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Cyber Security of Weaponized Media in a Socially Engineered World

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I.     Introduction

The world is seeing an ongoing multi-faceted cyber attack(s) (social engineering) that uses weaponized fake media, digital false flags and other digitally obfuscated materials. These attacks stem from nation states, paid hacker cartels and mercenary hackers globally. These cyber security attacks utilize social engineering, weaponized media and fake media. We have been studying these socially engineered attacks since 2009, and have created unique responses to them.

II.    Main body

The Green Revolution of 2009 in Iran marked the first known use of weaponized social media. The Government of Iran utilized Twitter to get western citizens to spread their propaganda.

Fast forward to 2016, where USA itself was attacked through long term, dedicated weaponized media cyber assault on our democracy; and government alike by Russia and its agents. This attack continues with multi-faceted usage of fake media, bots, fake social media and malware laden content on these sites.

The final outcome is still under investigation, but it is seen as a major win for Russia intelligence groups, and a major loss for the USA.

In the 2016 attack on the USA, innocent citizens were co-opted to spread weaponized media that had either been previously illegally exfiltrated or was fake to begin with.

Some might say this is a soft attack, not vitally important as a hard cyber attack on a network, grid or infrastructure, that is simply not true.

In fact, these attacks are proving to be just as lethal as more traditional cyber attacks. Socially engineered attacks often mask other types of attacks as well – like DDoS, MiTM and malware/wipeware.

However, socially engineered attacks now account for more than 50% of the beginnings of all cyber security intrusions and breaches.

                                                                              III.   Conclusions/future steps

How does USA protect itself from such asymmetrical attacks in future?

With explosion of IoT Devices has come a parallel explosion of attack surface areas, many of which are simply not protected.

With the explosion of social media platforms and content being shared has come a parallel explosion of attack surface areas, most of which are not secured or protected. But many social media users operate under a belief that they are fine because “the big companies are protecting us.”

This is a false belief, and users, both government and individual need to take drastic steps to protect these accounts and platforms.

Should the USA Government sponsor Human/digital trainings to help protect and defend against socially engineered attacks?

How do regular people tell difference between real media/faked media? How do leaders weed out bots, automated accounts from real?

What steps can USA take today; tomorrow to prevent ongoing and future socially engineered cyber attacks?

 

 

Based on proprietary research at www.digijaks.com and through extensive work with clients who are dealing with and or have dealt with such attacks.

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Modern Information Warfare Hits Hard

2016 was just the latest in #cyberwar; and #informationwarfare attacks where even bills were introduced in Congress. It has been ongoing as long as there have been digital mediums and technologies; and information distribution technology. My company saw it happening last year and got more and more concerned as the election grew closer. We literally wrote letters to people in government, people at the DNC and elsewhere, basically yelling as loudly as we could that the #USA was being cyber and information warfare attacked.

 

As a cyber security, and weaponized information expert – it was all too clear what was happening. It has left a feeling of being sick in the stomach for a year now, and this feeling has not abated. Because it has not ended. For millions of Americans and millions of people around the world too.

 

The Unites States is witnessing both the worst and best it can show at once. The worst by all the traitors amongst us: those pretending we were not just victims of a non lethal act of war.

 

The best by all those in and out of government banding together to excise the cancer from the nation; regardless of the risks and dangers.

 

Some cyber and information warfare players have been better than others. Some have taken a longer term perspective than others. Nation states that have invested heavily into cyber technologies and offensive information warfare technologies are multiplying every year.

 

It is not just the domain of: Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, Ukraine, the UK, France, USA and other large or technologically advanced countries. It is now the domain of any country who decides to invest in the people and the technology and take a longer term view than the average hacker for hire.

 

Sun Tzu believed that “all warfare is deception,” — but where does that leave the average person; who does not understand they are caught up in forces through control of information; that they can neither understand or ever hope to control?

 

I spoke at the US Army CyberTalks in NYC in 2016 on “Global Cyber Security on Earth and in Space.”

