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Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page


In Archive, Hacking, Internet, Malware, NSA, NSA Files, Surveillance, TAO on December 30, 2013 at 1:49 AM

NSA-Programm Quantumtheory



One of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO)  key tasks is the offensive infiltration of target computers with so-called implants or with large numbers of Trojans. They’ve bestowed their spying tools with illustrious monikers like “ANGRY NEIGHBOR,” “HOWLERMONKEY” or “WATERWITCH.” These names may sound cute, but the tools they describe are both aggressive and effective. See: NSA’s ANT Division Catalog of Exploits for Nearly Every Major Software/Hardware/Firmware

According to details in Washington’s current budget plan for the US intelligence services, around 85,000 computers worldwide are projected to be infiltrated by the NSA specialists by the end of this year. By far the majority of these “implants” are conducted by TAO teams via the Internet.

See Also: Digital “Sleeper Cells”: NSA Infects More Than 50,000 Computer Networks Worldwide With Malware “Implants”

Until just a few years ago, NSA agents relied on the same methods employed by cyber criminals to conduct these implants on computers. They sent targeted attack emails disguised as spam containing links directing users to virus-infected websites. With sufficient knowledge of an Internet browser’s security holes — Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, for example, is especially popular with the NSA hackers — all that is needed to plant NSA malware on a person’s computer is for that individual to open a website that has been specially crafted to compromise the user’s computer. Spamming has one key drawback though: It doesn’t work very often.

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Nevertheless, TAO has dramatically improved the tools at its disposal. It maintains a sophisticated toolbox known internally by the name “QUANTUMTHEORY.” “Certain QUANTUM missions have a success rate of as high as 80%, where spam is less than 1%,” one internal NSA presentation states.

A comprehensive internal presentation titled “QUANTUM CAPABILITIES,” which SPIEGEL has viewed, lists virtually every popular Internet service provider as a target, including Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and YouTube. “NSA QUANTUM has the greatest success against Yahoo, Facebook and static IP addresses,” it states. The presentation also notes that the NSA has been unable to employ this method to target users of Google services. Apparently, that can only be done by Britain’s GCHQ intelligence service, which has acquired QUANTUM tools from the NSA.

A favored tool of intelligence service hackers is “QUANTUMINSERT.” GCHQ workers used this method to attack the computers of employees at partly government-held Belgian telecommunications company Belgacom, in order to use their computers to penetrate even further into the company’s networks. The NSA, meanwhile, used the same technology to target high-ranking members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) at the organization’s Vienna headquarters. In both cases, the trans-Atlantic spying consortium gained unhindered access to valuable economic data using these tools.

The insert method and other variants of QUANTUM are closely linked to a shadow network operated by the NSA alongside the Internet, with its own, well-hidden infrastructure comprised of “covert” routers and servers. It appears the NSA also incorporates routers and servers from non-NSA networks into its covert network by infecting these networks with “implants” that then allow the government hackers to control the computers remotely.

In this way, the intelligence service seeks to identify and track its targets based on their digital footprints. These identifiers could include certain email addresses or website cookies set on a person’s computer. Of course, a cookie doesn’t automatically identify a person, but it can if it includes additional information like an email address. In that case, a cookie becomes something like the web equivalent of a fingerprint.

Related: NSA Using Advertising Data for Surveillance: Cookies to Identify Hacking Targets, Mobile Apps to Track Locations

Once TAO teams have gathered sufficient data on their targets’ habits, they can shift into attack mode, programming the QUANTUM systems to perform this work in a largely automated way. If a data packet featuring the email address or cookie of a target passes through a cable or router monitored by the NSA, the system sounds the alarm. It determines what website the target person is trying to access and then activates one of the intelligence service’s covert servers, known by the codename FOXACID.

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This NSA server coerces the user into connecting to NSA covert systems rather than the intended sites. In the case of Belgacom engineers, instead of reaching the LinkedIn page they were actually trying to visit, they were also directed to FOXACID servers housed on NSA networks. Undetected by the user, the manipulated page transferred malware already custom tailored to match security holes on the target person’s computer.

