12.31.13

End of year roll call of the intelligence insulting / stupid

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism, WhiteManistan at 10:47 am by George Smith

60 Minutes, infamously:

John Miller: Could a foreign country tomorrow topple our financial system?

Gen. Keith Alexander: I believe that a foreign nation could impact and destroy major portions of our financial system, yes.

John Miller: How much of it could we stop?

Gen. Keith Alexander: Well, right now it would be difficult to stop it because our ability to see it is limited.

One they did see coming was called the BIOS Plot. It could have been catastrophic for the United States. While the NSA would not name the country behind it, cyber security experts briefed on the operation told us it was China. Debora Plunkett directs cyber defense for the NSA and for the first time, discusses the agency’s role in discovering the plot.

Debora Plunkett: One of our analysts actually saw that the nation state had the intention to develop and to deliver, to actually use this capability– to destroy computers …

So the BIOS is a basic input, output system. It’s, like, the foundational component firmware of a computer. You start your computer up. The BIOS kicks in. It activates hardware. It activates the operating system. It turns on the computer.

This is the BIOS system which starts most computers. The attack would have been disguised as a request for a software update. If the user agreed, the virus would’ve infected the computer.

John Miller: So, this basically would have gone into the system that starts up the computer, runs the systems, tells it what to do.

Debora Plunkett: That’s right.

John Miller: –and basically turned it into a cinderblock.

Debora Plunkett: A brick.

John Miller: And after that, there wouldn’t be much you could do with that computer.

Debora Plunkett: That’s right. Think about the impact of that across the entire globe. It could literally take down the U.S. economy.

John Miller: I don’t mean to be flip about this. But it has a kind of a little Dr. Evil quality– to it that, “I’m going to develop a program that can destroy every computer in the world.” It sounds almost unbelievable.

Debora Plunkett: Don’t be fooled. There are absolutely nation states who have the capability and the intentions to do just that.

John Miller: And based on what you learned here at NSA. Would it have worked?

Debora Plunkett: We believe it would have. Yes.

From Sherlock, the BBC:

Jim Moriarty, in The Reichenbach Fall: “You don’t really think a few lines of computer code are going to crash the world down around our ears, do you? I’m disappointed, I’m disappointed in you, Sherlock …

“I knew you’d fall for it. That’s your weakness. You always want things
to be clever.”

There is old precedent for this. The NSA does have an obscure record of issuing broad claims on how easy it is to crash things in the US, although most would be hard-pressed to put their finger on it.

One example from the past revolved around an NSA-conducted war game, or mock-up penetration test, dubbed Eligible Receiver in 1997. Eligible Receiver was used, by the NSA working through the press, to get out the message that foreign cyberattack could easily be catastrophic for the United States.

It’s now sixteen years beyond Eligible Receiver. No such cyberattacks occurred. However, the old footprint of Eligible Receiver was quite large in the mainstream press.

It is not unfair to look at it as a propaganda campaign, backed up by only small nuggets of truth, the purpose of which was to boost cyberdefense spending. I covered it extensively on the old home page of the Crypt Newsletter.

Here is one of the old NSA claims from Eligible Receiver:

Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times invoked the Pentagon ghost story of Eligible Receiver — the secret wargame conducted two years ago [in 1997] which proponents of “electronic Pearl Harbor” insist demonstrated the nation could be flattened by cyberattack.

Drogin wrote: “The [Eligible Receiver] hackers broke into networks that direct 911 emergency systems.”

It was a clear and rather extravagant error.

Appearing in June of 1998 to testify before Congress, Ellie Padgett, deputy chief of the National Security Agency’s office of defensive information warfare spoke of how Eligible Receiver addressed the alleged vulnerability of the 911 phone system.

In a simulated exercise, Padgett said, “we scripted (an) Internet message (that) would be sent out to everybody saying there was a problem with the 911 system, understanding that human nature would result in people calling the 911 system to see if there was a problem.”

The working idea in this part of Eligible Receiver revolved around the hypothesis that many people viewing the message on the Internet in a newsgroup might panic and phone their local 911 trunk, causing a jam-up on the line.

“It can probably be done, this sort of an attack, by a handful of folks working together . . .” Padgett said.

This is an extremely far cry from Drogin’s assertion that the 911 system was broken into by alleged Eligible Receiver hackers. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with breaking into a 911 computer system, whatever that might be.

However, it is consistent, thematically, with the flavor of the mythology propagated on Eligible Receiver …

In fact, during an interview with Crypt Newsletter in the summer of 1998 concerning Eligible Receiver, a Pentagon spokeswoman for the affair asserted “no actual switching systems” were broken into at any time during Eligible Receiver. She went on to say that Eligible Receiver had only simulated these attacks on NSA computer networks set up to emulate potential domestic national systems.

Nevertheless, Drogin also wrote in paragraph two of the Times piece: “In less than three months, the [NSA’s Eligible Receiver hackers] secretly penetrated computers that control electrical grids in Los Angeles, Washington, and other major cities.”

In 1997, this made the grand assumption that Americans were broadly plugged into the internet, read the Usenet and that the result of a toxic post, like old computer virus hoaxes, would cause people everywhere to overwhelm their local 911 trunks.

