I’d just like to thank you, China. By including me in yesterday’s massive, personally motivated anti-Windows hack attack, as covered yesterday by Forbes Magazine, you gave me the best present anyone ever has, in this whole ten-year period. Furthermore, you used a Russian ransomware virus, but a variant of it created by yourselves, hinting strongly that you and Russia were in on this together-which I’ve also been saying for years. Proof of what you’re up to is not easy to find.
You really made my decade and my New Year.
I’ve been working on showing the world, China, what your horrible hacker jackals have been trying and failing to do to me for years, ever since the sonic attacks that injured our diplomats while visiting your country.
But no matter how many failed attempts or brute-force attacks you’ve made against my website, it’s been an uphill battle telling the world what Microsoft and the Trump administration has not wanted to admit- that you, and not Russia, is the most skillful and numerous of our cyber-adversaries.
Then came yesterday’s one-two punch, which certainly did unsettle me for a few hours- with pure excitement.
First, there’s the unbelievably powerful malware my dear good Windows Defender Firewall caught you trying to use on one of my honeypot computers.
You didn’t think I’d leave the back door unlocked on a computer I actually use, did you, silly China? Boy, howdy. It’s called a honey trap for a reason, Ping-Pong. I caught you with a hunk of junk put together from spare parts in twenty minutes. Learn how to read.
(Speaking of reading, folks, this story’s in two parts, and therefore nowhere near as long as it looks; the second part is really just for specialists. Do with it as you please, the two halves are clearly delineated.)
This was an unreal discovery. That is military-grade ransomware you’re looking at there, folks. The fearsome Cerber virus. They tried to hit me with CERBER. I know how they did it, too; our tech guy baited them with a proxy network. He left the door open for them, the slobs. They came right in- and got caught red-handed.
I still can’t believe that an indy journalist like me, one who is not even getting paid to write their thoughts down, is being targeted by this level of resources. Even at this late stage in the game, Cerber is used to take huge hospitals hostage, not single citizens. Out of every piece of malware known to man, only the Stuxnet virus, which can send nuclear reactor cores into meltdown, is more terrible. Even the Botnet virus is not considered as dangerous. This is no kiddie script. Someone who sends that at you is not messing around. They hate you.
Along with the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC), the DCU has been monitoring an advanced persistent threat (APT) [Editor’s note- APT37 is the group I correctly identified as being behind my site’s cyber-targeting last fall when warning our community to watch out for the Chinese in 2020] hacking group operating an extensive criminal network to compromise accounts and steal data.
Who is behind the Microsoft Windows attack campaign?
The threat group behind these cyber-attacks is thought to be based in North Korea and has been named as “Thallium” by Microsoft and is also known as APT37. The hacking group appears to have been targeting government employees, university staff, those working on nuclear proliferation issues, as well as world peace and human right. The majority of those targeted were based in the U.S. but Microsoft has confirmed individuals in Japan and South Korea also found themselves in the hacking crosshairs.
So I’ve been doing research on this all day, of course, and had planned to write something up about it soon anyway. But then around nine at night, I saw this about Microsoft attacks in this Forbes story released and came to understand it was not just me. Still, there were only a few hundred of us targeted, for personal and political reasons, out of a world of seven billion people.
It’s like a dark matter Pulitzer Prize.
Objectively speaking, it’s kind of a big deal. It represents a drastic escalation compared to what they’ve tried with me before. Hacking a website is still personal, even as a vast campaign of attacks meant to traumatize the whole free world’s community, but this is far worse.
I decoyed them, and they bit. As hard as they could. Like a striking snake.
They followed who they thought was me down a dark alley network, and tried to take me, prisoner. I wonder who the others they attacked were? The Forbes article said everyone targeted was a human rights and freedom activist, one they’d been stalking and preparing to savage for years. We should all get together.
Microsoft hit them back, and so did we. They got their asses kicked, too. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. Don’t mess with the US, and least of all with American Democrats.
This will raise morale in our community, folks. The global elite has just been shown its hot cross buns again. They have money and resource advantages, yes, but in terms of personnel, they are the disadvantaged ones. They are NOT invincible and they CAN be beaten, by regular people, just like you and me- although, as a matter of fact, anyone who doesn’t specialize in the topic may want to stop here. It’s going to get technical. Those who would like to know more about our methodology are welcome to continue down below, where our tech guy will give you the whole story.
Going forward, whether or not we are technical specialists, we can thank our brave technical staff for taking this risk for us, and protect ourselves in the usual manner- by not clicking on strange links, and not opening strange emails. We cannot stress enough just how dangerous things are going to be for the rest of a year that began in so dramatic a fashion-and is guaranteed to get even worse.
