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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Cyberwar Forging the finest print

I wrote this letter to someone who asked for my opinions on cyberwarfare, and it came out pretty good:

Thanks for giving me so much time, I’ve had a full plate for some time. Yes, all computers comes with an internet protocol address. These addresses are usually made up of four numbers (with each number varying from zero to 255) separated by periods. For example, here mine: (In binary: 11111111.11111111.11111111.00000000)

Please note that this is the address of my router, and not actually my computer. If my router were wireless (I‘d hate to pay for all the Ethernet cable), and I boosted the signal enough, I could place it a considerable distance from myself.

The most common way to counter someone tracking your IP address is to route through a “proxy server.” As the internet grew, a phenomenon of servers scrubbed of IP numbers, or skipping numbers, popped up. These are often used by people most concerned about privacy.

Emails also come with IP numbers written into the header file. Thanks to privacy concerns, major suppliers (like Hotmail) scrub the sender’s address and replace it with their server’s. They do, however, keep them in their logs. In the United States, the government can subpoena the provider for the records, if they have reason to believe a crime was committed, but it is my understanding most will volunteer the information if a federal agent asks.

I simple means of tracking the behavior of a user is to install spy ware.

Spyware tracks the browsing behaviors of users for the purpose of determining what sort of advertisements to through out. Internet Explorer users are showered in these programs from the very moment they go online.
Many people fear that cookies serve as a form of spy ware, but I haven’t witnessed that to be the case. Their purpose is for an individual website to keep a record of your activities on their site. A cookie is what prevents you from repeatedly leaving anonymous reviews on a chapter at Fictionpress. Notice that many users circumvent this.

I should also point out that any server administrator has the tools necessary for monitoring traffic that’s routing through his system. I briefly described this when depicting a Saudi police network in a story of mine.

“Secondly, is it legal for large multinational corporations to maintain
well-armed, well-trained, and well-equipped security force a lá Roger
Gordian's Sword? Or is it even possible?”

Not only is it legal, it has gained a high level of approval in the United States. Blackwater USA, which I mentioned in my story about Sword, actually exists, performing the duties I attributed to them. Their main job is to train paramilitaries or police in operating firearms. They do this on a huge range in Camden County, North Carolina.

But they also function as armed security guards. When he had Roger give that speech about contractors hanging from a bridge in Fallujah, I was referring to a real event. Private Military Contractors (PMCs) are usually paid by the State Department to guard leaders of host nations. For example, last year when President Karzai of Afghanistan was ambushed, one could clearly see members of a PMC in Rayban sunglasses and body armor returning fire with MP-5s.

Addressing your third question, you’re not correct in believing you need to hack into a server to disable a network. That’s because you can effectively disable one (assuming it’s on the world wide web) by stealing its bandwidth. I recall that the first serious worm unleashed on the net, Code Red, infected millions of ordinary personal computers (through a now sealed Internet Explorer exploit) in order to use them all as spam relays aimed at the White House website server. All this traffic aimed down one cable is what makes visiting the site too sluggish. It is a traffic jam, if you will.

You’ll note that sites like file planet are persistently slow on normal days. That’s because they don’t have enough bandwidth for their high density of traffic.

I’m not sure such an attack could be sustained; once people grasp what type of attack is occurring, they’ll work on fixing it. Patches will be distributed, a backup server will come online, infected computers are shutoff, et cetera.

On the other hand, Windows computers are infected by a worm the first twelve minutes its online, and most users out there just don’t seem to learn. Firewalls aren’t used, most people don’t update their virus archives, they still use Internet Explorer or AOL, and they never sweep for spy ware. Most people who are infected, in fact, equate a slowing computer with obsolescence or old age, and replace their machines with newer ones. In a few months, the same cycle repeats.

The point is that a truly malicious worm will continuously find new computers to convert into zombie warriors against a pipeline.

