Let’s Talk About Hacking

 Hacking and its relevance to the 2016 Elections.

What is known about this specific claim of hacking *1

Data and thousands of emails were obtained from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, among other targets.
US intelligence agencies in October pinned blame on Russia for campaign-related hacking.
WikiLeaks, published much of the information obtained by hacking, refuses to reveal its sources.
The United States has not alleged that Russia interfered with the voting process on Election Day.
*1 Source – Published by CNN December 2016

This isn’t news for those in IT. I began tracking from around 2000 to 2008, and found the primary address sources for malicious activity. Most originated from China, Russia, and the Netherlands. Of course there were sources of attacks from other countries, but these were the most frequent in our logs. This activity has continued with increasing frequency.

Data Breaches by the Numbers

The media have convinced people to look at this in terms of the latest national election, instead of the long history from sophisticated state sponsored cyber attacks and breaches. Start by referencing this article, among the many published by professionals in cyber security

Follow this source; Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s Chronology of Data Breaches, select check boxes to see the active threats by topic thru selected fields.

The Yahoo breach is back in the news, and not in a good way. A previous announcement by Yahoo, disclosed 500 million users were compromised. Now a separate breach, which involved more than a billion accounts, was just announced a few days ago, that happened in August 2013. This means if you have an account with Yahoo, your information has been available for more than three years without you knowing. Furthermore, Yahoo has not been able to identify the intrusion associated with this theft.
*2 Source – Sue Marquette Poremba Data Security – 12/15/2016

What Really Happpened? Did Russia manage to affect the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election?

Those who routinely follow the news, know about a former contractor working as an NSA IT professional. Edward Snowden blew the whistle on U.S. sponsored covert telecommunications activity which focused on national and international data mining. We know from Snowden that the NSA can monitor and identify all digital communications, coming into and going out from the U.S. There isn’t a fiber-optic cable anywhere in the U.S., carrying digital data to which the NSA does not have full-time and unimpeded access.

All other agencies, CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, rely on the NSA to provide them the information they need to make a threat assessment. What this means, and what the media doesn’t seem to want you to understand, each agency has their own experts who examine the data, and their “professional advisement” goes up the food chain, and is filtered through upper level, political appointed agency heads. These assessments are reviewed from the interpretative and personal analysis from the individual. Loosely translated, the opinions expressed publicly are those of various political and ideological persuasions.

When President Obama announced he knows the election was steered by the Russians, what he’s done is claim, the voter isn’t intelligent enough to decide on their own which candidate they think is their best choice, they were manipulated into pulling the lever for Trump. This despite the months of negative press about Donald Trump, and the glow of what it will be like if we choose a woman for the first time to be President.

What we know as of this writing, the CIA and the FBI looked at the same NSA-generated raw data and came to different conclusions.

What we get, isn’t necessarily raw fact, The NSA produces the trace information, and the 17 different agencies interpret it. Although the presentation sounds authoritative and final, it’s a highly political consensus report. Here’s an example; The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.

Unnamed sources? Senior U.S. official? Some questions remain unanswered? These kinds of stories are about as valid as rumors. I saw an opinion post by a political advisor in the Huffington Post, who claims unequivocally that Russia influenced the outcome of the election because the numbers were so close in some midwestern states. Really, that’s your proof? Talk about conjecture based on political persuasion.

A senior intelligence official, who like the others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a continuing national security investigation, said the Russians had become adept at exploiting computer vulnerabilities created by the relative openness of and reliance on the internet. This is another generalized statement, which can be open to subjective interpretation.

It’s not too much to claim that Russia may have successfully breached servers by the DNC, Hillary Clinton email, as well as prior successful attempts of the military. It’s another story altogether to say, Hillary Clinton lost because of state sponsored intelligence gathering. I find it almost impossible to believe that the average voter in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, or other states, could tell what 3 main revelations came from WikiLeaks. As a matter of fact, many people don’t know who their Senators and local House of Representatives are. I’m quite sure avid politicos are aware of some of this information and who’s who, but extend that to the masses, I seriously doubt it. If you suggest this happened, how were people’s minds changed from Clinton to Trump?

Every person I spoke with, had their mind made up months ago, and 9 times out of 10 it was based on party preference, that it would set a positive statement about women in leadership roles, or they saw her or him as the lesser of two evils.

