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Cybersecurity - 'State Trojans' ?

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
( I searched Forums - nearest thread to this subject is this one https://www.arrse.co.uk/community/t...and-escalating-war.287754/page-3#post-8986917 - but doesn't really cover the topic so Mods feel free to move or subsume. )

Interesting snippet in yesterday's Times on German Government's plans to expand the State's ability

' to monitor or seize control of devices ranging from laptops and mobile phones to 'smart' gadgets such as cars and fridges.'

German spy chiefs seek power to snoop on every computer

The Times piece continued:

The most controversial element in the draft bill is the use of so-called 'state Trojans' : covertly installed spyware that can hide on a computer for years before waking to snoop on the user's activities.

Trojans can read the keystrokes on a laptop, access encrypted chats om messaging apps or listen in on video-calling services such as Skype.

State Trojans were introduced to allow the police to track terrorist suspects in emergency situations but they have been used to investigate blackmail,extortion and the trafficking of steroids. The BND, the [German] foreign intelligence agency,also uses trojans against overseas targets. '

I'm not sure whether, in the light of the Wikileaks exposure of GCHQ's extensive and long-standing surveillence programmes, that this is news to anyone.

For some folk , the idea that the German state* can not only see review anything and everything in your Interweb life, but potentially 'mirror' and control what comes in and goes out of your PC is a tad unsettling.


Keystroke loggers have been around for as long as systems have required passwords. But think on this: the ungodly have planted a trojan programme on your system which just sits there ( like a trained human 'sleeper' agent living a serene existence as your friendly local corner-shop owner) for several years.

Then one day - say Thursday morning, there's not much happening, they're bored - the ungodly cyber team send out an electronic 'ping' that tells the trojan to wake up, have a coffee then send an exact duplicate of your entire 'C' Drive to a server in Boglodacia.

So now the ungodly team can survey every single thing you've ever written using that system.

Including, of course, that handy-dandy 'Password Manager' app that you gaily downloaded to make life easier.

Now Team Ungodly know every passw0rd c0mb1nat10n you've ever deployed. Some bright spark has probably long ago come up with an equally handy-dandy programme that predicts potential future passwords you may devise. Even if not, the keystroke logger will simply show them the new access code anyway.

And every time you update your system password, the mirror copy of the hard drive in Boglodacia gets it instantly.....

' Aha' , say the computer savvy -
' but I've never trusted Microsoft anyway so uploaded Linux years ago - yah boo sucks!'

erm....... qv the US govt funded programme called 'Outlaw Country'

There's a link here - but be advised that if you access the Wikileaks website, both Cheltenham and Fort Meade will prick up their long, furry ears....

Oh brave New World that hath such people in't


@BadCo - plse advise if interview with no Garibaldis is required. I will of course cease, desist and return to the tiddleywinks table.










*Or any Government for that matter
 
I would be surprised if most countries don't have something like that available for use, if they don't already use one

There is a theory Facebook was setup as global spyware by the CIA, a conspiracy theory of course but it won't surprise me if they were in at the start with some tech startups, after all getting people to willing let you spy on you has to save the hassle of actually using trojans
 
Cybersecurity is a massively wide subject, and covers many disciplines (eg offensive, as you see here, and the obvious corollary to it, defensive). It is entirely reasonable to expect nations to develop offensive capability in exactly the same way as conventional and nuclear weapons have evolved from muskets and uranium fission weapons into chain guns and hydrogen fusion weapons.

After WW2, everyone wanted on the bandwagon of nuclear weapons, and US, UK, USSR, France, China, Israel, South Africa, India, Pakistan and North Korea all managed it. Similarly, after WW2, things like Ultra became desirable weapons of war, and so the likes of GCHQ, NSA, BND, FSB etc became very important.

There's nothing sinister about their rise, it was an obvious method of waging war. If you can access the control systems of the enemy's national power distribution, and shut the whole 9 yards down, causing as much damage as possible in the process, you've less need to rain death upon them from above. Power stations are a good one, typically they require external grid power to restart when shut down. If there's no power incoming, it stays shutdown.

What may be perceived as sinister is the personally invasive methods of attack, but that's what the spooks are supposed to do. You get some dirt on the target and blackmail them. Or just destroy them. It's not really any different from taking a photo of a politician with a couple of whores on his arm and blackmailing him or destroying him. Just a different attack vector.

As for defence? Well if as a politician you live life like a monk and don't go whoring*, you won't get caught. Same for cyber. Don't expose any electronic systems to external threats and you won't get key loggers etc installed. Easier said than done of course, and you give up the conveniences (and increasingly, necessities) available by simply using the internet. But who wants to live like a monk? You assess your risk/benefit and mitigate the risk as much as you can. It's all you can do.

*other career-ending sins available.
 
