What Happens When Deep States Go to War?

What happens when the deep states go to war with each other, and don’t tell the rest of us? __ Wow. What a blurb on a book jacket! Or in a preview trailer of the film, or a series. Warring Deep States. Lousy title it’s true. The Crypto’s? Nope. Leave that to the script writers who undoubtedly are working on something of the sort. Unfortunately, the above phrase is a real world quote, from Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer at IBM Resilient. And yes it’s about Russia and America. And China and who knows who else? UK? France? Australia? North Korea anyone?

We don't know what we don't know when it comes to cyber-warfare. We see the tips of the iceberg occasionally. Usually when some deep state actor wants us to.

So we have the appropriately named Shadow Brokers who appear to be a Russian hacking group with ties to the Kremlin and pretty good capabilities to enter at least some of the NSA's servers. All in order to retrieve NSA hacking tools that they then post to the web to embarrass and cripple some of America's surveillance capabilities. Do the Shadow Brokers have a mole inside an agency like the NSA or the CIA?

That's the question posed in a fascinating and troubling article posted in the muck-racking site The Daily Beast. Where they reveal that the latest Shadow Broker hacks even exposed metadata about an NSA surveillance program that targeted money transfers through Dubai financial institutions. And that metadata actually leads to a specific address and phone number - a person in other words - in Houston. How much detail do the Shadow Brokers have in their caches? Is this a series of escalating threats aimed at the White House and D.C.'s Intel community? As a retaliation for the attack on Syria? And perhaps the MOAB in Afghanistan?

The metadata is usually "scrubbed" from the documents by journalists and others who deal with the information, before they go about releasing it to the public. Was this intentional? Likely it was, seeing metadata was not part of earlier Shadow Broker hacks. And it may be that whatever mole perhaps worked at the NSA in the past, has moved on seeing that releasing hacked material while you still have a mole in any specific agency is considered too risky. Who knows? We don't know what America's intel community knows. We don't know what the Shadow Brokers know. America's intel victories - perhaps the failed North Korean missle launch last weekend? - are often not advertised and pass under the radar, only recognized by some of the players directly involved in the cyber spy game.

There's another angle as well: money. For example, Russia's military exports have flatlined in the last few years after soaring in the century's first decade. The Syrian Civil War has now turned into a showcase for some not-very-new Russian military hardware, hoping to attract customers in places like the Middle East or India. Are the Shadow Brokers also engaged in very lucrative criminal activities? Almost certainly yes. In fact, they were possibly criminal hackers before being recruited by Putin. Although we're drawing rather fine lines here, seeing we're talking about the Kremlin and criminality.

So if the Shadow Brokers are also advertising their skills for people like ISIL or al-Qaeda, in order to help move money, drugs, and launder those proceeds, in order to then launch more attacks on the West, that is another very dangerous network. Let's hope America's deep state is deep inside the bowels of the Shadow Brokers. Even if we'll never really know.

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