Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Elizabeth White, Lori MacVittie, Liz McMillan, Mark Hoover

Related Topics: Cloud Security, Government Cloud

Cloud Security: Blog Post

Burning Down the House for Fun and Profit

The Pros and Cons of Naming and Shaming

In October of 1962, during the buildup to the Cuban Missile Crisis, a debate between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Alexandrovich Zorin at the United Nations Security Council, revealed how far the U.S. was willing to go to produce evidence that the Soviet Union was indeed stockpiling tactical nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in North America. The Soviets, reluctance to be truthful "in the court of world opinion", forced the hand of the U.S. to produce the very intelligence that the Soviets' claimed the U.S. did not have. Once the overhead photos of the missiles were shared publicly, the Soviets immediately countered that the imagery was fake. We knew the truth then and we know it today, the Soviets had been caught in their lie.

What we saw this week was very similar to what we saw in 1962.  What is most interesting in this case is that the bombshell was not dropped in a stuffy chamber full of wrinkly policy makers, nor was it used by the administration to draw a hard line under Executive Order 13636 that President Obama signed last week. No, the story was brought to light by a single, private sector entity using unclassified information that was publicly available for anyone to put together. By doing so, a precedent has been set. Finally, the veil has been lifted. Now, the public was able take a glimpse at an unseen threat that many within the security industry have been following closely for nearly a decade.  A complex, intangible idea has a face, or rather a building, attached to it.

So what does this mean? Is this good, bad or somewhere in the middle?

Operational Caveat:
Since 13 February, Cyber Squared's ThreatConnect.com has detected an unknown security research group, (believed to be Mandiant) sink-holing known "Comment Group" command and control infrastructure to a variety of named Virtual Private Servers (VPS) ahead of their 19 February report release. All "Comment Group" infrastructure has been freely available to vetted ThreatConnect users since November 2012.

The Pros:
Unfortunately, there are no lanes in the road that point out clear-cut standards by which organizations can measure if they are responsibly or irresponsibly disclosing cyber threat information. While not everyone supports public disclosures of this nature, we can look at both sides of what has occurred and find the benefits and cost of this massive disclosure.

PRO1: Finally an organization has developed a public attribution picture, publicly naming and shaming China for behavior that many have observed internationally for over a decade.

PRO2: A precedent has now been set for the entire security community; there are many others who have chosen to hold off on disclosing details of attacks or operationalizing infrastructure take downs out of concerns with tipping the threat actors and forcing them to change their TTPs and operational security. Now a green-light has been given to disclose similar details and to unilaterally act to take down large chunks of malicious infrastructure associated with APT's.

PRO3: The United States Government (USG) appears to have handed over the issue of Chinese cyber espionage to commercial industry. Some may argue that this level of disclosure should only be part of an official USG response. However, allowing industries to self-regulate and establish norms of internet behavior may serve as a more efficient way to manage threats of this nature.

PRO4: This now gives the security industry something to measure against.  Not only can the industry observe and measure how "Comment Group" will respond to the disclosure, but also their reactions to sweeping sinkhole operations in addition to target reacquisition efforts.  The industry can also pay attention to general responses from other Chinese APT groups.

PRO5: A disclosure at this level raises the issue of nation state sponsored or sanctioned cyber espionage to a larger audience, keeping the issue in the spotlight and increasing overall global awareness of the threat posed by Chinese cyber espionage.

The Cons:
On the flipside, despite the new opportunities that this may present the industry, there are untold numbers of secondary effects that could come to light because of this disclosure.

CON1: The USG appears to be sidestepping a strategic national policy issue by allowing a commercial entity to assume all of the risk by acting as the mouthpiece that may influence U.S.-China relations. If the USG is to send a message, it needs to send it unequivocally with no appearance of a puppet.

CON2: This may increase the precedent for foreign governments or non-U.S. companies that wish to embarrass the U.S. or western allies by attributing details of other sophisticated threats to western powers.

CON3: "Comment Group", while quite effective, could be considered "low hanging fruit".  There were many "eyes on" from across the global security community which were actively monitoring the threat. Many organizations that had adequate visibility of "Comment Group" infrastructure, capabilities and operations now find themselves exposed to the unknown.  Assuming a Chinese military intelligence unit isn't just going to give up and go home, everyone is now equally vulnerable to whatever they use next.

CON4: A single Chinese APT group out of an average of approximately 20 APT groups would only address 5% of the overall problem. By disclosing details of just one threat group, the effect to Chinese cyber espionage operations would be minimal.

CON5: A detailed disclosure at this level reveals a laundry list of specific items that the Chinese can now use as lessons learned to improve upon overall tradecraft. This increases the probability of Chinese counter intelligence operations, operations security, oversight and an overall process improvement which will diminish the security industries ability to effectively combat the threat of Chinese APT's in the future.