The technique can literally be a race between servers, one that is described in internal intelligence agency jargon with phrases like: “Wait for client to initiate new connection,” “Shoot!” and “Hope to beat server-to-client response.” Like any competition, at times the covert network’s surveillance tools are “too slow to win the race.” Often enough, though, they are effective. Implants with QUANTUMINSERT, especially when used in conjunction with LinkedIn, now have a success rate of over 50 percent, according to one internal document.

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NSA Exploits Windows Error Reports to Gain “Passive Access” to Machines

In Archive, Hacking, Microsoft, NSA, NSA Files, Surveillance, TAO on December 30, 2013 at 1:43 AM

ACHTUNG SPERRFRIST 29.12.2013 Microsoft-Crash 02



One example of the sheer creativity with which the TAO spies approach their work can be seen in a hacking method they use that exploits the error-proneness of Microsoft’s Windows. Every user of the operating system is familiar with the annoying window that occasionally pops up on screen when an internal problem is detected, an automatic message that prompts the user to report the bug to the manufacturer and to restart the program. These crash reports offer TAO specialists a welcome opportunity to spy on computers.

When TAO selects a computer somewhere in the world as a target and enters its unique identifiers (an IP address, for example) into the corresponding database, intelligence agents are then automatically notified any time the operating system of that computer crashes and its user receives the prompt to report the problem to Microsoft. An internal presentation suggests it is NSA’s powerful XKeyscore spying tool that is used to fish these crash reports out of the massive sea of Internet traffic.

The automated crash reports are a “neat way” to gain “passive access” to a machine, the presentation continues. Passive access means that, initially, only data the computer sends out into the Internet is captured and saved, but the computer itself is not yet manipulated. Still, even this passive access to error messages provides valuable insights into problems with a targeted person’s computer and, thus, information on security holes that might be exploitable for planting malware or spyware on the unwitting victim’s computer.

Although the method appears to have little importance in practical terms, the NSA’s agents still seem to enjoy it because it allows them to have a bit of a laugh at the expense of the Seattle-based software giant. In one internal graphic, they replaced the text of Microsoft’s original error message with one of their own reading, “This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine.” (“SIGINT” stands for “signals intelligence.”)

Microsoft: “Significant Concerns” if “Government Actions are True”

Related Link: Are Your Windows Error Reports Leaking Data?

NSA’s “Tailored Access Operations” Elite Hacking Unit Revealed

In Archive, Hacking, Internet, Malware, NSA, NSA Files, Surveillance, TAO on December 30, 2013 at 1:31 AM
ACHTUNG SPERRFRIST 30.12.2013 Texas-Biga #01

Note the altered logo of Intel’s “Intel Inside” campaign (from the 90s) in the bottom left corner: “TAO Inside”



The NSA’s TAO hacking unit is considered to be the intelligence agency’s top secret weapon. It maintains its own covert network, infiltrates computers around the world and even intercepts shipping deliveries to plant back doors in electronics ordered by those it is targeting.

For quite some time now, the intelligence agency has maintained a branch with around 2,000 employees at Lackland Air Force Base, also in San Antonio. In 2005, the agency took over a former Sony computer chip plant in the western part of the city. A brisk pace of construction commenced inside this enormous compound. The acquisition of the former chip factory at Sony Place was part of a massive expansion the agency began after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

One of the two main buildings at the former plant has since housed a sophisticated NSA unit, one that has benefited the most from this expansion and has grown the fastest in recent years — the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO. This is the NSA’s top operative unit — something like a squad of plumbers that can be called in when normal access to a target is blocked.

According to internal NSA documents viewed by SPIEGEL, these on-call digital plumbers are involved in many sensitive operations conducted by American intelligence agencies. TAO’s area of operations ranges from counterterrorism to cyber attacks to traditional espionage. The documents reveal just how diversified the tools at TAO’s disposal have become — and also how it exploits the technical weaknesses of the IT industry, from Microsoft to Cisco and Huawei, to carry out its discreet and efficient attacks.

The unit is “akin to the wunderkind of the US intelligence community,” says Matthew Aid, a historian who specializes in the history of the NSA. “Getting the ungettable” is the NSA’s own description of its duties. “It is not about the quantity produced but the quality of intelligence that is important,” one former TAO chief wrote, describing her work in a document. The paper seen by SPIEGEL quotes the former unit head stating that TAO has contributed “some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen.” The unit, it goes on, has “access to our very hardest targets.”

