[ISN] Phreaking Hacktivists

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Tue Jan 26 1999 - 12:18:45 PST

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    Forwarded From: specialat_private
    Phreaking Hacktivists 
    By William M. Arkin
    Special to washingtonpost.com 
    Monday, Jan. 18, 1999
    A pack of 20-something hackers who call themselves the Legions of the
    Underground claim they spent the evening of Dec. 28 probing, mapping and
    preparing to attack Iraq's computer systems. 
    "If we wanted we'd be able to dial up and make a huge amount of
    connections to their systems and possibly bring [Iraq] to its knees,"
    spokesman Steve Stakton bragged to Wired News. "We are ready to commence
    and take part in electronic warfare if requested," Stakton read from the
    group's mission statement. 
    I don't know which is more comical, the exploits and egotism of these
    self-appointed vigilantes and nitwits or the fact that the media seem
    incapable of not reporting each latest hacktivist claim as fact and news.
    The Bits Stop Here
    But they are not laughing in a little-known Pentagon agency called J-33,
    or the Special Technical Operations Division (STOD) of the J-3
    (Operations) directorate of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They have been
    trying to figure out how to hack Iraq for a long time and have found the
    challenge daunting.
    STOD was set up during the Cold War and is the highest-level military
    focal point for all matters relating to what is called offensive
    information warfare. STOD is a covert action broker for the Joint Staff.
    Unlike other offices in the Pentagon that merely push a lot of paper, it
    also is charged with providing direct military support to operational
    missions of the CIA and NSA, and of responding to requests for assistance
    from the National Security Council. Each U.S. regional command, such as
    the.S. Central Command responsible for Iraq, has its own STOD.
    J-33's operations branch controls the Special Technical Operations Center
    within the Pentagon. The center is the most secure facility within the
    U.S. military. Dozens of special access (or "black") programs are
    monitored at the center. These include the United States's own hacking
    activities; strategic psychological, concealment and deception operations;
    and "directed energy warfare." The latter includes special weapons and
    capabilities, such as high-powered microwave weapons, that could be used
    to disable enemy communications, computing, and the production and
    distribution of electricity.
    A Virus of Hoaxes
    We are now in the era of information warfare and growth of interest in
    this new mode closely parallels the time period of the U.S.-Iraq
    confrontation. As a result, there has always been a fascination with
    Saddam's computers. STOD has been there: It played a hand in targeting and
    employment of special weapons in 1991 to go after Iraq's electrical grid
    and it has overseen covert and psychological operations against Iraq ever
    While there are real programs in this field, the media reporting has been
    miserable. It all started with a U.S. News and World Report article in
    1992 that said the NSA had managed to plant a virus in a French printer
    used in the Iraqi air defense system. Every time an Iraqi technician
    accessed his computer, the story went, their systems went down.
    The story was widely repeated as fact until it turned out to have been a
    hoax. The printer virus story had run in the April Fool's issue of
    InfoWorld magazine after the Gulf War. What is more, computer experts
    dismiss the story because it would not be possible for a mere printer to
    transmit a virus to a computer.
    But the story won't die. Last year, the book The Next World War: Computers
    are the Weapons and the Front Line is Everywhere by former UPI head James
    Adams, repeats the yarn as fact.
    Playing With Themselves Iraq is a country without a single Internet
    connection, and where privately owned modems are outlawed. It isn't that
    one couldn't penetrate Iraq's telephone system, which is still one of the
    most sophisticated in the Third World. But what then? 
    The Legionnaires, who were all playing with their Gameboys when bombs fell
    for the first time during Desert Storm, claim that they could rampage
    electronically through the Iraqi landscape. Were it true, STOD would snap
    them up. The U.S. has been trying to do so for years.
    The reality is that the Iraqi government practices some of the most
    effective communications security anywhere. When the Gulf War began in
    1991, U.S. intelligence assessed the Iraqi electronic capabilities to be
    "the most sophisticated threat to face the U.S. outside of the Soviet
    Union," according to a declassified report of the Defense Intelligence
    Since 1991, according to intelligence sources, Saddam Hussein's computers
    and networks have been used to continue to keep the Iraqi population under
    surveillance and to perpetuate proscribed weapons programs. Much of this
    equipment comes from U.S. companies, according to export licenses.
    Nevertheless, the mere presence of American and western technology doesn't
    mean that successful hacking, even by professionals, is just around the
    Which is why in Desert Fox, many of these communications and computer
    facilities were bombed. A particular focus were the computer centers of
    the Iraqi secret police organizations. No amount of fanciful info-warfare
    could have convinced anyone responsible for the operation that bits were
    better than bombs.
    William M. Arkin, author of "The U.S. Military Online," is a leading
    expert on national security and the Internet. He lectures and writes on
    nuclear weapons, military matters and information warfare. An Army
    intelligence analyst from 1974-1978, Arkin currently consults for
    Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, MSNBC and the Natural Resources
    Defense Council.
    Arkin can be reached for comment at william_arkinat_private 
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