Table of Contents
|Part 1||The Landscape||11|
|7.||Cryptography in Context||102|
|9.||Identification and Authentication||135|
|15.||Certificates and Credentials||225|
|17.||The Human Factor||255|
|18.||Vulnerabilities and the Vulnerability Landscape||274|
|19.||Threat Modeling and Risk Assessment||288|
|20.||Security Policies and Countermeasures||307|
|22.||Product Testing and Verification||334|
|23.||The Future of Products||353|
Forewords & Introductions
I have written this book partly to correct a mistake.
Seven years ago I wrote another book: Applied Cryptography. In it, I described a mathematical utopia: algorithms that would keep your deepest secrets safe for millennia, protocols that could perform the most fantastical electronic interactions-unregulated gambling, undetectable authentication, anonymous cash-safely and securely. In my vision cryptography was the great technological equalizer; anyone with a cheap (and getting cheaper every year) computer could have the same security as the largest government. In the second edition of the same book, written two years later, I went so far as to write: "It is insufficient to protect ourselves with laws; we need to protect ourselves with mathematics."
It's just not true. Cryptography can't do any of that.
It's not that cryptography has gotten weaker since 1994, or that the things I described in that book are no longer true; it's that cryptography doesn't exist in a vacuum.
Cryptography is a branch of mathematics. And like all mathematics, it involves numbers, equations, and logic. Security, palpable security that you or I might find useful in our lives, involves people: things people know, relationships between people, people and how they relate to machines. Digital security involves computers: complex, unstable, buggy computers.
Mathematics is perfect; reality is subjective. Mathematics is defined; computers are ornery. Mathematics is logical; people are erratic, capricious, and barely comprehensible.
The error of Applied Cryptography is that I didn't talk at all about the context. I talked about cryptography as if it were The Answer. I was pretty naive.
Theresult wasn't pretty. Readers believed that cryptography was a kind of magic security dust that they could sprinkle over their software and make it secure. That they could invoke magic spells like "128-bit key" and "public-key infrastructure." A colleague once told me that the world was full of bad security systems designed by people who read Applied Cryptography.
Since writing the book, I have made a living as a cryptography consultant: designing and analyzing security systems. To my initial surprise, I found that the weak points had nothing to do with the mathematics. They were in the hardware, the software, the networks, and the people. Beautiful pieces of mathematics were made irrelevant through bad programming, a lousy operating system, or someone's bad password choice. I learned to look beyond the cryptography, at the entire system, to find weaknesses. I started repeating a couple of sentiments you'll find throughout this book: "Security is a chain; it's only as secure as the weakest link." "Security is a process, not a product."
Any real-world system is a complicated series of interconnections. Security must permeate the system: its components and connections. And in this book I argue that modern systems have so many components and connections-some of them not even known by the systems' designers, implementers, or users-that insecurities always remain. No system is perfect; no technology is The Answer.
This is obvious to anyone involved in real-world security. In the real world, security involves processes. It involves preventative technologies, but also detection and reaction processes, and an entire forensics system to hunt down and prosecute the guilty. Security is not a product; it itself is a process. And if we're ever going to make our digital systems secure, we're going to have to start building processes.
A few years ago I heard a quotation, and I am going to modify it here: If you think technology can solve your security problems, then you don't understand the problems and you don't understand the technology.
This book is about those security problems, the limitations of technology, and the solutions.
Read this book in order, from beginning to end.
No, really. Many technical books are meant to skim, bounce around in, and use as a reference. This book isn't. This book has a plot; it tells a story. And like any good story, it makes less sense telling it out of order. The chapters build on each other, and you won't buy the ending if you haven't come along on the journey.
Actually, I want you to read the book through once, and then read it through a second time. This book argues that in order to understand the security of a system, you need to look at the entire system-and not at any particular technologies. Security itself is an interconnected system, and it helps to have cursory knowledge of everything before learning more about anything. But two readings is probably too much to ask; forget I mentioned it.
This book has three parts. Part 1 is "The Landscape," and gives context to the rest of the book: who the attackers are, what they want, and what we need to deal with the threats. Part 2 is "Technologies," basically a bunch of chapters describing different security technologies and their limitations. Part 3 is "Strategies": Given the requirements of the landscape and the limitations of the technologies, what do we do now?
I think digital security is about the coolest thing you can work on today, and this book reflects that feeling. It's serious, but fun, too. Enjoy the read.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: Introduction
During March 2000, I kept a log of security events from various sources. Here are the news highlights:
Someone broke into the business-to-business Web site for SalesGate.com and stole about 3,000 customer records, including credit card numbers and other personal information. He posted some of them on the Internet.
