Sophisticated cyberespionage operation focused on high-profile targets

Rocra malware programming codeBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
After Stuxnet and Flame, two computer programs believed to have made cyberespionage history, another super-sophisticated malware has been uncovered, this time targeting classified computer systems of diplomatic missions, energy and nuclear groups. The existence of the malware was publicly announced by Russian-based multi-national computer security firm Kaspersky Lab, which said its researchers had identified it as part of a cyberespionage operation called Rocra, short for Red October in Russian. The company’s report, published on Monday on Securelist, a computer security portal run by Kaspersky Lab, said that the malware has been active for at least six years. During that time, it spread slowly but steadily through infected emails sent to carefully targeted and vetted computer users. The purpose of the virus, which Kaspersky Lab said rivals Flame in complexity, is to extract “geopolitical data which can be used by nation states”. Most of the nearly 300 computers that have so far been found to have been infected belong to government installations, diplomatic missions, research organizations, trade groups, as well as nuclear, energy and aerospace agencies and companies. Interestingly, the majority of these targets appear to be located in Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics in Central Asia. On infected computers located in North America and Western Europe, the Rocra virus specifically targeted Acid Cryptofiler, an encryption program originally developed by the French military, which enjoys widespread use by European Union institutions, as well by executive organs belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #444

Russian intelligence arrests, extradites fmr Kyrgyz interior minister

Moldomusa Kongantiyev

Kongantiyev

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
If there were any doubts that Russia is aggressively courting the new interim government in Kyrgyzstan, they were dispelled earlier today with the announcement that Russian authorities arrested the Central Asian republic’s former interior minister. Kyrgyzstan’s National Security State Service (NSSS) announced that Moldomusa Kongantiyev was arrested on Sunday in Moscow, by agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), and will be extradited to Bishkek, where he will face charges of using state repression against demonstrators. Kongantiyev had escaped to Russia in mid-April, after he was abducted and viciously beaten by Kyrgyz opposition demonstrators, who released him after his family paid a significant amount of money as ransom. IntelNews hears that Kongantiyev suspected that Moscow planned to extradite him to Kyrgyzstan, and that some of the supporters of the deposed regime in Russia offered to hide him. But their attempt to smuggle him out of a hospital in Moscow, where he was receiving medical care, was thwarted by the FSB, after a tip from  NSSS. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #328 (breaking)

  • Breaking: Real IRA admits NI MI5 base bomb. The Real IRA has admitted it was behind a car bomb which exploded shortly after midnight local hour, outside the Palace Barracks army base, in Holywood, County Down, which houses MI5’s Northern Ireland headquarters. Police said no warning was given.
  • Venezuela releases 4 of 8 alleged spies. Four of the eight Colombians arrested by Venezuela on espionage charges last week have been released, after a judge found there was not enough evidence to take them to trial. Meanwhile Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has said that the alleged spy ring used “secret or semi-secret codes”.
  • Analysis: Security services will determine fate of Kyrgyz uprising. Unlike the 2005 so-called Tulip Revolution, this time the anti-government protesters in Kyrgyzstan are armed. But the real question may be whether they have the support of (and control over) the Internal Security Services and the military.

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Analysis: The Downward Spiral in US-Pakistan Intelligence Relations

Pragati magazine

Pragati

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
For decades, US geopolitical interests in southern Asia have centered on controlling the Indian Ocean, with its lucrative energy transport routes to and from Japan and China. The events of 9/11, however, in association with nuclear weapons proliferation and the rise of al-Qaeda, have immensely complicated US regional goals. This newfound complexity has created severe tensions between Washington and Islamabad, which are most notable in their rapidly deteriorating intelligence relations. In recent months, the inter-agency conflict between the CIA and Pakistan’s security agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, has intensified to a stage of open war. I explain how this situation came about in a guest article for Pragati, the English-language review of Southeast Asian international relations published in India. The article is available here. In fact, for those looking for informed views on Central and Southeast Asian diplomacy and security issues, it is worth downloading (.pdf) the entire latest issue of this very professional publication.

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News you may have missed #0246

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News you may have missed #0133

  • Book examines Central Asian espionage in WWI. On Secret Service East of Constantinople, by Peter Hopkirk (John Murray Publishers), examines the role of German intelligence services in Kaiser Wilhelm’s attempt to gain influence in the Ottoman Empire, the Caucasus, Persia, Afghanistan and India. A very interesting, under-researched aspect of World War I.
  • CIA intercepted communication between Zazi and al-Qaeda. A local TV station in Denver, Colorado, quotes “intelligence officials familiar with the investigation” of Najibullah Zazi, as saying that the CIA alerted US federal agencies after intercepting a conversation between Zazi and a senior al-Qaida operative. No word yet about this from the FBI, which is supposed to handle domestic terrorism cases.
  • US defense secretary hints at more secret nuke sites in Iran. Speaking alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last night at a CNN/George Washington University forum, Robert Gates dropped what seemed to be a big hint that the United States knows much more about the Iranian nuclear program than the Iranians might think.

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