Archive for the ‘Slashdot’ Category

Dept of Homeland Security believes blogs are for terrorists

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

Slashdot submission:

An article at USA Today shows The Department of Homeland Security believes that “Blogging and message boards have played a substantial role in allowing communication among those who would do the United States harm,” the department said in a recent notice. “I just can’t envision a scenario where somebody posts to a message board, ‘I’m getting ready to launch an IED at this location,’ and the government will find that,” said terrorism analyst Matt Devost. This combined with the U.S. preparing itself for massive civil disorder makes me wonder how much longer until we are completely a police state?

Why switch to Linux? Applications.

Thursday, July 13th, 2006

Posted on Slashdot:
Besides why would anyone switch to linux? The are few to no applications.

Surely you jest.

Don’t even get me started on games

Wired news releases NSA/AT&T whistleblower’s evidence

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Original article here.

This is to serve as a mirror in case the Wired article gets “taken down”:

Former AT&T technician Mark Klein is the key witness in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s class-action lawsuit against the telecommunications company, which alleges that AT&T cooperated in an illegal National Security Agency domestic surveillance program.

In a public statement Klein issued last month, he described the NSA’s visit to an AT&T office. In an older, less-public statement recently acquired by Wired News, Klein goes into additional details of his discovery of an alleged surveillance operation in an AT&T building in San Francisco.

Klein supports his claim by attaching excerpts of three internal company documents: a Dec. 10, 2002, manual titled “Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco,” a Jan. 13, 2003, document titled “SIMS, Splitter Cut-In and Test Procedure” and a second “Cut-In and Test Procedure” dated Jan. 24, 2003.

Here we present Klein’s statement in its entirety, with inline links to all of the document excerpts where he cited them. You can also download the complete file here (pdf). The full AT&T documents are filed under seal in federal court in San Francisco.

AT&T’s Implementation of NSA Spying on American Citizens

31 December 2005

I wrote the following document in 2004 when it became clear to me that AT&T, at the behest of the National Security Agency, had illegally installed secret computer gear designed to spy on internet traffic. At the time I thought this was an outgrowth of the notorious Total Information Awareness program, which was attacked by defenders of civil liberties. But now it’s been revealed by The New York Times that the spying program is vastly bigger and was directly authorized by President Bush, as he himself has now admitted, in flagrant violation of specific statutes and constitutional protections for civil liberties. I am presenting this information to facilitate the dismantling of this dangerous Orwellian project.
AT&T Deploys Government Spy Gear on WorldNet Network

— 16 January, 2004

In 2003 AT&T built “secret rooms” hidden deep in the bowels of its central offices in various cities, housing computer gear for a government spy operation which taps into the company’s popular WorldNet service and the entire internet. These installations enable the government to look at every individual message on the internet and analyze exactly what people are doing. Documents showing the hardwire installation in San Francisco suggest that there are similar locations being installed in numerous other cities.

The physical arrangement, the timing of its construction, the government-imposed secrecy surrounding it and other factors all strongly suggest that its origins are rooted in the Defense Department’s Total Information Awareness (TIA) program which brought forth vigorous protests from defenders of constitutionally protected civil liberties last year:

“As the director of the effort, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, has described the system in Pentagon documents and in speeches, it will provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant.” The New York Times, 9 November 2002

To mollify critics, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) spokesmen have repeatedly asserted that they are only conducting “research” using “artificial synthetic data” or information from “normal DOD intelligence channels” and hence there are “no U.S. citizen privacy implications” (Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General report on TIA, December 12, 2003). They also changed the name of the program to “Terrorism Information Awareness” to make it more politically palatable. But feeling the heat, Congress made a big show of allegedly cutting off funding for TIA in late 2003, and the political fallout resulted in Adm. Poindexter’s abrupt resignation last August. However, the fine print reveals that Congress eliminated funding only for “the majority of the TIA components,” allowing several “components” to continue (DOD, ibid). The essential hardware elements of a TIA-type spy program are being surreptitiously slipped into “real world” telecommunications offices.

In San Francisco the “secret room” is Room 641A at 611 Folsom Street, the site of a large SBC phone building, three floors of which are occupied by AT&T. High-speed fiber-optic circuits come in on the 8th floor and run down to the 7th floor where they connect to routers for AT&T’s WorldNet service, part of the latter’s vital “Common Backbone.” In order to snoop on these circuits, a special cabinet was installed and cabled to the “secret room” on the 6th floor to monitor the information going through the circuits. (The location code of the cabinet is 070177.04, which denotes the 7th floor, aisle 177 and bay 04.) The “secret room” itself is roughly 24-by-48 feet, containing perhaps a dozen cabinets including such equipment as Sun servers and two Juniper routers, plus an industrial-size air conditioner.