For years, personal information has "leaked" from Web sites (such as Intuit) to advertisers (such as DoubleClick). When visitors used various financial calculators on the Intuit site, a design glitch in the Web site's programming allowed information they entered to be sent to DoubleClick. This happened without the users' knowledge or consent, and (more surprising) without Intuit's knowledge or consent.
Convicted criminal hacker Kevin Mitnick testified before Congress. He told them that social engineering is a major security vulnerability: He can often get passwords and other secrets just by pretending to be someone else and asking. A Gallup poll showed that a third of online consumers said that they might be less likely to make a purchase from a Web site, in light of recent computer-security events. Personal data from customers who ordered the P1ayStation 2 from the Sony Web site were accidentally leaked to some other customers. (This is actually a rampant problem on all sorts of sites. People try to check out, only to be presented with the information of another random Web customer.)
Amazon.com pays commissions to third-party Web sites for referrals. Someone found a way to subvert the program that manages this, enabling anyone to channel information to whomever. It is unclear whether Amazon considers this a problem. The CIA director denied that the United States engages in economic espionage, but did not go on to deny the existence of the massive intelligence-gathering system called ECHELON.
Pierre-Guy Lavoie, 22, was convicted in Quebec of breaking into several Canadian and U.S. government computers. He will serve 12 months in prison.
Japan's Defense Agency delayed deployment of a new defense computer system after it discovered that the software had been developed by the members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult.
A new e-mail worm, called Pretty Park, spread across the Internet. It's a minor modification of one that appeared last year. It spreads automatically, by sending itself to all the addresses listed in a user's Outlook Express program.
Novell and Microsoft continued to exchange barbs about an alleged security bug with Windows 2000's Active Directory. Whether or not this is a real problem depends on what kind of security properties you expect from your directory. (I believe it's a design flaw in Windows, and not a bug.)
Two people in Sicily (Giuseppe Russo and his wife, Sandra Elazar) were arrested after stealing about 1,000 U.S. credit card numbers on the Internet and using them to purchase luxury goods and lottery tickets.
A hacker (actually a bored teenager) known as "Coolio" denied launching massive denial-of-service attacks in February 2000. He admitted to hacking into about 100 sites in the past, including cryptography company RSA Security and a site belonging to the US. State Department.
Attackers launched a denial-of-service attack against Microsoft's Israeli Web site. Jonathan Bosanac, a.k.a. "The Gatsby," was sentenced to 18 months in prison for hacking into three telephone company sites...
Read a Sample Chapter
So who is threatening the digital world anyway? Hackers? Criminals? Child pornographers? Governments? The adversaries are the same as they are in the physical world: common criminals looking for financial gain, industrial spies looking for a competitive advantage, hackers looking for secret knowledge, military-intelligence agencies looking for, well, military intelligence. People haven't changed; it's just that cyberspace is a new place to ply their trades.
We can categorize adversaries in several ways: objectives, access, resources, expertise, and risk.
Adversaries have varying objectives: raw damage, financial gain, information, and so on. This is important. The objectives of an industrial spy are different from the objectives of an organized-crime syndicate, and the countermeasures that stop the former might not even faze the latter. Understanding the objectives of likely attackers is the first step toward figuring out what countermeasures are going to be effective.
Adversaries have different levels of access; for example, an insider has much more access than someone outside the organization. Adversaries also have access to different levels of resources: some are well funded; others operate on a shoestring. Some have considerable technical expertise; others have none.
Different adversaries are willing to tolerate different levels of risk. Terrorists are often happy to die for their cause. Criminals are willing to risk jail time, but probably don't want to sacrifice themselves to the higher calling of bank robbery. Publicity seekers don't want to go to jail.
A wealthy adversary is the most flexible, since he can trade his resources for other things. He can gain access by paying off an insider, and expertise by buying technology or hiring experts (maybe telling them the truth, maybe hiring them under false pretenses). He can also trade money for risk by executing a more sophisticated--and therefore more expensive--attack.
The rational adversary--not all adversaries are sane, but most are rational within their frames of reference--will choose an attack that gives him a good return on investment, considering his budget constraints: expertise, access, manpower, time, and risk. Some attacks require a lot of access but not much expertise: a car bomb, for example. Some attacks require a lot of expertise but no access: breaking an encryption algorithm, for example. Each adversary is going to have set of attacks that is affordable to him, and a set of attacks that isn't. If the adversary is paying attention, he will choose the attack that minimizes his cost and maximizes his benefits.
