Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Today in Skye's Spies: Chinese Hack Aussie Intel & Steal What?, Navy Spy Arrest Still Haunts Canadian Intel

Chinese Hack Aussie Intel and Steal...What? 

Okay, so I wasn't going to write an update today but these stories were just TOO good to pass up. In my daily news edition of Skye's Spies, looks like the Chinese are taking half a page out of the Russian handbook, ALLEGEDLY hacking into Austrailian Intelligence HQ computer networks and stealing the blueprints for their new HQ--instead of recruiting an insider like the Russians do. Reportedly, the Chinese got access documents containing details of Aussie intelligence's floor plan, cabling layouts, server locations, and security systems.


I hope it isn't true. But it probably is.

They aren't alone so they shouldn't feel bad. There are SO many cases involving Russian compromises of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, it's not even funny. The State Department was crazy enough to hire Russian workers to build the new embassy space in the 1980s and it had more bugs than an ant farm. I also remember the Lonetree case in which a compromised U.S. Marine spying for the KGB provided floor plans of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Some might wonder, "What's the big deal? It's not like they got the keys and an access badge."

Well, it's pretty significant. I mean, that kind of information comes in handy if you want to identify the secure spaces so you can plant a bug, or recruit an employee with access to the area so he/she can plant a bug. Or if you want to know how to tap into the cabling so that you don't even need to recruit a human, you can just hack your way to Top Secret informaiton.

Why should it matter to Americans? Well, for starters, if Chinese intel, in a worst-case scenario, managed to compromise the security systems or cabling, they might obtain access to Five-Eye intelligence which includes classified reporting from the United States, the UK, Canada, and New Zealand. Yep. They could gain access to American sources and methods. In essence, Chinese intel is hitting a softer target which  could net them major intelligence gains from the much harder targets--such as the United States and the UK.

That could be a pretty big score if the Chinese could exploit the information to their advantage.

And what are the poor Aussies going to do now that the building's almost done? Change the architecture? Move the secure space? Or spend an inordinate amount of money attempting to protect the space from all imaginable compromises that could happen knowing Chinese intelligence has the plans--and perhaps try to use that against them.

Hmmmm. We'll see. But suffice it to say, Aussie intel has a lot of work on their hands.

If you read my previous post on Spook TV, the new show Intelligence pits a U.S. Cyber spy against a Chinese cyber spy. It's not hard to see why Hollywood picked Chinese intelligence as the villan in that story. If they're not the top cyber threat in the world, they should be...and every day they demonstrate why they've earned the top spot.

Navy Spy Arrest Still Haunts Canadian Intel

Our Canadian Intelligence brethren suffered a pretty major blow when former Canadian naval officer Jeffrey Delisle passed top secret information to Russian intelligence. In February 2013, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but he sure left a big mess in his wake.

First, according to a recent news article, there appreas to be a big rub about the fact that CSIS knew about Delisle's cooperation with Russian Intellignce  months before it was reported to RCMP. If you're in the business you understand why that may have happened even if you don't understand why it took so long. I suspect, CSIS had a source, whether human or a signals source, that initially provided the information about Delisle's cooperation. CSIS verified the veracity. Then to keep the identity of the source a secret--in order to protect the source of the information from exposure--they needed RCMP to build a new case based completely on investigative informaiton that was discoverable in court. The FBI deals with these issues all the time. I get it. And if you want to know how passionately I feel about source protection, well just check out my article on the AP Intelligence Leak situation. If you don't protect your sources, new sources will not cooperate you for fear that they will be compromised. And for many, the consequences of compromises means torture, death, imprisonment, or a combination of the three.

If dealing with the Delisle debacle isn't bad enough, now Canadian Intel has U.S. intelligence (including the FBI, I'm sure) breathing down it's neck to ensure that it implements tighter security protocols to prevent future compromises of that magnitude. Like I said before, threats to Five-Eye intelligence has much broader implications and threatens not only key intelligence sources in Canada, but those of other countries as well. It makes everyone hold on to key intelligence a little tighter, intelligence that could save a life or prevent major breaches. So, it's certainly nothing to be sneezed at and Canadian intel will have to take it on the chin or lose access.

With that said, insider threats are the most insidious and hardest to detect in my experience. Some guy, just like you, goes through a stringent security background investigation, just like you, gets an ID badge and access like you, except when he goes to work he's shopping for a foreign intelligence service and you're supporting your country's needs. It's very difficult to defend against stuff like that.

The Seven Year Itch centers around an Insider Threat in the wake of the arrest of former Special Agent Robert Hanssen. The story gives you a peek into the window of counterintelligence and glimpses into what can happen to sources when they are compromised.

And that's all I have to say about that!

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