Russians? Chinese? They Are Just Spies Like Us

spyvsspySadly, the glory days of Spy vs. Spy are gone.  No more encrypted notes taped under park benches.  Forget about secret meetings in parking garages.  Throw away your fountain pen with the camera in the cap.

Was that sultry Russian babe James Bond’s friend or enemy?  How did Maxwell Smart get such good phone reception in his shoe?

Today’s spies aren’t nearly as cool and clandestine as the spooks we grew up with.  You won’t find them sneaking through the fog in trenchcoats with microfilm and hidden cameras, digging up tidbits to sell to the KGB or the CIA.  But there are still plenty of them, and they are gainfully employed by governments all over the world.  They spend their workdays in front of a computer screen, looking for an open port or a compromised password.  They write worms of code that can be planted in a target computer to reveal government secrets from yesterday, today, and into the future.

Democrats and the mainstream media (sorry, redundant) have suffered ‘hair-on-fire syndrome’ this week, blaming Russian hackers for helping Donald Trump defeat their heroine Hillary in the presidential election.   It’s amusing on a number of fronts.  They want to impugn Trump because somebody hacked their DNC servers and emails.  They assume it was the Russians, but they don’t know.  They don’t seem concerned about the ugly Democrat secrets revealed.  They can’t explain why Russian president Putin would prefer Trump to their golden girl.  Wasn’t it Hillary who gave 20% of our strategic uranium supply to Russia?

Vladimir, when asked by a reporter about Russian hacking, said, “It wasn’t us, but thanks for the compliment.”

“There’s nothing there benefiting Russia,” Putin told the Russia Calling conference. “The hysteria is simply to distract the American people from the contents of what the hackers have posted.”

Putin doesn’t deny that his government employs hackers.  He would be foolish to do so, at a time when China, the United States, and many other governments are feverishly at work trying to dig up each others’ secrets.  China, in fact, is setting the bar high for other wanna-be hacker spies.  They nailed the personnel records of 4 million US government workers.   Oops, make that 21.5 million government workers.  They busted into the White House, the US Postal Service, the State Dept., and the NOAA.  They infiltrated the FDIC.  It may be hard to find a government server that hasn’t been hacked by the Chinese.  Several years ago the Chinese Army filled a building with hackers, and has since built a small high-tech city around it, putting a whole lot of their espionage eggs in the computer hacking basket.

And if stealing secrets isn’t bad enough, foreign hackers are developing offensive weapons that could black-out our electrical grid, bring the stock market to a screeching halt, or make our barely-functional air traffic control system totally dysfunctional.  Chances are some or all of these dastardly deeds are already do-able.

As early as 2011 the US government recognized hacking as the next big thing in intelligence and intrigue, ramping up to hire its own army of geeks.  Mum has been the word since then, but it would be naïve, to say the least, to think that we haven’t tried to sneak into Putin’s database.

As to the latest knots in the Democrat underwear about Trump conspiring with big, mean Putin against poor little Hillary (who got her own top-secret server hacked by lord-knows-who) – I say, fagettaboutit.  It’s Spy vs. Spy all over again, and our spies had better be at least as smart as the other guys spies.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Hey don’t feel afraid
Of an undercover raid
There’s no need to fuss
There ain’t nobody that spies like us!

Spies Like Us – Paul McCartney

 

FTC Endorses Hacking Private Data

Hacker_DetectedSo there you are, minding your own business, running a company that provides a much-needed medical service – lab analysis of specimens to help doctors diagnose and treat cancers and other dread diseases.  And out of the blue you find you are under attack by your own government.

Michael Daugherty, founder and CEO of LabMD, has been through hell, at the hands of the “Devil Inside the Beltway”.

His story defies logic and reason.  Why would the federal government – specifically the FTC – join forces with a for-profit extortionist hacker to wreak havoc on a private company?   And how could our court system not recognize theft of personal data as a crime?

Here’s the story, in a nutshell:  In 2008 a LabMD employee, against company policy, installed a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing application called LimeWire to her computer so she could share music files with other subscribers.   She just wanted to listen to music.  Unfortunately, this opened a port which made other data on her computer accessible to outsiders.  And an opened port is all the Devil needs to do his evil work.

In this case, the Devil is a company named Tiversa, Inc. – the self-proclaimed “World Leader in P2P Cyberintelligence”.  Tiversa developed a program which scours the internet, looking for open P2P ports and any tasty files that might be exposed, in the hope that a particularly delectable file might be useful for the purpose of extortion.

During the very short time that the LabMD employee’s computer was vulnerable, Tiversa grabbed a file that included patient data including social security numbers, medical codes, etc. – information that could be used by a bad actor for identity theft, blackmail, or other nefarious purposes.  And what did Tiversa do with their ill-gotten booty?  First they attempted to extort LabMD with an expensive, open-ended and loosely-defined service contract.  When LabMD CEO Daugherty logically told them to take a hike, they turned the file over to the FTC as an indictment of LabMD’s failure to protect their clients’ data.

This is where it gets crazy.

The federal government is there to protect and serve its constituents, right?  You would think that if somebody hacks into your computer system, and steals your sensitive information and then blackmails you with the release of it, the feds will help you nail them.  Right?

Instead, the FTC, typical of today’s over-reaching federal bureaucracy, decided to join forces with the bad guys to beat up on one of those despicable, “for-profit” private businesses.  “You didn’t build that!”  , they declare.  “And we will punish you for your success!”

Instead of pursuing the people who aggressively sought to steal sensitive data  (they claim their program performs exponentially more searches than Google) the FTC went after the victims of the theft.  Most of their victims acquiesced to the relentless FTC pressure and accepted  demands for consent decrees (guilty without proof).  LabMD and Michael Daugherty took a courageous stand against this extortion, and continue their brave battle today.

The obvious questions beckon:  what is the relationship between the top brass of the FTC and for-profit hackers like Tiversa?  Will the federal courts recognize data as property, and accept theft of data as theft of property?  And most importantly – when a federal agency like the FTC (or the IRS or EPA) lines up its infinite roster of taxpayer-funded lawyers against an individual or private company with limited resources in a ideological battle, is there any hope that justice will prevail?

Cyber-security is the 600 pound gorilla in the room.  Our government admits that China, North Korea, and Russia routinely hack our government databases.  It’s bad enough that foreign bad guys feverishly work at worming their way into our national databases.  How can we tolerate our own government cooperating with extortionist hackers who attack our private data?

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Listen, Do you want to know a secret?
Do you promise not to tell?
Closer, Let me whisper in your ear,
Say the words you long to hear,
I’m in love with you!
No live video, just a good old Beatles song here: