Tag: cyber

The Shin Bet puzzle

Thursday, 11 May, 2017 0 Comments

The Israeli domestic security service Shin Bet has adopted some of the recruiting techniques pioneered by the British during World War II. This became evident with the recent publication of a puzzle in the media for anyone to solve. Some 60,000 people submitted answers but only six succeeded in solving the puzzle. These six are now candidates for jobs in the new Shin Bet Cyber War unit.

Shin Bet puzzle

In the Second World War, the British recruited “Codebreakers” by posting cryptic word puzzles in newspapers and asking those who could solve them to send their answers to a seemingly innocuous address. There was a series of crosswords and those who managed to complete them all were asked to join the services. An upside of this recruiting technique was that a lot of women became British spies. Some of them were Jewish and they moved to Israel after the war and contributed their experience to the emerging Israeli intelligence services.

Interestingly, the Shin Bet agents hired via the public puzzle technique will undergo the same training that has been developed for Israeli commando units and will end up with the military skills and physical toughness typical of regular commandos. In the future, when Israel sends a unit on a raid to eliminate adversaries and acquire technology, several of Cyber War commandos might go along. These “nerds” will be able to keep pace with the regular commandos and quickly identify enemy technology. They will then take or destroy the right items and help neutralize the bad guys.

Note of caution: Many of those who completed the British puzzles during World War II were not interested in a job in intelligence but simply enjoyed doing crosswords. And, despite their innovating recruiting methods, the British ended up hiring lots of left wing traitors who went to spy for the Soviet Union. Those like Kim Philby became experts in falsifying intelligence and one of their specialties was “facelifting” the image of anti-communist movements to make sure they got more assistance from the West. These groups were then betrayed and their members turned, tortured or murdered.


The axis of cyber evil

Thursday, 15 September, 2016 0 Comments

On Monday, Ciaran Martin, the Director-General Cyber at GCHQ, outlined the British approach to cyber security at the Billington Cyber Security Summit in Washington DC. Very topically, he addressed email. Snippet:

“We need to make sure UK Government email is trusted, so we need to stop people spoofing our .gov.uk domain. To do that we’ve set a DMARC policy as a trial to stop emails from the wrong IP sets, or with the wrong key, from being delivered purporting to come from .gov.uk. Well they do get delivered, but they get delivered to us, not the recipient — usually members of the public. And when we first trialled it, whoever was sending 58,000 malicious emails per day from the delightfully named [email protected] isn’t doing it anymore.”

In an increasingly digitized economy, security is a critical currency. When Colin Powell wakes up and finds his hacked emails on the front pages of global media outlets, overall confidence in cyber security is greatly diminished and while his comments on Clinton and Trump might make for great merriment, we should condemn these intrusions because the cyber bell may toll for us one day, too. Just as it has done for the tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, the gymnast Simone Biles, and the Tour de France winning cyclists Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins. Because when Ciaran Martin was speaking, the World Anti-Doping Agency was confirming that a Russian cyber espionage group known as Fancy Bear had accessed its Anti-Doping Administration and Management System database. The stolen information is now being broadcast 24/7.

People, businesses and institutions will be reluctant to share information in a digital environment they feel is fundamentally unsafe, and Ciaran Martin accepted this when he said that the internet may have transformed the way we live, “but it hasn’t completely changed our nature fostered over thousands of years. And nor are the groups who pose us harm particularly new.” They are stealing secrets, stealing money, stealing intellectual property, and they are pumping out propaganda that’s crafted to confuse and intimidate. Without naming Russia, China and North Korea specifically, he said:

We’ve got hostile states. Some of them are great powers, using cyber attacks to spy, gain major commercial and economic advantage or to pre-position for destructive attack. Others are smaller states, looking to exploit the relatively immature rules of the road in cyberspace to tweak the nose of those they see as bigger powers in a way they would and could never contemplate by traditional military means.”

Tomorrow, here, we’ll name the most hostile of these states.


Germany curbs some surveillance and intercept exports

Tuesday, 20 May, 2014 0 Comments

The Munich company Trovicor claims to be “a leader in communications and intelligence solutions that help law enforcement, national security, intelligence services, and other government agencies fight crime and terrorism.” Thing is, some of those intelligence services happen to be in Syria and Bahrain. The Syrian security services are also said to be customers of Aachen-based Utimaco, which supplies a range of software products, including a “solution to help telecommunications service providers respond to electronic surveillance orders as required by law.” Syborg from the Saarland and the Gamma Group are also in the surveillance and monitoring systems business.

The problem for these firms now is that Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, has decided to stop the export of surveillance and monitoring technologies to authoritarian regimes. Although Gabriel hasn’t presented a list of the black-listed end-users, targets are thought to include Middle East states as well as Russia and Turkey.

According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Gabriel intends to halt the cyber spying exports until the EU adopts more stringent regulations for surveillance technologies and intercept tools, which would then become law in Germany. Legislation is being discussed in Brussels but there’s no clear indication of when it might be enacted.

Eye spy