Ah, nostalgia. Remember how much fun we had with “Activate Reston Five”?
Back in 2010 and 2011, there were memes a-plenty using “Activate Reston Five” for anything that was either legitimately cypherpunk or just pretending to be cyberpunk.
This year, in October 2016, panic-mongers were claiming that Assange had been killed, because he posted a bunch of crypto stuff. And in fact, somehow, he got taken offline.
It appears that they managed to break Assange’s Internet link; I don’t know how they can do that without taking the entire embassy offline.
>The Internet connection of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange has been “intentionally severed by a state party,” the organization has claimed. The incident comes as WikiLeaks continues to release leaked documents relating to US Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
>WikiLeaks took to Twitter to say that contingency measures had been put in place following the alleged break of Assange’s Internet link, which the organization said had been undertaken by a “state party.”
It seems that Assange posted weird crypto “pre-commitment hashes” that guarantee that the secrets that he will spill soon haven’t been altered.
>“Pre-commitment” in this case is a references to a cryptographic scheme to prevent unreleased information from being tampered with. Essentially those unique codes are proof to anyone reading the documents in the future that their contents remain unchanged: alteration to the leaks will likewise alter those 64-character codes.
>While there is no official word from the document-sharing organization, it does not appear there is any truth to the rumor that Julian Assange is dead. The official WikiLeaks Twitter account continued posting normal messages after the release of what appeared to be the “dead man’s switch.”
It is not likely that they decided to kill him, assuming that Assange is technically competent enough to set up a deadman switch. And if a huge trove of secrets gets spilled in a few hours, then I guess the panic-mongers were closer to the truth than I’m giving them credit for.
But remember, the temptation is always to look for a quick crisis that will cause dramatic change. I doubt that the Fates will be so kind as to spill all of Wikileaks’ accumulated secrets all at once. I think that Assange does less damage alive than he would dead, so I think he will be kept alive and allowed to contact the Internet frequently, so that his dead man switch (if any) doesn’t go off.
So don’t get your hopes up about a “dead man’s switch” because that fantasy might be even less realistic than Dead Man Wonderland, which features lots of superpowers, battles, teenage angst, and sexual tension.
Unfortunately, our grim dystopia resembles The Hunger Games, insofar as nobody has superpowers, most characters don’t even get to join the battle, and the poor people suffer without dignity or ennoblement.
Chapter 1 of 3:
David Hungerford explains how Wall Street dominates worldwide Political Economy because the USA can snoop on SWIFT:
International trade and brokerage are glued together by financial electronic messaging networks. The largest is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications system, or SWIFT. It was started in 1974. Previous communication systems were slow, insecure, and subject to human error. SWIFT assigns each bank or other institution with a unique eight-character identification code to ensure accuracy. Message encryption and authentication are offered.
Financial messaging networks handle not only bank, but also securities and treasury transactions. SWIFT transmits payments, transfers, and instructions to nearly 10,000 institutions around the world. Volume is around 24,000,000 messages per day. Total world export trade has increased by more than 45 times in constant prices since 1974. (7) That degree of growth would not have been possible without the networks.
At times, however, it appears that the messaging networks are not so secure. It is by means of surveillance of messaging networks that the U.S. government, the hitman and enforcer of the big banks, can unilaterally impose sanctions on whatever country or individual that it sweet pleases.
In 2015 the French bank BNP Paribas, the fourth largest bank in the world, was penalized $9 billion by action brought against it in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, the court having jurisdiction over Wall Street.
A Reuters report said, ‘Prosecutors said BNP also evaded sanctions against entities in Iran and Cuba, in part by stripping information from wire transfers so they could pass through the U.S. system without raising red flags.’ (8)
Oh. That’s interesting. The messaging networks are supposed to be secure. How did the U.S. Department of Justice find that out? Is the financial integrity of the networks compromised? Do the institutions served by the network know the U.S. Department of Justice surveils their messages? Maybe BNP did not.
That’s only the start. BNP was convicted of ‘conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) by processing billions of dollars of transactions through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Sudanese, Iranian and Cuban entities subject to U.S. economic sanctions.’ (9)
These are United States laws. BNP broke no French laws. (During WW II U.S. corporations flouted the TWEA at will. New Jersey Standard Oil, IBM, Ford, and GM and many others traded with the Nazis all during the war.) The prosecution accused BNP of ‘falsifying’ transactions with Iran and Cuba. How could BNP ‘falsify’ business that was legal in France?
And if it concealed its business from U.S. scrutiny, so what, the U.S. has no legitimate interest in the matter. Nonetheless BNP was forced to eat humble pie and play along with the farce. Not even France, a NATO ‘ally’ of the United States and the sixth largest country in the world economically, was immune to this shocking violation of its sovereignty.
Even worse, the so-called ‘violations’ involved transactions with Cuba, Iran and Sudan. The harm done the first two countries by U.S. imperialism need not be repeated here.
