How the GCHQ and the NSA work on intercepting and infiltrating Virtual Private Networks?
It a modern cybercrime ecosystem driven and motivated by financial gain and actual fraudulent and malicious activities on a large scale it should be noted that modern nation-state adversaries are basically always there to “take care” in terms of launching offensive both passive and active SIGINT and metadata harvesting and interception campaigns this time against VPN users and VPN service providers potentially matching the traffic flow coming out and going out of the Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers and actually launching targeted and client-tailored attack campaigns against VPN users and vendors of VPN service providers.
In this post I’ll discuss in-depth some of the currently circulating VPN eavesdropping including possible man-in-the-middle and actual metadata harvesting type of attack campaigns launched by nation-state actors targeting users of VPN services and the actual users of the VPN service part of the Top Secret DARKSUNRISE Program including the TURMOIL, TURBULENCE, PINWALE, including the activities of the U.S Intelligence Community’s OTP VPN Exploitation Team.
- Passive SIGINT — incoming traffic estimation — entry points — in this particular case pre-defined set of information could be easily obtained for the purpose of undermining the effectiveness of the VPN service provider including to actually target a specific user in this particular case by utilizing already used Target Identificators for the purpose of establishing the foundations for a successful end user’s “entry point” monitoring which could have severe consequences for the actual user which could come under active and legal surveillance including the actual VPN provider whose “entry points” and actual network could become victim of possible network-based eavesdropping and legal surveillance attempts.
- Active SIGINT — outgoing traffic estimation — exit points traffic estimation and passive or active monitoring— the primary point here would be to monitor a VPN service provider’s outgoing traffic in the context of finding possible gullible and unaware of today’s modern nation-state and rogue adversaries risks such as for instance various off-the-shelf de-anonymization tactics techniques and approaches in the context of collerating outgoing VPN service provider’s traffic and actually using a Target Identifier for a specific user in the context of having them log in and actually use a major Web 2.0 property including social media to further establish the foundations for a successful monitoring operation of the VPN service provider or an actual user of the VPN service provider.
- Session-matching techniques — in this particular case possible Target Identifiers based on already harvested and collected data and possible traffic estimation based on gullible and VPN service provider gullible an unaware users could be used to do active “traffic measurement” and potentially launch sophisticated traffic and end-user “de-anonymization” tactics and techniques which could potentially undermine the usefulness of the VPN service provider and potentially offer a fake feeling of privacy and security for the end user who could easily end up as a victim of legal surveillance and eavesdropping attempts courtesy of the U.S Intelligence Community.
- Going on the offensive — in this particular case and as I’ve previously profiled and discussed before the U.S Intelligence Community could easily launch and position and on purposely supply rogue and basically wiretap-ready VPN service providers in third-party countries such as for instance Iran ultimately having the VPN service provider’s users participate in the Top Secret BOUNDLESS INFORMANT Program.
- Public Key Credentials Harvesting — in this particular case the U.S Intelligence Community could easily start to execute potential traffic “de-anonymization” and measurement activities to actually attempt to launch a legal surveillance and eavesdropping program against a specific VPN service provider potentially exposing the VPN service provider user’s to a variety of legal surveillance and eavesdropping including passive and active SIGINT attempts.
- VPN Providers internal passive SIGINT research procedures — in this particular case the U.S Intelligence Community would attempt to actually infiltrate and begin to benchmark the actual VPN service provider in question including possible launching a variety of Target Identifier campaigns against its users including possible a variety of “dirty-tricks” similar to the ones which I’ve already discussed in the context of virtual HUMINT.
Practical Tips for VPN service users in terms of protecting against nation-state adversaries:
- consider looking for double-VPN or triple-VPN service providers whose connections are basically routed using multi-jurisdiction aware type of connections in order to establish rogue mixed and crowded sessions using mixed and crowded exit nodes and stay away from high-profile high-trafficked Web 2.0 major Web properties including the active use of off-the-shelf ad-blocking tools and services such as for instance Pi-hole.
- ensure that you should always come up with a way to obtain access to the actual accounting data for your VPN service provider in terms of doing so from an unknown and potentially secure network-location that doesn’t necessarily have to belong to you including to properly research the actual VPN service provider of choice using a third-party network location including to possibly use an alternative payment method to actually avoid being tracked down for using it in the first place.
- consider using a possible off-the-shelf privacy-conscious anti-fingerpriting enabled Web browser such as for instance nDalang which basically has the capacity to hide your real-identity and actually prevent browser-fingerprinting attack campaigns especially in cases where the user is using a highly-secured and privacy-conscious VPN service provider such as for instance Cryptohipppie.
- consider applying basic common sense in terms of OPSEC namely consider using basic “hardware isolation” techniques which could for instance mean that you’re fully protected from possible network-based information leaks through the use of an “always-on” type of “hardware isolation” based VPN service provider by using for instance the GL-AR750S VPN Router which is extremely handy and properly secured in terms of using an “always-on” VPN service and is fully compatible with the Cryptohippie VPN service provider which also has a highly secure and off-the-shelf secured and privacy-conscious company-based professional VPN router which you can use in combination with pfSense in terms of applying basic network-based “hardware-isolation” techniques for the purpose of protecting your network security including the use of the necessary security and privacy-conscious VPN service provider which in particular case is the highly recommended Cryptohippie Inc. VPN service provider.
Practical Tips for VPN providers in terms of protecting their networks from nation-state adversaries and spreading awareness on how to properly use the VPN service among their clients:
- the first and perhaps most single issue for VPN service providers is to come up with in-depth technical including possibly user-friendly guides and manuals on how to use and not to use the service in the context of preventing wide-spread abuse of the service including possible “false feeling of security” where the actual user might end up being exposed to a variety of nation-state and rogue actor techniques which despite the use of a professional and commercial-grade VPN service provider could easily pose risk to their online activities and might eventually end up exposing the gullible and unaware end-user’s online activity to a nation-state actor including rogue and potentially fraudulent rogue and malicious actors
- properly educate your users on how to use and how not to use the service in terms of its sophisticated technical features including hands-on experience with actual and realistic threat scenarios such as for instance the use of popular Web 2.0 commercial and social media services which could easily result in a possible “de-anonymization” attempt on the actual user and might eventually lead to a possible legal surveillance and eavesdropping including possible use of Target Identifiers
It should be clearly noted that by outsourcing the responsibility for your online activities to a third-party in this particular case — a commercial or a proprietary VPN service provider the user should do their homework in terms of assessing the degree of privacy and security features offered by the VPN service including possibly to inquire about existing off-the-shelf features similar to what Cryptohippie Inc. has been doing for quite a while now.