I would be surprised if most countries don't have something like that available for use, if they don't already use one

There is a theory Facebook was setup as global spyware by the CIA, a conspiracy theory of course but it won't surprise me if they were in at the start with some tech startups, after all getting people to willing let you spy on you has to save the hassle of actually using trojans
Indeed, its already installed and the G can access pretty much whatever it wants, whenever they want. But like the famous enigma crack, one has to be careful how much is divulged in public... Similarly, its nice for everyone to carry around a portable device that allows the G to know where we are, as well as what we think.
 
Loads of Western countries have been using trojans for years, both the security services and the police.

Lots of dodgy third world countries, in the Middle East and elsewhere, use them as well. The Saudis are known to have been actively deploying these against at least one target in a Western country to obtain information about journalist Jamal Khashoggi just prior to his murder in Istanbul.

There are private companies in Israel and Europe who sell the technology to dubious third world countries who use them to target dissidents. Companies in this business pay big money to security researchers, up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, for exclusive access to security vulnerabilities in operating systems such as MS Windows, Apple iPhone, and Android.
 
(...) Power stations are a good one, typically they require external grid power to restart when shut down. If there's no power incoming, it stays shutdown. (...)
Typically a certain proportion of electric generating plants will have "black start" capability in order to restart after a major blackout which knocks over the whole grid. Those plants will then be used to start still more until everything is back up. The "black start" generators may be gas turbines or diesels, sized to provide enough power to re-start the pumps, fans, and control systems of the generating plant itself.

Totally restarting a grid though can take days, as supply must be brought back on line in phase with loads being reconnected. Plus, thermal power plants can take time to get going again, due to the timer required for cooling and re-heating major systems.
 
I'd be more worried about what those sneaky Chinese types are planting in software than our own government. I should be immune from all of this though, as plan on making a tin-foil hat that will protect me.
 
Typically a certain proportion of electric generating plants will have "black start" capability in order to restart after a major blackout which knocks over the whole grid. Those plants will then be used to start still more until everything is back up. The "black start" generators may be gas turbines or diesels, sized to provide enough power to re-start the pumps, fans, and control systems of the generating plant itself.

Totally restarting a grid though can take days, as supply must be brought back on line in phase with loads being reconnected. Plus, thermal power plants can take time to get going again, due to the timer required for cooling and re-heating major systems.

Agreed, but they don't all have that capability. Protection of Critical National Infrastructure such as this is a major source of work on the defensive side of the house.

It's not just power, all the utilities face similar issues. For example, a dam that regulates the flow of water downstream, if the sluices are forced closed, the downstream will run dry. Or let all the water out and cause flooding.

It's a major headache. Also why in the US, the Department of Energy is a major player in cybersecurity.
 
I'd be more worried about what those sneaky Chinese types are planting in software than our own government. I should be immune from all of this though, as plan on making a tin-foil hat that will protect me.

Just don't use a kettle ever, it might be spying on you man
 
Agreed, but they don't all have that capability. (...)
Not all generating plants need it. In the worst case scenario once the ones which have black start capability have started up, they provide electric power to the other generating plants for them to start up in turn. That's only some are required to have it.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer

Well done ! I anticipated someone would respond with

' Nothing to see here - move along, it's late... I guess we could all use some sleep '

....hence my text:
I'm not sure whether, in the light of the Wikileaks exposure of GCHQ's extensive and long-standing surveillence programmes, that this is news to anyone.

MoD was using an email surveillance programme back in the early 1990s so no, not news to me.

But given Merkel's limited remaining tenure as ReichsChancellor it throws a tiny patch of light on some of the tensions within the most important mover & groover in the EU [ Germany]

Around which Michel Barnier, Macron and others necessarily gyrate, seeking advantage.

Therefore rather topical I thought - but suit yourself. Read the article.
 
(...) It's a major headache. Also why in the US, the Department of Energy is a major player in cybersecurity.
The biggest issues that I have seen in terms of industrial cybersecurity are:
  • The engineers, technicians, and tradesmen working in the field have limited knowledge of security, or IT technology in general even though they make use of it.
  • The major industrial software vendors are determined to avoid any responsibility for security.
  • The stranglehold that major vendors have on the market, with proprietary protocols, software, and hardware, and the general "walled garden" approach that vendors take make it very difficult for any sort of independent security research to address the shortcomings. In relation to this, recall the previous point about the vendors not seeing security as their responsibility (marketing blurbs aside).
 
Not all generating plants need it. In the worst case scenario once the ones which have black start capability have started up, they provide electric power to the other generating plants for them to start up in turn. That's only some are required to have it.

That was my point. If a hostile actor has control of the transmission grid, they can prevent that startup power from being supplied. If the hostile actor has the sophistication to take control of the grid, they probably have the raw G2 to understand where to best target for maximum effect. ie keep the ones that have black start capability off the grid for as long as possible, thus the others are dead in the water for longer.
 
These powers were specifically covered in UK legislation as "Equipment Interference".

The full Codes of Practice are set out -

Investigatory Powers Act 2016 – codes of practice

Trojans are merely the tool by which this power could be lawfully exercised.

