Anonymous, SCADA, Lulz, DHS, and Motivations

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Infosec Island Admin

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Anonymous Is Interested In PLC’s & SCADA?

A recent .pdf bulletin put out by Homeland Security (i.e. DHS) claims that certain actors within Anonymous (and by that they mean “anonymous”, I added the distinction) have shown interest in at least Siemens SIMATIC PLC’s and how to locate them online for exploitation.

It seems that DHS though warning about this threat, is not too concerned about its actually being exploited by the group because they lack the expertise to attack them. So, why the BOLO on this at all?

If the collective cannot do the damage to the infrastructure that you are entrusted in keeping safe, then why report on it at all as credible intelligence?

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It would seem to some, myself included, that Anonymous is not the problem that they are really worried about on the macro scale, but instead, those who may claim to be Anonymous hitting small scale facilities or pockets of targets for their own purposes.

And therein lies the difference.

If indeed Anonymous the collective is looking at attacking SCADA, one has to wonder at their reasons to target such systems. After all, if Anonymous takes out the power or poisons the water, it will not look good for them PR wise.

In fact, were such things to happen in the name of Anonymous, I can pretty much guarantee you all that they would be enemy #1 pretty darned quick post an attack. However, if they were to target a company such as a car maker that pollutes, then, you have a real agenda (per their social agenda of late) So, the targeting is really key here and I will cover that later on.

DHS Jumping The Shark?

The motivations of the release by DHS have also  been called into question by some as to why they chose to talk about this at all. This is especially prescient since they take pains to say that the Anonymous movement “most likely” does not have the technical means and motive to really pull of these types of attacks on the infrastructure. So why even bother?

Perhaps they are just covering their bases (or asses) just in case the Anon’s actually attack? Or perhaps, they too are clued in on the fact that even if claimed to be anonymous, it could be others working against the US (Nation State Actors) who have chosen to attack and use Anonymous as a cover so as to throw off attribution.

Either way, as some look at it, it is almost like they are daring Anonymous to do it out of spite because they are calling Anonymous’  factions and actors “inept” or “unskilled” which, might get their dander up a bit.

All of these scenarios pretty much do not preclude someone hitting SCADA systems in the future and it being blamed on Anonymous, which will bring on a new wave of efforts by the government to stamp them out. Reciprocity being what it is, this too will mean that Anonymous might in fact gain strength and sympathy from such actions and fallout as well.

For me though, I just see DHS covering the bases so as to not be blamed later on should something happen. Not so much am I of the opinion that they are in some kind of propaganda war here with this little missive.

Motives, Means, Technical Abilities

So lets go with the theory that certain elements of the Anonymous collective want to mess with the infrastructure. Who would they target and why? More to the point, what companies would they target that fits their agenda?

  • Telco?
  • Power?
  • Manufacturing?

Those are the three areas that I could see as potential attack vectors. Though, once again I have to say that the only two that I see as real possible would be the telco and manufacturing and even the telco would be dangerous for them to try as well.

I mean, if you start messing with Ebay or Paypal that’s one thing, its quite another to mess with national infrastructure, as these two would be considered. If indeed Anonymous hit them and took them down for whatever reason, they would then be directly considered terrorists… And that would be seriously bad for their movement and its legitimacy.

Now, we do know that the  Anon’s hit the BART system but as I remember it, it was BART that took out the communications infrastructure themselves so as to prevent communication between Anon’s.

So, this just doesn’t seem to fit for me either. Manufacturing though, as I made the case above, could be something they would try. It’s not national infrastructure and it will not take the country down if they stop something like cars  being made.

Is it just me? Or does anyone else just see this as a non starter for Anonymous central? What I do see is the threat of other actors using the nomme de guerre of Anonymous as cover for their actions to mess with the national infrastructure. Perhaps some of these people might in fact be motivated by anonymous, but, my guess that if there were to happen, it would be nation state driven… And something I have been warning about for some time.

Anonymous, as an idea, as a movement, will be subverted by those looking to fulfill their own ends and justify their means. All the while, they will let the Anon’s take the fall for it.

Governments. Nations. Nation States, and... Corporations.

You know, those with the money and the people who could pull off the technical hacks required to carry these capers off.. Not a bunch of rag tag hacktivists and hangers on.

Blowback

In the end, what I fear is that there will be a great deal of blowback on Anonymous even talking about hacking and messing with infrastructure. The same can be said for their attempts on taking down Wall Street or the NYSE with their DD0S.

If they had succeeded, they would have been an annoyance really, but that would not have caused any great fluctuation in the markets I think. No, unless they hacked into NYSE itself and exposed the fact that they had root in there, I think that it would have a very minimal effect on Wall Street and the economy at large.

Not to say that everything is going ever so well now…

DHS seems to have jumped the shark a bit for me on their BOLO and the coverage of this just tends to add to the FUD concerning SCADA and PLC code. Hell, for that matter we have the new Symantec report on DUQU that yells out about it being the “Son of Stuxnet” but in reality, it is more like a clone of Stuxnet used for APT style attacks by persons unknown...

Get yer FUD here! Same goes for this DHS warning. Your results may vary…

K.

Cross-posted from Krypt3ia

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