As I keep telling people, cyber is a great unknown. If anyone tells you they1 – know what is happening (what we are doing) and 2 – know what we are going to do in the near future and 3 – know what the bad guys are going to do in the near or middle future
- they’re lying.
Right now we have a whole bunch of blowhards pontificating how good they are and what they’ve done in the past, and that’s about it. All the experts in the world, lined up side by side, can’t tell you how much the bad guys are getting out of us and past us and how and they don’t have a clue how to stop it. If they tell you they do know, you have my permission to shoot them in the face, figuratively and metaphorically, of course. Don’t forget, these are not men of action. Because of the very nature of what is called an Advanced Persistent Threat, they do not know how the bad guys are getting past our defenses. On top of that, because of all the noise created by less skilled, less sophisticated groups or braggarts, we tend to fixate on them and let the quiet, small in number, skilled and stealthy ones slip right beneath the figurative submarine chains.
The only ones who really have a clue, and as much as many people hate to admit it, is the NSA. Just last night somebody asked me ‘why does NSA need all that data?’ If you detect one tiny thread of somebody infiltrating a network, that is only one thread. If you detect five threads, perhaps 50, have you seen the big picture? How about 5,000 or even 5,000,000? At what point can we say we can detect MOST (never all) attempts to infiltrate all networks? Only NSA can see the big picture, because they collect the ‘biggest data’. …and still they will not detect everything, nor are they supposed to, allowed to or even have the capability. I suspect they also don’t really have the desire to be the world’s cyber police.
Now let’s talk more stark reality for a moment, and allow me to paint an even bleaker picture. The United Nations (through the ITU in the cyber world):
The Purposes of the United Nations are:
1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
Even the UN does not have the capability to see the real big picture, and how could they? If you combine the capabilities of all the cyber and intelligence organizations in the world, you still don’t have the capabilities of the NSA. Now, add the NSA to that mix and you still will not see the total picture. We seldom hear of law enforcement in the cyber world, but Interpol plays a part (http://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Cybercrime/Cybercrime), albeit a minor part. Put that all together and you will have a fairly clear picture but we will never see into all the dark corners of the world.
There will always be some group(s) which escape the dragnet of our law enforcement and intelligence collection. That is their job and they improve every day. Perform a crime in a manner that cannot be detected. Steal Intellectual Property without the owners knowledge. Infiltrate a government’s network without leaving a trace.
This is the curse of signature based detection. Whenever we, collectively, decide to switch to behavioral based detection, the balance of power will switch to the good guys.
In this information age I often encounter people who I consider quacks. People from the extreme left or extreme right who honestly believe the venom they spew, usually based on misperceptions, shaded falsehoods and, quite often, blatant lies. I usually endure their blathering, because they obviously base their opinions on highly biased sources. And the cycle continues… there is little if any original thought, and the person quickly becomes completely ignorable.
Then there is the case of the misguided few who demonstrably embrace what I consider the fetid ideals of anti-social thought.
Today I read a piece by Dr. Jeffrey Polet, “The ubiquity of propaganda obscures the American military’s true role“. I read his piece once, twice, three times. I just could not believe someone could think this way and then would actually write and publish this… trash. Three days ago I read a similar piece by Jason Peters, Propaganda, The Military, and the Melodrama, who echoed the same feelings after speaking with Dr. Polet. A quick perusal of Jeffrey Polet’s blog pieces reveals a fervent disgust with the military.
The author claims he is not anti-military, but then labels public celebrations of military service as “propaganda”. I apologize that there is no “official” definition of propaganda by the US government, but I would certainly say these celebrations are not propaganda. They are not founded on stereotypes, not based on reinforced negatives and certainly not based on lies. That was the propaganda that Joseph Goebbels launched on the citizens of Nazi Germany which forever tainted the word propaganda. But in the 60+ years since Goebbels, it has not become acceptable to label celebrations of our national heroes as “propaganda”. Dr. Polet, you do not have the right. In your article you said you were recently in Washington DC and attended a Washington Nationals’ baseball game. Did you, by some chance, also tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and tour the Nazi Propaganda exhibit? If not, you missed a very direct and simple lesson in what actually constitutes propaganda.