Conclusion
Only time will tell if the gains outweigh any losses associated with the disclosure.  Despite growing evidence that this is the work of the Chinese, the official response has been no different than what we have seen before.  A poor embassy spokesperson, followed by spokespeople for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense, are forced to respond with the standard canned and reflexive denial stating that accusing China without evidence is "irresponsible" and "unprofessional" or that China is ultimately the victim and would never do such a thing. What this spokespersons probably doesn't understand, through the layers of party bureaucracy, is how "irresponsible" and "unprofessional" the Chinese Computer Network Exploitation (CNE) machine actually is. If this is the case, it highlights how intentionally deceptive the PRC is or that the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing in the shadows.

Ultimately, what is truly "irresponsible" and "unprofessional" is targeting the same individual four times a day through emails written in broken English with an attached implant embedded in a self extracting archive. For those who bear the scars of APT attacks or organizations who specialize in protecting customers from such threats, it becomes quite clear, the Chinese, in their hunger to support their modernization and economic rise, have compromised themselves before a global economy.

More Stories By Rich Barger

Rich is the Chief Intelligence Officer for Cyber Squared and the ThreatConnect Intelligence Research Team (TCIRT) Director.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the protocols that communicate data and the emerging data analy...
The vision of a connected smart home is becoming reality with the application of integrated wireless technologies in devices and appliances. The use of standardized and TCP/IP networked wireless technologies in line-powered and battery operated sensors and controls has led to the adoption of radios in the 2.4GHz band, including Wi-Fi, BT/BLE and 802.15.4 applied ZigBee and Thread. This is driving the need for robust wireless coexistence for multiple radios to ensure throughput performance and th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that China Unicom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. China United Network Communications Group Co. Ltd ("China Unicom") was officially established in 2009 on the basis of the merger of former China Netcom and former China Unicom. China Unicom mainly operates a full range of telecommunications services including mobile broadband (GSM, WCDMA, LTE F...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
Video experiences should be unique and exciting! But that doesn’t mean you need to patch all the pieces yourself. Users demand rich and engaging experiences and new ways to connect with you. But creating robust video applications at scale can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Zohar Babin, Vice President of Platform, Ecosystem and Community at Kaltura, will discuss how VPaaS enables you to move fast, creating scalable video experiences that reach your...
Big Data has been changing the world. IoT fuels the further transformation recently. How are Big Data and IoT related? In his session at @BigDataExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will explore the interplay of Big Data and IoT. He will anatomize Big Data and IoT separately in terms of what, which, why, where, when, who, how and how much. He will then analyze the relationship between IoT and Big Data, specifically the drilldown of how the 4Vs of Big Data (Volume, Variety,...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pulzze Systems will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Pulzze Systems, Inc. provides infrastructure products for the Internet of Things to enable any connected device and system to carry out matched operations without programming. For more information, visit http://www.pulzzesystems.com.
If you’re responsible for an application that depends on the data or functionality of various IoT endpoints – either sensors or devices – your brand reputation depends on the security, reliability, and compliance of its many integrated parts. If your application fails to deliver the expected business results, your customers and partners won't care if that failure stems from the code you developed or from a component that you integrated. What can you do to ensure that the endpoints work as expect...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, will discuss the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports. The session will include a working demo and a technical d...
WebRTC adoption has generated a wave of creative uses of communications and collaboration through websites, sales apps, customer care and business applications. As WebRTC has become more mainstream it has evolved to use cases beyond the original peer-to-peer case, which has led to a repeating requirement for interoperability with existing infrastructures. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Graham Holt, Executive Vice President of Daitan Group, will cover implementation examples that have enabled ea...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business in 2016. However, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will drill down to the components in this fra...
SYS-CON Events announced today the Enterprise IoT Bootcamp, being held November 1-2, 2016, in conjunction with 19th Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Enterprise IoT Bootcamp is not just based on presentations but with hands-on demos and detailed walkthroughs. We will introduce you to a variety of real world use cases prototyped using Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, Spark, and Intel Edison. Y...
Technology vendors and analysts are eager to paint a rosy picture of how wonderful IoT is and why your deployment will be great with the use of their products and services. While it is easy to showcase successful IoT solutions, identifying IoT systems that missed the mark or failed can often provide more in the way of key lessons learned. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Peter Vanderminden, Principal Industry Analyst for IoT & Digital Supply Chain to Flatiron Strategies, will focus on how IoT de...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Roundee / LinearHub will exhibit at the WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LinearHub provides Roundee Service, a smart platform for enterprise video conferencing with enhanced features such as automatic recording and transcription service. Slack users can integrate Roundee to their team via Slack’s App Directory, and '/roundee' command lets your video conference ...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...
I'm a lonely sensor. I spend all day telling the world how I'm feeling, but none of the other sensors seem to care. I want to be connected. I want to build relationships with other sensors to be more useful for my human. I want my human to understand that when my friends next door are too hot for a while, I'll soon be flaming. And when all my friends go outside without me, I may be left behind. Don't just log my data; use the relationship graph. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Boyd, Engi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Numerex Corp, a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT), will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Numerex Corp. (NASDAQ:NMRX) is a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). The Company's solutions produce new revenue streams or create operating...
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...