Instead of trying to defend perfectly against a few narrowly defined threats, build systems that can handle nearly anything reasonably well.
Faced with n-billion vulnerabilities and attacks on digital systems, it’s not necessarily practical to be “bug proof.” Instead, it may be better to be both bug-resistant and resilient.
This is precisely how nature deals with it… our immune systems don’t try to mount a perfect defense against the flu, they try to mount a “good enough” one.
How Snowden may have got his data: According to JMA (himself a former* government signals and crypto man), traces in the released documents suggest Snowden likely tapped into (the NSA’s own internal?) fiber backbones and started hoovering up data… creating his own PRISM to fight PRISM, if you will. It’s unclear where the number comes from, but JMA believes Snowden grabbed between “4.66 to 9.5 million pages at a minimum.” With zero logs to give the damage mitigation team any idea of what he actually has. https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/tscm-l2006/z2PtxAlnD9g
* “There is no such thing as a former Chekist.” –Putin. “There are people who believe themselves to be such.” –Me
Cryptome on SnowdenLeaks: This interview and accompanying commentary piece are well worth reading. John Young has been around the secrecy business for a very long time, something that’s made him a notoriously hardened cynic in security matters. Even better, when he gets going his prose is quite incomparable.
“Deploy the triple, innumerable, cross — ever deeping violation of the rules of war and wargames — far beyond double cross, of rigged triumph, hegemony and supremacy of one’s kind of oneness. Avoid crowds and armies and faiths and most of all secret keepers — digital and human —
protests, collectives, interest groups, freedom fighters/terrorists, disclosure sites and advocates, promissaries of safety. security, comsec, privacy, national security.[…] Never reveal yourself to wargames players, leech and lurk, do not fall for encouragement by leaders to vaingloriously destroy yourself for their game win.”
“The biological world is also open source in the sense that threats are always present, largely unpredictable, and always changing. Because of this, defensive measures that are perfectly designed for a particular threat leave you vulnerable to other ones. Imagine if our immune system were designed to deal only with a single strain of flu. In fact, our immune system works because it looks for the full spectrum of invaders — low-level viral infections, bacterial parasites, or virulent strains of a pandemic disease. Too often, we create security measures — such as the Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch program — that spend too many resources to deal specifically with a very narrow range of threats on the risk spectrum.
Advocates of full-spectrum approaches for biological and chemical weapons argue that weaponized agents are really a very small part of the risk and that we are better off developing strategies — like better public-health-response systems — that can deal with everything from natural mutations of viruses to lab accidents to acts of terrorism. Likewise, cyber crime is likely a small part of your digital-security risk spectrum.
A full-spectrum approach favors generalized health over specialized defenses, and redundancy over efficiency. Organisms in nature, despite being constrained by resources, have evolved multiply redundant layers of security. DNA has multiple ways to code for the same proteins so that viral parasites can’t easily hack it and disrupt its structure. Multiple data-backup systems are a simple method that most sensible organizations employ, but you can get more clever than that. For example, redundancy in nature sometimes takes the form of leaving certain parts unsecure to ensure that essential parts can survive attack. Lizards easily shed their tails to predators to allow the rest of the body (with the critical reproductive machinery) to escape. There may be sacrificial systems or information you can offer up as a decoy for a cyber-predator, in which case an attack becomes an advantage, allowing your organization to see the nature of the attacker and giving you time to add further security in the critical part of your information infrastructure.
In the end, we are only vulnerable to digital information threats because we are so dependent on digital information. We have, by choice and not, become enmeshed in an escalation toward ever more technological reliance. Yet sometimes technology that starts as an adaptation becomes maladaptive. Retroviruses, such as HIV, use the technology of our immune system against us. The BBC made a modern recreation of the Domesday Book in the 1980s, smartly storing it on high-tech (for the 1980s) laser discs, which are now less accessible than the original book from 1086, which was written on parchment.”