The normal work force of unionized technicians in the office are forbidden to enter the “secret room,” which has a special combination lock on the main door. The telltale sign of an illicit government spy operation is the fact that only people with security clearance from the National Security Agency can enter this room. In practice this has meant that only one management-level technician works in there. Ironically, the one who set up the room was laid off in late 2003 in one of the company’s endless “downsizings,” but he was quickly replaced by another.

Plans for the “secret room” were fully drawn up by December 2002, curiously only four months after Darpa started awarding contracts for TIA. One 60-page document, identified as coming from “AT&T Labs Connectivity & Net Services” and authored by the labs’ consultant Mathew F. Casamassima, is titled Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco and dated 12/10/02. This document addresses the special problem of trying to spy on fiber-optic circuits. Unlike copper wire circuits which emit electromagnetic fields that can be tapped into without disturbing the circuits, fiber-optic circuits do not “leak” their light signals. In order to monitor such communications, one has to physically cut into the fiber somehow and divert a portion of the light signal to see the information.

This problem is solved with “splitters” which literally split off a percentage of the light signal so it can be examined. This is the purpose of the special cabinet referred to above: Circuits are connected into it, the light signal is split into two signals, one of which is diverted to the “secret room.” The cabinet is totally unnecessary for the circuit to perform — in fact it introduces problems since the signal level is reduced by the splitter — its only purpose is to enable a third party to examine the data flowing between sender and recipient on the internet.

The above-referenced document includes a diagram showing the splitting of the light signal, a portion of which is diverted to “SG3 Secure Room,” i.e., the so-called “Study Group” spy room. Another page headlined “Cabinet Naming” lists not only the “splitter” cabinet but also the equipment installed in the “SG3” room, including various Sun devices, and Juniper M40e and M160 “backbone” routers. PDF file 4 shows one of many tables detailing the connections between the “splitter” cabinet on the 7th floor (location 070177.04) and a cabinet in the “secret room” on the 6th floor (location 060903.01). Since the San Francisco “secret room” is numbered 3, the implication is that there are at least several more in other cities (Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego are some of the rumored locations), which likely are spread across the United States.

One of the devices in the “Cabinet Naming” list is particularly revealing as to the purpose of the “secret room”: a Narus STA 6400. Narus is a 7-year-old company which, because of its particular niche, appeals not only to businessmen (it is backed by AT&T, JP Morgan and Intel, among others) but also to police, military and intelligence officials. Last November 13-14, for instance, Narus was the “Lead Sponsor” for a technical conference held in McLean, Virginia, titled “Intelligence Support Systems for Lawful Interception and Internet Surveillance.” Police officials, FBI and DEA agents, and major telecommunications companies eager to cash in on the “war on terror” had gathered in the hometown of the CIA to discuss their special problems. Among the attendees were AT&T, BellSouth, MCI, Sprint and Verizon. Narus founder, Dr. Ori Cohen, gave a keynote speech. So what does the Narus STA 6400 do?

“The (Narus) STA Platform consists of standalone traffic analyzers that collect network and customer usage information in real time directly from the message…. These analyzers sit on the message pipe into the ISP (internet service provider) cloud rather than tap into each router or ISP device” (Telecommunications magazine, April 2000). A Narus press release (1 Dec., 1999) also boasts that its Semantic Traffic Analysis (STA) technology “captures comprehensive customer usage data … and transforms it into actionable information…. (It) is the only technology that provides complete visibility for all internet applications.”

To implement this scheme, WorldNet’s high-speed data circuits already in service had to be rerouted to go through the special “splitter” cabinet. This was addressed in another document of 44 pages from AT&T Labs, titled SIMS, Splitter Cut-In and Test Procedure, dated 01/13/03. “SIMS” is an unexplained reference to the secret room. Part of this reads as follows:

“A WMS (work) Ticket will be issued by the AT&T Bridgeton Network Operation Center (NOC) to charge time for performing the work described in this procedure document….
“This procedure covers the steps required to insert optical splitters into select live Common Backbone (CBB) OC3, OC12 and OC48 optical circuits.”

