Feeds

NSA 'hunted sysadmins' to find CAT PHOTOS, high-level passwords

Latest Snowden docs detail sniffing sysadmin activity to help attacks on carriers' routers

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Staff at the United States' National Security Agency reportedly “hunted” system administrators because they felt doing so would yield passwords that enabled easier surveillance.

So says The Intercept, which claims this document came its way thanks to one E. Snowden, late of Moscow.

The document is apparently a lift from an internal NSA message board featuring discussions among staff. The posts detail how NSA agents feel targeting sysadmins as a short cut towards tracking their targets deemed to be worthy of investigation.

“My end target is the extremist/terrorist or government official that happens to be using the network some admin takes care of” writes someone under the classification “S/SI//REL” (Secret, COMINT, releasable to Five Eyes partners), who goes on to explain it's hard to access the infrastructure needed to track their prey.

“Who better to target than the person who already has 'the keys to the kingdom'?” the author continues. “Many times as soon as I see a target show up on a new network, one of my first goals is, 'Can we CNE [computer network exploitation] access to the admins on that network, in order to get access to the infrastructure that the target is using'?”

The document then discusses how to identify Sysadmins by using social media profiles. Looking at Telnet traffic is another suggested method, as the NSA chaps assume nobody but sysadmins use Telnet these days.

The prize if sysadmins can be subverted, the writers say, can include: Network maps off of their hard drive credentials from text files (or from our key-loggers … potato potato) full lists of customers (along with associated dedicated IP allocations is a bonus) e-mail with upstream providers detailing how your network is connected to the bigger Internetz. For example, if I can see they use certain fibre cables to connect to the world, I'll go look in SSO's collect for their traffic. If they use VSAT's, I'll go look for their network in FORNSAT's environment pictures of cats in funny poses with amusing captions

The point of sysdmin attacks is to get at carriers' core routers, an effort the document explains “has been good business for us and our 5-eyes partners for some time now”.

The bad news is that the document says other nations are getting better at attacking such routers.

No sysadmin, it seems, is safe. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
BlackEnergy crimeware coursing through US control systems
US CERT says three flavours of control kit are under attack
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.