back to article Former NSA top hacker names the filthy four of nation-state hacking

Rob Joyce, the former head of the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations hacking team, has spilled the beans on which nations are getting up to mischief online. Joyce gave one of the first talks at the DEF CON hacking conference in Las Vegas and interest was intense - the lines to get in stretched around the hall. Joyce …

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  1. Vinyl-Junkie
    Pirate

    "there are active campaigns to hack the US vote".

    There is another theory that states that this has already happened....

    (C) DNA.

    1. boatsman

      Re: "there are active campaigns to hack the US vote".

      since 90% is still handcounted and votes are done with a pencil,

      I wish them good luck with that.

      by the way, what exactly was mr Trumps campaign doing with Cambridge Analytica's services ???

      oh yeah, right......

    2. jgarbo

      Re: "there are active campaigns to hack the US vote".

      Does Mr Joyce know that the $380 million upgraded US voting system was hacked in 10 minutes by an 11 yr old girl? Oh, in America...

      https://www.nextbigwhat.com/us-voting-machine-hack-297/

  2. malle-herbert
    Facepalm

    And yet...

    People STILL try to connect more and more devices to the internet...

    1. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: And yet...

      Like the cat flap someone I know bought!

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "he wasn't going to go into detail about that"

    He doesn't need to ; we all assume that the US is #1 when it comes to nation-state hacking.

    U-S-A ! U-S-A !

    1. el kabong

      NOOOO!! Can't be true!!!

      Tell me it ain't so!

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: NOOOO!! Can't be true!!!

        It ain't so.

        There, do you feel better now?

        Didn't think so. Depressing, ain't it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "he wasn't going to go into detail about that"

      He doesn't need to ; we all assume that the US is #1 when it comes to nation-state hacking.

      You know what they say when you assume ... you make an ass out of u and me.

      I wouldn't make that assumption if I were you. The US is crap when it comes to black bag stuff.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: I wouldn't make that assumption if I were you

        The US of A has a 20-year lead on spying on foreign comms. Read up on Echelon, I'm betting you'll be assuming like the rest of us.

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: "he wasn't going to go into detail about that"

        He doesn't need to ; we all assume that the US is #1 when it comes to nation-state hacking.

        What number be they in Non Nation State Crack Hacker Circles? Be they even Present, Learning and Phishing with Sublime AI Services Monitoring and Mentoring the Paths to Travel/Follow?

        With that Facility Secured with Specialised Space Forces Enjoying Mercenary Agents for Core Source Peer Reviewing of Planned Global Presentations for the Remote Virtual Realisation of Future Events ....... Alternate AI Augmented Virtualised Realities/SMARTR TerraPhormations for Nations Creating New Life on Earth with AI Systems in Universal Remote Command with Absolutely Immaculate Control ..... which Yields and Supplies Quite Impeccable and Certainly Unimpeachable Powers to Exercise/:-)AIBetaTest/Fine Tune.

        *Note to self .... Check to see if Tata are into Quantum Communications for Command and Control of SCADA Operating Systems.

        El Reg investigative journalist and editorial silence on such AIMatters as they be unfolding here out in the Open is surely unusual. What's not to like and report on? The Deep Unknowns of the Present that are Changing the Future and Putting IT in the Hands, Hearts and Minds of A.N.Others is no more a Beast than it is a Pussy?

        As for ITs Future Dispositions, well, only Global Operating Devices would know that surely.

  4. anothercynic Silver badge

    Of course they don't...

    ... The Land of the Free is exempt from this... they *are* the land of the free... free to do as they please!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Of course they don't...

      Land of the Incarcerated would be a more accurate name.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge
      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Of course they don't...

        Shhhhh, don't tell them! They might get ideas! Oh. Wait...

      3. Oh Homer
        Mushroom

        Re: Land of the Incarcerated

        No, no, no. It's the "Land of the Free to Be Incarcerated (for three consecutive minor offences, mostly involving the personal consumption of recreational narcotics)".

        See, this is the plan. Make life as shit as possible for at least 80% of the population (including poverty that forces kids to join the military just to get the ticket they need for further education, thus traumatising them for life and turning them into drug addicts and/or mass shooters).

