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7/20/2011
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A 'Spooks And Suits' Red Team Game

Social media apps meet national security

What if a former Navy SEAL petty officer were a member of Anonymous? Senior members of the U.S. intelligence agency, including Michael Chertoff, the former Secretary of Homeland Security, and a former SEAL officer, will participate in a red-team exercise in September where they'll play the role of Anonymous/LulzSec and APT attackers, as well as the defenders trying to fend off these adversaries.

Sure, simulated cyberattack games are nothing new these days. But this one is part and parcel of the upcoming Spooks and Suits summit in Silicon Valley on Sept. 23 and 24, and it throws together intell officials and attendees. It's the brainchild of cybersecurity expert Jeffrey Carr, who wanted to bring together three-letter agencies, like the CIA, NSA, and DoD, with social media and Web 2.0 developers and start-ups to actually communicate one-on-one with each another and with general attendees.

It works like this: Attendees will be randomly assigned to one of four teams of 25 to 30 people: Anarchist hackers (a la Anonymous and LulzSec), APT attackers, or one of two defending organizations. The teams then must observe all of the panel discussions -- which will cover threats against the intell community, as well as demonstrations of new and existing social media applications -- from the perspective of either adversary or defender, depending on which team they are assigned.

"If one of the apps presented has to do with a game, the objective for the attendee is to say, 'How can I use that game as an adversary? Or how can I use it to uncover or defend against an adversary?'" says Carr, who is the founder and CEO of Taia Global, an executive cybersecurity firm, and author of "Inside Cyber Warfare." "During breaks, they can play with the apps with an eye to their mission."

The teams will have a working lunch period for building their strategies for anarchist hacking or defending against it, for instance. At the end of each day, the teams will present a five-minute overview of their respective missions and tactics for attacking or defending. "If they are an anarchist hacker, they would show how they would create chaos," Carr says.

Serving as "floaters" on all of the teams during the conference will be Chernoff and other panelists (including a retired Navy SEAL Command Master Chief), as well as DIA's Melvin Cordova, senior program manager for the office of science and technology; Richard Marshall, director of global cyber security management at DHS; Thomas Summerlin, co-founder of Kickstand LLC and a consultant with Information Sharing Environment; and Roderick Jones, president and CEO at Concentric Solutions.

There won't be any proof-of-concept (PoC) code released given the tight time frame, but the players can use everything from social engineering to hacking to target or repel their enemies. It should be an eye-opener for some of the developers.

"Social media is a wonderful thing but places huge vulnerabilities [in the mix] when the concern is national security," Carr says. "If your job is to improve national security, [the goal is] to walk away with new ways to do that. For those people whose mission it is to build a better social media app, hopefully they will walk away with a clearer understanding of the pros and cons in this space."

Oh -- and the "suits" will be social media application scientists, developers, and start-ups, not security companies. So the security element of the summit is all up to what the attendees and panelists create in the red-team exercise.

A link to more information on the summit is here.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor with Dark Reading Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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