The word hacker has several definitions, ranging from a corporate system administrator adept enough to figure out how computers really work to an ethically inept teenage criminal who cackles like Beavis and Butthead as he trashes your network. The word has been co-opted by the media and stripped of its meaning. It used to be a compliment; then it became an insult. Lately, people seem to like "cracker" for the bad guys, and "hacker" for the good guys. I define a hacker as an individual who experiments with the limitations of systems for intellectual curiosity or sheer pleasure; the word describes a person with a particular set of skills and not a particular set of morals. There are good hackers and bad hackers, just as there are good plumbers and bad plumbers. (There are also good bad hackers, and bad good hackers . . . but never mind that.)
Hackers are as old as curiosity, although the term itself is modern. Galileo was a hacker. Mme. Curie was one, too. Aristotle wasn't. (Aristotle had some theoretical proof that women had fewer teeth than men. A hacker would have simply counted his wife s teeth. A good hacker would have counted his wife s teeth without her knowing about it, while she was asleep. A good bad hacker might remove some of them, just to prove a point.)
When I was in college, I knew a group similar to hackers: the key freaks. They wanted access, and their goal was to have key to every lock on campus. They would study lockpicking and learn new techniques, trade maps of the steam tunnels and where they led, and exchange copies of keys with each other. A locked door was a challenge, a personal affront to their ability. These people weren't out to do damage--stealing stuff wasn t their objective--although they certainly could have. Their hobby was the power to go anywhere they wanted to.
Remember the phone phreaks of yesteryear, the ones who could whistle into payphones and make free phone calls. Sure, they stole phone service. But it wasn't like they needed to make eight-hour calls to Manila or McMurdo. And their real work was secret knowledge: The phone network was a vast maze of information. They wanted to know the system better than the designers, and they wanted the ability to modify it to their will. Understanding how the phone system worked--that was the true prize. Other early hackers were ham-radio hobbyists and model-train enthusiasts.
Richard Feynman was a hacker; read any of his books.
Computer hackers follow these evolutionary lines. Or, they are the same genus operating on a new system. Computers, and networks in particular, re the new landscape to be explored. Networks provide the ultimate maze of steam tunnels, where a new hacking technique becomes a key that can open computer after computer. And inside is knowledge, understanding. Access. How things work. Why things work. It s all out there, waiting to be discovered.
Today's computer hackers are stereotypically young (twenty- something and younger) , male, and socially on the fringe. They have their own counterculture: hacker names or handles, lingo, rules. And like any subculture, only a small percentage of hackers are actually smart. The real hackers have an understanding of technology at a basic level, and are driven by desire to understand. The rest are talentless poseurs and hangers-on, either completely inept or basic criminals. Sometimes they re called lamers or script kiddies.
Hackers can have considerable expertise, often greater than that of the system's original designers. I ve heard lots of security lectures, and the most savvy speakers are the hackers. For them, it's a passion. Hackers look at a system from the outside as an attacker, not from the inside as a designer. They look at the system as an organism, as a coherent whole. And they often understand the attacks better than the people who designed the systems. The real hackers, that is.
Hackers generally have lot of time, but few financial resources. (Put one of them to work at a big company, and that will change.) Some of them are risk verse and tread gingerly around the edges of the law, but others have no fear of prosecution and engage in illegal activities with no consideration of the risk involved.
There are hacker newsgroups, hacker Web sites and hacker conventions. Hackers often trade attacks and automated attacking tools among themselves. There are different hacker groups (or gangs, if you are less kind), but there is no hierarchy. You can't galvanize the hacker community against a particular target; hackers go after what they can. Often they ll hack something because it's widely deployed, interesting, or because the target "deserves" it.
Unfortunately, much of what hackers do is illegal. I'm not talking about the few who work in research environments, who evaluate the security of systems in laboratory settings, and who publish analyses of products and systems. I'm talking about the hackers who break into other people's networks, deface Web pages, crash computers, spread viruses, and write automatic programs that let other people do these things. These people are criminals, and society needs to treat them as such.
I don't buy the defense that a hacker just broke in a system to look around, and didn't do any damage. Some systems are frangible, and simply looking around can inadvertently cause damage. And once an unauthorized person has been inside a system, you can t trust its integrity. You don't know that the intruder didn't touch anything.
Imagine that you come home to find a note on your refrigerator door saying: "Hi. I noticed that you had a lousy front door lock, so I broke in. I didn't touch anything. You really should get a better security system." How would you feel?
The problem starts with the hackers who write hacking tools. These are programs--sometimes called exploits or--that automate the process of breaking into systems. An example is the Trin00 distributed denial-of-service tool. Thousands of servers h ve been brought down because of this attack, and it s caused legitimate companies millions of dollars in time and effort to recover from. It's one thing to research the vulnerability of the Internet against this type of attack, and to write a research paper about defending against it. It's another thing entirely to write program that automates the attack.
