Yep my money is on months/years down the track they crack it and find some weird fetish porn. Two girls one cup perhaps !
US officials are already referring to the trove of computer drives and disks seized from Osama bin Laden's compound as “the mother lode of intelligence.” Such gloating is probably premature. As reported by Politico and others, the US Navy SEAL team that killed bin Laden on Sunday in Pakistan snatched computers, thumb drives and …
when I mended a local's video recorder in riyadh a while ago I was unexpectedly given a half-bottle of scotch. I don't think the guy was a paid-up member of the made-up AQ, but he was definitely a pillar of the community and no doubt a supporter of the neighborhood Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Being a normal Saudi local he was a bit bipolar on most issues. Kim Philby's dad, Harry Saint John Bridger Sheik Abdullah Philby stated that "(Saudi/Nejd) Arabs are the only people I know of who combine ignorance with arrogance"
I also met a champagne salesman in riyadh, he said business was very good. The only beer available was tinnies of "Near" (zero alcohol flavored with cat's p!ss) but once the factory accidentally brewed real stuff.... I suspect UBL would have been a sweet-mint-tea persona
Ever been on a flight out of Saudi. Full of ladies with full guiness bottle robes drinking orange juice. The pilot announces we are now out of Saudi airspace and there is a rush for the toilets. Several minutes later the ladies return in the shortest miniskirts I have seen outside a porn movie, and proceed to get staggeringly drunk.
What is done officially and what is done privately are totally different.
That was a quite a common report well before the 80s, a frequent one was that their grand piano was leaking as it was said that they regularly imported new ones as the heat made them go off tune...
I did once see a container being packed for export,(not in this country) with the boxes being labelled as Navy Documents relating to 'another country'. The contents had to avoid clinking and the 'documents' were square section with a screw top, they were not for 'our' embassy but for delivery to the same Kingdom.
Not asking questions would be a useful step.
But, on the ground in Pakistan is a bit different. I think it is more like a bird in the hand versus two in the bush.
I do not doubt the report that he was given a chance to surrendar. Which he would naturally not take. Then, he gets popped a couple of times. MIssion accomplished. Now, let's get out of here with the body. And anything else that is not nailed down.
We can work on anything that is not plain paper.
The world may not be a safer place. But, it sure feels like it.
"Maybe if they hadn't killed him, they could have 'extracted' some data from him."
Perhaps that's what they're doing right now. I mean, It would make sense to keep him alive without anybody knowing, and milk him for all the info he's got. It wouldn't surprise me if the 'secret burial at sea' was just a cover up. This way, they could get all the info they want from him without any outside interference from AI or the UN or whoever. It also would prevent his buddies trying to free him through some massive kidnapping.
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I know some types of people can't understand this, but here it goes:
Interrogation != torture
Until they say exactly who gave the info and under which conditions (fat chance), we won't know, of course. But we DO know, from the reports of ex-operatives, that non-violent, even friendly interrogation gives results while torture tends to get made up crap.
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From the "Tips and Tricks" section:
Don't let on that you live in a swank walled compound with toilets and access to real food when those who would die in your name live in caves eating bugs. It's bad form and may cause resentment among your underlings.
You massively overstate the strength of encryption. It's only as good as the key management, and any of the products you mentioned have poor key entry (basically, they expect you to type it in), leading to key lengths maybe a hundred times less than required to resist any brute force attack for more than a few days.
If you are right and there is a "trove" of items, then the likelihood is that they are not encrypted. Again it comes back to key management. Can you imagine OBL keeping track of 20 odd random passphrases in his head? It's easy to encrypt one item, harder to do two, and so on. The existence of a "trove" strongly suggests a lack of crypto or (even worse) key reuse.
While the NSA, no doubt, wouldn't need that kind of help, I'm surprised that amateurs haven't hacked some of the various sites to which al-Ekhlass has had to migrate and uploaded a compromised version of Mojahedeen Secrets. Or that, just as there are viruses that look for "known" child porn images, there aren't viruses that target that program.
"flash drives are dangerously hard to purge of data, making thumb drives a good starting point"
Although I can't find it now, I am sure that I recently read an article stating that it was more difficult to extract overwritten data from a flash drive than from a standard magnetic drive. This statement and the article linked to seem to state otherwise. Which one is right?
"It will be interesting to learn just how adept bin Laden was at protecting the data stashed on his computer gear."
Why on earth should we learn about it at all?
The Spooks will certainly want to keep anything they find very deeply secret, so that they can make use of it before other potential targets are warned off.
Given the need to rely on physical couriers, I highly doubt that there's any handy address book on there. Any 'leaks' from the Spooks which do occur will probably be misinformation designed to scare a reaction out of people they haven't been able to find.