Defining the future of her unit at the time, she wrote that TAO “needs to continue to grow and must lay the foundation for integrated Computer Network Operations,” and that it must “support Computer Network Attacks as an integrated part of military operations.” To succeed in this, she wrote, TAO would have to acquire “pervasive, persistent access on the global network.” An internal description of TAO’s responsibilities makes clear that aggressive attacks are an explicit part of the unit’s tasks. In other words, the NSA’s hackers have been given a government mandate for their work. During the middle part of the last decade, the special unit succeeded in gaining access to 258 targets in 89 countries — nearly everywhere in the world. In 2010, it conducted 279 operations worldwide.

See Also: U.S. Spy Agencies Mounted 231 Offensive Cyber-Operations in 2011, Documents Show

Indeed, TAO specialists have directly accessed the protected networks of democratically elected leaders of countries. They infiltrated networks of European telecommunications companies and gained access to and read mails sent over Blackberry’s BES email servers, which until then were believed to be securely encrypted. Achieving this last goal required a “sustained TAO operation,” one document states.

This TAO unit is born of the Internet — created in 1997, a time when not even 2 percent of the world’s population had Internet access and no one had yet thought of Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. From the time the first TAO employees moved into offices at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, the unit was housed in a separate wing, set apart from the rest of the agency. Their task was clear from the beginning — to work around the clock to find ways to hack into global communications traffic.

To do this, the NSA needed a new kind of employee. The TAO workers authorized to access the special, secure floor on which the unit is located are for the most part considerably younger than the average NSA staff. Their job is breaking into, manipulating and exploiting computer networks, making them hackers and civil servants in one. Many resemble geeks — and act the part too.

Indeed, it is from these very circles that the NSA recruits new hires for its Tailored Access Operations unit. In recent years, NSA Director Keith Alexander has made several appearances at major hacker conferences in the United States. Sometimes, Alexander wears his military uniform, but at others, he even dons jeans and a t-shirt in his effort to court trust and a new generation of employees.

The recruitment strategy seems to have borne fruit. Certainly, few if any other divisions within the agency are growing as quickly as TAO. There are now TAO units in Wahiawa, Hawaii; Fort Gordon, Georgia; at the NSA’s outpost at Buckley Air Force Base, near Denver, Colorado; at its headquarters in Fort Meade; and, of course, in San Antonio.

One trail also leads to Germany. According to a document dating from 2010 that lists the “Lead TAO Liaisons” domestically and abroad as well as names, email addresses and the number for their “Secure Phone,” a liaison office is located near Frankfurt — the European Security Operations Center (ESOC) at the so-called “Dagger Complex” at a US military compound in the Griesheim suburb of Darmstadt.

But it is the growth of the unit’s Texas branch that has been uniquely impressive, the top secret documents reviewed by SPIEGEL show. These documents reveal that in 2008, the Texas Cryptologic Center employed fewer than 60 TAO specialists. By 2015, the number is projected to grow to 270 employees. In addition, there are another 85 specialists in the “Requirements & Targeting” division (up from 13 specialists in 2008). The number of software developers is expected to increase from the 2008 level of three to 38 in 2015. The San Antonio office handles attacks against targets in the Middle East, Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia, not to mention Mexico, just 200 kilometers (124 miles) away, where the government has fallen into the NSA’s crosshairs.

The special NSA unit has its own development department in which new technologies are developed and tested. This division is where the real tinkerers can be found, and their inventiveness when it comes to finding ways to infiltrate other networks, computers and smartphones evokes a modern take on Q, the legendary gadget inventor in James Bond movies.

NSA works together with other intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI, which in turn maintain informants on location who are available to help with sensitive missions. This enables TAO to attack even isolated networks that aren’t connected to the Internet. If necessary, the FBI can even make an agency-owned jet available to ferry the high-tech plumbers to their target. This gets them to their destination at the right time and can help them to disappear again undetected after even as little as a half hour’s work.

