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Attacks/Breaches

FBI Seeks License To Hack Bot-Infected PCs

Justice Department seeks search warrant changes to battle online crime syndicates, but critics cite impact on innocent bystanders and potential for abuse.

are commanded to execute a warrant, in all but the most exceptional circumstances they're required to leave a notice that they've conducted a search, along with an inventory of seized items. People can then go to court to contest the search and seizure.

The proposed changes, however, would allow law enforcement agencies to instead email these notifications, or post them online or on a PC. But in this era of ransomware pretending to levy FBI fines and rampant spam and phishing attacks -- all of which fool enough consumers to keep earning attackers money -- it's not clear how consumers would believe a legitimate emailed FBI notice about their personal data having been seized, even if they saw it in the first place.

"These changes anticipate that in many more cases, that will never happen," said Rasch. "What will actually happen is the police will execute the search warrant, seize the evidence, and the true owner of that evidence will never know because [the law enforcement agency] can email a copy of the warrant or post it somewhere on the computer."

A bigger question is whether the FBI really needs the powers it's asking for -- and how might these powers be used by law enforcement personnel who aren't acting in good faith? "Look at how you really investigate botnet," said Rasch. "It's not like you don't know where it is." IP addresses of infected machines can be subpoenaed, for example, and thus the physical location of victims identified. Then the FBI could serve related search warrants not because the victims are suspects, but rather to gather information during the course of an investigation.

Perhaps FBI officials worry about subpoenaing a rogue service provider, who then tips off the subject of the bureau's investigation. But if that's the FBI's real concern, then it should say so, said Rasch, rather than arguing for broad rights, which could be used -- and potentially abused -- during the course of future investigations. "Make the solution narrowly tailored to the problem," he said.

Cyber-criminals wielding APTs have plenty of innovative techniques to evade network and endpoint defenses. It's scary stuff, and ignorance is definitely not bliss. How to fight back? Think security that's distributed, stratified, and adaptive. Read our Advanced Attacks Demand New Defenses report today. (Free registration required.)

Mathew Schwartz served as the InformationWeek information security reporter from 2010 until mid-2014. View Full Bio

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Stephen@STSCORP
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[email protected],
User Rank: Apprentice
5/13/2014 | 5:08:05 PM
Re: Criminally dumb
"How is it different from someone allowing through negligence a piece of physical property -- say an empty house --  to be used as a base for criminal activity? "

I think it differs just a bit. In, that the data on someone's machine would be picked through thoroughly compared to a physical check of someone's property where they'd lift the machine from one's home, and not bother to check the fridge, sink, cabinets and so on.
speshul
100%
0%
speshul,
User Rank: Strategist
5/13/2014 | 12:27:35 PM
Re: Criminally dumb
Personally I believe anyone who is in an I.T. position needs to know how the attacks work. I got into I.T. by being hacked as a teenager, and simply asking the hacker how he did it. At the time it seemed like a hack, but all it simply was was a program that logged several thousand yahoo accounts in at a time and would send me freeze codes that would lock my computer up. After I knew how it worked, I simply blocked messages from everyone that wasn't on my friends list. This is how you learn to deal with attacks and block them.

 

EVERY I.T. person should have to go through training that teaches them how these attacks work and operate and the usual methods used. I can't count how many times I've worked with other I.T. reps and they are completely clueless as to how people hack and attack networks and computers. They simply don't know any of the steps or how they're performed. In a world that is dominated by computers, and is rampant with viruses and malware... this should be a requirement in the I.T. field. Even for normal help desk users. So when they see the signs, they can start to immediately react and minimize the effects.
Marilyn Cohodas
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50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
5/13/2014 | 11:44:51 AM
Re: Criminally dumb
Thanks for the original PDF from Steve Gibson and Gibson Research Corporation. Your point is well taken and stilll very instructive 13 years after the fact.
GonzSTL
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50%
GonzSTL,
User Rank: Ninja
5/13/2014 | 11:36:00 AM
Re: Criminally dumb
@Marilyn Cohodas I've been teaching Information Security for over 10 years, and the Steve Gibson story is one I use frequently, especially to stress that internet attacks are nothing new, and are quite simple to orchestrate. After all, one cannot defend against these threats unlless one knows its anatomy. The link at the end contains the full story, including the analysis of the botnet and the C&C communications with the botnet. Frightening stuff when you see how simple a DDOS attack really is. http://www.crime-research.org/library/grcdos.pdf
speshul
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50%
speshul,
User Rank: Strategist
5/13/2014 | 11:04:43 AM
Re: too much access?
You've hit it. It seems to me that with the internet right now America is reacting like after September 11th. Willing to toss individual liberties and rights in order to "Stop the bad guys". The problem is that it's come to our attention that our own government is often the bad guys.

