White House Fails to Make Case That Russian Hackers Tampered With Election
The infosec community tends to jump on claims with both feet if the full empirical evidence is not shared fully.
“This ultimately seems like a very rushed report put together by multiple teams working different data sets and motivations,” Robert M. Lee, CEO and Founder of the security company Dragos, wrote in a critique published Friday. “It is my opinion and speculation that there were some really good government analysts and operators contributing to this data and then report reviews, leadership approval processes, and sanitation processes stripped out most of the value and left behind a very confusing report trying to cover too much while saying too little.”
In fairness, the reticence in both cases is likely justified by the interest in protecting sources and methods used to detect such attacks. And as Lee was quick to note, strong technical evidence is likely to be included in reports to Congress that later may be declassified.The sloppiness, Lee noted, included the report’s conflation of Russian hacking groups APT28 and APT29—also known as CozyBear, Sandworm, Sednit, and Sofacy, among others—with malware names such as BlackEnergy and Havex, and even hacking capabilities such as “Powershell Backdoor.” The mix up of such basic classifications does little to inspire confidence that the report was carefully or methodically prepared. And that only sows more reasons for President elect Donald Trump and his supporters to cast doubt on the intelligence community’s analysis on a matter that, if true, poses a major national security threat.
The writers showed a similar lack of rigor when publishing so-called indicators of compromise, which security practitioners use to detect if a network has been breached by a specific group or piece of malware. As Errata Security CEO Rob Graham pointed out in a blog post, one of the signatures detects the presence of “PAS TOOL WEB KIT,” a tool that’s widely used by literally hundreds, and possibly thousands, of hackers in Russia and Ukraine, most of whom are otherwise unaffiliated and have no connection to the Russian government.