation he announced something fairly striking: After analyzing the location, timing, death toll and weapons used in thousands of deadly incidents around the country, he and his small team had discovered that the violence actually had a consistent footprint. In other words, you could develop an equation that would predict the likelihood of an attack of a certain size happening at a certain time.

And this wasn’t just true in Iraq: Gourley’s team had also analyzed insurgent-led wars in other parts of the world — from Colombia to Senegal — and had discovered the very same pattern, even though the underlying issues in those conflicts were totally different.

❝ Gourley has since moved on from war zones. He helped found a company called Quid that does big data projects for companies like Intel, Visa and Samsung. In March, he spoke at [the] Structure:Data conference in New York, where he talked about the difference between “data science” – which is about finding correlations – and “data intelligence” – which is about solving problems. He said we need to shift our focus toward the latter if we want to tackle the biggest challenges our world is facing.

From edited transcript of an interview with Gourley:

❝ Q: How would you use data differently in Iraq if you were doing it all over again?

A: It’s important to remind ourselves in 2013 where the information landscape was at the start of the Iraq war. In 2003, the world was very excited about something called blogging. We didn’t have Twitter. Cellphone coverage at the start of the war was exceedingly low. What we’ve seen over the past decade as the war unfolded was one of the biggest changes in the information landscape from a militaristic perspective in a long, long time…

Now, there is already more information being collected by the collective intelligence than by the military intelligence. One one hand, we’re moving into a world where you have drones recording continuous HD video. But we’re also seeing an upscaling in human reporting now with the likes of Instagram. You’re not just tweeting — you’re taking pictures that are triangulated.

The crowdsourced info is still going to be more complete and at a higher resolution than even the stuff that is done with the advent of drones and sensors by the military.

RTFA. Lots more interesting questions and even when answers are in short supply – there is more information about what’s coming. This isn’t only about technology it is about the political use of that tech.

I’d suggest it is in your own interest to learn about what’s coming – announced or undercover and hidden.

Yahoo scanned all incoming customer emails for US intelligence

❝ Yahoo last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials…

The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to an intelligence agency’s request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time…

❝ Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

❝ According to two of the former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook…

RTFA. It’s long and detailed – and I haven’t had a boatload of trust in the integrity of Yahoo in years. All credit to Alex Stamos for walking out.

Who hacked the NSA?

Last week, a group called the “Shadow Brokers” stole 234 megabytes of data from the National Security Agency. The leak included information about the cyberweapons the NSA uses to hack suspects and enemies, and a tracking code that reveals the fingerprints of the NSA’s malicious software.

But, before we can understand the significance of the leak, the mystery behind the identity of the Shadow Brokers, an eight-foot-tall alien, and the diplomatic chess game surrounding it all, we have to start with a report released in 2015.

Last year, the cybersecurity research organization Kaspersky Lab cataloged the most advanced and far-reaching hacking operation ever exposed. The perpetrators, known as the Equation Group, had established hundreds of backdoors in the governments of Russia, China, India, Iraq, and Iran, Britain, Mexico, and France. Forty-two countries in all had been penetrated. The Equation Group had had a penchant for physical attacks, too, intercepting shipments of hardware by IT companies like Fortinet, TopSec, Cisco, and Juniper, whose technologies form the backbone of much of the globe’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

By the time Kapersky pegged the Equation Group as a branch of the NSA’s preemptive hacking task force, TAO, the Equation Group had stealthily compiled an extensive network of backdoors into much of the world’s cyberinfrastructure over the course of 14 years. As an anonymous former TAO member put it for the Washington Post, their files are “the keys to the kingdom.”…

And it’s those files which are being leaked by the Shadow Brokers

Sensitive NSA information is usually stored on air-gapped networks — networks not connected to the Internet. Thanks to that and other security measures, they’re a pain to crack. Humans, however, are easy access points, and as Edward Snowden proved, someone with inside access and a flash drive can bypass such systems…

In retaliation to the proposal of sanctions, this leak embarrasses the NSA, exposes their backdoors into more Cisco and Fortinet infrastructure, and says, as Snowden puts it:

In other words, “back off, because we can show where your fingerprints have been.” And with many of the files dating back to 2013, the Shadow Brokers have been sitting on those fingerprints for some time.