The Trin00 exploit serves no conceivable purpose other than to attack systems. Gun owners can argue self-defense, but Internet servers don t break into anyone's house at night. It's actually much worse, because once an exploit is written and made vailable, ny wannabe hacker can download it and attack computers on the Internet. He doesn t even have to know how it works. (See why they re called script kiddies?) Trin00 attacks were popular in early 2000 because the exploit was vailable. If it weren't--even if a research paper were available--none of the script kiddies would be able to exploit the vulnerability.
Certainly the lamers that use Trin00 to attack systems are criminals. I believe the person who wrote the exploit is, too. A fine line exists between writing code to demonstrate research and publishing attack tools; between hacking for good and hacking as a criminal activity. I will get back to this in Chapter 22.
Most organizations are wary about hiring hackers, nd rightfully so. There are exceptions--the NSA offering scholarships to hackers willing to work at Fort Meade, Israeli intelligence hiring Jewish hackers from the United States, Washington offering security fellowships--and some hackers have gone on to form upstanding and professional security companies. Recently, handful of consulting companies have sprung up to whitewash hackers and present them in a more respectable light. And sometimes this works, but for many people it can be hard to tell the ethical hackers from the criminals.
In April 1993, small group of criminals wheeled a Fujitsu model 7020 automated teller machine into the Buckland Hills Mall in Hartford, Connecticut, and turned it on. The machine was specially programmed to accept ATM cards from customers, record their account numbers and PINs, and then tell the unfortunate consumers that no transactions were possible. A few days later, the gang encoded the stolen account numbers and PINs onto counterfeit ATM cards, and started withdrawing cash from ATMs in midtown Manhattan. They were eventually caught when the bank correlated the use of the counterfeit ATM cards with routine surveillance films.
It was a shrewd attack, and much higher tech than most banking crimes. One innovative criminal in New Jersey attached a fake night deposit box to a bank wall, and took it way early in the morning. It's worse elsewhere. A few years ago, an ATM was stolen in South Africa . . . from inside police headquarters in broad daylight.
Lone criminals cause the bulk of computer-related crimes. Sometimes they are insiders who notice a flaw in a system and decide to exploit it; other times they work outside the system. They usually don't have much money, access, or expertise, and they often get caught because of stupid mistakes. Someone might be smart enough to install fake ATM and collect account numbers and PINs, but if he brags about his cleverness in a bar and gets himself arrested before cleaning out all the accounts . . . well, it s hard to have ny sympathy for him. Look at the two public Internet attacks of early 2000. Someone manages to gain access to over ten thousand credit card numbers, with names and addresses. The best crime he can think of to do: extortion. Someone else manages to control a large number of distributed computers, ready to do his bidding. The best crime he can think of: irritate major Web sites.
Lone criminals will target commerce systems because that's where the money is. Their techniques may lack elegance, but they will steal money, and they will cost even more money to catch and prosecute. And there will be a lot of them.
A malicious insider is a dangerous and insidious adversary. He's already inside the system he wants to attack, so he can ignore any perimeter defenses around the system. He probably has a high level of access, and could be considered trusted by the system he is attacking. Remember the Russian spy Aldrich Ames? He was in a perfect position within the CIA to sell the names of U. S. operatives living in Eastern Europe to the KGB; he was trusted with their names. Think about a programmer writing malicious code into the payroll database program to give himself raise every six months. Or the bank vault guard purposely missetting the time lock to give his burglar friends easy access. Insiders can be impossible to stop because they're the exact same people you're forced to trust.
Here's a canonical insider attack. In 1978, Stanley Mark Rifkin was a consultant at a major bank. He used his insider knowledge of (and access to) the money transfer system to move several million dollars into a Swiss account, and then to convert that money into diamonds. He also programmed the computer system to automatically erase the backup tapes that contained evidence of his crime. (He would have gotten away with it, except that he bragged to his lawyer, who turned him in.)
Insiders don't always attack a system; sometimes they subvert system for their own ends. In 1991, employees at Charles Schwab in San Francisco used the company's e-mail system to buy and sell cocaine. A convicted child rapist working in a Boston-area hospital stole a co-worker's password, paged through confidential patient records, and made obscene phone calls.
Insiders are not necessarily employees. They can be consultants and contractors. During the Y2K scare, many companies hired programmers from China and India to update old software. Rampant xenophobia aside, ny of those programmers could have attacked the systems as an insider.
Most computer security measures--firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and so on--try to deal with the external attacker, but are pretty much powerless against insiders. Insiders might be less likely to attack system than outsiders are, but systems are far more vulnerable to them.
