DEFCON Panel: Confronting Aaron Barr, Anonymous, and Ourselves

Monday, August 08, 2011

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DEFCON PANEL: Whoever Fights Monsters: Confronting Aaron Barr, Anonymous, and Ourselves Round Up

A week before this year’s DEFCON, I got a message that I was being considered to replace Aaron in the the “Confronting Aaron Barr” panel discussion. It was kind of a surprise in some ways, but seemed like a natural choice given my tet-e-tet with Anonymous, LulzSec, and even Mr. Barr.

After coming to BlackHat and seeing the keynote from Cofer Black, it became apparent that this year, all of these conferences were about to see a change in the politics of the times with reference to the hacking/security community and the world of espionage and terrorism.


Two things that I have been writing about for some time and actually seeing take place on the internet for more than a few years with APT attacks on Defense Base contractors and within Jihadist propaganda wars.

“This is a very delicate window into our future,” he told the hackers. “Cold war, global war on terrorism and now you have the code war — which is your war.”

Going into the planning for the panel discussion, I was informed that I was hoped to be the stand in for Aaron in that I too see the world as very grey. Many of my posts on the Lulz and Anonymous as well as the state of affairs online have been from the grey perspective.

The fact is, the world is grey. There is no black and white. We all have varying shades of grey within our personalities and our actions are dictated by the levels to which our moral compasses allow. I would suggest that the example best and most used is that of torture.

Torture, may or may not actually gain the torturer real intelligence data and it has been the flavor of the day since 9/11 and the advent of Jack Bauer on “24″ face it, we all watched the show and we all did a fist pump when Jack tortured the key info out of the bad guy to save the day. The realities of the issue are much more grey (complex) and involve many motivations as well as emotions.

The question always comes down to this though:

If you had a terrorist before you who planted a dirty nuke in your city, would you ask him nicely for the data? Give him a cookie and try to bond with him to get the information?

Or, would you start using sharp implements to get him to talk in a more expedient fashion?

We all know in our darkest hearts that had we families and friends in that city we would most likely let things get bloody. Having once decided this, we would have to rationalize for ourselves what we are doing and the mental calculus would have to be played out in the equation of “The good of the one over the good of the many”.

If you are a person who could not perform the acts of torture, then you would have to alternatively resolve yourself to the fates as you forever on will likely be saying “I could have done something”.

Just as well, if you do torture the terrorist and you get nothing, you will also likely be saying “What more could I have done? I failed them all” should the bomb go off and mass casualties ensue.

I see both options as viable, but it depends on the person and their willingness to either be black and white or grey.

Within the security community, we now face a paradigm shift that has been coming for some time, but only recently has exploded onto the collective conscious. We are the new front line on the 5th battlespace. Terrorists, Spies, Nation States, Individuals, Corporations, and now ‘collectives’ are all now waging war online.

This Black Hat and Defcon have played out in the shadow of Stuxnet, a worm that showed the potential for cyber warfare to break into the real world and cause kinetic attacks with large repercussions physically and politically.

Cofer Black made direct mention of this and there were two specific talks on SCADA (one being on the SYSTEM7′s that Iran’s attack was predicated on) so we all ‘know’ that this is a new and important change. It used to be all about the data, now its all about the data AND the potential for catastrophic consequences if the grid, or a gas pipeline are blown up or taken down.

We all will have choices to make and trials to overcome… Cofer was right:

“May you live in interesting times” the Chinese say…

Then we have the likes of Anonymous, WikiLeaks, and the infamous ‘LulzSec’ Called a ‘Collective’ by themselves and others, it is alleged to be a loose affiliation of individuals seeking to effect change (or maybe just sew chaos) through online shenanigans. Theirs and now their love child ‘LulzSec’ ideas on moral codes and ethics really strike me more in line with what “The Plague” said in “Hackers” than anything else;

“The Plague: You wanted to know who I am, Zero Cool? Well, let me explain the New World Order. Governments and corporations need people like you and me. We are Samurai… the Keyboard Cowboys… and all those other people who have no idea what’s going on are the cattle… Moooo.”

Frankly, the more I hear out of Anonymous’ mouthpieces as well as Lulzs’ I think they just all got together one night after drinking heavily, taking E, and watching “Hackers” over and over and over again and I feel like Curtis exclaiming the following:

“Curtis: If it isn’t Leopard Boy and the Decepticons.”

So, imagine my surprise to be involved in the panel and playing the grey hat so to speak. The panel went well and the Anon’s kept mostly quiet until the question and answer after, but once they got their mouths open it was a deluge.

