Hacker OPSEC – STFU is the best policy

The Grugq is often is found speaking to “Freedom Fighters” of all allegiances, some of whom may be at odds with what some FreeFor would consider legitimate causes.  Here is an  edited bio we lifted from an interview he did:

The Grugq is an world renowned information security researcher with 15 years of industry experience. Grugq started his career at a Fortune 100 company, where he was forced to resign for publishing a Phrack article on anti-forensics. Since then the Grugq has presented on anti-forensics at dozens of international security conferences, as well as talks on numerous other security topics. He has worked as a professional penetration tester (white hat hacker), a developer, and a full time security researcher.

The Grugq’s research has always been heavily biased towards counterintelligence aspects of information security. His research has been referenced in books, papers, magazines, and newspapers. Currently…the grugq is actively engaged in exploring the intersection of traditional tradecraft and the hacker skillset, learning the techniques that covert organisations use to operate clandestinely and applying them to the Internet.

His unique understanding of both the technical side of things and the operational aspects of tradecraft make his perspective an incredibly valuable set of lessons for FreeFor’s Information Ops.  From time to time we will reprint some of his work here because of the universal value of his lessons.  His blog is a permanent link on our right-side “Essentials” list.

 

xkcd-security

Original link here:  https://grugq.github.io/blog/2013/10/21/observations-on-opsec/

 

 

Observations on OPSEC

Oct 21st, 2013

Briefly, I would like to highlight some important considerations for good OPSEC.  Firstly, OPSEC is a mode of operating, not a tool or a collection of tools.  Secondly, OPSEC comes at a cost, and a significant part of that cost is efficiency.  OPSEC is slow.  Finally, maintaining a strong security posture (i.e. “good OPSEC”) for long periods of time is very stressful, even for professionally trained espionage officers.

Learning good OPSEC requires internalizing the behavioural changes required to continually maintain a strong security posture.  The operational activities have to become habit, because the small things matter, and every careless mistake can compromise security.  The only way to develop good OPSEC habits, good security hygiene, is to practice.  Make the foolish beginners mistakes during a practice session, rather than in the field. Two relevant sayings:

  • Amateurs practice until they get it right, professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong
  • The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war

After developing good security hygiene habits, the second most difficult thing about good OPSEC is learning patience.  Increased OPSEC security comes at the cost of efficiency, primarily in communication time-frames.  The OPSEC mechanisms that must be in place to reduce the risks during communication add latency.  As a result, communication takes significantly longer and is less reliable. Obviously, this is more of an issue with time sensitive operations than those that have more generous deadlines.

The single greatest security risk is communication between operatives.  Clandestine agencies, such as the CIA, MI6, DGSE, etc. will work incredibly hard to minimize the risks surrounding communication with their recruited agents.  In the simplest form, this involves a 2-4 hour “surveillance detection route” (SDR) to see if they are “in the black” before they perform any operational activity.  This is on top of the hours of planning for the operation itself (note: these are minimums, operations requiring high security might take weeks or months of planning, and 12 hour SDRs).

The technology that exists to facilitate information security, e.g. encryption, is important, but it is not sufficient or even the starting point for robust OPSEC. 

By all means, learn to use encryption software correctly and in a properly secure fashion.

However, it is more important to compartment sensitive activities and structure your operational environment for impact containment than install or use particular software.

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