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Dupont’s Titanium Oxide Color Recipe- Stolen for Chinese Advantage July 22, 2015

Posted by Chris Mark in Industry News, InfoSec & Privacy, Risk & Risk Management.
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Oddly (to me anyhow) this is the 2nd most  popular post on my blog!  It was written over 3 years ago but since it gets so much traffic I thought I should re-post.  Here it is in 2015!

Many mistakenly believe that only “high tech” secrets and intellectual property are targets for intellectual property theft.  In a clear example of how any propriety secret can be considered a target, a scientist (Tse Chao) who worked for Dupont from 1966-2002 (36 years!) pleaded guilty in Federal court on Thursday to committing espionage for a company controlled by the Chinese government.  Mr. Chao testified that he provided confidential information to Chines controlled Pangang Group. What did he steal? Among other things, the recipe for Dupont’s Titanium Dioxide.  What is TD used in?  Titanium Dioxide is the ingredient in many white products that makes the products white.  Products such as paint, toothpaste, and Oreo cookie filling!  Stealing the ingredients to Oreos shows just how low cyberthieves will go!   According to court documents: “DuPont’s chlorine-based process was eagerly sought by China, which used a less efficient and more environmentally harmful production method”

I have worked with a number of large companies who, when asked why they did not protect trade secrets, replied that they did not believe their industry or type of product was of interest.  Make no mistake.  If your company has a unique process, technology, or product, it IS of interest to many companies.  Unfortunately, the US Government has released reports that state that China is sponsoring much of the US and European cyber espionage.

photo from: http://www.titaniumexposed.com

Asymmetric Warfare 101 July 21, 2015

Posted by Chris Mark in Risk & Risk Management, weapons and tactics.
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With the current state of affairs I thought it appropriate to ‘republish’ this blog post from 2012. You can also read the article from Secure Payments Magazine on the same topic applied to InfoSec.

Asymmetric Warfare can be described as the strategy of using weapons, tactics, and methods to render the asymmetry that exists between two adversaries as moot.  Consider the US Military for a moment.  Since the end of World War II, which is arguably the start of US hegemony, the United States has fielded what many believe is the most powerful conventional military in the history of the world (or at least modern world).  In spite, of this fact the US, and her allies) have struggled in conflicts in Vietnam, Somalia, and most recently in Iraq, and Afghanistan.  In each of these theaters it was groups of lesser-trained, relatively ill-equipped insurgents that created significant challenges to the US military.  By applying guerilla tactics, and employing IEDs and other technologies, the adversaries were able to balance the perceived asymmetry between the might of the US and their own capabilities.

The US is not alone in this dubious distinction of struggling with conventionally weaker adversaries.  The Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and a much weaker France, led by Napoleon, defeated the powerful Prussian Military.  France, in turn, lost French Indochina with the coup-de-grace coming in the surrender at Dien Bein Phu in 1954.  If each of these countries were militarily superior to their foes, how did they end up losing their respective wars?  These examples outline the effectiveness of asymmetric warfare.

While there exist a number of different definitions of Asymmetric Warfare, in a basic sense it applies to the strategies and tactics employed by a militarily weaker opponent to take advantage of vulnerabilities in the stronger opponent.  As an example, few military forces on the planet would face the US military and her allies in open combat either on land or the sea.  Doing so would be certain suicide.  A look at the Persian Gulf War in 1991 shows the result of taking on the military might of the Western World in open combat.  The Battle of Medina Ridge is a prime example.  In this battle between the US 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division against the Iraqi, 2nd Brigade of 2nd Medina Luminous Division the US recorded 1 killed, and 30 wounded while recording 4 tanks as being damaged.  The Iraqis, meanwhile, reported “heavy manpower losses” while reporting 186 tanks destroyed and 127 Armored Fighting Vehicles destroyed.

If a militarily inferior opponent cannot face the US, or Western powers in open combat, how do they fight?  It is fair to day the days of Mahanian sea battles are behind us.  Quite simply, they employ strategies that render the superior military might irrelevant or at least less relevant.  Guerilla warfare is an example of an asymmetric strategy against a militarily superior foe.  As stated in the military classic “On Guerrilla Warfare” by Mao Tse-Tung:

“At one end of the spectrum, ranks of electronic boxes buried deep in the earth hungrily spew out endless tapes.  Scientists and engineers confer in air conditioned offices; missiles are checked by intense men who move about them silently, almost reverently….in forty minutes the countdown begins.

At the other end of the spectrum, a tired man wearing a greasy felt hat, a tattered shirt, and soiled shorts is seated, his back against a tree.  Barrel pressed between his knees, butt resting on the moist earth between his sandaled feet, is a browning automatic rifle. ..Draped around his neck, a sausage-like cloth tube with three day’s supply of rice…In forty minutes his group of fifteen men will occupy a previously prepared ambush.”

This is warfare today.  Unfortunately, the US, and her allies have learned that technology alone cannot win a war against a determined, creative enemy.

As discussed earlier the concept of Asymmetric Warfare is a field of some debate.  When applying the concept to the business, and specifically the Information Security arena, it is more appropriate to apply the concept of Asymmetric Threats posited by C.A. Primmerman.  Without going through too much of the math, and modifying Primmerman’s original theory, we can state that a threat can be expressed using the following two statements:

  1. Adversary A could & would attack Adversary B by doing X
  2. Adversary B could & would respond to Adversary A by doing X.

