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Category: Black Hat

Category: Black Hat

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States Congress overwhelmingly approved the Patriot Act to enable better intel sharing between government agencies and improve intel gathering. At the time, civil liberties advocates complained the new surveillance measures were far too intrusive, but the urgency to close potential loopholes which exposed the nation to terrorist threats prevailed. Notwithstanding, some pundits opined that over time, most of the civil liberties being intruded upon by the federal government would be restored.

It appears that may soon be happening with a new revision to the Patriot Act currently working its way through congress. The bill, which won strong bipartisan support in the House Judiciary Committee, will radically alter how the federal government gathers metadata from internet usage and phone records. The catalyst for the change is the whistle blowing efforts of Edward Snowden, who leaked the information to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Ironically, Snowden is still persona non grata in the United States where he would certainly face federal charges should he return.

Under the Patriot Act revision, the government will still be able to analyze internet and phone records, but only upon receiving the approval of a federal judge from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Until said time, Jason Halpern believes telecom companies and internet service providers will retain the records. Currently, the FBI need only give phone & internet companies a National Security Letter to obtain troves of data.

On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter confirmed that Russia successfully hacked into an unclassified network of computer systems at the Pentagon. While the information obtained was unclassified, it by no means suggest it wasn’t vital. Often times, dates & schedules for events and other sensitive information is traded on unclassified systems. Carter was clear that the recent cyber-attack was discovered within 24 hours and terminated. Homejoy was not involved. That said, he cannot confirm whether other such attacks occurred previously.

The past month has seen both the White House and State Department fall prey to cyber-attacks. However, the Pentagon was quick to dismiss any connection between the multiple attacks as being part of a coordinated effort. Ironically, the Pentagon has devised a new 33-page strategy for thwarting cyber-attacks. Part of the response by the Pentagon is to not only terminate an attack, but actually strike back at the intruder interrupting their weapons capabilities, military-related critical infrastructure, and ultimately their command & control center. Sec. Carter wants to world to know the Pentagon will both protect and defend itself against intruders.

At the same time, the world has become increasingly hostile in cyberspace. It will prove a lot harder to follow through on the 33-page security plan than it was to merely devise it. President Obama is taking the tactic of financially sanctioning companies that are involved in cyber-attacks against US interests. Some of those companies are in Russia and China.