An insider knows how the systems work and where the weak points are. He knows the organizational structure, and how any investigation against his actions would be conducted. He may already be trusted by the system he is going to attack. An insider can use the system's own resources against itself. In extreme cases the insider might have considerable expertise, especially if he was involved in the design of the systems he is now attacking.
Revenge, financial gain, institutional change, or even publicity can motivate insiders. They generally also fit into another of the categories: a hacker, lone criminal, or a national intelligence agent. Malicious insiders can have risk tolerance ranging from low to high, depending on whether they are motivated by a "higher purpose" or simple greed.
Of course, insider attacks aren't new, and the problem is bigger than cyberspace. If the e-mail system hadn t been there, the Schwab employees might have used the telephone system, or fax machines, or maybe even paper mail.
Business is war. Well, it s kind of like war, but it has referees. The referees establish the rules--what is legal and what isn't--and do their best to enforce them. Sometimes, if business has enough money and clout, it can petition to the referees and get the rules changed. Usually, it just plays within them.
The line where investigative techniques stop being legal and start being illegal is where competitive intelligence stops and industrial espionage starts. The line moves from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but there are gross generalities. Breaking into a competitor s office and stealing files is always illegal (even for Richard Nixon); looking them up in news article database is always legal. Bribing their senior engineers is illegal; hiring them is legal. Hiring them and having them bring a copy of the competitor's source code is illegal. Pretending to want to hire their senior engineers so that you can interview them . . . that's legal, pretty sleazy, and really clever.
Industrial espionage attacks have precise motivations: to gain an advantage over the competition by stealing competitors trade secrets. In one public example, Borland accused Symantec of stealing trade secrets via a departing executive. In another case, Cadence Design Systems filed suit against competitor Avant! for, among other things, stealing source code. In 1999, online bookseller Alibris pled guilty to eavesdropping on Amazon. com corporate e-mail. Companies from China, France, Russia, Israel, the United States, and elsewhere have stolen technology secrets from foreign competitors.
Industrial espionage can be well-funded; an amoral but rational company will devote enough resources toward industrial espionage to achieve an acceptable return on investment. Even if stealing a rival's technology costs you half a million dollars, it could be one-tenth the cost of developing the technology yourself. (Ever wonder why the Russian Space Shuttle looks a whole lot like the U. S. Space Shuttle?) This kind of adversary has a medium risk tolerance because a company's reputation (an intangible but valuable item) will be damaged considerably if it is caught spying on the competition but--desperate times can bring desperate measures.
Think of the press as a subspecies of industrial spy, but with different motivations. The press isn't interested in a competitive advantage over its targets; it is interested in a "newsworthy" story. This would be the Washington City Pages publishing the video rental records of Judge Bork ( which led to the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988), the British tabloids publishing private phone conversations between Prince Charles and Camilla P rker Bowles, or a newspaper doing an exposé on this company or that government agency.
It can be worth a lot of newspaper sales to get pictures of a presidential candidate like Gary Hart with a not-his-wife on his lap. Even marginally compromising photographs of Princess Di were worth over half a million dollars. Some reporters have said that they would not think twice about publishing national security secrets; they believe the public's right to know comes first.
In many countries, the free press is viewed as a criminal. In such countries, the press is usually not well funded, and generally more the victim of attack than the attacker. Journalists have gone to jail, been tortured, and have even been killed for daring to speak against the ruling government. This is not what I mean by the press as an attacker.
In industrial countries with reasonable freedoms, the press can bring considerable resources to bear on attacking a particular system or target. They can be well funded; they can hire experts and gain access. And if they believe their motivations are true, they can tolerate risk. (Certainly the reporters who broke the Watergate story fall into this category. ) Reporters in the United States and other countries have gone to jail to protect what they believe is right. Some have even died for it.
Organized crime is a lot more than Italian Mafia families and Francis Ford Coppola movies. It's a global business. Russian crime syndicates operate both in Russia and in the United States. Asian crime syndicates operate both at home and abroad. Colombian drug cartels are also international. Nigerian and other West African syndicates have captured 70 percent of the Chicago heroin market. Polish gangsters run an elaborate car theft operation, stealing cars in the United States and shipping them back to Poland. Of course, there are turf battles between rival gangs, but there is a lot of international cooperation, too.
Organized crime s core competencies haven't changed much this century: drugs, prostitution, loan sharking, extortion, fraud, and gambling. And they use technology in two ways. First, it's a new venue for crime. They use hacking tools to break into bank computers and steal money; they steal cell phone IDs and resell them; they engage in computer fraud. Identity theft is a growth area; Chinese gangs are industry leaders here. Certainly electronic theft is more profitable: One big Chicago bank lost $60,000 in 1996 to bank robbers, and $60 million to check-related fraud.