        Then start a "War on Drugs" ... the very thing these trauma victims need to cope with their state-induced trauma, culminating in the victims all being locked up in private, for-profit prisons.

        That way the warmongers get:

        • To pillage the resources of whatever country these kids have been sent to wage "war" with
        • Kickbacks and "campaign funding" from Lockheed Martin and other Military Industrial Complex / War Economy players
        • Vast amounts of taxpayers money in the form of DEA funding, once those traumatised kids come home and become junkies
        • And they get to confiscate all the proceeds from drugs hauls
        • And best of all, the traumatised junkie victims of this state-operated gang warfare then become cash cows in private, for profit prisons, or in other words ... slaves

        Profit!

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    So which of those miscreants should be dropped off the list to keep it to four but with the US in its rightful place at the top?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Actually, you need to make room at the top of the list for _three_ more: the US, UK and Israel -- and maybe a fourth, the disparate group of criminal gangs who nearly every one of the major state actors have subcontracted work to (providing those gangs with the capital they need to go after the rest of us).

      1. Rusty 1

        And the rest of the Five Eyes group.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        is bugging classed as hacking?

        my chats with ILETS colleagues informally suggested that a nice, large cheese eating nation was quite pervasive in understanding les megabytes. After all, they were allegedly the first to bug all the first class seats on long haul flights. . .but perhaps we're just talking about data at rest and on the wires, not ambiental-INT & SOCMINT?

        So, my "full-spectrum dominance in the new technologies" list goes something like:-

        1) Trumpland & anti-Trumpland (currently geo co-located)

        2) United Kingdom and its subservient but richer colonies, NZ, AUS, CAN, Israel, Cyprus, India etc

        3)= Russia, quietly playing chess as usual in the background; 3)= France, playing boules in Rennes

        5) China, they are quietly playing 'Go', and where all their expatriate doctoral students are not quite spies, but. .

        6) Ethiopia - they've bought and used such powerful pervasive monitoring technology, that the country can't actually afford, that if *they* are at it then so is absolutely everyone else - so just add every nation to No.6 on the list, and we're done.

        time to go back to writing letters! oops: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/queen-elizabeth-is-vast-spy-network-was-the-original-surveillance-state

        1. Sir Loin Of Beef

          Re: is bugging classed as hacking?

          Top four attack origins according to Norse Attack Map:

          US

          China

          Netherlands

          A bunch of countries.

  6. streaky

    Rofl

    Remainers still trying to claim it was Russia wot won the Brexit vote despite there being no evidence of it turned up across at least 3 governmental and who knows how many military intelligence investigations of it on both sides of the Atlantic?

    Every time you say this you look even more stupid.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Rofl

      The lead Brexiter is a foreigner called Boris - what more do you want ?

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Rofl

      There are now literally dozens of journalists that have interviewed former troll factory employees involved in pushing for Brexit. There are articles on this topic from the Mail to the Guardian depending on your persuasion. You should try reading a source other than Russia Today.

      Russia is thrilled with Brexit as it weakens their competitor for influence in eastern Europe - you'd be a fool to believe they wouldn't take the opportunity given even half a chance, especially not after their success in the US.

      1. streaky

        Re: Rofl

        Russia can be as thrilled as they like - although again there's zero evidence of this - I have a hard time thinking Russia is that stupid and given how hard they go on people pro brexit and leave off remainers I see no evidence of any sort. Outside the EU's instinct to appease this doesn't end well for them.

        Ignoring that we know who the bots are, we know what they're doing and we know that they didn't go on brexit. That's a fact, interview who you like.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Rofl

      "Remainers still trying to claim it was Russia wot won the Brexit vote despite there being no evidence of it turned up"

      I tend to agree with you. Hanlon's razor is sufficient explanation for the Brexit vote.

    4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Rofl

      If Russian *haven't* tried to influence the US and UK votes then their spooks just aren't doing their job properly. Likewise, if the NSA and CIA with their eye-wateringly large budgets are not the world #1 miscreants then *they* aren't doing their job properly.

