(Cyber) GRU (VIII): Structure. Unit 74455

Apparently, Unit 74455 is linked to operations of disinformation, influence, propaganda … which would reconfirm the broad concept of information warfare of the Russian military doctrine. We have already referred to it repeatedly, and to the mixture of the purely technical field with the psychological field (dezinformatsiya, spetspropaganda, kompromat, etc.).

In fact, the US DIA speaks of the confrontation of Russian information (informatsionnoye protivoborstvo, IPb) as the term used by the Government for the information war conflict, with two major measures: technical, as a classic CNO, and psychological, as the attempt to manipulate the population in favour of Russian interests ([1]), speaking openly of “cyber” PSYOP. The first of these measures would correspond to Unit 26165 and the second to Unit 74455.

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(Cyber) GRU (VII): Structure. Unit 26165

Unit 26165 (85th Special Service Center) is located at number 20 of Komsomolskiy Prospekt. Also, at this same address is the Military Unit 06410 (152nd Training Center) with Koval NIKOLAY NESTEROVICH in command, which was created on 08/27/1943. Apparently, this second Unit is not related to the cyber field from a technical point of view, according to available information in public sources such as articles or theses related to military education, psychology, etc.

In the Soviet era, the GRU Service of Decryption was located at number 20 of the Komsomolskiy Avenue in Moscow, to which we have already referred, intimately related to the Sixth Directorate (SIGINT) but not dependent on it. In fact, that historical Service of Decryption is apparently the very Unit 26165, created on May 23, 1953 according to open sources. Apparently, there is public information that confirms its existence at least in 1958, such as the medal commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Unit shown below:

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(Cyber) GRU (VI): and now what?

The information that has come to light during 2018, both the official information of governments of the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands and Canada, as well as the unofficial additional investigations, both individuals and from different organizations (highlighting Bellingcat and RFE/RL, Radio Free Europe/RadioLiberty) has exposed a lot of interesting information about the GRU. It has provided us with data on its units (identification, structure, functions, physical location…), on people who are part of the service (identities, jobs, functions, aliases, relationships, personal scope…) and its operations (objectives, TTP, software, artifacts, IOC…). In addition, they have revealed deficient operational security measures, which have made it possible to broaden the initial investigations even further and have brought to light identities, private homes, relatives… of members – or former members – of the GRU. [Read more…]

(Cyber) GRU (V): October 2018

If 2018 was already a bad year for the GRU, on October 4th, different Western countries gave the final touch to the Service by publishing information about their operations and agents: it is the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States – and immediately Australia and New Zealand, as is normal, supported their allies. Summarizing: Holland and FVEY finish off the annus horribilis of the Service, as we will see in this post.

Holland

On October 4th, the Dutch military intelligence, the MIVD (Militaire Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst) published in a press conference ([1]) the operation carried out in April in which four GRU members were identified and expelled from the country on charges of attacking the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW); as the US Department of Justice did in July, it provides a wealth of detail about the identities, techniques, security measures, objectives … of GRU agents operating on Dutch soil with diplomatic passports. According to this information, four agents of the Service (two assigned to Unit 26165, Aleksei SERGEYEVICH MORENETS and Evgenii MIKHAYLOVICH SEREBRIAKOV, and two possibly assigned to Unit 22177, Alexey VALEREVICH MININ and Oleg MIKHAYLOVICH SOTNIKOV) land on April 10 in the Netherlands and are received by staff from the Russian Embassy in this country, they rent a car and execute a close access operation to try to compromise the security of the OPCW. They are identified, money is seized in cash and technical equipment (which of course is analyzed in detail, showing data from other operations) that includes devices to attack wireless networks and are accompanied to an Aeroflot plane that returns them to Russia. In the face of serious Dutch accusations, Russia defends that its agents simply conducted a security inspection at the country’s embassy in the Netherlands. [Read more…]

(Cyber) GRU (IV): September 2018

Serguei Skripal was a GRU agent who was arrested in 2004. He was accused of collaborating with the British MI6 and sentenced for high treason until 2010, when he was exchanged for Russian agents arrested as part of the ‘Operation Illegal’. Since then, he had lived in the United Kingdom, apparently away from any “annoying” activity linked to his past as a member of the Service. However, in March 2018, he was found unconscious together with his daughter Yulia – she was visiting the United Kingdom – in a bank in Salisbury, allegedly the victim of an attack with Novichok, a Soviet nerve agent. The United Kingdom blames Russia for this attack without much detail.

