Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Anonymous Hacks NATO, Steals Lame Documents

Is it finally a cyberwar? Not likely.

The hacking group Anonymous claimed via its Twitter feed to have breached servers belonging to NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization military alliance that has largely been responsible for the military defense of Europe since the end of World War II.

So far, three PDF copies of documents the group claimed to have taken in the attack were circulating on a sharing site devoted to PDF documents. Two were marked “NATO Restricted” and appear to have been removed from the PDFCast site.

I haven’t seen the first two, but the Telegraph described one as a working paper on communications systems used by NATO forces in Afghanistan, and was said to include technical and procurement information. A second concerned a plan to outsource communications for NATO forces stationed in Kosovo. If it sounds exciting, then I have some news for you: It’s not.

“Restricted” may sound important. As the Register points out, in the taxonomy of document labels, “Restricted” is for documents of relatively low importance. Anonymous is crowing like it has just broken into a trove of NATO’s deepest secrets. It appears instead they’ve taken some documents relating to relatively mundane workaday operations.

Higher up the scale are documents that get stamped “Confidential,” then “Secret” and then “Top Secret.”

A third document which just emerged via the @AnonymousIRC Twitter feed is a 59-page document concerning NATO security procedures. It is marked “NATO Unclassified” which is actually even lower on the totem pole than “Restricted.” The only restriction is that they’re subject to NATO copyright and can only be released with NATO permission. Not that NATO is going to care very much. This very document has been floating around since 2006.

We are sitting on about one Gigabyte of data from NATO now, most of which we cannot publish as it would be irresponsible. But Oh NATO….

Hi NATO. Yes we haz more of your delicious data. You wonder where from? No hints, your turn. You call it war; we laugh at your battleships.

This one isn’t restricted but ironic: | It describes security procedures within NATO. Well, seems nobody ever read them.

NATO issued a statement saying that it is aware of the claim of the breach and is investigating. And it certainly will, but it’s not as if significant alarm bells are likely to be ringing at NATO Headquarters over this, at least not from the documents seen so far, though the group claims to be holding back on releasing some documents it says “most of which we cannot publish as it would be irresponsible.” It promises more releases in the coming days.

Meanwhile, if that weren’t enough, Anonymous and its ally LulzSec jointly taunted the FBI today. Responding to a quote given to National Public Radio in the story below, the groups issued a joint statement saying, “Your threats to arrest us are meaningless.” The statement appears below the radio story.

For those not keeping score, LulzSec is the group that claimed credit for attacking Sony umpteen times, then went on to attack other game companies and the U.S. Senate, then stole emails and other documents from servers belonging to the Arizona State Police. It also stole internal documents from AT&T.

LulzSec in recent weeks claimed it had been absorbed by the larger group Anonymous, but the lines appear to be blurring again, as it is at times active under its own banner. Two people connected to LulzSec’s activities were among 16 arrested in a nationwide FBI operation earlier this week. Fourteen others were arrested in connection with a denial of service attack against PayPal in sympathy with WikiLeaks.

The new statement is in reaction to a statement by an FBI assistant director saying the bureau wants to “send a message” about computer crime. The hacker group’s reaction essentially dares law enforcement to take further action. Something tells me they may get their wish.

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