Thursday, July 16, 2015

Suits and Spooks at the Wingtip Club - Oct 6th - By Invitation Only

The Wingtip Club in San Francisco is a renovated 13,000 square foot duplex penthouse decorated in the old Gold Coast style atop the historic 1908 Bank of Italy building in downtown San Francisco. On Oct 6, 2015 it will be the venue for the most unique and luxurious Suits and Spooks event that we've ever held.

Taia Global and our event sponsors including Norse Corporation are picking up the tab for this full day of security talks and networking with intelligence veterans and executives from entertainment, banking, security, and technology companies.

Our speakers include:
  • David Fichtner: David Fichtner served 27 years at the CIA working on Soviet Military Forces, Nuclear Weapons Security, Proliferation issues, and information operations. While at CIA, Mr. Fichtner was selected for the Congressional Fellows Program serving on Senator John McCain’s staff. He is also a graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (Topgun) and a designated Air Combat Tactics Instructor. Since retiring, Mr. Fichtner has worked as a consultant on Russian Intelligence services IO for Taia Global.
  • Christopher Burgess: Served 30+ years with the Central Intelligence Agency, serving in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe and Latin America. Currently the co-founder, President and CEO of Prevendra
  • Anna Vassilieva: Expert in contemporary Russian politics; Professor of Russian Studies at Monterey Institute of International Studies.
  • Simon Baker: Formerly Bloomberg's Head of Information Security and CISO in New York. Currently  advises a number of early security startups as well as the World Economic Forum.
  • Niloofar Razi Howe: Currently Chief Strategy Officer at Endgame and an Operating Partner at Paladin Capital Group.
  • Kurt Stammberger: Founder of the RSA Conference, expert in cryptography, threat intelligence, and security business strategy. Currently Senior VP of Marketing at Norse Corporation.
  • Jeffrey Carr: Founder, Taia Global and the Suits and Spooks conference; author and consultant to U.S. and foreign multinational corporations and government agencies.

Speakers and attendees will enjoy the Wingtip's new "Wine Cave" as their venue for this all-day event starting with a continental breakfast at 9am, lunch at 1pm, and a Whiskey tasting at 5pm.

Unlike other Suits and Spooks events, this will be limited to 30 invited attendees at the Director-level or above from industries including technology, aerospace, entertainment, banking, and biomedicine.

If you'd like to receive an invitation or discuss sponsorship options, please contact Taia Global. Both the number of sponsors and the number of attendees are limited so act soon. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Call For Papers: Suits and Spooks DC Feb 11-12, 2016

The National Press Club Washington DC
I'm thrilled to announced that our Suits and Spooks DC event for Feb 11-12, 2016 will be held at the National Press Club. We're going to be doing a lot of things differently including offering live streaming tickets for those who can't attend in person thanks to the National Press Club's wonderful in-house AV system.

Our event will be broken down into four 4-hour blocks, each with a designated theme:

  1. Aerospace
  2. Critical Infrastructure
  3. Finance
  4. Warfare
The Aerospace block will feature threats against commercial aviation, unmanned aerial systems, GPS, satellites and space travel, and airborne weapons systems.

The Critical Infrastructure block will feature threats against the power grid, water supply, transportation, shipping, and telecommunication sectors.

The Finance block will feature talks on cryptocurrencies, the cyber security investment boom, ransomware, and the global stock and commodity exchanges.

The Warfare block will feature talks on cyber attacks and international law, the Wassennar Arrangement, export controls on offensive and dual use tools, Second Amendment issues, and more.

Attendees will have the option of buying tickets for only one block, multiple blocks, or a full conference pass. All talks will be single-track. 


If you'd like to submit a talk for one of these four blocks or propose a panel, please submit it by September 15th. 

If you'd like to learn more about sponsorship options, please contact us.

Super early bird tickets will go on sale later this month.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

OPM Provides Insight Into Why It Was Hacked

The Office of Personnel Management just released the steps that it has taken to protect over 21 million federal employees whose data was stolen in what may be the worst cyber security breach in history. Now keep in mind that these steps were selected during a time of high criticism against the agency and its director Katherine Archuleta. So I think that it's safe to say that it represents the best effort of Director Archuleta and presumably the new cyber security advisors that she brought onboard post-breach.