For those of you who did not see the panel discussion you can find the reporting below. My take on things though boils down to the following bulletized points:

  • Anons and Lulz need to get better game on if they indeed do believe in making change happen. No more BS quick hits on low hanging fruit.
  • Targets need recon and intelligence gathered has to be vetted before dumping
  • Your structure (no matter how many times you cry you don’t have one) can be broken so take care in carrying out your actions and SECOPS
  • Insiders have the best data… Maybe you should be more like Wikileaks or maybe an arm of them.
  • Don’t be jerks! Dumping data that can get people killed (i.e. police) serves no purpose. Even Julian finally saw through is own ego enough on that one
  • If you keep going the way you have been, you will see more arrests and more knee jerk reactions from the governments making all our lives more difficult
  • Grow up
  • The governments are going to be using the full weight of the law as well as their intelligence infrastructure to get you. Aaron was just one guy making assertions that he may or may not have been able to follow through on. The ideas are sound, the implementation was flawed. Pay attention.
  • If you don’t do your homework and you FUBAR something and it all goes kinetically sideways, you are in some deep frak.
  • You can now be blamed as well as used by state run entities for their own ends… Expect it. I believe it has already happened to you and no matter how many times you claim you didn’t do something it won’t matter any more. See, all that alleged security you have in anonymous-ness cuts both ways…
  • Failure to pay attention will only result in fail.

There you have it, the short and sweet. I am sure there are a majority of you anonytards out there who might not comprehend what I am saying or care.. But, don’t cry later on when you are being oppressed because I warned you.


Cross-posted from Krypt3ia

Possibly Related Articles:
Information Security
Stuxnet Anonymous Hacktivist hackers HBGary Federal Aaron Barr Lulzsec AntiSec Black Hat Conference DEFCON Scot Terban
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David Dennis You are quite correct about our world being a very gray one, but we can draw some guidance from similar times from the past.

During the 16th to 19th centuries, most nations had skeletal navies, even though transoceanic trade was blossoming. In order to cheaply augment their navies, many navies commissioned privateers for missions against specific enemies. When hostilities ceased, their commissions expired and the privateers moved on to other things. Some retired on the booty they took. Others went back to merchant shipping. Some actually joined the navies that commissioned them. And still others became pirates.

Most of this last group were eventually hunted down, even the ones that got political cover from governments (think about the "shores of Tripoli".

Pirates are often portrayed as fair, enterprising and progressive--and some actually were--but many were just as brutal as the navies they were evading. I think your warnings and observations ring true.
JT Edwards You know you see some similar things in the military (something I have only been a student of). You have a whole bunch of people who played COD one too many times who talk the talk. You see tons of buzz words and listening to them you might think they were “someone”. Some of these people are or have been in the military but are far more “talk” than “walk”. In studding any of the units that fall under USSOCOM the one thing you will discover is that they are professionals. You see the same thing in the intelligence community. Go read the profile of the man that led the team that found Osama Bin Laden and you will read about a professional. The thing about professionals is that they are not about publicity and they are not into trash talking, at least not in publicly. They are professionals and they are not who you want to mess with. Every field has armatures, hobbyists, plebs and professionals. Infosec, for a lack of a better term, is no different. The thing is for a very long time it has been the realm of the hobbyists. That changed a while back and that change is accelerating! This field and its implications are now a NATSEC issue. Stuxnet was a weapon and the times have changed. There are far too many people out there who have not noticed this change. Fortunately the professionals have bigger fish to fry. Unfortunately for the hobbyists generating lots of press political pressure is going to force the professionals to act. Simply put some people are going to jail if for no other reason than to counter some of the bad press that is out there.
JT Edwards Would like to buy an edit button!
Krypt3ia @JT, edit button aside, there were professionals there and in the audience. I know, we chatted. None of them had your problem.
JT Edwards And it is not limited to the government.. There are plenty of professionals in the private sector and by their nature they are far more public, because they can be. My point which could have been made without a wall of text was simply that there are some people/organizations you don't want to mess with..
Krypt3ia @JT That makes MUCH more sense!
Don Eijndhoven Great article and I can't agree more. Especially your last few points seem to be blatantly overlooked by the loudmouthes preaching everything Anonymous over Twitter et al.

I'd also like to point out that there exists something like Overexposure. People are getting desensitized with all the ranting and raving. Hell, I follow Anonymous out of interest but even I skip over all of AnonOps's tweets these days. I would advise Anonymous to pipe down for a month or so, do their due diligence and then come out with something that is TRULY against oppression.

And no: UK police combatting the opportunistic looting in London is NOT oppression. Its just common sense.

@Scot: Wish I had seen this panel. Thanks for posting.
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