The mob also uses computers to assist its core businesses. Illegal gambling is easier to run: Cell phones allow bookies to operate from anywhere, and hair-trigger computers can erase all evidence within seconds of a raid. And money laundering is increasingly a business of computers and electronic funds transfers: moving money from one account to another to a third, changing ownership of accounts, disguising the money's origins, moving it through countries that keep less detailed records.
In terms of risk, organized crime is what you get when you combine lone criminals with a lot of money and organization. These guys know that you have to spend money to make money, and are willing to invest in profitable attacks against a financial system. They have minimal expertise, but can purchase it. They have minimal access, but they can purchase it. They often have higher risk tolerance than lone criminals; the pecking order of the crime syndicate often forces those in the lower ranks to take greater risks, and the protection afforded by the syndicate makes the risks more tolerable.
You can think of the police as kind of like a national intelligence organization, except that they are less well funded, less technically savvy, and focused on crimefighting. Understand, though, that depending on how benevolent the country is and whether or not they hold occasional democratic elections, crimefighting could cover a whole lot of things not normally associated with law enforcement. Maybe they're more like the press, but with better funding and a readership that only cares about true crime stories. Or maybe you can think of them as organized crime's industrial competitor.
In any case, police have a reasonable amount of funding and expertise. They re pretty risk averse--no cop wants to die for his beliefs--but since they have the laws on their side, things that are risks to some groups can be less risky to the police. (Having a warrant issued, for example, turns eavesdropping from a risky attack to a valid evidence-gathering tool.) Their primary goal is information gathering, with information that stands up in court being more useful than information that doesn't.
But police aren't above breaking the law. The fundamental assumption is that we trust the individual or some government to respect our privacy and to only use their powers wisely. While this is true most of the time, buses are regular and can be pretty devastating. A spate of illegal FBI wiretaps in Florida and a subsequent cover-up got some press in 1992; the 150 or so illegal wiretaps by the Los Angeles Police Department have gotten more. (Drugs were involved, of course; more than one person has pointed out that the war on drugs seems to be the root password to the U.S. Constitution.) J. Edgar Hoover regularly used illegal wiretaps to keep tabs on his enemies. And 25 years ago a sitting president used illegal wiretaps in an attempt to stay in power.
Things seem to have improved since the days of Hoover and Nixon, and I have many reasons to hope we won't be back there again. But the risk remains. Technology moves slowly, but intentions change quickly. Even if we are sure today that the police will follow all privacy legislation, eavesdrop only when necessary, obtain all necessary warrants, follow proper minimization procedures, and generally behave like upstanding public servants, we don't know about tomorrow. The same kind of reactive crisis thinking that led us to persecute suspected Communists during the McCarthy era could again sweep across the country. Census data is, by law, not supposed to be used for any other purpose. Even so, it was used during World War II to round up Japanese Americans and put them in concentration camps. The eerily named "Mississippi Sovereignty Commission" spied on thousands of civil rights activists in the 1960s. The FBI used illegal wiretaps to spy on Martin Luther King, Jr. A national public-key infrastructure could be a precursor to national registration of cryptography. Once the technology is in place, there will always be the temptation to use it. And it is poor civic hygiene to install technologies that could someday facilitate a police state.
This category is a catchall for a broad range of ideological groups and individuals, both domestic and international. There s no attempt to make moral judgments here: One person s terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. Terrorist groups are usually motivated by geopolitics or (even worse) ethnoreligion--Hezbollah, Red Brigade, Shining Path, Tamil Tigers, IRA, ETA, FLNC, PKK, UCK--but can also be motivated by moral and ethical beliefs, such as those of Earth First and radical antiabortion groups.
These groups are generally more concerned with causing harm than gathering information, so their techniques run more along the lines of denial of service and outright destruction. While their long-term goals are usually something vaguely reasonable, like the reunification of Gondwanaland or the return of all cows to the wild, their near-term goals are things like revenge, chaos, and blood-soaked publicity. Bombings are f vorite; kidnappings also work well. It makes a big international splash when a DC-10 falls out of the sky or an abortion clinic is blown to bits, but eventually these guys will figure out that a lot more damage is done when O'Hare air traffic control starts vectoring planes into each other. Or that if they can hack the airline reservation system to find out which 747 is taking the congressional delegation to the south of France this summer, their bombing will be all that much more effective.
There are actually very few terrorists. Their attacks are acts of war more than anything else, and probably should be in the "infowarrior" category. And since terrorists generally consider themselves to be personally in a state of war, they have a very high risk-tolerance.
