Feeds

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

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

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.