      You cannot stop your enemies trying, so your responsibility is to either make them your friends (and I don't see much evidence of that on any side) or defend your institutions against hackery.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Rofl

        So with MI5 the CIA and NSA and presumably every Eu intelligence agency (except possibly the French) trying to rig the vote for remain and the Russians (and possibly the French) trying to rig it for leave - it was still close.

        Does this mean the Russians are 2% better?

      2. streaky

        Re: Rofl

        If Russian *haven't* tried to influence the US and UK votes then their spooks just aren't doing their job properly.

        But here's the thing. Mind blown, you ready?

        Our spooks are doing their job properly. The yank spooks are. There's two investigations in parliament led by remainers. There's one in the US congress (might be senate I can't be bothered to check) - they've compelled evidence out of the companies that a) want the UK to remain in the EU and b) have no trouble finding the trump related bots, know what they're posting and know who they're posting about. When I say they didn't go on brexit I don't mean I don't know if they did - it's a fact, they didn't, the end. Unless you have actual evidence that isn't somebody trying to sow the seeds of chaos (they saw you coming btw) - you don't really get to make claims to the contrary. It just didn't happen.

        If you want to know what did happen maybe give a shit about your fellow human and you might learn a few things about immigration, economics and leaving people behind - or just generally treating people like crap and expecting things to carry on as they are before; plus the whole we'll be richer out thing.

        Fsking daily mirror readers, honestly.

        1. Milton

          Re: Rofl

          streaky, you're right about one thing, and one thing only: "treating people like crap and expecting things to carry on as they are before" was a disgrace, contributed to by both major UK parties, though the Tories and Osborne's imbecilic and cruel austerity has been by far the worst factor.

          If your point is that lots of people voted Brexit as a way of sticking two fingers up to austerity, the epicene Cameron and vile Osborne, rather than a reasoned, well-informed consideration of Britain's position in the EU, then I've no doubt you're right.

          But your continued assertions, against a vast stack of publicly-available evidence, that Russia by technical means and those of financial corruption did not try to influence the Brexit vote is just plain silly. It is by now beyond debate that just as Russia wanted Trump to win (because, duh, they've said so) and worked to try to make that happen (and failed, by nearly 3 m votes), so it is conspicuously in Russia's interests to destabilise and weaken the EU. To pretend otherwise, or to claim they haven't tried damned hard to make it happen, is just ... fantasy. (You might have said that Putin is justified in worrying about Nato's eastward expansion and the breaking of promises after 1991, and therefore we should see Russia's concerns about the EU through that prism ... but instead you're making disprovable counterfactual claims.)

          I'm not going to get involved in pointless debates about evidence given that you could so easily search, as a start, for the UK Electoral Commission, follow its findings on Brexit, and then spend as long as you wish pursuing other links to an abundance of evidence. The stuff really isn't hard to find, and much of it has excellent provenance.

          As it is with the "whole we'll be richer out thing"—another assertion by this point utterly disproved on an hourly basis—if you choose to ignore any and all facts, evidence and logic that don't fit your carefully cherished opinions, what's the point attempting adult conversation? Thus with a lot of right-wing propaganda these days: if you've got to make stuff up, you already lost the argument.

          Volume doesn't equal Veracity. Every toddler's tantrum ends with the same realisation.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Rofl

            @Milton re: "because, duh, they've said so"

            FTR Just because someone claims something, doesn't make it "evidence", let alone true.

          2. streaky

            Re: Rofl

            But your continued assertions, against a vast stack of publicly-available evidence, that Russia by technical means and those of financial corruption

            Of course they have the means. We know they have the means - but I'm going to come to that.

            did not try to influence the Brexit vote is just plain silly

            But we're talking about evidence remember. The evidence we have publicly (nobody has spoken about military intelligence evidence but assumedly if it existed they'd have been shouting it from the rooftops - I have no problem believing that Novochok was the Russian state but the publicly available evidence is thin on the ground but we *constantly* hear about the attribution, if the security services thought that the Russian state had even slight involvement they'd be shouting it from the rooftops - we know about the civil service - and they just aren't).