I have approached several PhDs and asked them to become the next Dr. Phil Taylor and in the hope they would become the world’s foremost expert on propaganda. None have bellied up to the bar and accepted the challenge but I believe I have one PhD candidate interested. Heck, the annual NDAA outlaws “propaganda”, but without an official definition, spurious applications of the word propaganda will continue to be flung and stick like boogers on a wall. Dr. Polet’s piece is one of those boogers.
ps. I believe I understand what the author is trying to say: “Enough, already. I’d just like to enjoy a game.” These emotional reunions between deployed troops and their families are not in any way exploitive or manipulative, to think so is paranoid in the extreme. Dr. Polet, you deserve heaps of opprobrium for saying so. These wonderful shows of a family once again united are meant to buoy our sagging spirits. Not by an administration, but by the administrative offices of the teams involved. The vast majority of Americans, citizens of theses United States of America, enjoy this. Come join us, celebrate life with us.
…and please, wear your twill pants, tie-dyed skirts and Birkenstocks.
DARPA has come up with a really neat competition which starts in… 3, 2, 1…
Rather than try to improve on what they say, here’s what their website says in the second paragraph on their homepage, here.
The DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC) is a tournament for fully automated network defense. Similar to computer security competitions currently played by expert software analysts, the CGC intends to allow groundbreaking prototype systems to compete for the first time in a “league of their own.” During the competition, automatic systems would reason about software flaws, formulate patches and deploy them on a network in real time. The CGC would unite program analysis experts with the computer security competition community to bring automation research out of the lab and into the field. By acting at machine speed and scale, these technologies may someday overturn today’s attacker-dominated status quo.
According to FCW, here, it’s a human against human competition.
Today starts round 2.
IO Definition: The integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operations to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.
US SECDEF 25 JAN 2011 Memo: Strategic Communication and Information Operations
“Disrupt, deny, degrade, destroy, or deceive” vs. “influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp”. Which is right, what is it that we do?
The definition of IO is all about influence, the military is seeking to affect the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries.
Here is the definition of Electonic Warfare from Wikipedia:
The US “official definition” of Electronic Warfare.
JEMSO are the coordinated efforts of EW and joint electromagnetic spectrum management operations (JEMSMO) to exploit, attack, protect, and manage the electromagnetic operational environment (EMOE).
The term EW refers to military action involving the use of EM energy and directed energy (DE) to control the EMS or to attack the enemy. EW consists of three divisions: electronic attack (EA), EP, and electronic warfare support (ES).
Joint Pub 3-13.1, Electronic Warfare, 08 February 2012
Apologies to anyone who reads that and goes “huh”? Whoever wrote and approved that definition of both EW and JEMSO forgot to address the “in order to” or “in order to accomplish” part of a definition. It’s a modern tragedy that those definitions are as meaningless as <insert insult here>, they don’t say anything.
I am reviewing all these definitions only because this past week somebody asked me about electronic warfare and cyber and why we would ever use both or either cyber or electronic warfare. I thought it was obvious so I attempted to show the common denominator between them. Information. ”What? Are you nuts?” was the look I got.
I simply used an action verb: deny. If I deny an adversary information by either jamming their air defense system or launching a DDoS attack against their network, the adversary does not get the infomation necessary to make an informed decision. I may also disrupt their systems and make the information questionable as to the accuracy, timeliness or even reliability. We may also destroy an adversary’s network or system and deny and at least degrade the information received. The most difficult thing to do is to deceive. Electronically it is a very sophisticated action, in both cyberspace and using the EMS. In World War II it was achieved, not as easily as we believed, by using lengths of aluminum chaff cut to the wavelength of the enemy’s radar, for instance.
All this deals with information that an adversary desperately needs to make an informed decision. That is how we “ influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries”.
Bottom line on the bottom. Cyber and EW are cool, but we dare not lose sight of their ultimate goal, targeting an adversary’s or potential adversary’s decision cycle. Cyber and EW are not goals nor ends by themselves, it’s all about information. Information is the most powerful tool or weapon at our disposal at all times.
Ever since World War II the label of propaganda reminds one of Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. Some people have labeled every bit of
information from a source as propaganda, the resultant twist puts a very ‘sour taste’ on that information and, as a result, imparts a ‘sour taste’ to the supposed originator. I have often generalized and said that propaganda is in the eye of the beholder. Every editor I have interviewed at the Broadcast Board of Governors has stated that their audience is smart enough to tell when something is propaganda, as opposed to raw news reporting.
Yesterday’s column by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, here, illustrates this dilemma for the White House in no uncertain terms, but I believe he actually left out a few key points. The issue is that the White House is using in-house photographers more and allowing access by news photographers less. The word he actually uses is “excluding”, which indicates an active decision to keep news photographers away from the President.