Chapter 2 of 3: John Robb’s prophecy came true, again.
The Internet of Things is seller-driven. The folks who make the hardware want to sell lots of hardware. The problem is that nearly all hardware is either open to script kiddies (and not to customers/owners) or else backdoored by a government.
The result is that moderately skilled criminals can pull off an astounding DDOS. John Robb called this years ago, but didn’t foresee this particular variation. Robb wrote about “super-empowered individuals.” In this case, it might be a super-empowered gang of credit card thieves, not a single
Chapter 3 of 3: Why the previous two chapters are actually just one story:
The Internet was initially designed by university geeks, but quickly co-opted by bureaucrats. The Spurdoburgers who can legally shut down just about anyone on the Internet are part of a big club, including the NSA, Microsoft, Google, Hollywood. Many of the people in this club don’t like each other; lots of Google geeks would like to kill Microsoft, for example. Many of the libertines in Hollywood would like to shut down the NSA. But for the moment they are all rich folks in the same club.
The rich people designed a system that worked well for rich Spurdoburgers. That is why SWIFT is designed to exploit anyone outside the USA. That is why you risk getting arrested if you put a pirated movie soundtrack on The Pirate Bay. That is why electronic crap companies can sell easily-exploited crap products to gullible customers.
But here is the problem. The rich folks who got rich selling electronic crap didn’t believe that the poor folks would ever be smart enough to crack their security. Sure, they figure the NSA would get in, but not some two-bit credit card fraudster. In fact, the street has found its own uses for the Internet of Things, and most of those uses involve griefing and pranking and stealing and DDOSing.
The rich people will respond as always; they will demand more power for their bribed politicians. But those politicians are too stupid to clean up the messes that they create.
Meanwhile, the Russians and Chinese are smart enough to make their own chips and they are patient enough to use paper in typewriters until their own chips are ready.
Part of the reason that the NSA was able to backdoor everyone was that before Snowden, everyone was willing to use vendors who had been infiltrated by the NSA. The NSA was able to pretend that they were super-cool at technical hacking (and they may be the smartest security crackers in the whole USA) but their security exploits depended on the “human intelligence” factor of infiltrating the American companies that orchestrated computer designs. This has been leaking out more and more lately, with revelations such as that of the Equation Group:
Kaspersky noted only that the spying campaign was strongly linked to Stuxnet, an NSA cyberweapon once used to to carry out cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program. A former NSA operative told Reuters that concealing spyware on computer hard drives made by firms such as Digital Corp, IBM, Micron, Samsung, Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital had become a “prized technique” of the NSA, with another ex-intelligence employee saying that the security agency valued these programs very highly.
Russian technical security is not perfect. Maybe the Russians are not even as smart as the NSA. But now, after Snowden, the Russians are aware that they can’t trust their American-designed laptops, and they are willing to use paper in the typewriters until they can actually design and build their own hardware. Here’s one of their early attempts:
The portable computer, based on the Astra Linux operating system, ensures maximum protection against cyberattacks and leaks …
I don’t know how they made the hardwre and firmware for the laptop. But firmware can backdoor your system just like software can. The Russians are not ignorant: they know about firmware backdoors. Why doesn’t the article brag about the laptop’s secure firmware? Is its firmware secure and secret, or is it just common, vulnerable firmware? Microsoft, for example, tries to get suckers to purchase backdoored firmware. The suckers might be buying, but icrosft can’t handle its own technical details:
Now, in fact, security is never perfect. I don’t believe the Russians who claim that their security is infallible:
Data leakage from the servers and computers of the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos is not possible, a source in Roscosmos told RIA Novosti Tuesday.
On Monday, the Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab security experts said they discovered malware placed on high-value computer hard drives in over 30 countries. “The information security system in the rocket-space industry is formed in a way, which excludes the possibility of access to the Internet from computers containing classified data,” the source said.
If Roscosmos is practically inpenetrable, that just means that no one has spent enough money, time, and resources to penetrate Roscosmos. Maybe no one ever will, maybe their secrets a not worth the effort.
The Russians are not perfect. But the Snowden leaks, and now the DDOS against Krebs, are giving them ever-increasing motivation to design their own security supply chain, which must not depend on Spurdoburger suppliers.
If Russia or China can succeed, the NSA’s long myth of omniscience might come to an end. The NSA might find that it can easily crack the folks who buy USA-compliant products, but it has a lot more trouble cracking the people who run Linux on Russian-made hardware. If that perception gets into the mainstream narrative, how popular do you think it would be to buy Russian computers and phones? How long would it take the USA to ban Russian computers for civilians?
But Russia is dependent on imports for technologies like GPS, right? Maybe this year, but not for long.
By 2020 a Russian GLONASS K-2 global positioning satellite in place, built entirely from Russian-made parts as part of the government’s ongoing effort to substitute imports amid sanctions,