One of the points I made; was that almost all of our lives are not just locked up in databases in offices or on the cloud somewhere. But indeed, flying through the ether every millisecond of our lives. Hundreds of companies; and dozens or more countries have the capabilities to hack into it, to manipulate it, change it and even delete. 24 hours a day, with lots and lots of ways for data to be intercepted, changed, made into FUD. (Look it up – means F*#$ed Up Data) – or just simply deleted. Not to mention when the data flying through the ether becomes weaponized by either a Nation State or a Company or a bad actor group or individual with ill intent.

The implications on the types of information warfare that Russia is enacting on the US and the Western Coalitions; is that it is multi level, persistent, and consistent. It is coming in through a combination of weaponized social media, fake websites, fake news, automated bots as well as hacking, intrusions and exfiltrations of data that then become weaponized. It is happening in multiple countries, with a huge budget and thousands of people behind the execution of it. This was the path the Russians took in 2016: a multi pronged effort, all across the United States, focused on Federal, State, and Local authorities. This included national and state political leaders, parties and their allies, as well as election vendors and election technology across the spectrum.

To be extremely clear, the efforts that Russia leveraged as non lethal acts of War against the USA – are still ongoing. They never stopped. Indeed, 2016 was just a continuation of Russia’s long game in cyber and information warfare.

So now we need to take action steps as a country to come together. We need to put aside political partisanship and simply deal with what we have to deal with in terms of investigations and cleaning house. Of all those who played a role in the greatest act of treason since Benedict Arnold tried to give West Point to the King’s Army. All of the people in the United States who played any part in supporting this treasonous Act of War should pay.

Just like General Arnold did.

This is a time for the decision to be made. Are you Partisan, and metaphorically selling out West Point by supporting those who sold out the USA to Russia?

Or are you a Patriot — and going to fight for your country to not disappear by virtue of some digital exhaust of ongoing, persistent information warfare + cyberwar?

Nathan Hale was America’s first spy to be killed in action. When being hanged by the British – he is reported to have said this most famous quote: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Hopefully none of us have to be in such a dangerous position. But we are in a place in history where Patriots are already at work, saving our country.

What are you?

 

*When your kids ask you what you did to stop this non lethal act of war, what will you say?*

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Digijaks CEO Speech at US Army CyberTalks NYC

 

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#CyberSecurity #DigitalDiplomacy 2017

#Digitaldiplomacy and #Cybersecurity on a Rough Patch in 2017.

The last several years have seen an explosion of digital diplomacy tools and techniques. This is driven by an ongoing growth in technology platforms; and social media combined with the increased numbers of world Governments adopting open data and open government principles. There has also been a parallel explosion in fake social media, fake news and fake information being propagated globally.

The effect of the combined forces is that cybersecurity is now playing an even more vital role in digital diplomacy. Where digital diplomacy just a few years back was between recognized principals of Governments, now there are lots of other players trying to make that communication much more failure prone.

Additionally we now have leaders using Twitter and other tools to communicate directly with each other and or to directly go around the news media.  Just in the first few months of 2017 alone, we have witnessed multiple world leaders using Twitter to speak in ways that are different from the stated policies of their countries, or to put pressure on other countries through this most public of mediums.

There have been recent successes and failures. I wrote about some of these a few years back. We have also seen a tremendous growth in what I call “anti digital diplomacy” thru the concerted use of fake social media accounts, fake news websites, and fake statistics designed to make the role of real diplomats much harder.  While some of this is innocuous, much of it is organized and part of larger cyber deception plots being run by larger nation states.

Western European countries are currently experiencing the same types of digital attacks on their electoral systems, including the use of selective leaking of compromised materials that the US experienced in 2016. Which means that hacking, and hackers have been deeply involved too. One does not get compromised materials without someone first doing the exfiltration of the information from its original home.

Which brings the question of what role cybersecurity needs to play in digital diplomacy? It is a dynamic situation now with asymmetrical threats and increased attack surface area affecting the very direct communications that digital diplomacy allows.