Here are the steps:
  1. Providing a comprehensive suite of monitoring and protection services for background investigation applicants and non-applicants whose Social Security Numbers, and in many cases other sensitive information, were stolen.
  2. Helping other individuals who had other information included on background investigation forms.
  3. Establishing an online cybersecurity incident resource center.
  4. Establishing a call center to respond to questions.
  5. Developing a proposal for the types of credit and identity theft monitoring services that should be provided to all Federal employees in the future.
This reminded me of the letter that I received from Premera when they got breached (my wife and I were Premera customers), and had my USCG Top Secret security clearance still been active, I would have received an almost identical letter from OPM. 

Then the realization hit me. 

In crafting the above 5 steps, OPM revealed why it had been hacked so easily. It's because they didn't know (and still don't know) the intelligence value of what they had been trusted to protect - the SF-86 data. SF-86 forms are 120+ page monsters that consume your entire personal history along with all of your affiliations and points of contact in your personal, educational, and professional life. Clearance holders are interviewed every year so the information is kept current including foreign travel and foreigners that you've interacted with. 

Now imagine that you work for a foreign intelligence service and I was a hacker who was offering you a chance to buy the SF-86 forms for every soldier serving in the Special Operations component commands of the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines. These are the individuals who are responsible for direct action, counter-terrorism, snatch and grab, counter-narcotics, reconnaissance and who knows how many other secret operations. 

Perhaps you work for a large South American drug cartel. How much would you be willing to pay for the SF-86 on every Drug Enforcement Agency employee who holds a clearance? If you had OPM's files and access to a data-mining tool like i2, Maltego, or Palantir, you could construct models that would reveal who was working a counter-narcotics operation in MedellĂ­n last year based upon their SF-86 foreign travel updates. 

Imagine that you were looking to convince a U.S. government employee to work for you under threat of blackmail. The OPM database would provide you with a way to filter for those with backgrounds that make them highly vulnerable to extortion demands because the background investigators who conduct the interviews are looking for precisely that kind of information!


When we speak with clients at Taia Global, the very first thing we do is show them how valuable their IP (intellectual property) is to foreign governments. We call that Target Asset Value™.  Once the client understands his company's TAV, the client can properly evaluate what measures to put into place to protect the company's assets. 

OPM clearly did not understand the concept of Target Asset Value as it relates to the government employees whose data they were responsible for. If they did, they wouldn't have proposed credit monitoring protection as a solution when the threats are so much greater than simple identify theft or an Amazon shopping spree. OPM's current solution is wholly inadequate and will continue to be so until Director Archuleta and her staff come to grips with the true value of the data that they were entrusted with, and lost.

Monday, June 22, 2015

OPM Breaches Go Back to 2012 and 2013

The Office of Personnel Management's troubles extend even further back than the current reported 2014-2015 timeline according to a 2013 Office of the Inspector General audit report on OPM's use of Serena Business Management software. The system was hacked in May, 2012 and March 2013 and sensitive data was lost (p.ii of the Executive Summary).

Appendix II of the above-referenced 2013 report contains a copy of the FLASH Audit Alert to the OPM, which states:
"In May 2012, a malicious hacker successfully breached OPM's Serena Business Manager system (Serena, formerly known as TeamTrack). The system was briefly taken down by OPM's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), but was quickly restored and made available on the public Internet." 
"Over the past year. the a CID 's Network Security Branch has conducted vulnerability scans that detected security flaws in the Serena system. However. it appears that no action was taken by the system administrators to address these issues, as another application on the Serena platform was hacked in March 2013. 
After both security breaches. the hackers boasted on the Internet about compromising a government computer system. leading to embarrassing publicity for OPM."
According to the company, Serena Business Software has been used by OPM for automating process solutions for background checks, FOIA requests, health and compliance issues, etc.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Tianjin University Use Case For R&D As A Way To Predict Breaches Targeting IP

On May 19, 2015, The FBI announced that it had charged six individuals (including two Chinese professors) with economic espionage and theft of trade secrets "for their roles in a long-running effort to obtain U.S. trade secrets for the benefit of universities and companies controlled by the PRC government(1)."