Seriously.

Trivia note: Edward Snowden was fourteen at the time of Eligible Receiver.

More as the day continues.


Number of people on food stamps in 2013: between 47 and 48 million.

Keith Alexander, directly from the NSA’s web page, as early as 2012:

The ongoing cyber-thefts [by China] from the networks of public and private organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, represent the greatest transfer of wealth in human history.

Why harp on this?

More than anything else it shows the total disconnection between those at the very top of the national security megaplex and everyone else.

Most of the country, at my level certainly, is still struggling with the economic deprivation and outright calamity of the Great Recession. Although corporate America has rebounded nicely, there has been no recovery for most.

And for Keith Alexander and the NSA, as well as the rest of the defense infrastructure, they saw only expansion. How unfortunate for them that Edward Snowden has spoiled it a bit.

Keith Alexander lives in the world of the plutocracy. Cash money for the day isn’t an issue. Bare bones survival isn’t on the menu. Instead, he and the structure have spent much of their time expanding operations and dreaming up threatening stories and messages to be delivered by the shoeshine men in the press, digging around in their big data suck for things which they, in encapsulated isolated delusion, believe threaten the existence of the country.

When one sees and hears the cant from on high about virus threats to the US financial system and the Chinese cyberwar operation being the greatest transfer of wealth in history and you’re left asking for help at Christmas time, believe you me, it really gets under the skin.

In fact, it’s personal. And it should be so for lots of other Americans, if they ever become more familiar with the subject.

Still more to come.


Liquidate your life in the sharing economy

In which the upper crust and their immediate servants not yet rendered obsolete show how bad they are by leveraging the desperate with smartphones swipe-your-finger apps:

Kim Sundy’s husband kept heckling her nonstop to get her Christmas list to him.

“When I hired the puppet, it got him off my back,” she said.

For $15, the Ann Arbor Mich.-based blogger outsourced the problem to a puppeteer on Fiverr.com who created a short video of a puppet rapping her Christmas list …


Then there is the unselfconscious oaf of wealth, “a chief technology officer,” passed off as someone who thinks of himself as a brilliant do-er in the new world.

The assistants, according to Fancy Hands, will do “anything that doesn’t require us to physically go somewhere for you. Anything a smart, patient, Internet-savvy person with a cellphone can conquer,” as long as it is legal. Plans run from $25 a month for five requests to $65 a month for 25 requests.

For Chicago’s Harper Reed, whose storied career has included chief technology officer gigs for Barack Obama’s presidential re-election campaign and Threadless.com, using services like Fancy Hands and TaskRabbit is just plain “economic.”

“I have a very small company. I don’t have enough money to pay a personal assistant,” he said.

The tasks he hands out aren’t exactly ordinary — things like, “Where can I buy a foghorn for my father for Christmas?” along with sourcing vegan Christmas dinners …

The article gets only one person on the other side, someone newly unemployed who has turned to free-lance micro-paying gigs serviced by bike delivery.

“[Kevin Wagner, a] 34-year-old Chicagoan was laid off from his sales job in August and learned on Lifehacker.com that regular people were making extra money by performing odd jobs with TaskRabbit,” reads the Tribune.

“The Loop resident with a bike has picked up several jobs delivering items, and he has acted as a handyman, including assembling a lot of Ikea furniture … Depending on the week and how much time he has, he’ll make $20 to $400 a week at TaskRabbit.”

One suspects the latter figure is an exaggeration, like most quotes from unemployed people reduced to taking gig work in the on-line bazaar. Few want to tell you what they really earn.

For me, Mechanical Turk has been worth, on average, six dollars a week, at best, an occasional nine, never really exceeding 45 cents an hour, which allows you to determine how much time you need to put in to satisfy the whims of the corporate or academic crowd-sourcing chiseler.

In southern California, acting as a delivery man for Task Rabbit would be suicidal. There simply weren’t enough gigs in Pasadena, when I looked at Task Rabbit, to make them in any way profitable. If you bicycled them in town, perhaps almost.

But an auto is necessary for most of southern California, even much of
Pasadena, and the cost of gas puttering here and there for micro-payments being a gofer to the upper class would annihilate most earnings. This, in the same way that Mechanical Turk’s miniscule payments are significantly eaten into by the cost in electricity just to run the computer you do them on.

It is ludicrous to expect anyone to entertain the idea that people can revitalize themselves economically using the petty networking schemes developed by the tech industry under the euphemism of the sharing economy.

It’s aptly described as gig slave and servant labor in which smartphone and network tech do away with the inconvenience of having to house and pay for the food of your servant, pitting the unemployed or poverty-wage underemployed in a struggling economy against each other for the most miserly sums.

If the economic picture were healthy for the average worker, far fewer would even remotely consider taking such work. The outsource-your-vanity-work bidding services exist precisely because we live in a vulture economy.

Liquidating your life through them is no future. None are increasing the size of the economic pie, revealing only the worst (not that you needed to be told) about the people who burble about how great they are in the mainstream press.


And finally, The Disenlightenment rolls on, provenance — WhiteManistan

The stupid become more concentrated.evolutionpoll

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