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'Legitimized' Cyberwar Opens Pandora's Box of Dirty Tricks 134

Posted by timothy
from the he-who-is-without-sin dept.
DillyTonto writes "U.S. officials have acknowledged playing a role in the development and deployment of Stuxnet, Duqu and other cyberweapons against Iran. The acknowledgement makes cyberattacks more legitimate as a tool of not-quite-lethal international diplomacy. It also legitimizes them as more-combative tools for political conflict over social issues, in the same way Tasers gave police less-than-lethal alternatives to shooting suspects and gave those who abuse their power something other than a club to hit a suspect with. Political parties and single-issue political organizations already use 'opposition research' to name-and-shame their opponents with real or exaggerated revelations from a checkered past, jerrymander districts to ensure their candidates a victory and vote-suppression or get-out-the-vote efforts to skew vote tallies. Imagine what they'll do with custom malware, the ability to DDOS an opponent's web site or redirect donations from an opponent's site to their own. Cyberweapons may give nations a way to attack enemies without killing anyone. They'll definitely give domestic political groups a whole new world of dirty tricks to play."
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'Legitimized' Cyberwar Opens Pandora's Box of Dirty Tricks

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  • Well, Duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jackjumper (307961) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @08:36AM (#40193331)
    " They'll definitely give domestic political groups a whole new world of dirty tricks to play."

    As if they didn't have them before?
    • I dunno....

      But what's the deal with the US covert ops community these days?

      Do they NOT know how to keep a fucking secret anymore?!?

      Whomever leaked this...needs to be found out, and put on trial for treason....or at the very least, be prosecuted for breaking the oath they took/signed to keep said secrets.

      I know on rare occasions, there needs to be exceptions for whistle blowers, and that's a tricky fine line to walk....something has to be genuinely bad.

      But something like this....a covert ops thing, shou

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @12:03PM (#40194493)

        Maybe I'm still too young and naive, but this idea seems more of a way for bad actions to be perpetrated by people claiming to be the good guys (which again 'good guys' is subjective). I understand secrecy during an operation, but the objective good guys should be able to own up to their deeds. If the intelligence organizations can't stand behind their deeds, then they deserve the disgust they have earned.

        "Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don't have brains enough to be honest."
                  - Benjamin Franklin

        As an American (I'm looking at you too Russia), I can't help but feel more and more responsible for tragedies in the present day. Most of the places lashing out (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Mexico, and South America) were armed and encouraged to fight by the US. Now the US is trying to put down it's 'dogs' of war.

        It would be simple matter, except these 'dogs' are nations like us. What gives us the right?

      • by 1s44c (552956)

        Many criminals have been caught out because they could not stop themselves showing off. I think it's something to do with pride.

      • It starts with an O.

        And anyone who brings up Plame is a fucking moron, as agents who work at an ambassadorial post, as Plame already had, are never sent out into the field again.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        You gonna throw the POTUS in jail? Because they are ALL doing it trying to give the people something, ANYTHING, other than the dismal employment numbers which they know will screw them in November.

        As for TFA the only difference it will make is that black hats will be treated like arms dealers, scummy but useful so they'll be able to get by with more shit. I also suspect all those black markets where shit like zero days are sold won't be getting shut down now either.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          If he leaks state secrets....isn't even POTUS liable legally?

          He's not above the law, right?

          • by hairyfeet (841228)
            Sorry but it looks like he is, as I believe ordering the execution of an American without trial IS illegal, as is warrantless wiretapping of citizens. Of course Bush did similar moves but illegal is illegal and all we got under Obama was Bush's third term, with all the dirty dealing plus a few new ones like using Fast&Furious to try to run a false flag op on the American people. And if THAT isn't an impeachable offense frankly then nothing is.
    • " They'll definitely give domestic political groups a whole new world of dirty tricks to play."

      As if they didn't have them before?

      The implication is they didn't use them before. The US government is saying now "We're using cyberattacks, and that's cool" (or "We are cyberterrorists" if you prefer escalated language). If the other countries don't respond with an outcry and demand consequences -- like what would happen if the US bombed a factory in another country -- that becomes legitimized.

      However, for the case of Stuxnet this is a bad analogy -- it's more like if the US managed to replace the parts in a delivery with bad/broken parts

    • The only problem with cyber warfare is that what goes around comes around.

  • acknowledged? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 02, 2012 @08:38AM (#40193341)

    Where exactly has this been officially acknowledged? The only thing we have is a story in the NYT with an anonymous source. I would not call that "acknowledged." I would call that rumor.

