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Kaspersky researchers love “Mr. Robot” hacker but claim no Snowden ties

Tim Greene | July 28, 2016
Research team says it’s hard to find out who’s behind attack, and kiss privacy good-bye

Malware researchers for Kaspersky Lab took to Reddit’s IAmA chat today and pronounced an affection for the hacker-hero TV show “Mr. Robot” but not NSA hacker Edward Snowden.

Responding to a question about how they like it, the team’s global director Costin Raiu says, “Mr Robot is a strong 9.5 for me. Most of the scenes are top class and the usage of tools, operating systems and other tiny details, from social engineering to opsec is very good. I guess having help from some real world security experts (the folks at Avast did a great job!”

“Particularly enjoyed seeing their depiction of how quickly a phone can get backdoored with the right preparation,” which in one episode was less than the time it took someone to take a shower, says another team member, Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade.

Not so popular, “CSI: Cyber”. Asked if he watches, researcher Brian Bartholomew says, “Yes and it’s terrible. But I do enjoy laughing out loud at it.”

Meanwhile the 46-member Global Research & Analysis Team (GReAT) says it has no affiliation with the NSA hacker. “We have no connection whatsoever with Edward Snowden,” says Raiu.

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A questioner asked whether the team used information from the Snowden leaks to uncover the long-lived advanced-persistent-threat gang Equation Group. “We didn’t use any of the information from the Snowden leaks to discover the Equation Group,” he says. “We discovered the first Equation sample while analyzing a multiple infection on a computer we call “The Magnet of Threats”. This computer has been infected by many other APTs, including Regin, Turla, Careto, Animal Farm, in addition to Equation.”

The research team said attributing attacks such as Stuxnet and the theft of Democratic National Committee emails is very difficult. “There is really little that can’t be faked or manipulated and this is why the industry has such heated debates sometimes over attribution,” say Bartholomew and Guerrero-Saade.

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They say languages used in code, times it was compiled, the target, possible motivations and IP addresses are the type of information weighed when trying to assign responsibility. “In the case of the DNC attacks for example, many experts agree that the malware used in the attacks as well as some of the infrastructure used, only belong to two ‘groups’,” they say.

When it comes to nation-state actors, often the major economic powers are accused of engaging in cyberattacks, the researchers say. “That does not mean that developing countries don’t participate in such operations, however many times they use external resources as it is cheaper than developing major ‘cyber-capabilities,’” says researcher Vicente Diaz. “That, among other things, makes attribution more difficult (is not the same as developing an advanced and unique weapon rather than using a common one).”

 

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