The Russian ICC (XIII): The intelligence ecosystem. Patriotic hackers

The concept of patriotic hacker can be understood as the attacker, in the cyber field, whose activities support in one way or another his country in a real conflict, directed against the enemy of the state ([1]). Along with China, Russia has been perhaps one of the countries that has most empowered these groups, active for years in conflicts such as Kosovo (1999), Estonia (2007) or Georgia (2008). In Spain, if there has ever been something similar and in any case not state sponsored, it could be linked to small actions in the network against the environment of ETA after the murder of Miguel Angel Blanco (1997), perhaps at odds between hacktivism and patriotic hackers (this would give for an interesting debate), but in any case very far from the activities of patriotic groups in other conflicts or countries.... Leer Más

The Russian ICC (XII): The intelligence ecosystem. Web brigades

The known Web Brigades (or G-team) are groups theoretically linked to the Russian government which participate in forums, social networks, blogs, information websites … to generate a positive image of Russia (and Putin in particular) in digital media. As rumors suggest, these groups are controlled by the FSB itself, although this is difficult to prove [1]. One of the most well-known cases of the use of web brigades to disseminate this information is the Olgino Trolls, a fairly large group of paid people – always theoretically – to promote Russian positions on national or international political issues.

The members of the web brigades even have defined guidelines to elaborate their comments and opinions ([4]), that mark for example the minimum number of words of each entry or the guidelines so as to go unnoticed in social networks, combining political opinions with other inconsequential ones about hobbies or travel; something that seems perfectly studied and orchestrated and in what will probably be invested large amounts of money, that perhaps comes from government-aligned groups… or the government itself. [Read more…]

The Russian ICC (XI): The intelligence ecosystem. Companies

When we talk about the relationship of Russian services with companies in the country, it is necessary to emphasize that these services are not interested in any type of organization, only those that can give coverage to the service or those that allow them to control, to a greater or lesser extent, a field of interest for Russia’s national interests – usually strategic companies for the nation – natural resources (gas and oil in particular), media, state monopolies created after the dismemberment of the USSR … As a curious fact in relation to state control in some areas, Russian law identifies strategic sectors or companies and it is the Russian law itself that defines how to invest in them, including foreign investment in these companies: foreign companies are prohibited from owning a strategic Russian company, unless expressly approved by the President. [Read more…]

The Russian ICC (X): the intelligence ecosystem

coat_of_arms_of_the_russian_federation-svgWe cannot conceive the Russian intelligence community, described in this series, as a set of services dependent on political or military power. The degree of penetration of these services throughout Russian society is very high, both officially and unofficially. It is no secret that former KGB or FSB officials occupy positions of responsibility in politics or big companies in the country. As a curiosity, in 2006 it was reported that 78% of the country’s top 1,000 politicians had worked for the Russian secret services [1]. So much so that these profiles have a proper name: siloviki, a term that comes to mean people in power. And it is no secret who is the most well-known siloviki: Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, who was agent of the KGB in the Soviet era and later Director of the FSB.... Leer Más

Personal Countersurveillance (I): Facial Recognition

(Please note some of the internal links are in Spanish)

Those of us who work in the cybersecurity sector are accustomed to hearing about threats and defense measures, but almost always referring to a virtual environment. However, there are other dimensions, such as physical security, that can affect us in different ways.

This series has been inspired by the paper by Adam Harvey of the Chaos Communication Congress of 2016: “Retail Surveillance / Retail Countersurveillance”. In it I will discuss some concepts concerning surveillance systems and counter-surveillance measures that can be used to avoid recognition by third parties.

This first article focuses on facial recognition, some of its most controversial applications to date and their implications.