    • Re:acknowledged? (Score:5, Informative)

      by AHuxley (892839) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @09:00AM (#40193435) Homepage Journal
      The testing 'bits' are starting to fit/glow:
      http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/01/did-a-us-government-lab-help-israel-develop-stuxnet/ [arstechnica.com]
      The details seem to be built on the evidence found in the code, interviews over 18 months with current and former officials.
      The need for testing the results on P-1 centrifuges puts the code creation in the hands of a few world powers.
      • The statement about the US creating Stuxnet was made by a guy writing a book using sources that can not be independently verified. Your link only addresses a "what if" scenario. The US government has not admitted to creating the attack. How could they? According to a lot of people the US is stupid and incapable of doing anything this complex.
        The code has been scrutinized since it came out and even the smartest engineers and programmers in the world have not uncovered anything that can be traced bac

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The need for testing the results on P-1 centrifuges puts the code creation in the hands of a few world powers.

        They wouldn't need to test on the actual centrifuges- if they know how much of an increase in speed is required to harm them, they can just test the effects of the virus on a same model controller and verify the change in the output channel controlling the centrifuge.

    • Re:acknowledged? (Score:5, Informative)

      by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @09:30AM (#40193601)
      The Washington Post is also [washingtonpost.com] quoting "current and former U.S. officials", speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying so.
    • The guy who released the information was busy writing a book so what a better way to publicize it.

  • Bull... Fish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adosch (1397357) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @08:45AM (#40193381)

    Cyberweapons may give nations a way to attack enemies without killing anyone. They'll definitely give domestic political groups a whole new world of dirty tricks to play."

    Your sense of 'military and collateral' damage is very skewed, there, article submitter. So 2-3% of military troops on the ground won't die, or any other native county civilians along the way, but you're ok with the vulnerability of a digital US infrastructure that has MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of US federal, contractor, civilian and citizen 'at risk.

    This isn't a new pandora's box. What makes it shock value is that it's one thing to admit being behind Stuxnet, it's another to admit you're the United State Goverment and you're behind Stuxnet.

    • It's not like this is going to be anything new in principle. Cyberattacks like Stuxnet are just another tool that governments will use in secret ops. This happens all the time. Nations send spies to other nations that try to get classified info, in some cases there are special forces soldiers operating on secret missions in foreign countries - missions that may involve killing - and all of that is stuff that typically gets denied on the official level for many years.

      Powerful malware will be used in much the

      • Been there.

        Done that. [wikipedia.org]

        (Siberian pipeline sabotage by the CIA).

        The only thing that's new here is that we did it on the Internet. So we should just patent it and give it a go.

      • It's very different because you don't need to respond to cyber attacks via conventional means, you hack right back.

        Which means it's unbelievably stupid for the West to start this shit since we have literally trillions of dollars of horrifyingly vulnerable technological infrastructure, while the terrorists have jack shit in this regard.

        The most horrifying thing of all is, as soon as any of the victims strike back it'll be their excuse to destroy the free and open Internet once and for all.
  • by Dodgy G33za (1669772) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @08:46AM (#40193383)

    I grew up believing in the US as a beacon for freedom and fairness. Okay, so it was the 60's and 70's and given what was going down in South America it was probably all a lie then.

    Thing is, just recently the US stated that they view a cyber attack as an act of war. Given how targeted Stuxnet was, by this admission they have clearly stated that it is okay for the US to commit an act of war on Iran, a country that has no history of aggression (although plenty of rhetoric, but that is not uncommon for the region).

    How would you US citizens feel if you were on the receiving end of Predator drones, cyber attacks and Shock and Awe?

    Hypocrisy. The very worst of human traits.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If we remove the misnomer of 'cyberwarfare' and call it instead 'cyberespionage' which it is really is, would you be so offended? Governments since their inception have relied on espionage of all kinds, and don't shy away from the revelation. I don't think anyone should be surprised or offended to see espionage happening. As far as business and politics, espionage has played its part and this merely broadens the scope a little.

      What happened in the 70s in South America is vastly different than what is being

      • by Dodgy G33za (1669772) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @09:34AM (#40193641)

        Having attended a number of security conferences recently where cyber attacks on infrastructure (which is what Stuxnet was) were discussed in detail, I can't share you 'unconcerned'. You start putting viruses in industrial processing equipment and you could end up with a Fukishima or Bhopal. One attack I have seen demonstrated involved a virus being injected via the wireless connections on control vales in a oil refinery, and then hopping across 16 bit processors and RS232 connections. I didn't follow the whole thing, but the PHD guys that demonstrated it were pretty convincing. Hey presto, hacker just got control of your oil refinery.