Look after yourselves and every Democrat. A lot of us have been dying and disappearing, and we already know what killers our opponents are. This ransomware is bad stuff; fastcompany.com called it No. 2 on their Five Most Dystopian Technologies of the Decade List. You do not want to play games on it. Putin, Xi, and Trump will stop at nothing and shirk no dirty work- but that doesn’t mean they’re winning. Just the opposite, in fact. Ours is the stronger side and always will be, so long as we insist on it.
Happy New Year, Democratic family, from your friends here at Millennial Democrats!
We have received numerous requests for a focus piece regarding cyber-defense for Democrats, especially right now as we are going into the midterms. In it is an introduction to a number of the techniques we can use to defend ourselves going forward. Knowledge is power. Pass it on.
Regular readers of Millennial Democrats will not require a lot of explanation as to how and why the threat of Russian hacking is real. We have been up against it for years. The time has come to soberly and objectively assess Russia’s cyberwarfare capabilities, and examine how we plan to fight back.
In 2016, America was caught off guard and we got a bloody nose. Guys like Roger Stone’s buddy Guccifer 2.0, or the guys in Fancy Bear pulled a fast one, to be sure.
They had the element of surprise back then. Most people had no idea what they were doing(and rolled their eyes at those who were trying to warn them, but that’s another subject). These days things are very different.
Regardless of the lies of the great orange malignance, America knows the Russians are out to get us. Trump is sticking his head in the sand on this and will do nothing to help us, so we’re going to have to learn to help ourselves, and each other.
It’s too bad we’ve got no national leadership on this, but it is what it is. We’ll get by on our own.
In starting out, the most important thing to keep in mind is this: Hackers rely on our mistakes, and mistakes are most often made when we don’t know we are making them. They need to catch us off guard, and their job is to find creative ways to use their tools to get us to slip up.
The first place a smart hacker will look is outside the box, so to speak. They’re always looking for ways to burrow in that you wouldn’t think to look for.
Employing a given system, be it a human being or a PC, for a purpose it wasn’t designed for is what hacking means. However, if you’re careful, neither you nor your computer will end up thus employed. It’s all about being careful.
Hackers are clever, be they Russian or from elsewhere, but they are far from invincible. We’ve already stopped a number of Russian cyber-assaults directed at Democrats this year, such as the ones aimed at our Claire McCaskill.
Without the element of surprise, hackers have many limitations. It’s not that easy to brute-force open a website. Just ask these guys:
Basic cyber-hygiene techniques would cut down on more than 80 percent of cyber attacks and cyber thefts, according to Herbert Lin, senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. It will benefit us to learn a few.
There is a great deal of white-hat(ethical hacking) work that can be done to defend America in this realm, and most of it has to do with how careful we are.
We repeat- It’s all about being careful. This cannot be repeated too often.
In this piece, we’re going to talk about a few common mistakes made by end-users(that means us, the consumer) and how they are exploited by criminals. We’re also going to talk about some of these cyber-hygiene measures and assign them three rules of thumb.
Don’t open strange emails.
Don’t click on strange links.
Don’t accept chat messages from people you don’t know, particularly on Facebook.
Before we get started, think for a second about all your other social media accounts. Are they just as secure as your Facebook or Twitter? Make sure they are! That’s the first place a hacker will go to collect more data about you. You’re particularly vulnerable to having your account on the ones you don’t often use pried open.
As an aside, this is also why you don’t want to use the same passwords for everything. Passwords are obviously critical, as somebody who’s got them has got all your information at his fingertips. Be careful!!
A great deal of a hacker’s job revolves around getting the passwords of their victims. Their most popular tools are all various ways to apply “spear-phishing” hacks, designed to steal passwords and personal data. The unlucky “phish” who opens one has become a victim and is now open to all kinds of trouble.
There are all kinds of ways to go spear-phishing. A brand new one showed up not long ago when U.S. government agencies recently received letters via snail mail.
One example that all readers of this blog will vividly recall took place on March 10, 2016, when the first volley of malicious e-mail messages hit the inboxes of thirty people who were closely associated with the Hillary Clinton campaign. Inside them were links that were actually viruses, like worms on a hook.
Nearly all of them were failures. All but one, actually. But one was enough.
Within nine days, a horrendous amount of critical data had been stolen and passed along to Wikileaks, to be strategically released in a way they figured would hurt us. It did.
