Of the Wired story¹ about FBI agent using Ukrainian hacker Popov to do their bidding there are many storylines:
- A criminal hacker wanted to turn and become legitimate – making money in the USA.
- FBI abused the hacker from Day1 for 3 years
- The FBI hierarchy did not know what they really had, but a single FBI agent (Hilbert) did.
- The turned criminal hacker was able to infiltrate criminal hacker groups with ease, and slowly caught several of them.
- In Ukraine there aren’t many jobs so sharp boys with programming skills are easily turned to hack for criminals (starting 2001)
- As many criminal enterprises go Popov’s was not easy so he wanted to reboot and turn himself in- He endeavored to go to US embassy
- Hilbert was able to get a lot of criminals caught with Popov’s help (since he knew Russian languages and street knowledge)
- In the end the justice system destroyed the operation that Hilbert-Popov had created and still created problems for both men long after
- VMWare kept secret a bug that the criminals used for years
I would say there are many lessons and conundrums
A) Cybersecurity is complex and taking down the hackers in other countries is not easy – in fact the FBI can’t do it on its own.
B) Misunderstanding what we really have in skills and what they can do. When the FBI (or ‘management’) has a certain cyber asset they do not really understand how to use and what to do. Thus forcing FBI to take a hardline stance on the cyber activities of the hacker which turned or wanted to make good.
C) The VMWare problem underscores how serious the problem really is since the criminal hackers have had a vulnerability within the VMWare infrastructure for years.
The criminal hackers are continually improving their networks as Krebsonsecurity² notes that the “Uncle Sam” site is on a “DarkCloud” of hundreds of hacked computers which host this website thus making it very difficult (close to impossible) to take down.
The sophistication of the hacker attackers is at a point of inflection at this time.
Bottom line for Cybersecurity Conundrum? Sophisticated attacks are met with misunderstanding and disorganized defenses.
It is difficult to get up to speed but little by little it has to be done. As I have discussed before (November2015 post)³
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