        Thing is, the "bad guys" have PHD propeller heads too. In fact, depending on which countries you regard as bad guys, they may well have more than you. A world where this sort of thing (and extra judicial murders via drone strikes come to that) is normal is not a world that I am comfortable with.

        • is not a world that I am comfortable with.

          If you've been comfortable with the world we've been in for, oh, say, the past several thousand years , well all I can say is you're doing it wrong. This sort of thing (minus the computer stuff) has been going on for as long as humans have written things down.

    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @09:49AM (#40193745)

      Okay, so it was the 60's and 70's and given what was going down in South America it was probably all a lie then.

      South America? How about right here in the United States? In the 1960s, the FBI was investigating people who dared to take a stand for their own civil rights, looking for ways to discredit them. It was illegal for two men to dance with each other in some states in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the executive branch of government gained the power to dictate some of the laws it is charged with enforcing. The 1970s saw the rise of paramilitary police across the country -- cops who would easily be mistaken for soldiers if their helmets and body armor was not clearly labeled "POLICE."

      How would you US citizens feel if you were on the receiving end of Predator drones, cyber attacks and Shock and Awe?

      As opposed to having our homes invaded by men with assault rifles, who shoot our dogs and kill, injure, and terrorize innocent people? I think you need to take another look at what is happening in the United States. We already have the largest prison population on Earth, heavily militarized law enforcement organizations that double as intelligence agencies, and a president who signed into law a bill that allows people to be detained indefinitely without trial, and who has ordered the assassination of US citizens.

      So what hypocrisy were you referring to? I think we are doing a fine job of spreading our "democracy."

      • Good point. Maybe I need to try another brand.

      • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday June 02, 2012 @03:17PM (#40195615) Homepage Journal

        Don't forget to thank a veteran.

        Note: No I'm not criticizing the US military, or veterans. I'm a veteran. My point is that military forces do not provide "freedom", that must come from internal political and judicial processes, which must in turn arise from the desires and actions of the citizenry at large. Military forces just make it possible for us to do whatever we're going to do free of external coercion. What we choose to do, though, can go either way.

        Sorry for the semi-OT post. It just struck a chord, in light of the recent holiday and the flurry of "thank a veteran" messages it always spawns.

      • How would you US citizens feel if you were on the receiving end of Predator drones, cyber attacks and Shock and Awe?

        As opposed to having our homes invaded by men with assault rifles, who shoot our dogs and kill, injure, and terrorize innocent people? I think you need to take another look at what is happening in the United States.

        Exactly. There was a disturbing case in my backwater suburb recently that illustrates it... Police had a warrant for a 20-year-old murder suspect's arrest, knew where he lived (with his parents & teen brother) & worked, and he had been in court a week earlier. So without contacting *our* police, 40-50 heavily armed Homeland Security agents burst into the family's home at 4:20 AM yelling and lobbing flash grenades & tear gas through the windows. When the guy and his 57-year-old father crawled

    • by slew (2918)

      ... Iran, a country that has no history of aggression (although plenty of rhetoric, but that is not uncommon for the region).

      Not that I don't disagree with you in principle, but since you claim to have grown up in the 60's and 70's, you may have selectively forgotten about the USA-Iran hostage situation and the Iran-Iraq war...

      • Iraq started the Iran-Iraq war. Apparently/allegedly.
      • Nah, not forgotten about the hostage crisis, or the botched attempt to get them back. Quite apart from that not being a war, it was also very complex from a political point of view. After the revolution they took over the US embassy. Why? Because the CIA had previously used it as a base for a military coup. You would think that this idea of embassies being off limits would bring responsibilities with the freedoms.

        What I don't get is that the US seems to need a bogey man, and Iran is currently unfortunately

    • by russotto (537200)

      I grew up believing in the US as a beacon for freedom and fairness. Okay, so it was the 60's and 70's and given what was going down in South America it was probably all a lie then.

      Freedom? Once upon a time, to some degree; it helped to have the likes of Stalin and Khruschev as comparison. Fairness to other countries? Pretty much never.

      How would you US citizens feel if you were on the receiving end of Predator drones, cyber attacks and Shock and Awe?

      Cyber attacks we get; the well-publicized Aurora attac

    • by khallow (566160)

      Hypocrisy. The very worst of human traits.

      Why do you think hypocrisy is so bad? I personally can think of a lot of traits that are worse. The redeeming feature of hypocrisy is that it gives you a lever by which to get people to do good things even if they only do so for appearances.