Those leaked e-mails, in which Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was seen to be fussing over Bernie’s lack of ability to fill out campaign finance forms correctly, were spun up into a narrative that Bernie(who lost by four million popular votes) had been cheated.
Bernie or Bust bought it, there were riots in the streets of Philadelphia, and a rift was torn in the Democratic Party that still has yet to heal.
All of that was made possible, with just a few phished passwords.
To combat phishing is to make sure everyone knows how common and damaging these attacks can be. Everyone should keep their guard up when checking emails, and they should report any email they find suspicious.
It’s necessary to point out here that Facebook phishing in particular is horrendously easy. They can hack you right through your chat box. We recommend in the strongest possible terms that you put as little of your personal information as possible on Facebook.
Facebook presents about a million added vulnerabilities to all of us that use it. When Edward Snowden was asked what to do to keep your data safe on that platform, his response was, “Delete your account.”
We can’t recommend that, as Facebook gives us access to 2 billion people, but we can recommend this much. If people you don’t know send you strange messages on Facebook, don’t accept them.
“We are looking at just some of the malicious material that already may be circulating or will be released before the midterms. It also bears repeating that we know the campaign of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) was targeted.”
Cyber-intelligence experts see this as being major, and with clear reason.
Moving on, it isn’t only Facebook and social media you’ve got to be careful with. Websites too are vulnerable.
Anecdotally, the webmaster of this site has seen hackers from all over the world try to take us down, from Beijing, China to Lviv, Ukraine, from Adelaide, Australia to Beauharnois, Quebec. They use all kinds of tricks, but they’ve never gotten in and they never will.
This is not because I’m a cyber-genius who speaks binary code, but because WordPress is awesome.Sucuri, the plugin that keeps safe all of us Millennial Democrats, is likewise excellent. They care about their clients and they hold the same liberal values sacred that we do.
WordPress users should strongly consider using Sucuri, not least for the reverse IP trace it automatically performs. This has the benefit of letting you know a lot more about who’s trying to hack you. Sometimes it will tell you everything.
Once a flower store owner from Adelaide, Australia tried to hack us. By using a reverse IP trace, Sucuri let us know who she was as soon as she had done so. Then we went to a site called WhatismyIPaddress.com, put it in, and voila.
We were able to get the name of her business by looking at the name of her domain. We then used that to look her up, and jackpot. We found the store’s address, website, and owner. We also found far-right garbage smeared all over her life.
I could put her on blast right here with a screenshot like this one:
Luckily for her, I’m not that mean. But the next guy might be. It’s a dangerous game for newbies (noobs- learn your hacker-ese) to play. It’s easy to run into trouble.
Change your life, would-be hacker flower store owner! Mend your wicked ways, before it’s too late.
Speaking of WordPress, using the two-factor authentication feature they offer as part of their platform is another good idea. This is a highly effective security measure and is available for Facebook, Gmail, WordPress, and many other major platforms.
Using this feature means a second device’s input will be required to access email accounts or websites on new computers, usually by prompting you and sending an SMS code to your phone or whatever. This can prevent scammers from accessing compromised accounts.
In addition to good cyber-hygiene, which amounts to common sense, caution, and our three rules of thumb, there are some tools we can use to make our online experience safer still. You may find this necessary, from time to time.
Guccifer 2.0 recently made a mistake and forgot to turn his VPN on, and we connected him to an IP address connected to Russian intelligence. Now his whole identity is blown because he didn’t use his VPN.
We strongly recommend getting one of these, specifically IVPN. They take protecting their customers super seriously and they are located on the Rock of Gibraltar. That fortress strikes me as a good place to keep anything valuable.
HotspotShield is another good one, and also NordVPN. There’s a lot of them; shop around and find one that’s right for you. We feel it’s worth repeating that they are a very good investment.
Additional tools include TOR(The Onion Router), which offers a former naval encryption system that we can now all use. Tor takes all your internet traffic and routes it through its own network, providing total anonymity.
The DuckDuckGo browser, which Tor employs, is good to know about also. It has a number of different features that keep you safe, including a “Flame” feature that burns up all your cookies in a second. Pretty cool.
Now, just as then, there is a need for deterrence, to defend the nation and hopefully prevent a further escalation of tensions. There is more at stake than we can even put into words. We need to be ready.
There are bigger dangers here than the usual America vs. Russia, liberal world order vs the new world order that the extremist crazies keep screaming that they want kind of thing. This is different completely.
One superpower actively destroying the democratic process of another is new and very dangerous, especially since Russian destability tactics rely heavily on disinformation and a systematic devaluing of the truth.