Responding to a query from SPIEGEL, NSA officials issued a statement saying, “Tailored Access Operations is a unique national asset that is on the front lines of enabling NSA to defend the nation and its allies.” The statement added that TAO’s “work is centered on computer network exploitation in support of foreign intelligence collection.” The officials said they would not discuss specific allegations regarding TAO’s mission.

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Related Links:

NSA Exploits Windows Error Messages to Gain “Passive Access” to Machines


NSA Spying on Europe/Asia SEA-ME-WE-4 Undersea Telecom Cables

NSA Intercepts Computer Shipping Deliveries of Targets to Install Malware/Backdoors

NSA’s ANT Division Catalog of Exploits for Nearly Every Major Software/Hardware/Firmware

NSA Hacking Unit Remote Operations Center (ROC)

The Tor Network: We’re Living In Interesting Times – Roger Dingledine & Jacob Appelbaum @ 30c3

In Archive, Internet, Technology, Tor on December 30, 2013 at 12:39 AM



Roger Dingledine and Jacob Appelbaum will discuss contemporary Tor Network issues related to censorship, security, privacy and anonymity online.

The last several years have included major cryptographic upgrades in the Tor network, interesting academic papers in attacking the Tor network, major high profile users breaking news about the network itself, discussions about funding, FBI/NSA exploitation of Tor Browser users, botnet related load on the Tor network and other important topics.

This talk will clarify many important topics for the Tor community and for the world at large.

Sysadmins of the World, Unite! – Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, Sarah Harrison @ 30c3

In Archive, Assange, Snowden, Surveillance, Technology, WikiLeaks, World Revolution on December 29, 2013 at 10:56 PM


Transcript via WikiLeaksEtc:

