China says most cyberattacks against its infrastructure come from the U.S.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | MARCH 20, 2013

China also has its own proof that the United States is the main threat to its infrastructure, or so they say.

A Chinese official report states that many of the cyber attacks against China come from the United States and that the threat to the cyber security of its websites is “growing”.

According to the report, which echoes the official report cited by Xinhua news agency last year, says that hackers attacked 16,388 Chinese websites, including 1802 pages that belong to the government. This numbers, says the report, represent an increase of 21.5 and 6.1 percent year on year, respectively.

The research, conducted by the National Coordination Center for Emergency Response (CNCERT), also states that in 2012 nearly 73,000 foreign IP addresses attacked about 14.2 million Chinese servers with computer viruses like “Trojan” or “botnet”, and that these activities came, in large part from the U.S..

The same agency said it detected 22,308 phishing sites, the majority (96.2%) from foreign servers, especially the U.S. (83.2%).

CNCERT further indicates that the cyber security risks increase with the application of new technologies such as computer services in the cloud, that as they stress, complicate the fight against cyber attacks.

Therefore, the report urged Chinese institutions to increase research efforts to improve cybersecurity protection for nearly 600 million Chinese Internet users, the world’s largest community.

China and the U.S. spent months locked in a campaign of mutual accusations of cyber espionage.

Last February, a report by a U.S. company specializing in Internet security reported that many of the cyber attacks against the U.S. have their origin in a Chinese army unit.

Beijing categorically denied the charge adding that it is also the victim of numerous attacks, which have increased over the years and most of them are from the North American country.

In his first press conference as Prime Minister of China, Li Keqiang, argued that the government “does not support the hacking” and described as “baseless” U.S. allegations that the Chinese government had any involvement in the attempts to hack into American infrastructure.

On 19 February, a report by the U.S.-based company Mandiant accused the Chinese military of being behind a series of cyber attacks against businesses, institutions and infrastructure in the U.S.. That was not the first time that China received accusations of this type, although the novelty at that time was that the report localized in detail the origins of the attacks. According to Mandiant, a Chinese army building in a suburb of Shanghai was responsible for most if not all of the attacks.

Obama confirmed Internet power grab during State of the Union address

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | FEBRUARY 14, 2013

President Barack Obama announced during his State of the Union that he has signed an executive order to ensure national security against possible cyber attacks. According to Obama, the United States has undergone several rounds of attacks directed to private companies and public infrastructure, declared in 2009 as “strategic assets” whose protection is a “national priority”.

“The United States must also address the real and growing threat of cyber attacks,” said the president during his speech. “We know that hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private emails. We know that foreign companies subtract our secrets. And our enemies seek the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions and our systems air traffic control, ” Obama fear-mongered in Congress.

Several U.S. officials claimed in recent months that their systems and facilities have suffered cyber attacks and that any of them could become “the next Pearl Harbor” in the words of then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

The executive order identified “critical infrastructure” such as systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital that its incapacitation or destruction could have a debilitating impact on national security, economic, health, or a combination of these “.

In response, the executive order includes measures to clarify the relationships of different sectors of the federal government, which supposedly would ensure and improve the security of infrastructure, facilitate the exchange of information between authorities and companies and create a plan that identifies the infrastructure that is more vulnerable in the event of an attack.

In simple words, the executive order signed by Obama codified the nationalization of all relevant infrastructure which will now be under the control of the Executive. It also legitimizes, at least in the eyes of the federal government, the exchange of private information from internet users, which the government has gathered for years. This will enable the Feds to avoid liability in the event an individual or a company denounces unwarranted government spying.

U.S. fears the consequences of a possible attack on its transmission system or electricity and has admitted they already have evidence that “intruders have gained access to control systems” of various infrastructures. A few weeks ago, several media outlets claimed having fought against the intrusion of Chinese hackers. No one has independently confirmed any of the these claims.