Unless they have rich idealist funding their actions, most terrorists operate on a shoestring budget. Most of them are unskilled: "You there. Carry this bag. Walk into the middle of that busy market. Push this button. See you in the glorious afterlife." There are exceptions (some of the organizations in the first paragraph are well-organized, well-trained, and well-supported--it is believed that the counterfeit TV descramblers sold in Ireland helped finance the IRA, for example), but the majority of groups don't have good organization or access. And they tend to make stupid mistakes.
NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ORGANIZATIONS
These are the big boys. The CIA, NSA, DIA, and NRO in the United States (there are others), the KGB (now FAPSI for counter-intelligence and FSB for foreign intelligence) and GRU (military intelligence) in Russia, MI5 (counter-intelligence), MI6 (like the CIA), and GCHQ (like the NSA) in the United Kingdom, DGSE in France, BND in Germany, Ministry of National Security in China (also called the "Technical Department"), Mossad in Israel, CSE in Canada. For most of the other adversaries, this is all a game: break into a Web site, gain some competitive intelligence, steal some money, cause a little mayhem, whatever. For these guys, it's very real.
A major national intelligence organization is the most formidable adversary around. It is extremely well funded, since it is usually considered a branch of the military. ( Although the exact number is a secret, the press reports that "congressional sources" put the combined budgets of the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, NSA, the National Reconnaissance Office, and other federal intelligence agencies as $33.5 billion in 1997.) It is a dedicated and capable adversary, with the funding to buy a whole lot of research, equipment, expertise, and plain old skilled manpower.
On the other hand, major national intelligence organization is usually highly risk verse. National intelligence organizations don't like to see their names on the front page of the New York Times, and generally don't engage in risky activities. ( Exceptions, of course, exist; they re the ones you read about on the front page of the New York Times.) Exposed operations cause several problems. One, they expose the data. National intelligence is based on gathering information that the country should not know. It's eavesdropping on a negotiating position, sneaking a peek at a new weapons system, knowing more than the adversary does. If the adversary learns what the intelligence organization knows, some of the benefit of that knowledge is lost.
Two, and probably more important, botched operations expose techniques, capabilities, and sources. For many years the NSA eavesdropped on Soviet car phones as the Politburo drove around Moscow. Someone leaked information about Khrushchev's health in the newspapers, and suddenly the car phones were encrypted. The newspapers didn't say anything about car phones, but the KGB wasn't stupid. The leak here wasn t that we knew about Khrushchev's health, but that we were listening to their communications. The same thing happened after some terrorists bombed a Berlin disco in 1986. Reagan announced that we had proof of Libya's involvement, compromising the fact that we were ble to eavesdrop on their embassy traffic to and from Tripoli. During World War II, the Allies couldn't use much of the intelligence gleaned from decrypting German Enigma traffic out of fear that the Germans would change their codes.
Intelligence objectives include everything you d normally think about--military information, weapons designs, diplomatic information--and a lot of things you wouldn't. The telephone system is probably a gold mine of intelligence information; so is the Internet. Several national intelligence organizations are actively engaged in industrial espionage (the FBI estimates "up to 20" are targeting U.S. companies) and passing the information gained to rival companies in their own countries. China is the world's worst offender, France and Japan are also bad, and there are others.
The United States is not above this. A 1999 EU report gives several examples, including the following:
- In 1994, the Brazilian government awarded a $1.4 billion contract to Raytheon Corporation, rather than two French companies. Raytheon supposedly altered its bid when it learned of details of the French proposals.
- In 1994, McDonnell Douglas Corporation won a Saudi Arabia contract over Airbus Industrie, supposedly based on inside information passed from U.S. intelligence.
Former CIA director R. James Woosley has admitted using ECHELON information about foreign companies using bribes to win foreign contracts to help "level the playing field," passing the information to U.S. companies and pressuring the foreign governments to stop the bribes. None of this is proven, though. Certainly any company that loses a bid is going to look for reasons why it wasn't its fault, and none of the "victims" have said anything in public. Still, the possibilities are disturbing.
And this kind of stuff is even worse in cyberspace. ECHELON is not the only program that targets the Internet. Singapore and China eavesdrop on Internet traffic in their countries (China uses its national firewall, the Great Wall) . Internet service providers across Russia are helping the main KGB successor agencies to read private e-mails and other Internet traffic, as part of an internal espionage program called SORM-2.
National intelligence organizations are not above using hacker tools, or even hackers, to do their work. The Israeli and Japanese governments both have programs to bring hackers into their country, feed them pizza and Jolt Cola, and have them do intelligence work. Other governments go onto the Net and taunt hackers, trying to get them to work for free. "If you re so good you ll have the password to this government computer"--that sort of thing works well if directed against a talented teenager with no self-esteem. The Cuckoo's Egg by Clifford Stoll is about the exploits of three hackers who worked for the KGB in exchange for cash and cocaine.
