When the NSA Hacks the Hackers (and money, Tesla, Xbox penis redux, Dutch spies & forums)

From the cypherpunks list, a remarkable play-by-play of what happens when the NSA/FBI goes after all the cell phones at DEFCON. First round: nearly everyone gets pwned, but some people have custom SDR kit recording the whole deal. Second round: despite all the hardening they can do, the hackers get pwned getting off the plane… while their phones are still in airplane mode!


1. Find a fence marked “anyone who crosses this point will be shot.” 2. Shout, “PULL!”
3. Chuck your smartphone over the fence.

Anyway, for those of you that want to understand the “global observer” mindset, this is a wonderful teaching example. And a decent reminder that it’s impossible to secure a device that can by design be remotely reflashed by anyone who looks like a cell tower.

Money: Instead of thinking in terms of socially-defined rights, try thinking in terms of voluntary agreements by all parties to the transaction, in other words contracts. People break contracts all the time, so ultimately what makes a valid contract is both parties wanting to keep acting that way. Therefore e.g real and intellectual property come not from an abstract “society” or “lawmaker” but from the purchasing/licensing party agreeing they make a good stepping stone for a transaction. (And from other parties, read random people, agreeing to respect these abstract concepts.) The Amsterdam/Berlin squatting traditions are a fascinating study in this.

Seen in this light, we can also define “value” in a similarly peer-to-peer decentralized fashion. Value being the property that makes the counterparty want to fork over money.

In that sense — to re-state an older concept — real property transactions represent zero sum situations, as the main value of real property is not construction or rat-free-ness but LOCATION.

Also in that sense intellectual property (and many other*) transactions are non-zero-sum, as the main value of intellectual property is its DESIRABILITY/ UTILITY TO THE LICENSEE. (Which is true also for real property, but there utility is overwhelmingly location.) There is of course no practical limit to the amount of utility or desirability you can create — the trillion-dollar idea known as the AC system was a flash of inspiration in Tesla’s mind, and, well, Jackson Pollack — whereas there is a limit to the number of condos you can build in Manhattan.

And, bringing this back to social situations… perhaps we can now understand why real estate people would generally bite your fingers off if it got them another Euro, wheras artists traditionally spend like money grows on trees.

Tesla: In case you’re wondering why I was digging around 1930s New York Times archives, the following prima facie preposterous quote recently crossed my desk. Disturbingly — from a security perspective — while there is no peer review research directly supporting it (retinal scanners do not pick up your thoughts)… there is a gossamer thread of evidence in the biophotonics field that suggests it’s not quite as insane as it looks. I, for one, will not be using “horse battery staple” password mnemonics any time soon!

“”I expect to photograph thoughts,” announced Mr. Tesla calmly, in the same tone of voice that a person occupied with some trivial things in the scheme of life might announce that it was going to rain.

Continued Mr. Tesla: “In 1893, while engaged in certain investigations, I became convinced that a definite image formed in thought must, by reflex action, produce a corresponding image on the retina, which might possibly be read by suitable apparatus.[…]

“My idea was to employ an artificial retina receiving the image of the object seen, an ‘optic nerve’ and another such retina at the place of reproduction. These two retinas were to be constructed after the fashion of a checkerboard with many separate little sections, and the so-called optic nerve was nothing more than a part of the earth.

“An invention of mine enables me to transmit simultaneously, and without any interference whatsoever, hundreds of thousands of distinct impulses through the ground just as though I had so many separate wires. I did not contemplate using any moving part – a scanning apparatus or a cathodic ray, which is a sort of moving device, the use of which I suggested in one of my lectures.

“Now if it be true that a thought reflects an image on the retina, it is a mere question of illuminating the same property and taking photographs, and then using the ordinary methods which are available to project the image on a screen.

“If this can be done successfully, then the objects imagined by a person would be clearly reflected on the screen as they are formed, and in this way every thought of the individual could be read. Our minds would then, indeed, be like open books.” — Kansas City Journal-Post — September 10, 1933

Here’s why the Xbox One can see your trouser-snake through your trousers… it uses time-of-flight technology to just ignore the fabric. http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/inexpensive-nano-camera-1126.html

Dutch spies hack forums, get full MySQL dumps, pass data to the NSA. http://cryptome.org/2013/11/nsa-dutch-sigint.pdf

Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2013 17:30:24 -0800
From: coderman
To: rysiek
Cc: cpunks
Subject: Re: DEF CON 19 – hackers get hacked!

On Thu, Nov 28, 2013 at 8:14 AM, rysiek wrote: > …
> So could we have the context now, please? 🙂


– 04/Aug/2011 DEF CON 19 begins! LulzSec, Anonymous, many other lower profile independent security enthusiasts and hacktivists (read: FBI and $TLA targets of interest) in attendance. presumably the large numbers of foreign attendees, the “exigent circumstances”, and whatever other fig leaf legal justifications were applied, allowed the following events to occur on US soil against US citizens without warrants.

– 05/Aug/2011 08:00 AM-midnight-+2hrs, 06/Aug/2011 08:00
AM-midnight-+2hrs, 07/Aug/2011 08:00 AM-midnight, 08/Aug/2011 08:00 AM-noon, DEF CON 19 hackers targeted en masse via active MitM on 2.5G/3G/4G bands. traditionally WiFi most hostile, this marked a distinct change in threat landscape at the conference. custom exploit automation and ex-filtration via DRT tech at high power levels on site. the MitM position was specifically leveraged for secondary attacks against vulnerable applications, update mechanisms,
communications, and core OS functionality spanning PC and mobile systems.

– 10/Aug/2011 attacks disclosed on full-disclosure list; we had been running custom ROMs and SDR kit through the conference, in addition to “performance analysis” on the MitM exploit system (spoiler alert: it was trivial to DoS via spoofed network endpoints and leases leading for “fork bomb” effect of exploit threads launched to service attacks against newly joining client on the network. among other weaknesses 🙂

– 24/Jul/2012 coderman arrives in Las Vegas for DEF CON 20, clear view of Alexander’s military transport on the tarmac. immediately upon landing all exceptionally hardened mobile test devices pwned via baseband attacks while in airplane mode. SDR and power monitoring gear confirms exploitation and ex-filtration. this was just the first in a series of impression baseband and sensor level attacks. coderman never hacked so hard nor so thoroughly before; proper fucked. (months and months of effort at Android kernel, system, and application level hardening for naught)

– Jun+Jul+Aug+Sep+Oct+Nov/2013 the year of discontent, details emerge on $TLA offensive operations against domestic targets, the role of third party contractors and infosec industry collaborators in same. singular events once considered anomalies or inscrutable now viewed in the overall framework of understanding around pervasive in-security and offensive operations as national security imperative.

… which leaves us where we are now: with networks, systems, and software unable to defend against many of the attacks now
unambiguously and entirely clear to the public at large.

the ending to this tale yet to be determined! [choose your own adventure *grin*]

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