Here’s the election results, comparing 2016 to the prior two Presidential elections. Overall voter participation is down, and the Democrat candidate vote is way down. My interpretation is, they didn’t view Hillary Clinton as a good choice, even though you find almost every large city prefers to vote Democrat.

voter-totals

Some computer scientists flagged anomalies in the results of several counties that used electronic voting in three swing states — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan — prompting calls for recounts. But claims that Russians are to blame for these vote tally anomalies, through hacking or other means, are baseless. – Politifact

Who did the leaking to WikiLeaks? Was it through the clever hackers sitting in Russia, and pressed to do so by Vladimir Putin? As the FBI stated — many state secrets, including the identity and whereabouts of U.S. intelligence agents and resources were easily available by the vulnerabilities of the Clinton private email servers along with several unsecured hand-held devices. *3 Would the media focus this much attention on hacking if Hillary Clinton won? We’ve witnessed a long history of state sponsored hacking.

Our own intelligence community can’t agree on the meaning of the raw data it has analyzed. I think what we can conclude safely in this hyper-partisan environment, there’s going to be a lot of negative attention on Donald Trump, above and beyond his own antics. We face at least four years of bickering among ourselves and discrediting every source that doesn’t agree with our politics.

I have no dog in this hunt. Every time I had the opportunity, I questioned the capability, integrity, and suitability of either of these two major candidates prior to November 2016. I’m done commenting on their individual shortcomings. What I won’t do is be led down a path of continuous under scrutinized assessment of facts from opinions. It’s the simplest understanding of logic to not accept, someone placed a scarecrow in a field, therefore corn will follow.

Looking for a new Smartphone? These 26 new phones come with pre-installed malware.

Minimize Your Internet Risks

  • Change your password on any site that’s been active with the same one for a year or more. Make it strong and hard to crack.
  • Make sure you don’t use the same password for all of your sites. You should never re-use passwords.
  • Change your security questions & answers. Get into the habit of lying in your security answers, rather than using something easy to determine like your real mother’s maiden name. Use a made up answer which doesn’t have to be a name. You can use a series of random characters as long as you know the correct response when asked.
  • Use a password manager to remember what your passwords are, as well as your security answers.
  • Watch out for phishing emails that want you to click on their provided link, which pretend to come from “known sources”. Remember, your bank and the IRS won’t ask you to click on links provided in an email.
  • Enable two-step verification or two-factor authentication on your accounts, where available.

*3 – Source for more about the Clinton email debacle through FactCheck.

Putting up your Dukes, or how the DNC was hacked according to the NY Times.

What’s more boring than arranging your sock drawer? Read John Podesta’s email.

** Patience plays a big part in discovering what’s important and significant from that which isn’t. Clearly if you read the “hacked DNC email”, you won’t find too many earth shaking revelations. It hardly seems worthy of toppling a presidential candidate. It seems the strongest card the politicians and media are using on the public, “the DNC was hacked by the Russians” … therefore the election was altered because of this cyber activity. You now have the basis for another Schrödinger’s cat, as it applies to political analysis.

The above explanation is better to understand the idea of broken logic and supposition. The video below explains the more restrictive Quantum Physics idea behind the “cat in the box.”

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2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Hacking

  1. Jeffrey Schullo

    Michael, do you, in fact, know the protocol the various intelligence agencies use to go up the chain? Not a challenge but I know you have an excellent background and was just wondering about the process and at what stage it gets politicized.
    As always, thanks for the logic.

    1. Mike Livingston Post author

      The NSA, FBI & the CIA all guard their methods of intelligence gathering. I’m not involved with that ‘community’ to comment. Recently, a similar question was asked by CBS News of someone they introduced as an intelligence contributor. All of the major news outlets have their ‘faces’, who have had ties or backgrounds to these organizations. He answered in a way which is a direct but official ‘non-answer’, declining to comment. He went on further to say the NSA doesn’t disclose how it gathers and determines the sources it uses to reveal threats.

      The heads of the organizations are the ones who report to the President. These are appointed but often serve multiple Presidents. The FBI director is usually the one we will hear from when announcements are made. We have been hearing quite a bit from Brennan lately, on these supposed Russian hacks. It’s interesting because you saw the same pattern before when Bush was promoting the idea of going to war with Iraq. At that time George Tenet was the head. See this link, and I think it will fill in a lot more detail. https://www.google.com/amp/s/digwithin.net/2014/07/27/george-tenet/amp/

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