Here are the details from the FBI's press release:
"According to the indictment, PRC nationals Wei Pang and Hao Zhang met at a U.S. university in Southern California during their doctoral studies in electrical engineering. While there, Pang and Zhang conducted research and development on thin-film bulk acoustic resonator (FBAR) technology under funding from U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). After earning their doctorate in approximately 2005, Pang accepted employment as an FBAR engineer with Avago Technologies (Avago) in Colorado and Zhang accepted employment as an FBAR engineer with Skyworks Solutions Inc. (Skyworks) in Massachusetts. The stolen trade secrets alleged in the indictment belong to Avago or Skyworks."
"Avago is a designer, developer and global supplier of FBAR technology, which is a specific type of radio frequency (RF) filter. Throughout Zhang’s employment, Skyworks was also a designer and developer of FBAR technology. FBAR technology is primarily used in mobile devices like cellular telephones, tablets and GPS devices. FBAR technology filters incoming and outgoing wireless signals so that a user only receives and transmits the specific communications intended by the user. Apart from consumer applications, FBAR technology has numerous applications for a variety of military and defense communications technologies."
"According to the indictment, in 2006 and 2007, Pang, Zhang and other co-conspirators prepared a business plan and began soliciting PRC universities and others, seeking opportunities to start manufacturing FBAR technology in China. Through efforts outlined in the superseding indictment, Pang, Zhang and others established relationships with officials from Tianjin University. Tianjin University is a leading PRC Ministry of Education University located in the PRC and one of the oldest universities in China." 
"As set forth in the indictment, in 2008, officials from Tianjin University flew to San Jose, California, to meet with Pang, Zhang and other co-conspirators. Shortly thereafter, Tianjin University agreed to support Pang, Zhang and others in establishing an FBAR fabrication facility in the PRC. Pang and Zhang continued to work for Avago and Skyworks in close coordination with Tianjin University. In mid-2009, both Pang and Zhang simultaneously resigned from the U.S. companies and accepted positions as full professors at Tianjin University. Tianjin University later formed a joint venture with Pang, Zhang and others under the company name ROFS Microsystem intending to mass produce FBARs."
"According to the indictment, the stolen trade secrets enabled Tianjin University to construct and equip a state-of-the-art FBAR fabrication facility, to open ROFS Microsystems, a joint venture located in PRC state-sponsored Tianjin Economic Development Area (TEDA), and to obtain contracts for providing FBARs to commercial and military entities."
While this case is an example of industrial espionage, identical cases involving cyber espionage and other forms of IP theft happen frequently against companies who engage in research and development that's of interest to rival governments, state-owned enterprises and for-profit corporations world-wide.

Taia Global's REDACT™ is the only commercial product outside of a classified environment that is entirely focused on collecting, aggregating, and mining foreign government funding of R&D at the project level. Had Avago and Skyworks been REDACT™ customers, they would have been able to identify which government-funded research universities and state key labs were working on FBAR and other precision acoustic technologies and then assess how valuable their technology was to rival governments, thus establishing their Target Asset Value™.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

BREAKING: SCANEX Reported Greenpeace Vessel Arctic Sunrise to FSB, Then Sought To Cover It Up

On September 18, 2013 Greenpeace protestors left the Arctic Sunrise on inflatable motor boats and headed towards Gazprom's oil platform, the Prirazlomnaya, to protest drillings' which threaten the pristine Arctic environment. The Russian Coast Guard was informed of the attempted protest action and sent commandos to intercept them. They rammed the Greenpeace inflatables, fired shots across the bow of the Arctic Sunrise and arrested two activists.

On September 19, agents from the Russian Security Service (FSB) fast-roped onto the deck of the Arctic Sunrise from a helicopter overhead and took the entire ship into custody even though it was in international waters and outside the 500 meter protection zone around the drilling platform.