Sarah Harrison: Thank you. Good evening. My name is Sarah Harrison, as you all appear to know. I’m a journalist working for WikiLeaks. This year I was part, as Jacob just said, of the WikiLeaks team that saved Snowden from a life in prison. This act and my job has meant that our legal advice is that I do not return to my home, the United Kingdom, due to the ongoing terrorism investigation there in relation to the movement of Edward Snowden documents. The UK Government has chosen to define disclosing classified documents with an intent to influence government behavior as terrorism. I’m therefore currently remaining in Germany.
But it’s not just myself personally that has legal issues at WikiLeaks. For a fourth Christmas, our editor Julian Assange continues to be detained without charge in the UK. He’s been granted formal political asylum by Ecuador due to the threat from the United States. But in breach of international law, the UK continues to refuse to allow him his legal right to take up this asylum.
In November of this year, a US Government official confirmed that the enormous grand jury investigation, which commenced in 2010, into WikiLeaks, its staff, and specifically Julian Assange, continues. This was then confirmed by the spokesperson of the prosecutor’s office in Virginia.
The Icelandic Parliament held an inquiry earlier this year, where it found that the FBI had secretly and unlawfully sent nine agents to Iceland to conduct an investigation into WikiLeaks there. Further secret interrogations took place in Denmark and Washington. The informant they were speaking with has been charged with fraud and convicted on other charges in Iceland.
In the Icelandic Supreme Court, we won a substantial victory over the extralegal US financial blockade that was erected against us in 2010 by VISA, MasterCard, PayPal, and other US financial giants. Subsequently, MasterCard pulled out of the blockade. We’ve since filed a $77 million legal case against VISA for the damages. We filed a suit against VISA in Denmark as well. And in response to questions about how PayPal’s owner can start a free press outlet whilst blocking another media organisation, he’s announced that the PayPal blockade of WikiLeaks has ended.
We filed criminal cases in Sweden and Germany in relation to the unlawful intelligence activity against us there, including at the CCC in 2009.
Together with the Center for Constitutional Rights we filed a suit against the US military against the unprecedented secrecy applied to Chelsea Manning’s trial.
Yet through these attacks we’ve continued our publishing work. In April of this year, we launched the Public Library of US Diplomacy, the largest and most comprehensible searchable database of US diplomatic cables in the world. This coincided with our release of 1.7 million US cables from the Kissinger period. We launched our third Spy Files, 239 documents from 92 global intelligence contractors exposing their technology, methods, and contracts. We completed releasing the Global Intelligence Files, over five million emails from US intelligence firm Stratfor, the revelations from which included documenting their spying on activists around the globe. We published the primary negotiating positions for fourteen countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new international legal regime that would control 40% of the world’s GDP.
As well as getting Snowden asylum, we set up Mr Snowden’s defence fund, part of a broader endeavor, the Journalistic Source Protection Defence Fund, which aims to protect and fund sources in trouble. This will be an important fund for future sources, especially when we look at the US crackdown on whistleblowers like Snowden and alleged WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced this year to 35 years in prison, and another alleged WikiLeaks source Jeremy Hammond, who was sentenced to ten years in prison this November.
These men, Snowden, Manning, and Hammond, are prime examples of a politicized youth who have grown up with a free internet and want to keep it that way. It is this class of people that we are here to discuss this evening, the powers they and we all have, and can have, and the good that we can do with it.
I am joined here tonight for this discussion by two men I admire hugely: WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange and Jacob Appelbaum, both who have had a long history in defending our right to knowledge, despite political and legal pressure.
(Julian Assange appears via video link)
So Julian, seeing as I haven’t seen you for quite awhile, what’s been happening in this field this year, what’s your strategic view about it, this fight for freedom of knowledge: are we winning or are we losing?
Julian Assange: I have an 18-page speech on the strategic vision, but I think I’ve got about five minutes, right?
Sarah Harrison: At the most.
Julian Assange: No, less? Okay. First off, it’s very interesting to see the CCC has grown by 30% over the last year. And we can see the CCC as a very important type of institution which does have analogues. The CCC is a paradox in that it has the vibrancy of a young movement, but also now has been going nearly 30 years since its founding in 1981 by Wau Holland
(Assange video link goes out)
Sarah Harrison: Great point, great point.
Jacob Appelbaum: Blame the NSA? It’s the new ‘blame Canada’.
Sarah Harrison: Is it here or the embassy they’re spying on the most?
(clapping, pause)
Such a good talk, isn’t it guys?
Jacob Appelbaum: I wish Bruce Willis (Assange’s Skype name) would pick up the phone.
Sarah Harrison: Should we move over while we’re waiting to you, Jake. As I was saying, I think it’s quite interesting, it does seem to be a trend that there are these young technical people. We look at Manning, Snowden, Hammond… often sysadmins. Why are they playing such an important role in this fight for freedom of information?
Jacob Appelbaum: I think there are a couple important points. The first important point is to understand that all of us have agency, but some of us actually have literally more agency than others in the sense that you have access to systems that give you access to information that helps to found knowledge that you have in your own head.
