Threat Intelligence

8/10/2018
04:00 PM
50%
50%

NSA Brings Nation-State Details to DEF CON

Hackers were eager to hear the latest from the world of nation-state cybersecurity.

DEF CON 26 - Las Vegas - For a brief time on Friday morning, "Spot the Fed" was the easiest game to play at DEF CON. That's because the fed was standing on a stage, talking to thousands of attentive hackers and attendees here.

Rob Joyce, senior advisory for cybersecurity strategy at the NSA, is a freqent attendee but a first-time speaker at the event. That latter status was emphasized with a DEF CON tradition: First-time presenters drink a shot on stage to salute the convention (and, presumably, steady their nerves.) With that attended to, he quickly let the crowd know he was on their side, sharing his approval of activities such as publicly hacking past the security of voting machines.

"There are people who are going to try to find flaws in those voting machines whether we do it here publicly or not," Joyce said, explaining that he sees the transparency provided by public hacking to be a valuable technique in fixing flaws where they exist. And those flaws are a critical component in the efforts of various nation-states to use the online world as a war-fighting theater where they can win advantages that transfer to the physical world.

In the arena of nation-state hacking, Joyce said, four actor are exceptions to a broad consensus of responsible Internet behavior: Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.

Each one is using different techniques in the pursuit of different aims, Joyce explained. And each is a primary threat to a different part of society or the economy.

1. Russia: Russia has been quite visible in its use of cyberattacks as part of a larger state-craft strategy. Beyond the well-known attacks on elections, Russia is also engaged in constant campaigns against networks within the US government. Joyce said its cyberapproach echoes its military tactics in the physical world. Describing a successful intrusion in a State Department network, he described the effort to remediate the attack as "hand-to-hand combat" in which the attackers would respond to defensive moves with new tactics aimed at maintaining their position in the system.

2. China: China is most active in stealing intellectual property; it is known for the sheer volume of its attacks. Joyce said that after an accord on IP between the US and China, total intrusions dropped by nearly 90%. Whether or not in response, other activity has increased, including Cloud Hopper, which is targeting information theft and disruption of ISPs and MSPs. China is also quite active in cyberinfluence of mass behavior; social credit, Joyce said, is the most obvious government attempt to shape human behavior through social media-like prestige and gamification.

3. Iran: Iran is known for disruptive campaigns, including DDoS attacks, against its enemies. Joyce pointed out that its activity diminished markedly after the Paris Nuclear Accord went into effect. Then its efforts shifted toward targets in the Middle East, including campaigns against Israel and Saudi Arabia. The NSA is carefully watching activity that might increase once again with the reimposition of sanctions by the US, he said.

4. North Korea (DPRK): Joyce described North Korea as one of the most consistent actors, making cyberactivity part of every strategic encounter. It has constant campaigns in process against targets in South Korea, he said, noting one way in which it differs from the others on this list: North Korea regularly looks to steal hard currency, whether in national currency or cryptocurrency, for use by the government.

When he turned his attention to defense, Joyce had two main points: First, he said, cybersecurity is a team sport; government and private enterprise should share information on attacks and vulnerabilities so that the partnership can provide an asymmetric advantage against the attackers.

Second, he pointed out that the basics matter — things like multifactor authentication and regular software patching, which make the threat actors' jobs much easier, shouldn't be ignored. He also included in those "basics" something that has proved to be difficult for many organizations: "Know your network," Joyce said. "Attackers don't care about what you think you have — they attack what's really there."

Related Content:

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
12 Free, Ready-to-Use Security Tools
Steve Zurier, Freelance Writer,  10/12/2018
Most IT Security Pros Want to Change Jobs
Dark Reading Staff 10/12/2018
6 Security Trends for 2018/2019
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  10/15/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
Flash Poll
The Risk Management Struggle
The Risk Management Struggle
The majority of organizations are struggling to implement a risk-based approach to security even though risk reduction has become the primary metric for measuring the effectiveness of enterprise security strategies. Read the report and get more details today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-10839
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
Qemu emulator <= 3.0.0 built with the NE2000 NIC emulation support is vulnerable to an integer overflow, which could lead to buffer overflow issue. It could occur when receiving packets over the network. A user inside guest could use this flaw to crash the Qemu process resulting in DoS.
CVE-2018-13399
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
The Microsoft Windows Installer for Atlassian Fisheye and Crucible before version 4.6.1 allows local attackers to escalate privileges because of weak permissions on the installation directory.
CVE-2018-18381
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
Z-BlogPHP 1.5.2.1935 (Zero) has a stored XSS Vulnerability in zb_system/function/c_system_admin.php via the Content-Type header during the uploading of image attachments.
CVE-2018-18382
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
Advanced HRM 1.6 allows Remote Code Execution via PHP code in a .php file to the user/update-user-avatar URI, which can be accessed through an "Update Profile" "Change Picture" (aka user/edit-profile) action.
CVE-2018-18374
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
XSS exists in the MetInfo 6.1.2 admin/index.php page via the anyid parameter.