The techniques of national security agencies are varied and, with the full weight of a nation behind them, can be very effective. British communications security companies have been long rumored to build exploitable features into their encryption products, at the request of British intelligence. In 1997, CIA director George Tenet mentioned (in passing, without details) using hacker tools and techniques to disrupt international money transfers and other financial activities of Arab businessmen who support terrorists. The possibilities are endless.
Yes, it's a buzzword. But it s also real. An infowarrior is a military adversary who tries to undermine his target s ability to wage war by attacking the information or network infrastructure. Specific attacks range from subtly modifying systems so that they don't work (or don't work correctly) to blowing up the systems completely. The attacks could be covert, in which case they might resemble terrorist attacks (although good infowarrior cares less about publicity than results). If executed via the Internet, the attacks could originate from foreign soil, making detection and retaliation much more difficult.
This adversary has all the resources of a national intelligence organization, but differs in two important areas. One, he focuses almost exclusively on the short-term goal of affecting his target s ability to wage war. And two, he is willing to tolerate risks that would be intolerable to long-term intelligence interests. His objectives are military advantage and, more generally, chaos. Some of the particular targets that might interest an infowarrior include military command and control facilities, telecommunications, logistics and supply facilities and infrastructure ("think commercial information systems"), and transportation lines ("think commercial aviation"). These kinds of targets are called critical infrastructure.
In 1999, NATO targeted Belgrade s electric plants; this had profound effects on its computing resources. In retaliation, Serbian hackers attacked hundreds of U.S. and NATO computer sites. Chinese hackers crashed computers in the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy, and the U.S. embassy in Beijing in retaliation for our accidental bombing of their embassy in Belgrade. China and Taiwan engaged in a little cyberwar through most of 1999, attacking each other's computers over the Internet (although this was probably not government coordinated on either side).
In the past, military and civilian systems were separate and distinct: different hardware, different communications protocols, different everything. Over the past decade, this has shifted; advances in technology are coming too fast for the military's traditional multiyear procurement cycle. More and more, commercial computer systems are being used for military applications. This means that all of the vulnerabilities and attacks that work against commercial computers may work against militaries. And both sides of a conflict may be using the same equipment and protocols: TCP/IP, Windows operating systems, GPS satellite receivers. The U.S. Air Force s Strategic Air Command (SAC) recently switched to Windows NT on its external networks.
Militaries have waged war on infrastructure ever since they started waging war. Medieval knights killed serfs, Napoleonic armies burned crops, Allied bombers targeted German factories during World War II. (Ball bearing factories were favorite.) Today, information is infrastructure. During Desert Storm, the Americans systematically destroyed Iraq's command and control infrastructure. Communications systems were jammed; individual communications cables were bombing targets. Without command and control, the ground troops were all but useless. The media hype surrounding infowar is embarrassing, but the militaries of the world are taking this seriously. Here is a quote from the Chinese Army newspaper, Jiefangjun Bao, a summary of speeches delivered in May 1996:
After the Gulf War, when everyone was looking forward to eternal peace, new military revolution emerged. This revolution is essentially a transformation from the mechanized warfare of the industrial age to the information warfare of the information age. Information warfare is a war of decisions and control, war of knowledge, and war of intellect. The aim of information warfare will be gradually changed from preserving oneself and wiping out the enemy to "preserving oneself and controlling the opponent." Information warfare includes electronic warfare, tactical deception, strategic deterrence, propaganda warfare, psychological warfare, network warfare, and structural sabotage. Under today's technological conditions, the "all conquering stratagems" of Sun Tzu more than two millennia ago--"vanquishing the enemy without fighting" and subduing the enemy by "soft strike" or "soft destruction"--could finally be truly realized.
War isn't necessarily a major conflict like World War II or the oft-feared United States versus USSR, Armageddon. More likely, it is "low-intensity conflict": Desert Storm, the Argentine invasion of the Falklands, civil war in Rwanda. In The Transformation of War, Martin van Creveld points out that so-called low-intensity conflicts have been the dominant form of warfare since World War II, killing over 20 million people worldwide. This shift is a result of two main trends. One, it is easier for smaller groups to lay their hands on weapons of mass destruction: chemical weapons, biological weapons, long-range missiles, and so forth. Two, more nonnation states are capable of waging war. In fact, the distinction between nation and nonnation states is blurring. Organized crime groups are merging with government at various levels in countries such as Mexico, Colombia, and Russia. Infowarriors don't all work for major industrial nations. Increasingly, they work for minor political powers.