    • I grew up believing in the US as a beacon for freedom and fairness. Okay, so it was the 60's and 70's and given what was going down in South America it was probably all a lie then.

      Those of us growing up in the US in the 80s & 90s were led to believe in the nation's original ideals as well. It was a serious shock when I got to high school and had teachers that worked the reality behind modern-day events into the curriculum when relevant (i.e. government, history, literature).

      How would you US citizens feel if you were on the receiving end of Predator drones, cyber attacks and Shock and Awe?

      Trouble is, as tends to be the case with corrupt governments, average US citizens aren't the same as the US government that has been taking those actions... We have little-to-no power beyond the local level,

    • by MiniMike (234881)

      ...Thing is, just recently the US stated that they view a cyber attack as an act of war. Given how targeted Stuxnet was,...

      Due to the limited scope, maybe Stuxnet should be classified as a Cyber-Police-Action?

      Iran, a country that has no history of aggression...

      Oh please. Do you mean except for massive funding [cfr.org] and arming of terrorist groups [wikipedia.org] in other countries? The U.S. may not be completely clean on this one, but don't pretend that Iran is even close to being innocent here.

      Hypocrisy. The very worst of human traits.

      Exactly. Here we agree.

  • Just don't forget to declare it on the other country. On Facebook, of course.
  • ob (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @08:53AM (#40193403) Homepage Journal

    Don't slashdot me, bro!

  • by Mannfred (2543170) <mannfred@gmail.com> on Saturday June 02, 2012 @08:59AM (#40193431)
    If a hacker gets caught causing damage to a company's infrastructure it's hard to imagine him not going to jail and/or having to pay for the damages he/she caused. Given that Stuxnet spread around the world, do the victims get to send their cleanup bills to Uncle Sam?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A covert war of dirty tricks is better then a overt shooting war and occupation.

    I'll vote to re-elect a president who would deal with Iran by sending in the CIA over a candidate would would likely send in the Marines.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The USA has started poking Iran with a formally black op move, now they have opened up for reprisals. Just because you can does not mean you should. This can and will be interpreted as an act of war.

    If someone did the same thing to my systems in a government country, I would be looking for ways to both counter attack and counter defense with lobbying and changes of laws.

    Nicely done USA, you dumb fucks. Iran now has political and legal recourse.

    • by Tanuki64 (989726)

      Nicely done USA, you dumb fucks. Iran now has political and legal recourse.

      Awww, come on... Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi.

    • And who is going to be able to actually enforce any international legal mandates against the US?

  • by shoehornjob (1632387) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @09:23AM (#40193547)
    Lets all hope that when the shit hits the fan we can close that box of tricks. Too much power in the wrong hands is a very dangerous thing and where does it stop. Also, who has oversight of our dirty little cyber (I hate that word) war. The last thing we need is unchecked use of this technology.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Political parties and single-issue political organizations already use 'opposition research' to name-and-shame their opponents with real or exaggerated revelations from a checkered past.

    So true. Here in my country (Philipppines), an accounting error was used to remove the chief justice of our Supreme Court [wikipedia.org]. To cut a long story short, the guy made some decisions that appeared to derail or delay the political plans of the incumbent president. When direct evidence of corruption proved wanting, the justice's b

  • Don't forget (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @09:33AM (#40193635) Homepage Journal

    This is an arena where a few motivated civilians can play, too.

    At the moment, I'll put Anonymous or a group of Eastern European boys I met a few years ago against the best that a political party's "opposition team" can put together.

    Playing War in a distributed worldwide network is not the same as throwing a bunch of hardware onto a battlefield.

    So far, the best armies on the Internet are not the ones affiliated with a government or establishment political party. Hell, despite the Octopus doing its best, Pirate Bay and wikileaks are still up and running. If they go down, I'll be more worried.

    • This is an arena where a few motivated civilians can play, too.

      At the moment, I'll put Anonymous or a group of Eastern European boys I met a few years ago against the best that a political party's "opposition team" can put together.

      Playing War in a distributed worldwide network is not the same as throwing a bunch of hardware onto a battlefield.

      So far, the best armies on the Internet are not the ones affiliated with a government or establishment political party. Hell, despite the Octopus doing its best, Pirate Bay and wikileaks are still up and running. If they go down, I'll be more worried.

      Just as they can and do play espionage in meatspace. Your little guerilla operations will be short lived if they sufficiently annoy powerful governments.

      Don't fool yourself, computer networks can be tamed much easier than than say, the ocean. The players involved just haven't committed the same level of effort. The Internet isn't run on pixie dust buddy.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        Don't fool yourself, computer networks can be tamed much easier than than say, the ocean.