Governments, Diplomats and the media alike need to be trained and continually updated on how to spot fake accounts, fake news, fake websites, and how to ensure only officially verified information is being transmitted through the digital diplomacy channels. Additionally steps need to be taken on dealing with constituents and the news media to ensure that fake information is put down quickly with the truth and facts to back it up.

Diplomats across the globe have already been caught up in re-tweeting fake news or getting trolled by fake accounts. But there needs to be a verification role too, that is played with the public, especially in terms of proving the falsity of fake information being purposely distributed.

Further, steps need to be taken to lock down accounts with two factor authentication, very strong passwords and strict internal organizational controls on who uses the digital diplomacy tools and how.  Cybersecurity needs to be incorporated into every decision and every level of communications, both internally and externally.

Finally, Governments and Companies around the world need to adopt a rapid response routine to deal with both fake news and fake information coming from non-official sources, as well as from official sources or official twitter accounts. The World now has several leaders who seem to want to try to use Twitter to go around their local politics and news media and or tell the world an un-true or incoherent story. If Diplomats are not ready to respond to falsities or cyber-attack driven leaks quickly, then they will be playing a constant game of catch up. True for the news media and global citizens alike.

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Talk at GEOINT 2016 by DIGIJAKS CEO

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#panamapapers + Reputation Control + Cyber Security

Reputation Control and Reputation Management
Cyber Security, Social Media, You.

The Panama Papers as released this past week are a really huge data dump, in fact one much larger in scale than that of Wikileaks, and the largest to date in history.

The project that resulted in this massive public disclosure, was essentially a cyber security lapse leading to a breach.  Following the breach, data exfiltration was executed through leveraging a long known critical failure in the operating system and email servers that were used by the law firm, Mossack Fonseca.

Not only are the Panama Papers a stunning example of a hack that resulted in massive  data exfiltration; thus consequently leading to a global reputation breach. But they are also representative of a slow to change cyber security environment in law firms, corporations and organizations globally.

Drupal, a widely used language for databases and other programs has been constantly been providing critical updates since it’s inception. Users of Drupal have to make the choice to keep their systems up to date, or as in this case, not.

The utter lack of cyber security protocols like updating a server, or dealing with over 25 issued critical updates to the operating system/servers bring to mind other major hacks like the Target Corporation hack where 60,000 alerts were ignored by corporate IT staff. This is the opposite of what cyber security protocols would dictate.

Law firm IT staff need to be amongst the first to adopt these basics; but often times are not, and many international law firms have mediocre to poor network security. In that area, the Panama Papers could be any law firm, anywhere. The reputation loss suffered by the cyber security lapse and breach could be any law firm’s clients, anywhere.

Digijaks has been working with clients for years to address the undeniable link between cyber security and reputation control. The Panama Papers simply serve as one more reason why these issues are so connected and so important to both people and organizations.

 

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Reputation Cyber Security of IoT.

Ah, the Internet of Things.

Just the sound of it sends thrills, chills and huge question marks through both technologists and regular people alike.

Just think, you can already do the following:

  • Track your health.
  • Track your kids.
  • Track your home.
  • Talk to your fridge.
  • Talk to your car.
  • Have your fridge, oven, and tv connected to your smartphone, not to mention the video doorbell.

I could go on with this list. But why bother?

The Internet of Things, or IOT as it is called in the media, by analysts and techies alike is an amorphous concept and does not easily translate into everyday speak for the average person.

There are cybersecurity concerns with the overlapping inter-connectedness that are growing exponentially by the month; as more and more devices come on line, get connected to the Internet. Many if not most have little to zero security protocols built in.

There is no current “IOT cybersecurity standard” or anything close. As a result, the apps and tools that seemingly make your life so easy, are in most probability leaking, if not pouring personal information about you or your family onto the internet in ways you may or may not be aware of.

There are reputation control and reputation management issues arising from both the above mentioned inter-connectedness as well as from some basic common sense things that come from having devices connected to the Internet and talking to “home” or each other in ways that also reveal identity, location and other personal information. Some of these IOT apps and tools even tweet or post other social updates for you as reminders, alerts and other pushed out information into public or semi public arenas.