Will no doubt become outdated now they've told the world they have these hard drives, so anyone else who knows what is probably on them will be taking steps to move themselves and others to other locations.
Imagine if it only has the family photo album and a digital copy of the videos that have already been released to the media though, less "mother lode" more "egg on face".
Isn't the first rule of counter-intelligence, NOT to reveal that you have data?
Now Al-qaida knows the US has the computers, and we must assume that those he had any contact with has some knowledge of what was stored on those media, and will be doing damage control accordingly.
"Although I can't find it now, I am sure that I recently read an article stating that it was more difficult to extract overwritten data from a flash drive than from a standard magnetic drive. This statement and the article linked to seem to state otherwise. Which one is right?"
Both are right. Flash drive wear levelling mechanisms routinely put overused physical blocks out of use by sidelining them without overwriting them, while preserving logical geometry by bringing spare blocks into play. Genuinely overwritten flash blocks will be resistant to rotating media forensic attacks based upon analog temperature variations of disk head position leaving residual magnetic evidence accessible using electron microscopy. What the flash industry needs to do to convince knowledgeable users to be willing to put high value confidential data on flash without requiring an expensive end of life physical destruction process, is to provide a full erase mode for the devices, including access to blocks market overused, and so out of normal use.
There are two possibilities:
1. Bin Laden had computers and the US/NSA now have access to these.
2. Bin Laden didn't have computers and the US are lying about him having them.
If 1. is true, the few in Al Quaeda who would have known Bin Laden had computers didn't need the US to tell them that these were captured, they would have already known that these would have been captured in the raid, so nothing useful to them has been disclosed.
if either 1. or 2. is true, it still suits US interests for those in Al Quaeda who didn't know whether or not Bin Laden had computers to be afraid that he had, and that further preemptive strikes against them will occur as a consequence.
You're also forgetting that a large part of the fight against AQ is tracking down and blocking AQ's funds. Bin Liner didn't only use a large amount of the Bin Laden family fortune, he was of value to the Taleban and other fundamentalist groups becuase he organised conduits for funds to pass from "charities" in Saudi Arabia and other countries through to the groups. Whilst I'm not saying Bin Liner may have had a good memory, it is highly likely that he will have resorted to some form of book-keeping, and the sheer complexity makes it almost certain to have been stored on computers. Bin Liner probably didn't have phone and/or Internet lines just to stop people tracking his conversations but also to keep people from finding and hacking into his electronic ledgers.
The fun bit for all those that made donations is now they have no idea whether they are about to lose their money and their liberty - has Uncle Sam got the dirty on them? There will be quite a few rich Saudis getting the sweats over this!
Once a group of people are settled with good security and well laid plans for keeping a low profile, they are difficult to find.
Having to quickly move all those groups and arrange new places new contacts and alike, is as likely to bring them to the attention of other security forces as quickly as breaking any encryption.
It seems completely unlikely, especially if in the context of an everyday person, but he wasn't an everyday person. His computer may well hold secrets that could affect terrorist operations around the world, and they could also have been used as evidence if he was taken to a trial. If you're determined it's not difficult to force yourself to memorise about 20 different passphrases, just time consuming, so I'd guess for a smart (smarter than the average person I'd wager) guy who fears for his life and may even believe wholeheartedly in his cause and fear for it more, spending a few days or a week thoroughly planting them in his head wouldn't be too much of a chore.
I can remember the lyrics to many popular, and some less than popular tunes. A line or two from one of them would be sufficient. Music can be a powerful memory aid!
Plenty of people can remember the opening or closing lines to famous novels.
A more obvious (perhaps too obvious?) source would be a few lines from the Qu'ran, which presumably he would have already learnt by heart.
In short: No, its easy to remember a pass phrase long enough.
What do you think those couriers were couriering?
IMHO, I think it's just as likely that there is a wealth of unprotected or lightly protected info on his machine as it being either empty or completely locked down like that suspected bank embezzler guy in Brazil. Bin Laden *might* not have spent as much time and effort considering/planning what happens when he was found and killed vs. trying not to get caught. The little I could find on Mujahideen Secrets (http://ddanchev.blogspot.com/2008/01/mujahideen-secrets-2-encryption-tool.html) seemed more geared towards data in transit (say, for e-mail) than data at rest (whole disk encryption).
If I had to wager I'd bet that the thumb drives were encrypted but the machines themselves at best had whole disk encryption with a relatively weak password, if not completely unprotected.
There's several complications here, to do with the languages used, but the core point is that text, whether English or Arabic, isn't random. There are sequences of characters which happen a lot, and sequences which never happen. So, while it can be remembered more easily, a password or key is easier to attack than its length would suggest.
If he used a passage from the Koran, it would be relatively easy to brute-force. It's not that huge a key-space. Printed editions run between 200 and 400 pages, depending on edition, and it is roughly the same size as the Christian New Testament. An 8-character alphanumeric password list is a few billion pages long.