        Enough committed individuals can become quite oceanic.

  • by Rydia (556444) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @09:34AM (#40193639)

    This is the most incoherent summary I've seen on slashdot yet. Maybe because it's so far in tinfoil hat territory, but still, wow.

  • First of all, industrial warfare as we know it is going to start fading quickly.

    You just do not need to spend lavishly if your opponent depends on computer technology to order, work-flow and conduct a military action anymore. War is going to get cheap!

    So forget about so many tanks, aircraft and soldiers. All you need to do is confuse the enemy, keep their soldiers from getting paid, food, water and old style ammunition - bullets or new style ammunition - packet flow.

    Overspending on Internet technology is

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "So forget about so many tanks, aircraft and soldiers. All you need to do is confuse the enemy, keep their soldiers from getting paid, food, water and old style ammunition - bullets or new style ammunition - packet flow."

      Then the counter-move is take shit off the internet which should NEVER have been ON it in the first fucking place. BTW food and water and ammo shipments may be expedited by the internet but can be done without it. Network outages are part of training scenarios.

      Having served before the inter

  • From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].

    The word gerrymander (originally written Gerry-mander) was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette on March 26, 1812. The word was created in reaction to a redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under the then-governor Elbridge Gerry (pronounced /ri/; 1744–1814).

  • I am a bit worried if Stuxnet is state of the art and the U.S. military has now taught the world including its enemies what it thinks is quality coding for cyber weapons. Seems Obama was swayed by the relative lack of expense but it certainly is not low profile or containable. I don't know much about Stux at all but one would imagine that centrifuges are not the only industrial infrastructure that could be targeted by such a weapon. Now you know what every black hat is working on these days, when they are not stealing bitcoins. Unfortunately the posts about drones being the next cyberwar vector are probably true, whether in 1 year or 20 it seems inevitable. The question next is active defense by buildings, airports, aircraft, highway interchanges, bridges, power plants, etc. If the U.S. saw a window in time when such a cyber attack would be little understood and so not be defended against, then how long is the current window in time regarding rogue drone attacks? I don't see much difference between home use R/C and industrial drones either.

  • Don't kid yourselves (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shoten (260439) on Saturday June 02, 2012 @11:36AM (#40194353)

    "Cyberweapons may give nations a way to attack enemies without killing anyone."

    I doubt very much that there was no loss of life involved in Stuxnet's effects. A P2 gas centrifuge that spins so fast that there are only a few metal alloys in the world that are tough enough to hold together. When one of those tubes lets go because it wobbles at one of the unstable speed zones it enters, or because it over-runs (as Stuxnet made happen), it's like a grenade going off. As I recall the estimate was that at least 40% of the centrifuges at Natanz failed in this fashion...and I find it difficult to imagine that nobody was ever standing near any of them when it happened.

  • There were rumors in the former USSR that Chernobyl plant was sabotaged in 1986 by an unknown kind of an cyber-electronic weapon from a satellite.

    It would be interesting to learn if there were any leaks on that.

    I always dismissed these rumors, but if there was really an attempt to sabotage the Natanz nuclear plant, then well...

    It would be sort of a not nice thing to learn if it turns out to be the case. Not nice at all.
    • by karlm (158591)

      Even for a paranoid conspiracy theory, that's a terrible theory. You forgot to use the words "laser", "fluoride", "chemtrail", "thermite", and "Gay Mayan Leprechaun Ninjas from the year 2012." Also, of course, the Chernobyl explosion was caused by the CIA in order to cover up the fact that Obama was born in a Nicaraguan Satanic temple earlier that day... making him too young to be president.

      Either the Soviets didn't realize that they had been the victims of a cyber attack because the Americans waited un

      • by Max_W (812974)
        I cannot agree more. That is a terrible story which will be going on and on for many millenniums. I do not claim that this "conspiracy theory" rumor is true.

        I do not know. I hope not. But I heard it for several times and was curious to ask if there was new information on it.
  • by PPH (736903)

    I'm not too worried about domestic groups using such tactics. They are largely illegal already. And well enforced treaties between stable nations will take care of cross border private attacks.

    I do worry about nations using such tactics as a means of war. Wars escalate and can lead to armed conflict. Since such techniques are available to some of the smallest, weakest nations, they will be attracted to their use. Just to demonstrate some sort of equality with the big players. But the big players don't like

  • It's 'Gerrymander', not 'jerrymander'. Named after the Mass. Governor Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814).

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.

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