So ask yourself 5 Major IOT for Reputation Questions:

  1. Does everything have to be connected to everything and what happens with a point of failure or with multiple points?
  2. Even if you want to track your whole life, does it need tracking?
  3. Does the good of the device in your life outweigh the bad of the cybersecurity or reputation risks?
  4. Do your kids’ need this tracking on them and beyond knowing where they are, do you want your kids’ information in companies with weak or zero cybersecurity protections?
  5. Do you want your kids’ information broadcast out to the Internet because of auto update or bot tweeting something?
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Cyber Reputation Management and Control

BAM!  There it is.

Right in your face one morning when you check your social feed as news.

That nasty little something that someone, a bot, or a person, or maybe both left for you overnight. It is a digital take down. A bad blog post. A social media meme that is being unanswered or purposely pumped up to discredit you, your company or organization or your brand. Or maybe it is a false allegation. Or paid fake bad reviews that your competitors put up.

Face it. The Internet is a hostile place for your reputation and your brand, whether that is personal, corporate or government. The control and management of your reputation start and end with you. As we enter 2015, it is worth paying attention to, in fact it is important to take stock of your online reputation, the management of it and the control of it. It is yours. Not anyone else.

The — Internet, social media, the cloud, mobility, bring your own device, artificial intelligence, autonomous computing etc etc — all are really cool buzz words. All come with prices to pay that include the constant need for personal, corporate and government level cyber security, reputation management and reputation control.

Our top 10 List of Ways That Cyber Security, Social Media and Reputation Management and Reputation Control all mesh together.

  1. Social Media — is the entrance point for viruses, malware, malformed links, phishing and learning enough about someone to turn around and destroy their reputation.
  2. Mobility — allows for instant access to social media, email, sms, cloud and phone, and video, as ways to tear down a brand or reputation. It can happen anywhere, at any time, by anyone around you holding a smartphone or smart watch or smart glasses.
  3. Cloud — allows people to store information quickly and easily. This can be for phishing, for cyber crime, for reputation destroying or extortion. Images and videos, poems and documents and your complete online profile can be easily harvested by smart people and or bots and then turned around against you. What information are you allowing out or putting out to make it easier to be attacked? Or easier to have your reputation tarnished or that of your brand?
  4. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) — While fun and easy for users and your employees BYOD brings a whole fruit basket worth of cyber security and reputation management and control issues along with it. BYOD allows users and employees to access the internet and social media channels without approval or notice from the employer. A reputation can be destroyed in an instant with a recorded conversation, a video, an errant email or sms, or worse corporate espionage and cyber crimes can be instituted easily with BYOD.
  5. Artificial Intelligence — The name alone. What does it mean? How can artificial intelligence (AI) bots or autonomous computing affect your cyber security and reputation management and control? In so many ways we are just beginning to understand.
  6. Lazy People — Sorry but many times the malware or the phishing or the destruction of reputation starts with someone simply being lazy, not having security and privacy settings attended to, and or worse letting someone else use their login credentials.
  7. Your Competition — They have access to the same tools you do. They can buy hackers, they can buy reputation destruction; they can attempt to steal your trade secrets; they will try to insert bad people into your organization at every level. (See 8 below.)
  8. Bad People — No good, no ethos or morals. These people do not care if they harm you. They seek to. These come in the form of social media contacts or email phishing all the way through HR, interviewing, shadowy financiers and content theft propagators from online goods. They will use any and every tool out there to disrupt your business, to destroy your reputation.
  9. Posting stupid pictures of yourself — on to any website regardless of how safe you *THINK* it is.
  10. Not checking the health and welfare of your own digital reputation and brand.

Copyright © 2010-2015 Digijaks, LLC

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Cybersecurity: Now the Crossover from Cyber to Real Life

Reputation Control and Reputation Management
Cyber Security, Social Media, You.

Cybersecurity used to be be the geek’s eagle’s nest. it was hard to understand, hard to get to, hard to see the impact and need often times. If there was a CIO or CISO, he/she would not be in the board room too often, and usually the budgets were the first to go in any budget change environment. But the cycle switched. Now we are in the opposite cycle. The CIO and CISO are ruling the roost and commanding serious budgets and attention. But being missed in all the excitement is this:

The Crossover from pure cyber crime to real world crime from the same instance.