Why? Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest:
There are certain circumstances where it is simply not feasible to have independent journalists in the room when the president is making decisions.
I can understand not allowing reporters access to some classified information. The issue, however, is not the inadvertant disclosure of information but the apparent staged photograph. A staged photograph smacks of someone manipulating the participants in a photograph for the purpose of a preconceived message to be relayed to an intended audience.
In a letter addressed to the White House press secretary, the White House Correspondents’ Association and the Associated Press protested the exclusion of news photographers. They wrote:
You are, in effect, replacing independent photojournalism with visual press releases.
The label of propaganda poisons the well of trust and weakens our negotiating stance as a nation. Yes, one wants to present the best possible picture of the President or any leaders, but historically news organizations have had relatively free access to photograph the President. This administration promised greater transparency, which is a separate issue, yet related in this case, exclusion of news photographers smacks of propaganda and manipulation of images of the President further makes the case of propaganda coming from the White House.
In addition to your other problems, Mr. President, please don’t add propaganda to that list?
Words mean things but they can be grossly exagerated, can be very distorted and can be outright lies. Some argue that numbers and statistics can also be manipulated. But if an attempt is made to calculate an exact amount of supporters, using hard analysis, one can make a fairly solid estimate which is fairly insulated from spurious denigration. In other words, it will be difficult to disprove your claims.
My thanks to Dr. Igor Panarin, who posted a link, here, to a Russian-language Ukranian website discussing a mathematical way of determining who showed up at a rally in support of European integration. Dr. Panarin is a well known expert in Russia about Information Warfare.
Estimates of attendance in support of this rally ranged from several thousand, from the Russian media, to 30 thousand, by the police to 150,000 to 300,00 by supporters. Obviously more numbers would indicate more support.
Kiev mathematics student Nazar Kovalenko used mathematical formulas, combined with Google Maps for area calculations, and determined there were approximately 37,500 people in the rally. He shows his calculations, the margin of errors and what he produced is probably a fairly accurate estimate.
I used the translator embedded in Chrome to translate from Russian to English, to read the article.
With hard numbers one can calculate an increase, decrease or a plateau in the popularity of a movement over time. It is good to share and my thanks to Dr. Panarin for this article.
Information activities by any nation is a fickle beast. The US is lambasting Iran, who is lambasting Israel, Germany is lambasting the US, who is lambasting China (nicely, mind you), who is lambasting… the list goes on forever. All nations attack other nations in the press when they are opposed, this current set of disclosures pits allies against allies.
The current crisis du jour follows the Snowden disclosures. Everybody spies on everybody, few talk about it publicly. The only time the press talks about it in bold headlines is when someone is caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Snowden shared with the world that the United States is spying on a whole bunch of people. General Alexander and President Obama say the US only spies on foreign countries. The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, has publicly slapped the US for spying on her cell phone. Oh my. The negative press has been going on for some time.
Apologies, Ms. Chancellor, the United States has not denied spying on you, at least not that I’ve seen. Do you deny spying on the United States? I didn’t think so.
The latest twist to this story, and it is almost embarrassing, is that the US is not the only party that has tapped Chancellor Merkel’s phone, according to a German weekly Focus magazine (http://www.focus.de/) cited here. The five countries are Russia, China, North Korea and the U.K – in addition to the US. I would say her connection and phone probably worked as slowly as mine, making her phone basically a party line. For those of you too young to remember those days, please look it up in Wikipedia, under telephony terms.
This portends an awful future for information activities. Advertising: ”Our phones are hacked less than theirs!” Press secretary: “Our leader’s phone is secure”. Congressperson, member of parliament, duma, etc: “Gentlemen do not listen to leaders’ phones!” It boils down to ‘We gather less intelligence than you do!’ Extrapolated one tiny bit further: ’we are less informed than you’, which becomes ‘our decisions are not based on facts as good as yours’, which distills to ‘we’re going to make some pretty awful decisions’! Okay, these statements will never be made but these are the falsehoods Chancellor Merkel is leading us to – and it’s empty. The agony, Ms. Chancellor, the horror, the betrayal. Please spare us the false outrage, Madame Chancellor, it’s disingenuous and makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth.
The fact is that nobody is going to spy any less on anyone, based on these disclosures. Our spies will just have to be smarter.