We’re supposed to believe promises from the Liberal president and spineless Congress-critters approved by the NSA to publicly act like judges of the NSA. We’re supposed to believe the backdoors into allies and opponents alike – revealed by Edward Snowden – are all gone and sealed over with smiley faces. The same goes for domestic privacy blessed by our courageous FBI/DOJ squeakers.

Ed Snowden doesn’t believe that. Lots of geeks don’t believe that. I don’t believe that.

Spy chiefs briefed 8 Congress-drones a year ago on hacking of Democrats — didn’t tell DNC “because it was a secret”

U.S. intelligence officials told top congressional leaders a year ago that Russian hackers were attacking the Democratic Party, three sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday, but the lawmakers were unable to tell the targets about the hacking because the information was so secret…

The material was marked with additional restrictions and assigned a unique codeword, limiting access to a small number of officials who needed to know that U.S. spy agencies had concluded that two Russian intelligence agencies or their proxies were targeting the Democratic National Committee, the central organizing body of the Democratic Party…

Our spy professionals decided the DNC didn’t need to know.

The alleged hacking of the Democrats and the Russian connection did not become public until late last month when the FBI said it was investigating a cyber attack at the DNC…

The congressional briefing was given last summer in a secure room called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, to a group of congressional leaders informally known as the “Gang of Eight,” the sources said.

The group at the time included four Republicans: Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, and Senator Richard Burr and Representative Devin Nunes, the House and Senate intelligence committee chairs. Their Democratic counterparts were: Senator Harry Reid and Representative Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Adam Schiff of the intelligence committees…

A bipartisan group of professional politicians who couldn’t care less about transparency, security.

The attack on the DNC later led the hackers to other party organizations, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which raises funds for House candidates, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and other groups…

One of the sources said the Clinton campaign first detected attacks on its data system in early March, and was given what the source described as a “general briefing” about it by the FBI later that month. The source said the FBI made no mention of a Russian connection in that briefing and did not say when the penetration first took place.

According to a memo obtained by Reuters, interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile said on Thursday she was creating a Cybersecurity Advisory Board “to ensure prevent future attacks and ensure that the DNC’s cybersecurity capabilities are best-in-class.”

Better update security on your own. Obviously you can’t count on our bought-and-paid-for government spies to offer any help.

Privacy and civil liberty watchdog confronts right-wing limits in Congress

A leading Democrat in Congress is pushing back against an effort to impose new constraints on a civil liberties watchdog agency that investigates the nation’s security programs.

The agency, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, is a bipartisan five-member panel that Congress created after a recommendation by the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Its members and staff have security clearances and a mandate to investigate government practices that affect individual rights…

Since the independent board began fully operating three years ago, it has produced a high-profile report about the once-secret National Security Agency program that collected bulk records of Americans’ phone calls. It called the program ineffective and illegal and said it should be shut down. Congress later did so by enacting the U.S.A. Freedom Act.

The oversight board also issued a report that brought to light new details about how the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the FISA Amendments Act worked. It is currently scrutinizing programs that operate under Executive Order 12333, which sets rules for espionage activities that Congress has left unregulated by statute.

In the letter, obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, described the provisions as “completely unacceptable” and “misguided.” He deplored what he portrayed as an emerging pattern of efforts by the intelligence panels to undermine the oversight board’s independence and authority. He also said any proposed changes to the board should go through the Judiciary Committee.

That proposal comes at a time when the Obama administration has highlighted the privacy board’s role in negotiations over a recently completed trans-Atlantic agreement for handling private data amid concern in Europe about using internet and technology companies based in America. Those concerns came after leaks by the former intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden about National Security Agency surveillance programs.

As usual, Senator Leahy is more polite to his most reactionary colleagues than truth presumes necessary. The usual cabal of right-wing creeps who care less about individual liberty than a controlling power of the free speech and thought, privacy and progress of American citizens. Regardless of the number of lies and contradictions they author.

RTFA for any details you might want. It ain’t news. It does require as much vigilance as ever.