(Checks page-count estimate)
Lots bigger, if you want to get technical. OK?
after 10 years of smashing his encryption with the worlds most powerful super computer array, the NSA today confirmed that they now have full access to bin-ladens world of warcraft account, the top 10 islamic i tunes and 9 1/2 years worth of downloads from bombay badonka-donks.
Flash memory, being EPROM-based, is vulnerable to X-Rays in the same way that conventional EPROM is vulnerable to ultra-violet light. Photons with sufficient energy can dislodge electrons from the floating gate, changing the stored 0 back to a 1.
As, incidentally, are OTP EPROMs; which are, electronically, just UV EPROM dies in cheaper, non-windowed envelopes. And almost any cheap diode (1N4007 or similar) can be used as a "photodiode" for X-rays.
Exactly the same thing is happening on the drum of a laser printer, or in the image sensor of a digital camera, and it's not even that different from when a loud noise sends a precariously-balanced object tumbling. Everything obeys the same fundamental laws of physics -- in this case, waves can impart kinetic energy to something upon which they impinge.
Given how hard they're pushing the "intelligence mother-lode" thing, I wouldn't be at all suprised to find out they actually had naf-all data, and are just bluffing. If they actually had this treasure trove of data, they'd be keeping it really quiet so as not to spook their targets before they were ready to take them down.
Note that if you don't have any useful information, boasting, plausibly, about how you've broken all your targets security is a very valid tactic - the most likely response if for the targets to hurriedly change all their codes and security procedures, and if they're doing it in a panic, some of them will likely screw it up and reveal themselves or their new codes and procedures in the process. Not to mention, it'll totally screw up their organisation's coordination whilst they make all those changes, so they won't be able to do anything useful for a while, which is handy if you're looking to derail a bunch of kneejerk revenge attacks.
It is possible they got nothing.
However, the fire fight apparently only lasted about 5 minutes. And they were on the ground about 45 minutes. That allows about 40 minutes to collect "nothing"? I am sure they were not hanging around having mint tea. It was grab and go.
It is possible nothing was there. And it is possible that they spent 40 minutes looking.
But, if they planned on never having visitors the chances are fairly good that they were less careful about keeping things clean. Perhaps no plans to leave suddenly. Moving around will just get yourself discovered.
But, all that being said, I like the idea of claiming to have captured the lot. That should force everyone that was not aware of the place being clean to have to jump up and move.
I am sure the Seals are ready for a whack the mole game.
And it is possible that they get collect a fair amount and still wanted to see who jumps up. It is not going to be easy to carry out a number of similar raids in Pakistan. But, if everyone moves, you have much better targets.
You have to keep in mind that they said they did not really know Bin Laden was there. And I think that is a true statement.
Having good solid intelligence is really hard to come by.
I trust the military and the CIA is playing this kind of game with some skill and intelligence regardless of what it looks like. Perhaps too much to ask of the military but the CIA has a few smart people on this.
I only hope they can do what they are hired to carry out.
The drives are worthless, but since AQ knows that's what the West focuses on, you play that up in the media. This also falsely boosts AQ confidence that their real secrets are safe. The real treasure trove are the pieces of paper the 40 man team gathered in those 40 minutes before they took off again. Being a paper system, it isn't as inherently secure as a robust computer system is. NSA should be able to break those quickly and move on them. As an added bonus, anyone who does change their codes and processes in a panic can also get flushed. Wins all around for the intelligence community.
... it sure as hell will be after "they" have finished processing it.
I expect the merkins have a whole trove of intelligence that they can't attribute to anyone, without blowing their cover or causing even more political ructions, or even stuff they'd like to be true - if only it could be assigned to a credible (preferably dead, so they can't refute it) source.
What better than to "find" all this stuff on Osama's hard drive. It would effectively give them carte-blanche to carry out as many purges - wherever they please. All based on the transparently dodgy "it came from OBL computers, so it must be true". Don't be surprised if one of the first things to be "found" will be a list of credit card numbers/mobile phone numbers - that will belong to people the yanks don't like, but couldn't touch, before this.
I wonder if, in further efforts to smear him, they will "discover" material of dubious moral values too - or would that be over-egging it?
Oh, please. Everyone who calls themself a computer security researcher has read and understands the implications of that paper.
If you can trust the processor, you have three choices.
One is simply to reimplement PGP in assembly language, so you don't need a potentially-untrustworthy compiler. Assembly language source code is as clean as it gets.
The second, more involved method is to write a C interpreter in assembly language. It only has to be good enough to run the compiler interpretatively while it compiles its own source code. It will be slow, for sure, but it only has to be done once; the compiler it compiled is definitely "clean".