So someone like Manning or someone like Snowden who has access to these documents in the course of their work, they will simply have a better understanding of what is actually happening. They have access to the primary source documents as part of their job. This, I think, fundamentally is a really critical, I would say a formative thing.
When you start to read these original source documents you start to understand the way that organisations actually think internally. I mean, this is one of the things that Julian Assange has said quite a lot, it’s that when you read the internal documents of an organisation, that’s how they really think about a thing. This is different than a press release. And people who have grown up on the internet, and they’re essentially natives on the internet, and that’s all of us, I think, for the most part. It’s definitely me. That essentially forms a way of thinking about organisations where the official thing they say is not interesting. You know that there’s an agenda behind that and you don’t necessarily know what that true agenda is.
And so people who grow up in this and see these documents, they realise the agency that they have. They understand it, they see that power, and they want to do something about it. In some cases, somepeople do it in small starts and fits. So there are lots of sources for lots of newspapers that are inside of defense organisations or really, really large companies, and they share this information. But in the case of Chelsea Manning, in the case of Snowden, they went big. And I presume that this is because of the scale of the wrongdoing that they say, in addition to the amount of agency that was provided by their access and their understanding of the actual information that they were able to have in their possession.
Sarah Harrison: And do you think that it’s something to do with being technical; they have a potential ability to find a way to do this safer than other people, perhaps?
Jacob Appelbaum: I mean, it’s clearly the case that this helps. There’s no question that understanding how to use those computer systems and being able to navigate them, that that is going to be a helpful skill.
But I think what it really is is that these are people who grew up in an era, and I myself am one of these people, where we grew up in an era where we are overloaded by information but we still are able to absorb a great deal of it. And we really are constantly going through this.
And if we look to the past, we see that it’s not just technical people, it’s actually people who have an analytical mind. So, for example, Daniel Ellsberg, who’s famous for the ‘Ellsberg Paradox’. He was of course a very seriously embedded person in the US military—he was in the RAND corporation, he worked with McNamara—and during the Vietnam War he had access to huge amounts of information. And it was the ability to analyse this information and to understand… in this case how the US Government during the Vietnam War was lying to the entire world. And it was the magnitude of those lies combined with the ability to prove that they were lies that I believe, combined with his analytical skill… It was clear what the action might be, but it wasn’t clear what the outcome would be. And with Ellsberg, the outcome was a very positive one. In fact it’s the most positive outcome for any whistleblower so far that I know of in the history of the United States and maybe even in the world.
What we see right now with Snowden and what we’ve now seen with Chelsea Manning is unfortunately a very different outcome, at least for Manning. So this is also a hugely important point which is that Ellsberg did this in the context of resistance against the Vietnam War. And when Ellsberg did this, there were huge support networks, there were gigantic things that split across all political spectrums of society. And so it is the analytical framework that we find ourselves with still, but additionally with the internet. And so every single person here that works as a sysadmin, could you raise your hand?
Right. You represent, and I’m sorry to steal Julian’s thunder, but he was using Skype and well… We all know Skype has interception and man-in-the-middle problems, so I’m going to take advantage of that fact. You see, it’s not just the NSA.
Everyone that raised their hand, you should raise your hand again. If you work at a company where you think that they might be involved in something that is a little bit scary, keep your hand up.
Right. So here’s the deal: everybody else in the room lacks the information that you probably have access to. And if you were to make a moral judgment, if you were to make an ethical consideration about these things, it would be the case that as a political class you would be able to inform all of the political classes in this room, all of the other people in this room, in a way that only you have the agency to do. And those that benefit from you never doing that are the other people that have that. Those people are also members of other classes as well.
And so the question is, if you were to unite as a political class, and we are to unite with you in that political class, we can see that there’s a contextual way to view this through a historical lens, essentially. Which is to say when the industrialized workers of the world decided that race and gender were not lines that we should split on, but instead we should look at workers and owners, then we started to see real change in the way that workers were treated and in the way the world itself was organizing labor. And this was a hugely important change during the industrial revolution. And we are going through a very similar time now with regard to information politics and with regard to the value of information in the information age.
(Assange video link comes back up)
Jacob Appelbaum: Fantastic, Bruce Willis.
(Assange video link goes out again)
Jesus Christ, Julian, use Jitsi already.
Sarah Harrison: And so, we’ve identified the potential people that you’re talking about and you’ve spoken about how it’s good for the to unite. What are the next steps? How do they come forth? How do they share this information?