Figure 1: Anonymous. Image taken from [Posted on 15/05/2017]

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The Russian ICC (IX): APT groups

russian-malware-analysis-temp-770x513We have talked so far about the main services that make up the Russian intelligence community in its cyber domain and we will continue to describe in successive posts the rest of the complex Russian ecosystem but, where are the allegedly Russian APTs? Groups known to everyone, such as APT28 (FancyBear, Sofacy …) or APT29 (CozyBear, The Dukes …), must be somehow related to this community … if they are not part of it, right?... Leer Más

The Russian ICC (VIII): GRU

gru_emblemThe only major Russian service which, as we have indicated, is not a direct heir of the KGB is the GRU (Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie), military unit 44388, whose aim is to provide intelligence to the Ministry of Defense, the military leadership and Russian armed forces as a whole. This service is dedicated to military intelligence, from strategic to operational, working not only in an exclusive sense of defense, but also encompassing other aspects such as politics or economy linked to the military sphere, and especially foreign intelligence – sometimes with the SVR. Since 1996, it has been entrusted with the mission of acquiring information on ecology and the environment. In order to execute these tasks, the GRU has all kinds of capabilities, from IMINT to HUMINT, through OSINT and, of course, SIGINT, capabilities that give it a sphere of action and international influence and that allow the GRU to “act in any point of the world where the need might arise, “according to statements by General Valentin Vladimirovich Korabelnikov, in an interview granted in 2006, when he was Director of GRU.... Leer Más

The Russian ICC (VII): FSO

e1470_fsoAnother of the heirs of the FAPSI is the FSO (Federal’naya Sluzhba Okhrani), identified in [1] as military unit 32152 and headed since May of this year by Major General Dmitry Kochnev (his predecessor, Evgeny Murov, was General of the Army, two ranks higher, and this in the Russian services is very important). Murov obtained very important FAPSI attributions: with more than 20,000 troops today (supposedly, since it is classified information, and various sources speak of more than 50,000), the FSO inherited and expanded the KGB’s Ninth Address, with responsibility for the protection of governmental “goods”, in the broadest sense of the word. For example, the Presidential Security Service, the PBS-Putin’s bodyguards, or control of the famous Russian nuclear briefcase depend on the FSO, as well as the operation of a secure network for the transmission of election results, GAS Vybory (Information is, obviously, an asset to be protected). Specifically, from a cyber point of view, this service has assumed, among other capacities, those associated with strategic SIGINT, the guarantee of exploitation of state systems – especially regarding its protection against foreign services – and the security of National classified information ([2]), which includes presidential communications: the FSO provides secure communications at a very high level, for example between the Kremlin and the main Russian military commanders, giving it enormous control power for the control of information …... Leer Más

The Russian ICC (VI): SVR

150px-svrlogoThe SVR (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki) was the first heir of the KGB with its own entity, inheriting the attributions of the First General Directorate; is responsible for Russian foreign intelligence, providing the national authorities with intelligence that can benefit Russia in different areas that have evolved from the military and defense (especially the 1990s) to technological, industrial, scientific and economic areas. To achieve this goal the SVR is based primarily on HUMINT capabilities, both open and clandestine, theoretically relying on the GRU -which we will see in a coming post- for its signals intelligence needs.

In this SIGINT area the SVR works together with the GRU in strategic intelligence (at least in theory, since the rivalry between Russian agencies is well known: let us remember the “joint” operation of the SVR with the GRU of the SIGINT station in Lourdes, Cuba), as opposed to the more operative intelligence of the FSB; the main objective of the SVR, irrespective of the discipline used, is the acquisition of information and development of intelligence about the capabilities, actions, plans, intentions… both real and potential of third countries against the vital interests of the Russian Federation (as we have mentioned, even economic ones).

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(Cyber) III Cold War: Hack the vote?

As you now, the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) along with the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) formally accused Russia of meddling in the past US presidential elections with techniques from the burning information warfare and various cyberattacks. Let’s take a (somewhat delayed) look at this.
It is not the first time that USA launches accusations of this caliber, it did so when it accused China of stealing trade secrets in 2014. An accusation of this kind could involve, officially or unofficially, attacks on Russian IT infrastructures that posed a headache for Putin and his allies. According to statements in the NYT taking this type of action would involve too much risk with elections less than a month away; cyberattacks by a power like Russia against the US electronic voting system could wreak havoc. It should also be noted that the electoral system is still not considered a critical infrastructure of the nation, although it may increase their criticality shortly.
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