The NOC referred to is in Bridgeton, Missouri, and controls WorldNet operations. (As a sign that government spying goes hand-in-hand with union-busting, the entire (Communication Workers of America) Local 6377 which had jurisdiction over the Bridgeton NOC was wiped out in early 2002 when AT&T fired the union work force and later rehired them as nonunion “management” employees.) The cut-in work was performed in 2003, and since then new circuits are connected through the “splitter” cabinet.

Another Cut-In and Test Procedure document dated January 24, 2003, provides diagrams of how AT&T Core Network circuits were to be run through the “splitter” cabinet. One page lists the circuit IDs of key Peering Links which were “cut-in” in February 2003, including ConXion, Verio, XO, Genuity, Qwest, PAIX, Allegiance, AboveNet, Global Crossing, C&W, UUNET, Level 3, Sprint, Telia, PSINet and Mae West. By the way, Mae West is one of two key internet nodal points in the United States (the other, Mae East, is in Vienna, Virginia). It’s not just WorldNet customers who are being spied on — it’s the entire internet.

The next logical question is, what central command is collecting the data sent by the various “secret rooms”? One can only make educated guesses, but perhaps the answer was inadvertently given in the DOD Inspector General’s report (cited above):

“For testing TIA capabilities, Darpa and the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) created an operational research and development environment that uses real-time feedback. The main node of TIA is located at INSCOM (in Fort Belvoir, Virginia)….”

Among the agencies participating or planning to participate in the INSCOM “testing” are the “National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the DOD Counterintelligence Field Activity, the U.S. Strategic Command, the Special Operations Command, the Joint Forces Command and the Joint Warfare Analysis Center.” There are also “discussions” going on to bring in “non-DOD federal agencies” such as the FBI.

This is the infrastructure for an Orwellian police state. It must be shut down!

Klein Evidence 1

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Original article here.

This is to serve as a mirror in case the Wired article gets “taken down”:

Former AT&T technician Mark Klein is the key witness in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s class-action lawsuit that alleges the telecommunications company cooperated in an illegal National Security Agency domestic surveillance program.

These four pages, excerpted by Klein from a 60-page document, allegedly describe AT&T’s efforts to install splitters on internet fiber-optic cables at the company’s San Francisco switching center. Page 2 describes the splitter and lists the equipment at the receiving end of the purportedly tapped lines. Page 3 is a diagram depicting the alleged tap, and Page 4 details connections between the splitter cabinet and what Klein calls a “secret room” housing the equipment.

“Since the San Francisco ‘secret room’ is numbered 3, the implication is that there are at least several more in other cities (Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego are some of the rumored locations), which likely are spread across the U.S.,” Klein wrote.

Page 1 || Page 2 || Page 3 || Page 4

Klein Evidence 2

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Original article here.

This is to serve as a mirror in case the Wired article gets “taken down”:

Former AT&T technician Mark Klein is the key witness in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s class-action lawsuit that alleges the telecommunications company cooperated in an illegal National Security Agency domestic surveillance program.

These two pages, excerpted by Klein from a 44-page document, purportedly show AT&T re-rerouting its high-speed data circuits through the splitter cabinet that performs the physics of the alleged wiretaps. The work was apparently overseen by AT&T’s Network Operations Center in Bridgeton, Missouri. “‘SIMS’ is an unexplained reference to the secret room” in which the equipment was stored, Klein wrote.

Page 1 || Page 2

Klein Evidence 3

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Original article here.

This is to serve as a mirror in case the Wired article gets “taken down”:

Former AT&T technician Mark Klein is the key witness in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s class-action lawsuit that alleges the telecommunications company cooperated in an illegal National Security Agency domestic surveillance program.

These two pages, excerpted by Klein from another “Cut-In and Test Procedure” document, further illustrate AT&T’s re-rerouting of its high-speed data circuits for surveillance, according to Klein.

Page 1 diagrams the new connection through the splitter cabinet, and Page 2 shows the company phasing in fiber-optic splitters on high-speed links connecting AT&T’s WorldNet to other ISPs, “including ConXion, Verio, XO, Genuity, Qwest, PAIX, Allegiance, Abovenet, Global Crossing, C&W, UUNET, Level 3, Sprint, Telia, PSINet, and Mae West,” Klein wrote. “It’s not just WorldNet customers who are being spied on.”