Now we have the simple conclusion that statement (1) represents an asymmetric action if statement (2) is false, and it represents a symmetric action if statement (2) is true.

As an example of this concept working in practice, consider the following:

1a. Adversary A would attack Adversary B by using terror tactics against the civilian population.

2a.  Adversary B would respond to Adversary A by terror tactics against the civilian population.

If statement 2a is false then the threat in 1a is asymmetric.

According to Pimmerman, an Asymmetric Threat must meet three criteria.  These have been modified for our purposes and include:

  1. It must involve a weapon, tactic or strategy that the adversary both could and would use against another adversary.
  2. It must involve a weapon, tactic, or strategy that the would not or could not be be employed by one adversary.
  3. It must involve a weapon, tactic, or strategy that, if not countered, could have serious consequences. If a threat meets these three criteria, it would be considered asymmetric.

As any student of military strategy can attest, being in a purely defensive mode is a losing proposition.  Unfortunately, in many instances asymmetric threats place one adversary in an almost purely defensive position.  One of my favorite quotes that appears appropriately relevant now is by Julius Ceasar:

“There is no fate worse than being continuously under guard, for it means you are always afraid.”

While not intended to be a comprehensive discussion of Asymmetric Threats the basic concepts are relevant in today’s world.

“The War God’s Face Has Become Indistinct” – Unrestricted Warfare December 11, 2012

Posted by Chris Mark in cybersecurity, Risk & Risk Management, terrorism.
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300px-DHS_S_WRWhile doing some research for a project recently some of my military friends pointed me to a document I had never read called Unrestricted Warfare.  In reading the document, I was shocked at what it contained.  In 1999, two Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) Colonels were tasked to write a document titled: Unrestricted Warfare that outlines China’s approach to war with the West.   In short, the document articulates a new definition of warfare that includes using all economic, political, and PR means to fight ‘sub wars’ and ‘pseudo wars’.  While we sit in the US laboring under our definition of warfare, our adversaries are redefining the battlespace.  Here are some quotes from the document:

“If we acknowledge that the new principles of war are no longer “using armed force to compel the enemy to submit to one’s will,” but rather are “using all means including armed force and non-armed force, military and non-military, lethal and non-lethal means to compel the enemy to accept one’s interests.”[i]

“As we see it, a single man-made stock-market crash, a single computer virus invasion, or a single rumor or scandal that results in a fluctuation in the enemy country’s exchange rates or exposes the leaders of an enemy country on the Internet, all can be included in the ranks of new-concept weapons.”[i]

It I worth your time to read the document to understand the new idea of war and warfare.


[i] House of Representatives. (Kindle Locations 325-327). Kindle Edition.


[i] Wiangsui Qiao Liang and Wang. Unrestricted warfare. Beijing: PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House; 1999.

“Gauss What!?” – Another CyberWeapon Discovered August 14, 2012

Posted by Chris Mark in cyberespionage, Risk & Risk Management, terrorism.
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According to Kaspersky labs, yet another cyberweapon was discovered last week.  On August 9, 2012 Kaspersky labs released a press release stating that they had identified another cyber-weapon dubbed Gauss.  According to the press release:

“…‘Gauss’, a new cyber-threat targeting users in the Middle East. Gauss is a complex, nation-state sponsored cyber-espionage toolkit designed to steal sensitive data, with a specific focus on browser passwords, online banking account credentials, cookies, and specific configurations of infected machines. The online banking Trojan functionality found in Gauss is a unique characteristic that was not found in any previously known cyber-weapons.” (more…)

“Tell me, Show me, Convince me”; Policies, Enforcement, and Auditing August 7, 2012

Posted by Chris Mark in cybersecurity, Risk & Risk Management.
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I was speaking with a client yesterday about policies and auditing.  He asked me a question and it reminded me of what I told my clients for years regarding policies.  First, it is important to remember that a policy is NOT a document. The document is a record of the policy that was passed and tool for disseminating the policy. It should be a reflection of the policy that has been approved by management.  Simply having a written document does not mean you have a policy.  The policy must be approved, documented, disseminated, and enforced.  Second, it is important to remember that writing and approving a policy is the easy part.  Ensuring adherence with the policy  and enforcing the policy is the difficult part.  Make no mistake.  A policy that is not enforced will not be followed for very long.  People are inherently lazy (this writer included).  We take the path of least resistance.  Policies require difficult, often inefficient methods.  Without enforcement, they will fall by the wayside.  Third;writting, approving and documenting a policy is often much easier than implementing the policy.  Consider the following example.  Company X passes a policy that requires all computer and IT users’ access be modeled on “need to know” and “model of least privilege” (standard model).  This alone requires an audit of every person’s existing privileges, as well as identification and documentation or their roles and responsibilities.  Then each role would need to have access levels documented and assigned.  As you can see, a simple one line policy statement may have deep implications.  Finally, it is important to ensure that your company adheres to the documented policies.  This is a three step process I describe as “tell me, show me, convince me”

1) Show the auditor that you have a documented policy that is updated, approved by management and disseminated to employees.

2) demonstrate to the auditor that you are currently in compliance with the policy.

3) convince the auditor that you have a history of following the policy by producing relevant documentation/evidence to show compliance over time. (last 3 months, last 6 months).

By using the tell me, show me, convince me model with policies and departments you can have confidence that your policies are being enforced, and followed.

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