            It is by now beyond debate that just as Russia wanted Trump to win (because, duh, they've said so) and worked to try to make that happen (and failed, by nearly 3 m votes)

            Of course. Remember what hard evidence we have is from the platforms they were using to push their ideology. It's the likes of Facebook and Twitter and others after being asked for evidence and taking another look at things they managed to produce data and create ways (and third parties have too) of tracking what Russian propaganda bots are doing. The truth of the matter is that on having looked multiple times nobody has found any actual hard evidence of this.

            so it is conspicuously in Russia's interests to destabilise and weaken the EU

            Yeah now we're in the crux of the matter. No it isn't. Outside the EU's instinct to appease we wouldn't be limited by the EU's thin sanctions regime and our sanctions would look far more like the US sanctions than the ones we're forced to have under the EU's "leadership" (using the word very loosely obviously). Outside the EU we can do many things that the EU simply doesn't allow and Russia knows this - they're either not bothered either way or not that stupid.

            To pretend otherwise, or to claim they haven't tried damned hard to make it happen, is just ... fantasy.

            If they tried so damn hard why is there no actual hard evidence?

            could so easily search, as a start, for the UK Electoral Commission, follow its findings on Brexit

            What has the Electoral Commission said about the involvement of Russia (which is what we're actually talking about) in the brexit referendum. Far as I'm aware they've said squat. That being said being a bunch of Momentum members I'm not particularly interested until the court cases (criminal and civil) are done - when that happens we can talk about the stunning impartiality of the Electoral Commission - because right now we only have accusations by a provably biased organisation.

            You've been played like a fiddle. I've got my eyes open.

            1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

              Re: Rofl

              You insistence on the same evidential standards as you might get in a trial is effectively giving state actors a free pass. Normal standards of evidence can be met because the state has the power to compel people to give it.

              But we don't have that leverage over another state. You're never going to get a smoking gun that shows Russia invaded the Ukraine, or they supported/supplied the rebels that shot down MH17, or they used Novichok in the UK, or murdered Litvenenko, or had an organised campaign to sow dissent amongst their enemies by attempting to balkanise their politics

              Finally you assert that Russia has no interest in weakening the EU? That's absurd. Russian policy towards Europe for the last 200 years has revolved around 1000 miles of battlefield between Moscow and France/Germany and allies. The EU's expansion east threatens that directly. Ukraine discussing joining first NATO and then the EU were a direct cause of Russias invasion.

      3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Rofl @Ken Hagan

        Defending the indefensible and rigged will always have the smartest of secure/secret/special agents employed in the sector rebelling from within in a position of great influence fully minded to make much needed radical changes/fundamental alterations*.

        A prime example of such being the historical lesson taught us all by Edward Snowden.

        True Top Gun Honest Joe Materiel.

        * ... And such requires that systems themselves address and remove their many shortcomings with persecutable and prosecutable vulnerabilities if they are to remain as a credible lead hosts rather than be crushed and crashed in a whole series of cataclysmic events for CHAOS to Share with Everyone Made Aware of That and Those Directly Responsible for their Long Suffering/Practical Slavery to an Indefensible Rigged System.

        :-) Hmmm .... Yes, I agree, they might need some Special Help with All of That. No problem. After all, what else are we all doing here, other than to Serve and Server the Future.

        What have you to Offer for Free and See Make One Super Rich Fronting Untold Fortunes for Generous Spending on Prime Prized Assets/Sure Fire Bet Investments? They're the ones that get all the free help and materiel support one would ever wish and/or need to supply/host.

  7. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    North Korea focuses on robbing you for cryptocurrency, the use of which bypasses sanctions. Russia has also become a big fan for this very reason.

  8. GIRZiM

    HOLD THE HEADLINES

    We've always been at war with Eastasia Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: HOLD THE HEADLINES

      No we have always been at war with Iraq and the Mujaheddin in Afgahnistan ...... don't believe any fake news from the 80s

      1. GIRZiM

        Re: HOLD THE HEADLINES

        We've always been at war with the '80s.

        (Or should that be 'since' the '80s?).

  9. boatsman
    FAIL

    who cares about #1 to #4. The USA is #0, top dog.

    nuff said.

    Or did we forget our friends from the NSA exposed the entire world to serious vulnerabilities

    by not alerting vendors to fix them ??

    etc, etc.....