At the end of June two Britons, a man and a woman, were admitted to the Salisbury District Hospital. An ambulance brought them from Amesbury, a few kilometres from where the former GRU agent and his daughter were poisoned. The investigation confirmed that they had also been poisoned with Novichok, apparently by accident: none of them had any previous connection with what happened in March and, possibly, they found by chance the nerve agent in what appeared to be a bottle of perfume abandoned in a park. The woman died in early July as a result of the effects of the poisoning.

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(Cyber) GRU (III): July 2018

As we have said, if until this year the GRU was one of the most opaque services in the world, in 2018 everything changes. Three facts stand out in the chronography, which conclude with the death of Lieutenant General KOROBOV in November; we will see in this section the first of them -and in the coming ones the other two, which occurred in the month of July.

On July 13, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) publishes [1], a document accusing twelve GRU agents – directly summoned by name and surnames – of possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. The person signing the document is none other than Robert Mueller, an advisor to the DoJ who coordinates investigations in this area – that of Russia’s relationship with the US presidential elections- and who, among other things, was director of the FBI for more tan ten years. After this accusation, the FBI includes among its “Cyber most wanted” the twelve agents of the service, highlighting that they can be armed and dangerous. Until then, the only Russian service that had the privilege of having agents among the most wanted by the FBI was the FSB. [Read more…]

Cyber (GRU) (II): historical SIGINT

The GRU, Military Unit 44388, obtains and processes intelligence from multiple disciplines, including IMINT, SATINT and, of course OSINT, with information needs linked to the military, political, technological, economic and ecological/energy fields ([1]). It was already indicated in the article dedicated to the GRU, within the series on the Russian Cyberintelligence Community, that the Sixth Directorate of the GRU has historically had the SIGINT (COMINT and ELINT) attributions of the Service. An excellent description of these attributions can be found in [2]; in the image, the historical structure of the GRU:

The Sixth Directorate, which reports directly to the Service’s Deputy Director for Technical Affairs, was divided into four divisions [Read more…]

(Cyber) GRU (I): Introduction

As we already mentioned in the post about it, within the series on the Russian Cyberintelligence Community, the GRU (GU) is the most opaque of the Russian services, maintaining almost intact its Soviet heritage against the “westernized” FSB o SVR: in fact, the structure and operation of the Service has not been especially well known, being the main reference [1] until rather recently. Beyond specific data of operations without a clear attribution, or the identities of its Director and Deputy Directors -no secret-, little or nothing was known about the Service. However, and certainly very much in spite of the GRU, in 2018 there are – up to now – three facts that give a radical turn to this opacity: [Read more…]

CSIRT.es (in English)

Yesterday, CCN-CERT published the communiqué related to the re-launch of the CSIRT.es group, a forum that brings together the response teams to Spanish incidents or areas of action in Spain, and whose objective is to centralize the exchange of information and facilitate coordination between these very teams.

CSIRT.es  currently consists of more than twenty teams and, as indicated in the press release, public and private actors from different sectors are represented, with different objectives … but they have many points in common; the main one, by definition, to provide a response capability to a given community. And that capability today cannot work if it is intended to operate independently and isolated from other teams: it necessarily requires direct collaboration with third parties. Beyond forums such as FIRST or TF-CSIRT, we believe that a point that enables collaboration between CSIRT and areas of action in Spain is more than interesting and necessary. [Read more…]

The tools of the gods

Today at SAW we are not going to talk about security but about religion. About the true religion, the good one: about Unix. And about its gods: Kernighan, Ritchie, Thompson … we could cite a few. And about the tools that, in the seventies, these gods sent to us poor mortals, like the manna fallen from heaven for the chosen people.

The thing is that these gods created a real operating system, with some technically wonderful tools and a very simple philosophy: simple capabilities that combined make complex tasks. Perfection. Life is Unix running a script. More than forty years have gone by and we, poor mortals who were the chosen people, what have we done all this time? Trying to dishonor that divine legacy with artificial and useless layers (“of abstraction”, they call them, to try to make sense of them) that introduce two unnecessary problems in any “modern” technological environment: complexity, and therefore probability of error, and slowness.

Exemplary is the “true” executable, in line with the story recently commented by Rob Pike on Twitter:


$ >mytrue;chmod +x mytrue
$ ./mytrue
$ echo $?
0
$

A program whose only purpose is to always return 0. An empty executable. EMPTY. There can be nothing simpler that works, and has been for forty years … well, that’s where we mortals come in. Year 2018:

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