 

The issue right now is that this isn't getting enough coverage due to the Net Nuetrality being the main focus right now. Stuff like this should be just as important and talked about just as badly. Seeking for more power and less oversight hasn't been good for us EVER when it comes to the internet and our government. Actions speak louder than words, and their actions have clearly yelled they can't be trusted.
SgS125
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SgS125,
User Rank: Ninja
5/13/2014 | 10:45:02 AM
too much access?
I guess it's about time they charge Target with a criminal charge then, as they had the empty house that the criminals used to run a malware botnet that scarpped off credit cards of innocent shoppers?

Is it about who owns the house or is it about who commits the crime?

If the federal investigators want to find and bring down botnets, how can they do so without accessing computers all over the internet?  Why would other countries allow our federal authorities to grab systems from within their borders?  Why we would we allow federal authorities to grab our systems as well?

For me there are many more questions about this issue than answers.

Sure it sounds great when we talk about shutting down online criminals, but at what cost to our privacy?  Surely there is a way to operate effectivly without stomping on an individuals rights to privavcy.

If an investigative reporter like Brain Krebs can track down and alert authorities to issues, why can't the federal government?

 

 

 

 
speshul
50%
50%
speshul,
User Rank: Strategist
5/13/2014 | 10:39:56 AM
Re: Criminally dumb
It's different because you can physically see the criminals. With computers, they can be completely invisible. That's like getting mad at people in the movie Harry Potter for not being able to see him with his invisibility cloak on. Your excuse for the government lacks any real reason to spy on average citizens who aren't as tech savy as I.T. professionals. Most of our society is so innadequate at technology that stores like Geek Squad and such can overcharge for simple virus removals. Most people just don't know any better.

 

The problem is that our government has been caught installing malware on systems.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131124/20304025345/nsa-has-50000-computer-botnet-secretly-installing-malware-around-globe.shtml

 

Now suddenly they need to fix the malware and hacking problem? So basically they create a system that targets all users and installs malware. THEN they go and say, "Hey you've got malware installed, we need to look at what's going on." Your information and logs are dumped onto their servers and looked through with programs. Your personal information is stored on their servers, WITHOUT your knowledge or comitting a crime. They're creating the criminal actions, then creating a defense against it... all to resume spying. This is honestly a rookie hacking move, and anyone with some real knowledge of networking and computers can see through this rouse. If you can't, then you don't deserve to be able to touch a computer while waving your finger calling people criminally dumb.
Marilyn Cohodas
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50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
5/13/2014 | 10:35:17 AM
Re: Criminally dumb
You've got a good memory, @GonzSTL! Here's a link to the reference to Steve Gibson, per a June 2001 story in theguardian.com, "Teenage Clicks." 
GonzSTL
50%
50%
GonzSTL,
User Rank: Ninja
5/13/2014 | 10:01:45 AM
Re: Criminally dumb
Completely agree! Steve Gibson did a similar thing years ago when his site was taken down by a teenager. He may still have the complete analysis on his website. By infiltrating the botnet and C&C, he saw exactly what kind of communication was transpiring between the bots and the command center.

The scary part of this request is the desire to copy electronic data residing on an infected computer. Imagine what kind of personal and financial information they will harvest from this operation.
Whoopty
50%
50%
Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
5/13/2014 | 6:35:12 AM
More of the same
As if Federal authorities needed more clearance to access the personal data of citizens and foreign nationals. Botnet infected PCs are often unsuspecting end users, not those that are deliberately part of a regime of nefarious hackers. 

This will simply mean that anyone who's been infected by malware is a more legitimate target than ever for federal spying. 
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