It is safe to say, times have changed. Now – Cybersecurity has become a word known in almost any home where there is digital connectivity. Time and time again, we are offered proof that cybersecurity now encompasses reputation management; active control of search and social media as well as the traditional hardening of data access points, transport points, and login authorities. Cybersecurity itself has become such a buzzword that it threatens to create a numbness for people hearing it and responding to it.

Recently Digijaks has worked with multiple clients who have faced the crossover from Cyber Security to Real Life Security. It is our recent experience that shows us that law enforcement is *mostly* unprepared for cyber crossover attacks and does not yet have the substantial depth of understanding of the relationship between social media, cyber security and real life people.

The connections are impossible to overlook. What starts as a cyber threat, like impersonation of another; brand or trademark attacks, social media memes and fake social media sock puppet accounts — can now easily and does easily cross over into real world crimes.

The real world crimes escalate too, often in parallel with online escalation. In our recent experience in dealing with the crossover, most law enforcement agencies of *all levels* are simply not prepared to cope with this reality, and have few to zero people in place who are trained investigators and can assist the public, or corporations or utilities or governments with cyber cross overs.

Digijaks CEO Alan W. Silberberg is advising both the company’s clients and law enforcement agencies to take these “cyber cross over” events seriously. There is growing evidence amounting that shows that real world crimes are becoming easier in some ways and can be facilitated through initial cyber intrusions, whether phishing, trolling or direct digital attacks.

This is leading people who were previously *only* cyber criminals or terrorists to become real world ones too, often at little to no monetary cost. We see this a true emerging threat, as yet mostly being unaddressed either at the Federal or State levels, and a threat that is most acutely faced in local communities who very definitely are not prepared.

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What the Hack of the US Government Means to You.

As the CEO of a cyber security and reputation company, I have to admit to not being surprised by the recent successful hacking and penetration of the US Government.

While the scope of the recent events is most definitely shocking, myself and others have been researching, writing about it and trying to push and pull officials to focus on the whole set of threats, not just the known ones, and not just the data hardening ones.

This recent set of hacking and penetration successes were definitely done by a Nation State, China in most probability. But guess what?

The intrusion was apparently found by a Vendor doing a sales pitch to the US Government, and not by the billions of dollars of hardened equipment or custom platforms designed to stop cyber attacks.

I am not being critical. Nor attempting to assign blame. It is what it is. Millions of Americans who work for or have worked for the US Government, myself included have been hacked. Not just hacked, but all of our secrets may soon be on public display or for sale or other.

In the past few years, US consumers have been the targets of hacks from any number of companies that were breached, from Target and Home Depot to Equifax and Anthem among the biggies. But the reality is most companies have probably been hacked.

Most small to medium business do not have the sophistication or the resources to put in place strong cyber defenses. Even for the ones that do, that does not mean a successful defense.

What it means for you:
1. We are all vulnerable. Do not think your information is safe.
2. Disconnect computers from the internet when not using them, and power them down. Same for devices like tablets or phones or other internet connected devices.
3. Create a backup hard drive, find an encryption program you can easily use, and create an encrypted back up of your life.
4. Maybe your whole world does not to be interconnected. Maybe the smart home is not so smart in light of the potential privacy and security vulnerabilities presented by the inter-connect.
5. Take steps to protect private information. Get a safe deposit box at a bank, put all original documents in it, plus a copy of them.
6. Try to make air gaps between your information. Keep your financial records in one secure place. Your medical records in another, different secure place.
7. Be aware that your life may well be not private at all.
8. You are not alone, in fact maybe your whole country is right in the same situation.

In 2013, at my Gov20LA event we hold annually, I made some remarks about the need for families around the world to adopt encryption techniques to protect their information and themselves. That message was partially intended for families trying to fight against tyranny abroad; but is also a critical message for all of us now.

Bottom line though is that the world has changed. *A lot.*