The Obama administration argues that any such attacks would be treated as an “act of war”. The executive order signed Tuesday by the President establishes coordination of various sectors of government, among them, defense, homeland security and anti-terror, but does not specify the methods of response to potential threats. It doesn’t explain how the government will go about gathering information from private companies or individuals.

As Obama said, the new “cyber defenses” will increase the exchange of information and develop standards “to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.” However, the president also urged Congress to pass legislation that goes even further: “They must also act, passing laws that give our government a greater ability to protect our networks and deter attacks.”

The Government believes that ensuring safety is a shared responsibility between the authorities and companies that often manage internet infrastructure, the networks accessed by citizens, the telephone network, electricity and water supply. To do this, the order provides for the creation of a ‘voluntary program’ in which private companies and government share information about vulnerabilities in their systems and possible threats, so that they can better protect themselves. Note the term voluntary, because it will be voluntary for now. Later, the government will claim that any measures taken somehow worked to perfection before making compliance mandatory.

The executive order also requires that this information be shared “in an appropriate time” and expands the existing cybersecurity program that enabled government to share data on ‘potential threats’ in real time. This data exchange sparked criticism in the private sector, considering that there were not enough guarantees to provide their data to the Government.

The private sector and everyone else do have reason to be concerned, because the latest executive order will do for the web’s infrastructure what it did to healthcare, industry and the economy: it will turn them all into the hands of the federal government. It is a continuation of the process to fully install a Marxist regime in the United States.

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Cyberwar 2.0: DARPA’s Plan X to Attack the Web

By NOAH SHACHTMAN | WIRED | AUGUST 24, 2012

The Pentagon’s top research arm is unveiling a new, classified cyberwarfare project. But it’s not about building the next Stuxnet, Darpa swears. Instead, the just-introduced “Plan X” is designed to make online strikes a more routine part of U.S. military operations. That will make the son of Stuxnet easier to pull off — to, as Darpa puts it, “dominate the cyber battlespace.”

Darpa spent years backing research that could shore up the nation’s cyberdefenses. “Plan X” is part of a growing and fairly recent push into offensive online operations by the Pentagon agency largely responsible for the internet’s creation. In recent months, everyone from the director of Darpa on down has pushed the need to improve — and normalize — America’s ability to unleash cyberattacks against its foes.

That means building tools to help warplanners assemble and launch online strikes in a hurry. It means, under Plan X, figuring out ways to assess the damage caused by a new piece of friendly military malware before it’s unleashed. And it means putting together a sort of digital battlefield map that allows the generals to watch the fighting unfold, as former Darpa acting director Ken Gabriel told the Washington Post: “a rapid, high-order look of what the Internet looks like — of what the cyberspace looks like at any one point in time.”

It’s not quite the same as building the weapons themselves, as Darpa notes in its introduction to the five-year, $100 million effort, issued on Monday: “The Plan X program is explicitly not funding research and development efforts in vulnerability analysis or cyberweapon generation.” (Emphasis in the original.)

But it is certainly a complementary campaign. A classified kick-off meeting for interested researchers in scheduled for Sept. 20.

The American defense and intelligence establishment has been reluctant at times to authorize network attacks, for fear that their effects could spread far beyond the target computers. On the eve of the Iraq invasion of 2003, for instance, the Bush administration made plans for a massive online strike on Baghdad’s financial system before discarding the idea out of collateral damage concerns.

It’s not the only factor holding back such operations. U.S. military chiefs like National Security Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander have publicly expressed concern that America may not be able to properly respond to a national-level attack unless they’re given pre-defined battle plans and “standing rules of engagement” that would allow them to launch a counterstrike “at net speed.” Waiting more than a few moments might hurt the American ability to respond at all, these officers say.

“Plan X” aims to solve both problems simultaneously, by automatically constructing mission plans that are as easy to execute as “the auto-pilot function in modern aircraft,” but contain “formal methods to provably quantify the potential battle damage from each synthesized mission plan.”