Jacob Appelbaum: Well, let’s consider a couple of things. First is that Bradley Manning, now Chelsea Manning; Daniel Ellsberg, still Daniel Ellsberg; Edward Snowden, living in exile in Russia unfortunately.
Sarah Harrison: Still Edward Snowden.
Jacob Appelbaum: Still Edward Snowden, hopefully. These are people who have taken great actions where they did not even set out to sacrifice themselves. But once when I met Daniel Ellsberg he said, ‘Wouldn’t you go to prison for the rest of your life to end this war?’ This is something he asked to me, and he asked it quite seriously. And it’s very incredible to be able to ask a hypothetical question of someone that wasn’t a hypothetical question. What he was trying to say is that right now you can make a choice in which you actually have a huge impact, should you choose to take on that risk.
But the point is not to set out to martyr yourself. The point is to set out…
(Assange video link comes back up)
Are you going to stick around this time, Julian?
Julian Assange: I don’t know, I’m waiting for the quantum hand of fate.
Jacob Appelbaum: The quantum hand that wants to strangle you?
Julian Assange: Yeah.
Jacob Appelbaum: Yeah. We were just discussing right now the previous context, that is Daniel Ellsberg, the Edward Snowdens, the Chelsea Mannings, how they have done an honorable, a good thing where they’ve shown a duty to a greater humanity, a thing that is more important than loyalty, for example, to a bureaucratic oath, but rather loyalty to universal principles.
So the next question is, how does that relate to the people that are here in the audience? How is it the case that people who have access to systems where they have said themselves they think the companies they work for are sort of questionable or doing dangerous things in the world? Where do we go from people who have done these things previously to these people in the audience?
Julian Assange: Well, I don’t know how much ground you’ve covered, but I think it’s important that we recognize what we are and what we have become. And that high tech workers are (inaudible) a class. In fact, very often (inaudible) a position to in fact prompt the leaders of society (inaudible) cease operating(inaudible, sound goes out completely)
(audience laughs)
Sarah Harrison: Should we just leave him like that and continue?
Julian Assange: Am I back?
Sarah Harrison: Yeah. You’ve got three minutes to say something. Make it good.
Julian Assange: Those high tech workers, we are a particular class and it’s time that we recognized that we are a class and look back in history and understood that the great gains in human rights and education and so on that were gained through powerful industrial workers which formed the backbone of the economy of the 20th century, and that we have that same ability but even more so because of the greater interconnection that exists now economically and politically. Which is all underpinned by system administrators.
And we should understand that system administrators are not just those people who administer one UNIX system or another. They are the people who administer systems. And the system that exists globally now is created by the interconnection of many individual systems. And we are all, or many of us, are part of administering that system and have extraordinary power in a way that is really an order of magnitude different to the power industrial workers had in the 20th century. And we can see that in the cases of the famous leaks that WikiLeaks has done or the recent Edward Snowden revelations, it is possible now for even single systems administrators to have a very significant change, or rather apply very significant constructive constraint to the behavior of these organizations. Not merely wrecking or disabling them, not merely going out on strikes to change policy, but rather shifting information from an information apartheid system which we’re developing from those with extraordinary power and extraordinary information into the knowledge commons, where it can be used not only as a disciplining force, but it can be used to construct and understand the new world that we’re entering into.
Now, Hayden, the former director of the CIA and NSA, is terrified of this. In “Cypherpunks” we called for this directly last year. But to give you an interesting quote from Hayden, possibly following up on those words of mine and others, “We need to recruit from Snowden’s generation,” says Hayden. “We need to recruit from this group because they have the skills that we require. So the challenge is how to recruit this talent while also protecting ourselves from the small fraction of the population that has this romantic attachment to absolute transparency at all costs.” And that’s us, right? So, what we need to do is spread that message and go into all those organisations. In fact, deal with them. I’m not saying, ‘Don’t join the CIA’. No, go and join the CIA. Go in there. Go into the ballpark and get the ball and bring it out, with the understanding, with the paranoia, that all those organizations will be infiltrated by this generation, by an ideology that is spread across the internet. And every young person is educated on the internet. There will be no person that has not been exposed to this ideology of transparency and understanding and wanting to keep the internet which we were born into free.
This is the last free generation. The coming together of the systems of governments, the new information apartheid, across the world, linking together in such that none of us will be able to escape it in just a decade. Our identities will be coupled to the information sharing such that none of us will be able to escape it. We are all becoming part of the state, whether we like it or not. So our only hope is to determine what sort of state it is that we are going to become part of. And we can do that by looking and being inspired by some of the actions that produced human rights and free education and so on by people recognizing that they were part of the state, recognizing their own power and taking concrete and robust action to make sure they lived in the sort of society they wanted to and not in a hell-hole dystopia.