And that’s the more difficult way to choke off bandwidth. I simpler way would be to repeatedly hotlink images from someone’s server. If the programmers were lazy enough to overlook adding code for prohibiting hot linking of images on their website, an attacker could set up countless free sites on the web, repeatedly writing an instruction like this:


This will suck up bandwidth necessary for moving a picture. On a government site, it could be a large .pdf file, preferably an illustrated one. Or a flash player presentation.

A third method of disabling a sever without directly hacking it is of course a physical attack. Bullets will break mainframes, and remember, private sector ones aren’t properly protected against a determined assault. Security guards are suited best for preventing people from sneaking in and accessing the computer terminals.

Okay, FINALLY, if the other options are exhausted, one should consider hacking the machine. You recall I outlined port scanning in a story. This isn’t really a difficult process. There are legitimate reasons for scanning ports, so buying the software should be easy. Without going into details (though I can, you know), you do this to determine which port is “open,” accepting incoming data. All computers on the internet have ports accepting incoming packets of information, where all those bugs are floating. Surfing the internet is sort of like taking part in an orgy in an aids clinic. Bad packets get transmitted, and an immunodeficiency disorder ensues. The trick is transmitting malicious packets of information a firewall won’t disrupt. It always has to be novel, because if it isn’t, the servers constantly-updated library of known malicious code will recognize it, and the firewall will get in the way.

That’s how you plant the seed. As for a killer payload, computers are highly complex instruments, so there are countless combinations of code that will cause operations to breakdown.
Now here’s why I’m contemptuous of what I call “the myth of the super hacker;” most failed programs cause problems. Anyone that’s taken a tutorial in C++ has built a problematic program that’s caused hang-ups in a computer. Skilled programmers will spend countless hours debugging their programs so they can run in different systems without breaking anything. The unskilled ones are those who continually build the Frankenstein monsters.

A virus-writer, at his minimum, simply makes a trainload of these faulty machines, gives them a self-replicating function, and ships them out. It is contemptuous and darned easy to throw a wrench in a gearbox, and that’s all it is. Most nest into the Win32 folder, where many of the critical wheels turn, where some mischief can be made.

It annoys me to no end that these programmer school rejects are hailed as geniuses.

The fourth question. Yes, if a considerably strong outbreak of avian flu or SARs broke out (both of which have happened before), you can be sure the World Health Organization and possibly the American CDC and the international Doctors Without Borders organization will all be allowed to fly in. China’s taken to capitalism now, and is open enough to accept outside help. Especially after they learned their lesson about hiding the SARs outbreak from the rest of the world. I think they’re open to assistance.

I’m not sure they’d pay attention to the make of the helicopter. The US Army is prone to use any model of utility helicopter for humanitarian missions, I distinctly remember a Pave Low used to assist a flood village in… was it Tanzania? Also, air traffic is extremely heaving around Hong Kong, air traffic controllers are stretched pretty far at peak hours, and a controller could seriously lose face with his pears if he allows a humanitarian helicopter to crash in the sea.

As to your final question, I can’t answer it definitively, but the command structure of the People's Liberation Army is structured more vertically than in a structure like the United States. The politburo controls the military, schedules training exercises, directs diplomacy, and holds the ultimate authority. The registry of members for their military commission and political counsel, in fact, have the same members!

China is also heavily involved in world trade now, and that means improving the country’s image to investors. It sounds strange for men indoctrinated to serve a Marxist ideal can be in practice so preoccupied with capitalistic concerns, but that’s the reality today. A commander wouldn’t doubtlessly dispatch a flight element from his regiment to intimidate the attacker, but wouldn’t risk firing an infrared missile. An auto cannon shot is possible, if the aviator were convinced he was doing the right thing.

I’m not so sure the past is a proper guide for the future, but the PLA have shot down recon flights before. Orion and SR-71 pilots can tell you of bellicose interference conducted against their missions from time to time. Plus there a ramming accidents.

I’ll be pleased to clarify on any of my points.


-(Name Withdrawn)

Published by Typewriter King | 8:39 PM
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