Healthy Skepticism and Hacking Attribution

This so-called reporting on the DNC hack really grinds my gears.

First let me preface this by saying I am not claiming to know who hacked the DNC, although it’s probably the Guccifer 2.0 person who’s been blogging about it the entire time. Maybe it was actually people working in the FSB and GRU for the Kremlin. That is beside the point. The point is the evidence that has been trotted out is of extremely questionable quality, the people reporting on it are clueless muppets who don’t know shit about computers, all sources point back to one guy who is part of the company paid by the DNC to spin things, and you should be highly skeptical of these claims. Again, maybe Russians did do it, I really have no idea obviously. But the absurd claims being said and printed really need some fact checking. Seems to be all the rage these days so let me try my hand at it here.

Let’s talk about what is being reported!

In the press there has been an unending stream of articles blaming Russian and specifically Putin himself for the hack. Usually with a photo of Putin and a stock image of a faceless male in a hoodie typing on a laptop with numbers flying out of it as he hacks the shit out of governments.
All of these stories lead back to the same person, the CTO of CrowdStrike which got called in and paid to do PR damage control for the DNC. Every article about this for a long time had only his blog post as evidence, nothing more.


Now attributing hacks is a really, really, really hard problem. I cannot stress this enough. It is incredibly difficult to be sure of who actually was behind a hack. More recently they have claimed that the IPs that were used came from Russia, and they used tools that they believe were used by the same russian hackers previously. Now if you know anything about computers at all you wouldn’t be one of these muppet “reporters” and you’d probably have a real job, and you’d also know that isn’t remotely convincing evidence.
There is an atrocious Buzzfeed article (why) that makes really goofball claims, including attributing some totally random unrelated ISIS hack was actually done by the same russians because a machine believed to have been compromised by the same russkiis was used. Well guess what, if a computer is hacked by one person, usually it’s backdoored and lots of services are enabled and any firewalls are removed and it’s open for anyone else to use who stumbles across it. But of course what would one expect from Buzzfeed. Also I suggest not listening to any other Cyber Journalists, and that goes doubly true for Brian Krebs who still has a vendetta against me (really, I asked him recently) for trolling him and many others and nearly ending his career with some off-the-wall claims.
You can read the article here but I don’t really recommend it because it will make you stupider:…/meet-fancy-bear-the-russian-grou…


Now we have Mrs. Clinton saying Putin is trying to destabilize the election by hacking the DNC to get Trump elected. Says 17 intelligence agencies “confirmed” it. Really she means DNI Clapper, noted perjurer, who said “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” Words matter, especially ones like “confirmed” when you’re talking about attributing hacking. You know, the thing that’s really, really, really hard to be certain about. Note that “confirmed” does not appear anywhere in that statement.
The FBI says Russians probably did it. I assume that they are going off of the CrowdStrike report although who knows. They also claim that North fucking Korea hacked Sony based on hard evidence such as “the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack”.
You know, the DPRK where the entire country’s phone system works by means of human fucking switchboard operators.

Little is also made of the fact that there’s actually someone calling themselves “Guccifer 2.0” (fun fact: Mr. 1.0 lied about hacking Mrs. Clinton’s email for lulz, which set off that whole wacky investigation into her email servers) who’s been maintaining a blog this whole time leaking documents from the hack and lolling at the ineptitude of people making wild claims about multiple russian intelligence agencies being behind it all.
Guccifer 2.0 posted this message while releasing the hacked documents:

“Worldwide known cyber security company CrowdStrike announced that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers had been hacked by “sophisticated” hacker groups.
I’m very pleased the company appreciated my skills so highly))) But in fact, it was easy, very easy.
Guccifer may have been the first one who penetrated Hillary Clinton’s and other Democrats’ mail servers. But he certainly wasn’t the last. No wonder any other hacker could easily get access to the DNC’s servers.
Shame on CrowdStrike: Do you think I’ve been in the DNC’s networks for almost a year and saved only 2 documents? Do you really believe it?
Here are just a few docs from many thousands I extracted when hacking into DNC’s network.”

On the CrowdStrike blog they responded by claiming the blog must be a russian disinformation smokescreen. Okay.
Some more of the “evidence” released includes statements like “Fancy Bear has used sophisticated — and expensive — malware during its operations”, which of course the russian government provides (while also stating that the operatives are at arm’s length from the government and don’t really have contact with the government, not sure how that works). I am not sure what to make of this statement. I think they are referring to 0-days? Then they say the DNC was hacked because someone made a Google Apps login page at ““. Now domains aren’t free but like, I don’t think you gotta have a nation-state-sized bank account to afford one.
They even go so far as to make the claim that not one commie intelligence agency but BOTH the КГБ I mean FSB AND the GRU both hacked the DNC by accident at the same time. Wow! Incredible
CrowdStrike also helpfully provided the IoCs, hashes of the trojans used by the hackers. I tried looking up some of the hashes and found nothing but references back to the same story. Maybe they know something we don’t, but they haven’t really said what.


Also let us not forget that there has been a constant, unrelenting media and economic assault on the pinko bastards for years and nothing would make officials happier than to have more villainous deeds to pin on Putin. He’s a dick, no doubt, but one should consider the interest our government has in reaching a certain conclusion. Many times in recent history these sort of motivations have produced their desired conclusions which turn out to be utterly incorrect. Remember that business about WMDs in Iraq? Or the utter failure to predict the Soviet Union collapsing because the director of the CIA fired anyone who said the Soviets weren’t a giant powerful menace? (ok I don’t remember that one since I was like five but you get my point).

What is my point again? My point is that you should look at these claims with a very critical eye. Remember that attributing hacking is really, really, really hard. It is also trivial for someone to forge an attack to look like it was done by another person or government when we allow the standards of evidence to be so low. Or even quite likely, simply someone randomly reusing an owned host or rootkit source that was left behind.
Be wary of anyone claiming to know who hacked whom. Be extra wary of claims that the hackers are working under the explicit direction of a foreign government. Sometimes they are! This is not in dispute. But it’s incredibly difficult to be confident of these things, it’s incredibly easy to set someone else up, and anyone who earnestly uses the word “cyber” in their speech should be immediately suspect.
Take this shit seriously because it is getting more and more serious. NATO has said that hacking is an act of war that can be retaliated against with violence.
I promise you that every evil troll antisocial misanthrope (of which there is no shortage of) who reads these proclamations is immediately thinking about just how easy it would be to set off WWIII. I’d really prefer that not happen. If people demand a higher standard of evidence and attribution that may make a real difference.

I wrote about this previously, going into more depth regarding the attribution problem, which as I mentioned, is really, really, really hard.

Now please enjoy this music video.


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