When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do? -- John Maynard Keynes

Monday, July 15, 2013

NSA and Snowden, what happened between May 20th and May 31st?

Nations Buying as *Hackers Sell Flaws in Computer Code - NYTimes.com"All over the world, from South Africa to South Korea, business is booming in what hackers call “zero days,” the coding flaws in software like Microsoft Windows that can give a buyer unfettered access to a computer and any business, agency or individual dependent on one."

Edward Snowden and the NSA files – timeline | World news | The Guardian: "20 May Edward Snowden, an employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton at the National Security Agency, arrives in Hong Kong from Hawaii. He carries four laptop computers that enable him to gain access to some of the US government's most highly-classified secrets. 1 June Guardian journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill and documentary maker Laura Poitras fly from New York to Hong Kong. They meet Snowden in a Kowloon hotel after he identifies himself with a Rubik's cube and begin a week of interviews with their source. 5 June The Guardian publishes its first exclusive based on Snowden's leak, revealing a secret court order showing that the US government had forced the telecoms giant Verizon to hand over the phone records of millions of Americans. . . ."

Most people by now have heard of Edward Snowden. They may know of his 4 laptops which the Guardian says "enable him to gain access to some of the US government's most highly-classified secrets." I doubt that statement of the Guardian. There is no evidence that Edward Snowden is a hacker* (see story at the first link above). There is no evidence Snowden is able to access US classified networks and devices via the 4 laptops he is carrying with him.

"Hackers" in this context, are persons who are able to gain access to networks and network devices from "outside" the subject network, device, and organization. Contrast this with Snowden--he was easily able to access (without apparent detection) and download, at will, voluminous "classified/top secret" material of the NSA from "inside." Putting aside, for a moment, the gross incompetence of the NSA, there is no evidence that Snowden utilized ANY hacking skills or software to access the voluminous material he took with him. He simply used his authorized credentials, and was able to take anything he wanted.

Ever hear of ANY member of Congress (or Obama) asking NSA officials how they could run such a slipshod operation in view of the billions of taxpayer dollars spent wasted on the NSA since 9/11? The evidence, thus far, is that all the information Snowden is carrying and/or took with him while he worked for NSA contractor Booz Allen, he obtained from "inside" via thumb drives (a/k/a USB drives) plugged into computers and/or other network devices he had access to as an employee of Booz Allen working for the NSA.

So what was Snowden doing between May 20 and May 31 (other than line up interviews with the Guardian et al)? My best guess is he was transferring all the files he was carrying on his "4 laptops" to various cloud storage devices via network connections that Snowden thought were secure and/or unable to be tracked by US agencies. The NSA, CIA, and other US agencies had more than 10 days to apprehend Snowden in Hong Kong before his first interview was given. So what were they (NSA, CIA, et al) doing between May 20 and May 31st? Nobody's talking--except Snowden.

And so Snowden, even if he makes it to Venezuela or other asylum haven, has a serious long-term problem. He is not a skilled hacker. At best, he is only a semi-skilled amateur with idealistic motives (which is why the Chinese and Russians have no real interest in him other than brief exploitation of him for global political purposes). The information Snowden took will soon be "stale" and most, if not all, that information was already known by the Chinese, Russians, and others. Snowden's information (and similar information about Russian, Chinese, European et al, snooping)  was just not publicly acknowledged--that's against the rules of the game. If Snowden had been a real hacker with similar motives, he would have never left Hawaii, his cushy job, or his pole-dancing girlfriend. He would have taken the same information, undetected or without being tracked, by hacking the NSA and transferring it to Wikileaks anonymously.

As it is, Snowden's value to anyone other than the US DOJ, and the value of his information, is quickly dissipating. The bad news for the NSA (and other US government agencies), is that they will now become an increasing target for real hackers, foreign and domestic, some of whom will have the same idealistic views as Edward Snowden. The clumsy and inelegant response of the Obama administration and Congressional "defenders" of the NSA, the ineffective Congressional oversight of NSA and other agencies, and secret "rubber-stamp" FISA court, have all validated in the minds of many hackers the perception that the US government is just another "bad guy."  

The Big Picture

Financial Crisis - The Telegraph

JohnTheCrowd.com | The Sailing Website

Craig Newmark - craigconnects