Page 1 || Page 2

Slashdot submission – Judge rules in favor of websurfing at work

Monday, April 24th, 2006

According to an MSNBC article, a judge has ruled in favor of a worker that was repeatedly warned for surfing the internet on company time. Only a “reprimand” is a fitting punishment – not termination. FTA: “It should be observed that the Internet has become the modern equivalent of a telephone or a daily newspaper, providing a combination of communication and information that most employees use as frequently in their personal lives as for their work.” Since I’m posting this from work, I wonder if I’m covered…since it *is* work-related 😉

Hooray! The article was approved!

Sendmail flaw

Monday, March 27th, 2006

A new flaw in Sendmail has been announced, but apparently it’s very difficult to exploit. From the web site ( that first reported the Proof of Concept code and instructions:

step 1)
connect to sendmail server say something like
helo me\r\n
mail from:
rcpt to: root data

step 2)
wait for server to say go ahead
send about 32767 characters inside a header
note what time it is

step 3)
wait until you get:
451 4.4.1 timeout waiting for input during message collect

step 4)
note what time it was when that message happened

step 5)
youll be dropped back into smtp command mode, now there is a static pointer inside sm_syslog thats your attack vector, youll need to recreate the collect timeout and race into sm_syslog
resend the helo crap

step 6)
wait for server to say go ahead
send about 32767 characters inside a header
and wait the time delta from the earlier 2 measurements

send more header data (so that its now greater than 32768 bytes)

hopefully sendmail will now race and crash inside sm_syslog because:
a) we just sent sendmail into sm_syslog due to the fact that we sent > the max amount of header data
b) we have a timeout (SIGALARM, longjmp thingy) that should be pending about the same exact time that we entered sm_syslog

Also posted is a Proof of Concept to test if you are vulnerable. This needs a lot more work, and is not an exploit, but is a start:

The Mac OSX security challenge

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

Days after a poorly reported Mac OSX security challenge by ZDnet, the University of Wisconsin has come up with a proper Mac OSX security challenge.

This challenge is currently up and running and will end on Friday March 10th, 2006 at 10:00 AM CST.

Helpful hints: They’re running Apache 1.3.33 on Darwin, they’re running SSH (SSH-1.99-OpenSSH_3.8.1p1), and there’s two user accounts on the machine. 😉

Jeffrey Kowalski campaign links to my blog

Sunday, March 5th, 2006

Just a few days after my post about Delta College’s network security weaknesses, it has been referenced by someone who appears to be running for State Representative. Link here. While I normally don’t try to bring politics into my blog, I’m finding this politician’s views fairly interesting.

Here is a press release announcing Jeffrey Kowalski entering the race.

Here is an article concerning his views on the RIAA, which I have to say that I completely agree with.

Mr. Kowalski appears to be someone who is technology-minded and plans to bring technology to the government for a more open government and more government accountability. Read his views in the Issues area of his blog to understand what I’m talking about. He has some pretty good ideas in my opinion and it would be nice to see them implemented whether he becomes a State Representative or not. However, given the stance of most politicians, if someone else were to be elected other than Mr. Kowalski, it would not likely be implemented. After all, how many politicians do you know who would implement a system that would allow citizens to hold them more accountable?

I have to be honest – after seeing Granholm’s mishaps with technology, Michigan needs someone with more a more technology-based background in their government. After all, if Maine can successfully bring technology to the classroom, why can’t we?

While I can’t say that bringing laptops and internet connectivity to 6th graders is the best idea in the world, I can honestly say that if this were to occur, someone with more of a mind for technology could find several ways to help ease the cost of this program and make it more secure for the students. For instance, striking a deal with Dell, HP, or another large manufacturer of laptops for a volume discount on the machines would help. A politician who is honestly looking out for the best interests of “the people” would bid out the hardware expenses to several large manufacturers and not base their decision on the largest campaign contribution the manufacturer has to offer.

Also, consider using Edubuntu Linux and OpenOffice rather than Windows and Microsoft Office could save a bundle as well. Edubuntu and OpenOffice are free, where Windows might come standard on the laptop (bundled in the inflated price), but Microsoft Office licenses cost money. That would save on the initial cost of the machines. On top of that, the fact that Linux is not succeptable to viruses or worms like Windows, would greatly reduce the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) by reducing security and administration concerns, but I digress.

My suggestion would be to let Slashdot know about your political stances as well as your technology stances in government. That would open up quite a few eyes to your compaign not only in the state of Michigan, but across the nation and the rest of the globe. Make some waves!

I’d like to wish Jeffrey Kowalski luck in the August 8th primary election – stick with it and you’ll achieve the outcome you desire.