Then, once the plan is launched, Darpa would like to have machines running on operating systems that can withstand the rigors of a full-blown online conflict: “hardened ‘battle units’ that can perform cyberwarfare functions such as battle damage monitoring, communication relay, weapon deployment, and adaptive defense.”

The ability to operate in dangerous areas, pull potential missions off-the-shelf, and assess the impact of attacks — these are all commonplace for air, sea, and land forces today. The goal of Plan X is to give network-warfare troops the same tools. “To get it to the point where it’s a part of routine military operations,” explains Jim Lewis, a long-time analyst of online operations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Of course, many critics of U.S. policy believe the deployment of cyberweapons is already too routine. America’s online espionage campaign against Iran has been deeply controversial, both at home and abroad. The Russian government and its allies believe that cyberweapons ought to be banned by international treaty. Here in the U.S., there’s a fear that, by unleashing Stuxnet and other military-grade malware, the Obama administration legitimized such attacks as a tool of statecraft — and invited other nations to strike our fragile infrastructure.

The Darpa effort is being lead, fittingly, by a former hacker and defense contractor. Daniel Roelker helped start the intrusion detection company Sourcefire and the DC Black Ops unit of Raytheon SI Government Solutions. In a November 2011 presentation (.pdf), Roelker decried the current, “hacker vs. hacker” approach to online combat. It doesn’t scale well — there are only so many technically skilled people — and it’s limited in how fast it can be executed. “We don’t win wars by out-hiring an adversary, we win through technology,” he added.

Instead, Roelker continued, the U.S. needs a suite of tools to analyze the network, automate the execution of cyberattacks, and be sure of the results. At the time, he called these the “Pillars of Foundational Cyberwarfare.” Now, it’s simply known as Plan X.

From Physical Fear mongering to Cyber Fear mongering

United States Cyber Command “warns” about cyber Armageddon.

Ask yourself, who has the power to carry out vast cyber attacks? Right, those who control cyber space.

by Bill Gertz
Washington Times
September 14, 2011

The general in charge of U.S. cyber warfare forces said Tuesday that future computer-based combat likely will involve electronic strikes that cause widespread power outages and even physical destruction of thousand-ton machines.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of the new U.S. Cyber Command, also said that massive losses of private and public data in recent years to computer criminals and spies represent the largest theft in history.

Threats posed by cyber-attacks on computer networks and the Internet are escalating from large-scale theft of data and strikes designed to disrupt computer operations to more lethal attacks that destroy entire systems and physical equipment.

“That’s our concern about what’s coming in cyberspace — a destructive element,” Gen. Alexander, who is also the director of the National Security Agency, the electronic spying agency, said in a speech at a conference on cyber warfare.

Gen. Alexander said two cases illustrate what could happen in an attack.

The first was the August 2003 electrical power outage in the Northeast U.S. that was caused by a tree damaging two high-voltage power lines. Electrical power-grid software that controlled the distribution of electricity to millions of people improperly entered “pause” mode and shut down all power through several states.

The example highlighted the threat of sophisticated cyber warfare attackers breaking into electrical grid networks and using the access to shut down power.

“You can quickly see that there are ways now to get in and mess with [electrical] power if you have access to it,” he said.

The second example was the catastrophic destruction of a water-driven electrical generator at Russia’s Sayano-Shushenskaya dam, near the far eastern city of Cheremushki, in August 2009.

Gen. Alexander said one of the dam’s 10 650-megawatt hydroturbine generators, weighing more than 1,000 tons, was being serviced and, by mistake, was remotely restarted by a computer operator 500 miles away. The generator began spinning and rose 50 feet into the air before exploding. The flood caused by the accident killed 75 people and destroyed eight of the remaining nine turbines.

A similar deliberate attack remains a huge problem, Gen. Alexander said, saying that destruction by cyber-attacks was outranked only by nuclear bombs or other weapons of mass destruction.

In developing cyber warfare strategies, Gen. Alexander said, the U.S. will respond to computer-based attacks as it will to other attacks. The government is adopting what he termed an “active defense” strategy aimed at bolstering the readiness of computer networks to respond.