Taia Global analysts have discovered that RDC SCANEX, a privately owned Russian company, alerted the Coast Guard. In an email thread dated 20 September 2013, Georgy Potapov, a project manager at SCANEX at the time, wrote:
"If you, like me, received a letter from Greenpeace today about the campaign near the Gazprom rig in the Perchora Sea (also known as the Prilazlomnaya Platform) – then you’re aware that their ship was boarded by border guards. They have even been charged with violating a foreign ship within the limits of territorial waters, the so-called three-mile zone.""When charting them on the OSM map with the boundaries of water, adding the three-mile buffer zone and looking at the dates - we can see that on September 16th, Arctic Sunrise ship arrives, then moves in a circle, but does not cross any border zones or any limits of territorial waters."

Arctic Sunrise Location

Alexey Kucheiko, Deputy Director of SCANEX, responded:
"For your information (in order to cool the excitement of the findings), we have provided direction for the border guards twice to intercept the ship with Greenpeacers, passing the AIS remarks to the Coast Guard of the FSB frontier: in the Kara and Pechora Sea.""And if prompted, we will ensure the seizure of the crazy civilians again. I am sure that if they got on Statoil or Shell’s platform in Alaska, they would have received even more serious consequences for the Greenpeace cash bank.""Please be very carefully in sharing your "findings" which can expose and bring a blow to our people.""For possible objections about the need to protect nature - we are conducting 2 commercial contracts, one with the wildlife sanctuary and the other - with the WWF on the basis of AIS."
Deputy Director Kucheiko not only clarified that SCANEX was responsible for reporting the position of the Arctic Sun to the Russian Coast Guard, which is part of the Border Guard of the FSB, but that he knew they'd suffer repercussions from their customers and planned to offset the blowback by providing AIS support to two environmental organizations. This is the equivalent of an oil company who, after creating an environmental disaster, announces how environmentally friendly they are.

Olga Gershenzon, SCANEX's VP of Engineering, asked Kucheiko:
"And at whose request have we imposed the Border Guards on Greenpeace?", 
to which Kucheiko replied:
"At the personal request of the regional border guard officer of Coast Guard Border Service of FSB. Information is being reported to Moscow. His leaders are planning to come to our conference."
RDC SCANEX has numerous foreign partners including the U.S. Geological Survey, VMWare, HP, IBM, and Google. This could be a supply chain nightmare for western companies who have no idea what type of work SCANEX may be doing for the FSB.

On September 30, Greenpeace Russia released a statement refuting the Russian government's declaration of illegal activities by Greenpeace.
(machine translation) "Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise did not cross the established international and Russian legislation a security zone around the platform." 
"International law, in particular Article 60 (5) of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allows you to declare a security zone no more than 500 meters around the offshore installation. Arctic Sunrise has never approached "Prirazlomnaya" closer than 500 meters. It can be seen on the web map , which displays the location of the ship. Location data were obtained through a geo-portal "Kosmosnimki" integrated with the Canadian AIS (Automatic Identification System) " Exactais " in real time." 
"Inflatable boats used for carrying out a peaceful protest, approached closer than 500 meters to the platform. However, they do not pose a security risk to "Prirazlomnaya", which is on the high pedestal of steel and concrete to protect from the effects of huge ice floes." 
"Actions activists present no hazard to the platform. All the Greenpeace activists undergo special training to non-violent action. They endangered the lives of the platform with him they did not have anything except banners and ropes. This is a peaceful protest was held at the "Prirazlomnaya" last year and took place without incident."
Taia Global asked Greenpeace Russia to comment on this report. They informed us that there was no need for SCANEX to contact the Coast Guard since they were already in regular radio contact with the Coast Guard starting two days before the protest action took place. Daniel Simons, Chief Legal Counsel at Greenpeace International said:
"When the protest began, the ship radioed to the Prirazlomnaya to explain the peaceful intentions of the Greenpeace activists. This is standard practice at any Greenpeace protest and since this incident Greenpeace has continued to protest Arctic oil drilling peacefully and safely, most recently on Shell’s Arctic rig Polar Pioneer, which plans to drill off Alaska this summer." 
"If the FSB received further information from Scanex on the ship's positions, it merely reinforces that official claims that the Coast Guard intervened forcefully because it feared a terrorist attack were bogus."
Almost one year ago, on June 6, 2014, the Russian government released the Arctic Sunrise vessel, having held it for almost 9 months. The crew members had been released after a little over three months. Greenpeace has vowed to continue campaigning peacefully against oil drilling in the Arctic.