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And here I was thinking that Israel was l33t h4xor #1, just ask Bibi.

    I would have thought criminal organisations would also feature - since they are more of a threat than the NORKs.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Goose/Gander Fodder

      And here I was thinking that Israel was l33t h4xor #1, just ask Bibi.

      I would have thought criminal organisations would also feature - since they are more of a threat than the NORKs. .... Anonymous Coward

      If Israel and Semites are trying to influence upcoming elections in UKGBNI via personal attacks on Labour's Jeremy Corbyn, are they co-conspirators in a criminal enterprise? And why isn't that headlining news on a par with that which is presented as upsetting democracy in the US of A. Do they think to control media outlets to remotely control receptive undereducated minds?

      That's a mighty operation but far from being an Almighty Operation, and when discovered to be true will it create powerful foe tendering to overpowering enemies? Yes. of course it will. Such is only natural.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Goose/Gander Fodder

        @amanfromMars 1

        I'm sure we can rely on the BBC to give us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

        /sarcasm off.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Goose/Gander Fodder ..... and Disgraceful Wannabe Heroes

          I'm sure we can rely on the BBC to give us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. ... AC

          From the lickspittle that they have surely become, can we expect nothing less, AC :-).

          Lord Reith would be flummoxed and flabbergasted and appalled to be witness to the puppet of disinformation and economy of truth it has become.

          And that is entirely due to a distinct lack of Sterling Stirling Leadership right at the top of all institutions of state and national pride. They just don't have what it takes and what IT needs to be the Leading World Voice on Universal Stages.

          It is no wonder such media is in terminal decline and losing market share in markets that are becoming increasingly aware of their ........ well, could they be classified as criminal shenanigans with the likelihood of future prosecutions for the malicious persecutions they decided to play out as real?

          It would be next to impossible to credibly and incredibly blame the Russians for that, although the same cannot be said of terrorism, which is a truly desperate and self-destructive defence, which will surely have its cage rattled to try and distract and steer the fact towards a raft of fictions.

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Beyond Parody

    According to Joyce there are four primary actors when it comes to states hacking states: Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Notably missing from the list was the US, but let's face it, he wasn't going to go into detail about that.

    There's is another one missing, which is also renowned for bumping of scientists in the street and showing 100% guaranteed fake shit at the UN to drum up some fear with incredible chutzpah.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Beyond Parody

      I can think of at least two nations you might be referring to, but I can't prove either one. You'll have to be clearer. :)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Humans like to weaponize shit ....

    1) Black Powder was used to create pretty fireworks until some asshole weaponized it and called it gunpowder.

    2) Dolphins were pretty cute until someone strapped a shotgun to their head.

    3) Atoms were pretty cool building blocks until somebody had to make an atomic bomb.

    So, please do not act all suprised that the “practice of hacking” is being weaponized to “create maximum disruption” ... It’s not as if these nation state hackers adhere to an ethical code of only causing low-to-medium disruption.

    The NSA should be thrilled if these hackers throw everything they’ve got at them. What a great opportunity to learn.

    It almost sounds as if the NSA is pissed of about these exploits coming to light too soon ?...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Terminator

    NSA complains about russian hackers irony meter self destructs

    According to Joyce there are four primary actors when it comes to states hacking states: Russia, China, Iran and North Korea

    Just so happens to be the target of the US deepstate, you know the real rulers of America, the ones who tried to depose a sitting president and want to start a new cold war in Europe.

    Russian hackers are constantly trying to penetrate key US networks

    Even if this were true, so what and what are they even doing connected key networks to the Internet. Seriously, elReg editors, giving a platform to this neocon waffle is just going to dilute your own reputation as impartial tech journalists.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NSA complains about russian hackers irony meter self destructs

      @Walter Bishop

      Sorry, did you just say elReg editors and impartial tech journalists in the same sentence?

      I think your irony meter has just exploded again.

  14. roger 8

    I just go with every country is trying to spy /hack every one else.

    and the russians just want to cause disruption wherever possible.

    1. Uffish

      I just go with...

      ... every country just trying to further its own interests. Nothing new, just the technology.

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