The Pentagon’s cyberstrategy announced last summer calls for treating the cyberdomain as equal to the air, land, sea and space domains and leveraging U.S. technology to improve cyberdefenses for government and the private sector.

On information theft, Gen. Alexander said the problem is so pervasive that there are two categories for major companies: firms that are aware they have been hacked and the rest who remain unaware of the problem.

“What’s been going on over the last few years in the networks … is the greatest theft that we’ve seen in history,” he said. “What we’re losing in intellectual property is astounding.”

The four-star general said estimates of the value of lost corporate and government information range as high as $1 trillion. In one recent case, a U.S. corporation that he did not identify by name lost $1 billion worth of proprietary technology that was “stolen by the adversaries.” The technology took the company more than 20 years to develop.

The problem is “on a massive scale that affects every industry and every sector of the economy and government, and it’s one that we have to get out in front of,” he said.

Recent attacks on corporate computer networks include Sony’s system that affected 7.7 million video users in April and a second incident affecting 2.5 million users in May. Google, defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and the security company RSA also were targets of sophisticated computer attacks.

In May 2007, computer networks in Estonia were disabled by computer operatives from neighboring Russia.

“They had to disconnect their international connections to stop these attacks after several days. It was huge and greatly impacted Estonia,” Gen. Alexander said.

Asked about conducting offensive operations, Gen. Alexander said that current cyberdefenses are “far from adequate” and that more needs to be done before adopting more offensive tools.

“In cyber, we have not solved the defensive portion,” he said. “From my perspective, there is a lot that we can do to fix that before we take offensive actions.”

Response actions to cyber-attacks need to be carefully measured to avoid escalating from a conflict in the cyber-arena to full-scale conventional warfare, he said.

One example would be to “take down ‘botnets’” — malicious computer software packages — from the Internet.

Gen. Alexander defended the U.S. government practice of not identifying major cyber threats such as those emanating from China and Russia.

Confronting foreign government complicates efforts to track cyber-activity, he said.

“Candidly, if every time we say, ‘We know you’re doing A,’ they say, ‘Oh, you can see that?’ We don’t see it anymore. We don’t see them for a while.”

The foreign governments also seek to learn information about U.S. tracking capability and, when confronted, “all they do is deny it,” he said.

Gen. Alexander warned that cyber warfare is expected to continue and that defenses need to be improved. “Whether or not we do that, it’s coming,” he said. “It’s a question of time. People say, ‘Aw that’s five years out, it’s two years out.’

“What we don’t know is how far out it is, an attack in cyberspace, and what that will be? Will it be against commercial infrastructure, government networks? Will it be against platforms? We don’t know.”

“The U.S. should be able to shut internet down”

Former CIA Chief, Michael Hayden added that his personal view is that “it is probably wise to legislate some authority to the President”

Reuters

Former CIA director Michael Hayden

Cyberterrorism is such a threat that the U.S. president should have the authority to shut down the Internet in the event of an attack, Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said.

Hayden made the comments during a visit to San Antonio where he was meeting with military and civilian officials to discuss cyber security. The U.S. military has a new Cyber Command which is to begin operations on October 1.

Hayden said the president currently does not have the authority to shut down the Internet in an emergency.

“My personal view is that it is probably wise to legislate some authority to the President, to take emergency measures for limited periods of time, with clear reporting to Congress, when he feels as if he has to take these measures,” he said in an interview on the weekend.

“But I would put the bar really high as to when these kinds of authorities might take place,” he said.

He likened cyberwarfare to a “frontier.”

“It’s actually the new area of endeavor, I would compare it to a new age of exploration. Military doctrine calls the cyber thing a ‘domain,’ like land sea, air, space, and now cyber … It is almost like a frontier experience” he said.

Hayden, a retired U.S. Air Force general, was director of the Central Intelligence Agency during the administration of President George W. Bush from 2006 to 2009.