NSA hacking secrets are revelead by former NSA agent – Indianapolis Tech Week
April 4, 2016
Shah Sheikh (1320 articles)
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NSA hacking secrets are revelead by former NSA agent – Indianapolis Tech Week

Agency is an elite unit made up of some of the best hackers on the planet, charged with breaking into computer networks around the world.When the National Security Agency hacks into a computer network, it generally relies on tried-and-true methods widely known in the security industry.

NSA’s Tailored Access Operations are revelead

Exactly how the Tailored Access Operations (TAO) cell works is a closely-held secret — despite some recent leaks — but in a rare public appearance, TAO’s chief shed some light on how America’s top cyber spies do their thing.

Rob Joyce, the NSA’s chief of tailored access operations, said as much Wednesday to a room full of systems administrators and security engineers at the Enigma Conference at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco.

“A lot of people think that nation-states are running on zero-days” — undisclosed vulnerabilities that serve as software skeleton keys, he said. But “there are so many more vectors that are easier, less risky than going down that route.”

Joyce explained how can we protect from hackers

To protect against hackers, like his own guys, Joyce reportedly listed some best security practices for companies and individuals, including limiting access to data to those who really need it, segmenting networks and making sure a system administrator is there and paying attention to anomalies.

Joyce also addressed the difficulty in attribution in cyber-attacks, but said that if the U.S. government alleges that a nation-state is behind a specific cyber-attack, they are.

“It’s amazing the amount of lawyers that DHS [Department of Homeland Security], FBI and NSA have,” he said, according to WIRED. “So if the government is saying that we have positive attribution too, you ought to book it. Attribution is really, really hard. So when the government’s saying it, we’re using the totality of the sources and methods we have to help inform that. [But] because those advanced persistent threats aren’t going away… we can’t bring all that information to the fore and be fully transparent about everything we know and how we know it.”
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Joyce added that government-employed hackers are more likely to use spear phishing attacks meant to persuade a person to download a malicious attachment, or SQL injection, a technique meant to dump data from a website or network, than zero-days.

During the roughly 30-minute presentation, Joyce referred to teams like his as “apex predators.”

He attempted to give the audience — which included privacy advocates dubious of government surveillance — tips for defending against outsiders who have unlimited resources — and, more importantly, an inexhaustible amount of focus.

“Don’t assume a crack is too small to be noticed or too small to be exploited,” said Joyce.

“We’ll poke and we’ll poke and we’ll wait and wait and wait,” said the man Wired magazine recently called the NSA’s “hacker-in-chief.” “Because we’re looking for that opportunity.”

His talk served to remind conference participants of their role in defending the United States against foreign hackers. Roughly 85 percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure is maintained by the private sector.

When the NSA does discover previously unreported bugs in tech products, he described the process as highly regulated.

“There is both internal and external processes to the NSA, so the overwhelming, vast majority of the vulnerabilities that we discover are reported as we find” them, said Joyce, who is a Scoutmaster in his spare time.

“Is it important enough? Is it heinous enough a problem that it gets revealed? … Whether we say ‘yes,’ or ‘no,’ that’s still brought to an interagency committee that’s chaired by the White House.

“We don’t get final say in what we keep or let go.”

Joyce also reiterated the NSA’s stance on encryption — a debate raging among politicians and law enforcement, but not at his agency.

“Encryption makes sense for the nation,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that encryption is good for the nation.”

This month, Joyce’s boss, NSA Director Michael Rogers, reportedly called the debate about that technology a “waste of time.”

Source | Albanydailystar