Sarah Harrison: Thank you. So basically all those poor people Jake just made identify themselves, you have the power to change more systems than the one you’re working on right now. And I think it’s time to take some questions because we don’t have long left.
Julian Assange: While we wait for the first question, I’d like to say, it looks like there’s quite a lot of people there, but you should all know that due to the various sorts of proximity measures that are now employed by NSA, GCHQ, and Five Eyes Alliance, if you’ve come there with a telephone, or if you’ve been even in Hamburg with a telephone, you are all now coupled to us. You are coupled to this event. You are coupled to this speech in an irrevocable way. And that is now true for many people. So either we have to take command of the position that we have, understand the position we have, understand that we are the last free people, and the last people essentially with an ability to act in this situation. Or we are the group that will be crushed because of this association.
Question: So you were talking about the sysadmins here. What about those people who are not sysadmins? Not only joining CIA and those companies, what else can we do?
Sarah Harrison: Jake, do you want to have a go at that one?
Jacob Appelbaum: Sure. This is a question of agency.
(Assange video link goes out again)
Sarah Harrison: Good timing.
Jacob Appelbaum: It’s a question in which one has to ask very simply, what is it that you feel like you can do? And many of the people in this audience I’ve had this discussion with them. For example, Edward Snowden did not save himself. I mean, he obviously had some ideas, but Sarah, for example, not as a system administrator, but as someone who was willing to risk her person. She helped, specifically for source protection, she took actions to protect him. So there are plenty of things that can be done.
To give you some ideas, Edward Snowden, still sitting in Russia now, there are things that can be done to help him even now. And there are things to show, that if we can succeed in saving Edward Snowden’s life and to keep him free, that the next Edward Snowden will have that to look forward to. And if we look also to what has happened to Chelsea Manning, we see additionally that Snowden has clearly learned, just as Thomas Drake and Bill Binney set an example for every single person about what to do and what not to do.
It’s not just about systems administrators, it’s about all of us actually recognizing that positive contribution that each of us can make.
(Assange video link comes back up)
Question: Hi Julian, I’m wondering, do you believe that transparency alone is enough to inject some form of conscience into evil organizations, quote and quote “evil” organizations? And if not, what do you believe the next step after transparency is?
Julian Assange: It’s not about injecting conscience, it’s about providing two things: one, an effective deterrent to particular forms of behavior and two, finding that information which allows us to construct an order in the world around us, to educate ourselves in how the world works and therefore be able to manage the world that we are a part of. The restriction of information, the restriction of those bits of information, colors it. It gives off an economic signal that information is important when it’s released, because otherwise why would you spend so much work in restricting it? So the people that know it best restrict it. We should take their measurements of that information as a guide and use that to pull it out where it can achieve some kind of reform.
That, in itself, is not enough. It creates an intellectual commons which is part of our mutual education. But we need to understand, say, if we look at the Occupy event, a very interesting political event, where revelations and perhaps destabilization led to a very large group wanting to do something. However, there was no organizational scaffold for these people to attach themselves to, no nucleus for these people to crystallize onto. And it is that problem, which is an endemic problem of the anarchist left, actually.
The CCC. Why are we having this right now? Because the CCC is an organized structure. It’s a structure which has been able to grow to accommodate the 30% of extra people that have occurred this year. To shift and change and act like one of the better workers’ universities that are around. So we have to form unions and networks and create programs and organizational structures. And those organizational structures can also be written in code. Bitcoin, for example, is an organizational structure that creates an intermediary between people, it sets up rules between people. It may end up as a quite totalitarian system one day, who knows, but at the moment it provides some kind of balancing.
So code and human structures do things. WikiLeaks was able to rescue Edward Snowden because we are an organized institution with collective experience.
Sarah Harrison: Okay, I think there’s one question left that’s coming from the internet.
Question: On IRC there was the question, what was the most difficult part on getting Snowden out of the US?
Jacob Appelbaum: That’s quite a loaded question.
Julian Assange: Yeah, that’s interesting to think whether we can actually answer that question at all. I’ll give a variant of the answer because of the legal situation it is a little bit difficult.
As some of you may know, the UK Government has admitted to spending £6 million a year approximately surveilling this embassy in the police forces alone. So you can imagine the difficulty in communicating with various people in different countries in relation to his diplomatic asylum and into logistics in Hong Kong in a situation like that. And the only reason we were able to succeed is because of extemely dilligent…
(Assange video link goes out again)
Jacob Appelbaum: Perfectly timed.
Sarah Harrison: And we didn’t use Skype.
Jacob Appelbaum: Do we have time for one more question? That was such a fantastic, perfect way that you didn’t learn the answer to that question.
Announcer: Unfortunately that is all the time we have for this talk.

Related Links:

Glenn Greenwald 30c3 Keynote

Alexa O’Brien – 30c3 – The Secret Trial of Chelsea Manning

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