NOTE: The emails quoted in this thread were delivered to Taia Global by a Ukrainian hacker who cracked the email archives of Alexey Beseda, one of the board members of RDC Scanex as a protest action against Russia's incursion into Ukraine. All emails were translated into English from the original Russian language.

In July, 2014, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) opened a criminal case against the head of the Russian Coast Guard for financing insurgents and smuggling weapons into Eastern Ukraine.

This article has been cross-posted from the Taia Global website.

"Hacked Emails Reveal Russian Plans To Obtain Sensitive Western Tech"

Friday, June 5, 2015

Anonymous Operations and Techniques revealed by Former CabinCr3w and Anonymous Members

After the online uproar over my inviting Hector Monsegur (aka Sabu) to speak at Suits and Spooks NYC, I offered to provide a second panel to any Anonymous leaders (meaning individuals who actually planned and led an Op) who wanted to participate. I'm happy to announce that two really interesting folks came forward and took me up on my offer.
VizFoSho is a Database Analyst for a private company, and is a former member of Anonymous and CabinCr3w. After the arrest of two of CabinCr3w members and the end of the group, Viz helped launch the Rustle League as one of its core members. He worked on various Ops while with Anonymous, and led a few of his own. Viz is the creator of Op Equip, which is a registered nonprofit that puts computers with educational software into the hands of those residing in impoverished communities. One of his last acts as a member of Anonymous was an attempt to clean up the YourAnonNews twitter account, working with a small team of people who never got their YAN mugs. 
Flanvel is an independent internet and security researcher who is a former Anonymous member. During his time as a member, he helped create videos, media, and write press releases. From 2010 throughout 2013, he was an active member and worked on several worldwide operations. He was also a contributor to @Anon_Central. An account documented in GHCQ's program called LOVELY HORSE to monitor and index public discussion by hackers on Twitter and other social media. Since his disbandment with the group, Flanvel has worked identifying software vulnerabilities and creating exploits as well as creating several software products such as a crawler to identify, index, and crawl Tor network hidden services.
This has never been done before at any security conference. Anons are a secretive group, by necessity, but security conference organizers frequently shy away from controversy because it might offend their sponsors. RSA, for example, hired Hector to speak last year and then changed their mind due to fears about possible blowback. Sponsorship dollars are hard to get because there's over a thousand security events each year. For example, Suits and Spooks has seen a consistent drop in sponsorships over the past year or so because we're a very small, specialty event. In fact, we lost a media sponsor (CSFI) because of my invitation to Hector to speak. I've been warned by someone at another company that has supported our events in the past that the negative comments about my inviting Hector speak could be hurting the Suits and Spooks brand. That person clearly has no idea what our brand is.

My goal has always been to invite speakers from the IC, law enforcement, and the private sector who can shed light on hard challenges (especially first-hand experiences) and engage in discussion with our attendees to find answers. In order for that process to work, you have to include "bad actors" who are willing to share first-hand info. What most conferences offer instead are security researchers who have "studied" Anonymous. That's fine but it's not nearly as valuable as having an Anon operator speak.

The bottom line is that I have never and will never edit my choice of speakers for political correctness or to cater to my sponsors. I'll shutter this event first.

I hope that those of you who support my approach will either register and attend or encourage others to do so. I'm offering 50% off the normal registration fee of $598 (now only $299) until Monday June 8th. Registration includes all sessions plus two lunches and two breakfasts. Attendees will also receive an awesome t-shirt designed by Norse Corp., one of our sponsors.