Frankly, I would have suspect much better things have been cooked up in Q's Lab.

The tool list was commented on back in 2014

GCHQ Catalog of Exploit Tools - Schneier on Security

My favourite code name was "SWAMP DONKEY".... if I can get some code going I plan to launch an exploit called "HIPPIBOTACROCAMOOSE"
 
I would be surprised if most countries don't have something like that available for use, if they don't already use one

There is a theory Facebook was setup as global spyware by the CIA, a conspiracy theory of course but it won't surprise me if they were in at the start with some tech startups, after all getting people to willing let you spy on you has to save the hassle of actually using trojans

You watch The Onion too much!

 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
Loads of Western countries have been using trojans for years, both the security services and the police.

The krauts have a lot more sensitivity over what the State can legally do than we do.

It's a legacy of the great 1989 Anschluss under which East & West Germans scrambled into each others lovin' arms.

Ossies (like Merkel) were quite accustomed to state surveillance - For the Greater Good. Wessies less so.

And the all-pervasive grip of the Stasi only became widely known in the mid 1990s.

The Germans are ( unsurprisingly given their 20thC history ) quite touchy in public about their civil liberties.

Which is why this sort of thing makes them very uneasy:

MiniPanzer and MegaPanzer - Wikipedia

1554228863404.png



Right now, it is a commonly held view that UK and our European partners have nothing to hide from each other - and all is pink and fluffy in the garden.

You and I know that actually this is not and has never been the case - but hey.

Shurely nobody would actively seek means to spy on us? Say it ain't so Mo!

Anyone on Arrse own a Samsung TV by the way ? Just askin' like...for a friend as you might say.....

 
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That was my point. If a hostile actor has control of the transmission grid, they can prevent that startup power from being supplied. If the hostile actor has the sophistication to take control of the grid, they probably have the raw G2 to understand where to best target for maximum effect. ie keep the ones that have black start capability off the grid for as long as possible, thus the others are dead in the water for longer.
Let me see, you are assuming the distribution grid is not functioning, but you still want to start up those generating plants to do what exactly?

You also need to add load in a coordinated fashion, or you aren't going to be able to ramp up those plants anyway. The reason they shut down in the first place would likely have been due to loss of load. It's like stepping on the accelerator in a car when you don't have the clutch engaged. The generators would over-rev and have to shut down to protect themselves.

A major cause of delay in restarting service is that with thermal plants that tripped unexpectedly instead of going through a controlled shutdown the turbine (and possibly other systems) would have to go through a cool down and restart cycle before it can be restarted without damage. That can take several days. This is why a major blackout can last for a week or so before everything is back on line.

So assuming the entire grid tripped, the start up sequence would go a) start up the plants that have black start capability, b) ramp them up while adding load in a controlled manner, c) use the power from them to start up other plants, d) add more load incrementally, e) ramp up the power and load together in a coordinated fashion until everything is back to normal capacity. It's not like turning the key on a car, it takes time.
 
Anyone on Arrse own a Samsung TV by the way ? Just askin' like...for a friend as you might say.....


I do love that rant.

Given the subject matter, wouldn't this have been more apposite?



"I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of earl grey than you can do in a year in the field."

 
The krauts have a lot more sensitivity over what the State can legally do than we do.

It's a legacy of the great 1989 Anschluss under which East & West Germans scrambled into each others lovin' arms.

Ossies (like Merkel) were quite accustomed to state surveillance - For the Greater Good. Wessies less so.

And the all-pervasive grip of the Stasi only became widely known in the mid 1990s.

The Germans are ( unsurprisingly given their 20thC history ) quite touchy in public about their civil liberties.

Which is why this sort of thing makes them very uneasy:

MiniPanzer and MegaPanzer - Wikipedia

View attachment 385792


Right now, it is a commonly held view that UK and our European partners have nothing to hide from each other - and all is pink and fluffy in the garden.

You and I know that actually this is not and has never been the case - but hey.

Shurely nobody would actively seek means to spy on us? Say it ain't so Mo!

Anyone on Arrse own a Samsung TV by the way ? Just askin' like...for a friend as you might say.....

If you remember the Cold War era spy thrillers, a common key plot device was to have a westerner visiting someone on the other side of the Berlin Wall. When there, the westerner would want to say something that it would be unhealthy for the authorities to hear. The local person would hush him, and then run about doing things to the telephone (which could be monitored as a bugging device even when not in use) and any other bugging devices, and turn on the radio to create background noise. Then he would say in a hush voice "it's safe to talk now, but make it quick".

The awful realisation of how pervasive surveillance supposedly was would bring home to the audience just how unspeakably evil communism was. And we all swore then that no sacrifice was too great to prevent such a fate befalling our own societies. It wasn't to avoid crap cars and crappier television shows for which we were willing to risk nuclear annihilation. It was to preserve our liberties, above all of which was to not live under the threat of mass surveillance.

The Cold War is over, but it would appear that the communists won in the end.
 

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