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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/3/17

Why Crowdstrike's Russian Hacking Story Fell Apart--Say Hello to Fancy Bear

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Alperovitch first gained notice when he was the VP in charge of threat research with McAfee. Asked to comment on Alperovitch's discovery of Russian hacks on Larry King, John McAfee had this to say: "Based on all of his experience, McAfee does not believe that Russians were behind the hacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC), John Podesta's emails, and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. As he told RT, 'if it looks like the Russians did it, then I can guarantee you it was not the Russians.'"

How does CrowdStrike's story part with reality? First is the admission that it is probably, maybe, could be Russia hacking the DNC. "Intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin 'directing' the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to Wiki Leaks."

The public evidence never goes beyond the word possibility. While never going beyond that or using facts, CrowdStrike insists that it's Russia behind both Clinton's and the Ukrainian losses. NBC carried the story because one of the partners in CrowdStrike is also a consultant for NBC.

According to NBC, the story reads like this. "The company, CrowdStrike, was hired by the DNC to investigate the hack and issued a report publicly attributing it to Russian intelligence. One of CrowdStrike's senior executives is Shawn Henry, a former senior FBI official who consults for NBC News.

"But the Russians used the app to turn the tables on their foes, CrowdStrike says. Once a Ukrainian soldier downloaded it on his Android phone, the Russians were able to eavesdrop on his communications and determine his position through geo-location.

"In June, CrowdStrike went public with its findings that two separate Russian intelligence agencies had hacked the DNC. One, which CrowdStrike and other researchers call Cozy Bear, is believed to be linked to Russia's CIA, known as the FSB. The other, known as Fancy Bear, is believed to be tied to the military intelligence agency, called the GRU."

The information is so certain the level of proof never rises above "believed to be." According to the December 12th Intercept article, "Most importantly, the Post adds that "intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin 'directing' the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks."

Because Ukrainian soldiers are using a smartphone app they activate their geolocation to use it. Targeting is from location to location. The app would need the current user location to make it work.

In 2015 I wrote an article that showed many of the available open-source tools that geolocate and track people. They even show street view. This means that using simple means, someone with freeware or an online website, and not a military budget, can look at what you are seeing at any given moment.

Where CrowdStrike fails is insisting people believe that the code they see is (a) an advanced way to geolocate and (b) it was how a state with large resources would do it. Would you leave a calling card where you would get caught and fined through sanctions or worse? If you use an anonymous online resource at least CrowdStrike won't believe you are Russian and possibly are up to something.

"Using open-source tools this has been going on for years in the private sector. For geolocation purposes, your smartphone is one of the greatest tools to use. Finding and following you has never been easier. Let's face it; if you are going to stalk someone, 'street view' on a map is the next best thing to being there. In the following video, the software hacks your modem. It's only one step from your phone or computer."

If you read that article and watch the video you'll see that using "geo-stalker" is a better choice if you are on a low budget or no budget. Should someone tell the Russians they overpaid?

According to Alperovitch, the smart-phone app plotted targets in about 15 seconds. This means that there is only a small window to get information this way.

Using the open-source tools I wrote about previously, you could track your targets all day. In 2014, most Ukrainian forces were using social media regularly. It would be easy to maintain a map of their locations and track them individually.

From my research into those tools, someone using Python scripts would find it easy to take photos, listen to conversations, turn on GPS, or even turn the phone on when they chose to. Going a step further than Alperovitch, without the help of the Russian government, GRU, or FSB, anyone could take control of the drones Ukraine is fond of flying and land them. Or they could download the footage the drones are taking. It's pretty much copy and paste at that point. Would you bother the FSB, GRU, or Vladimir Putin with the details or just do it?

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George Eliason is an American journalist that lives and works in Donbass. He has been interviewed by and provided analysis for RT, the BBC, and Press-TV. His articles have been published in the Security Assistance Monitor, Washingtons Blog, (more...)

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