Or, of course, you can manually examine the disassembly of the compiled compiler -- this is likely to be the slowest method.
If you're paranoid enough (or have a good enough reason) not to trust the processor, and want to build your own, valves probably would be a better choice than transistors.
>>Everyone who calls themself a computer security researcher has read ... that paper.
Quite probably, but this it not apparent from your first comment. After asserting that checking the PGP source code is sufficient to find back doors, you have gone on to mention three ways to go one step further. So I don't se the reason for "Oh. Please".
>>If you're paranoid enough
Someone who has the NSA as an enemy probably needs to be that paranoid.
Why valves, unless you want to make it EMP proof at the same time???
I mean you take a 80y/o senile gent and a 14y/0 boy and torture them for years but when a leader with probably critical information is found you put TWO shots through his head. OK they could never put him in court and his very, very rich saudi family woudl pull strings to get him out of GITMO but turning him into a martyr? Stupid political decisions. I can only assume the merkins WANT reasons to keep the war on oil^Wterror going.
There won't be anything of interest. In particular, I suspect there will continue to be no evidence to connect him to 9/11, but US politicians will continue to let the more ignorant members of the general public believe that Bin Laden "masterminded" 9/11 without actually saying so. Just like with the so-called "weapons of mass destruction".
Bin Laden did, of course, participate in the 1998 bombings of US embassies so it is possible that he was planning something else along those lines. However, I'd put my money on him having basically retired several years ago.
If the US were keep him alive, all that does is invite extremists to capture, torture and hold for ransom large numbers of Westerners, in the hope that they would get him released. That saga has played out repeatedly in the Middle East, usually against the Israelis - they still have two soldiers being held for ransom by Hezzbolah in Beruit, in the hope that Israel will release Hezz operatives that they have in prison.
Holding on to high-value prisoners just doesn't work when you have terrorists involved.
Would be to use a convenient replacement to act as the body before it is hurriedly disposed of at sea for 'religious reasons', while the real person is shipped off to a nice black holding cell somewhere.
After all, he's now dead. And live interrogation beats hard disks every time.
Osama bin Laden was a source of funds, ideology, strategy and initiatives.
He did not work fifteen hours every day plotting the next atrocity. He occasionally gave someone a cheque drawn on a bank located on a small island in the Caribbean, in the real world enough to settle a decent mortgage, outlined the purpose and said "Get on with it.."
He communicated through a few trusted colleagues.
He had to observe the world, so he read newspapers like you or I.
His hard drives are empty of intelligence.
I would assume it unlikely he would have kept anything of relevance on a computer. Perhaps some reference material but nothing about planned attacks, places or people, that would have all been just remembered.
I even very much doubt he was even involved in anything of relevance any more. He was just a figurehead who would say well done. If he had been involved in more recent attacks they probably would have tracked him down a lot sooner than this. The best way for nobody to find you is to not tell anyone how to contact you (or apparently have a smart phone).
Don't under estimate the resources of the NSA. If they throw all their computing resources at this challenge (unlikely), I'd guess (as the author says, no one knows exactly what their capabilities are) the information will be extracted within a couple of months
This assumes the task is given to the NSA from the military in Afghanistan.
Run the encryption software on a script and keep brute forcing it. Crude, slow and stupid but will work. Eventually.
I'd guess if the drives are encrypted using this Islamist software the NSA has been studying it for some time already looking for implementation weaknesses. Uncleared buffer that caches last password you entered perhaps?
Of course they could get lucky and find the password was on the postit note he was trying to swallow when they shot him.
Black helicopter because for once they really were sent out.
Oh, so *this* will be the excuse for not finding - and revealing - anything substantial about Ben Laden's computer.
- no photo : he was shot in the head you know, so he's not recognizable
- no corps : he was dumped into the sea couple of hours later to not to leave any mausoleum
- no info from his computer : he used strong encryption, you see
- no information : we tracked him thanks to informants who are in prison in Guantanamo since 5 years
This gets fishier every day. From the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "Now that I actually get to tell the story ... I mean, does it strike you as odd, Number 2 ?"
No, seriously - if there was porn on Osama's hard drive it would tarnish his reputation with his followers. That would actually be a highly effective way of ending the war on terror, if their revered leader was indulging in one of the evil pastimes of the western infidels, what's left to fight for?
It's like the security measure they proposed just after 9/11 - legislate that a stripper be rostered onto every commercial flight. If there's a hijacking, she goes into action. Muslim men aren't allowed to look on the body of a woman, so they'd have to cancel the hijacking. As a bonus, every businessman in the world would want to fly just in case there's a hijacking - free striptease!
Paris because... isn't it obvious?
They're probably trying every paragraph in the Koran as a passphrase right now. Added bonus: for Muslims it's a terrible blasphemy to change anything when copying their 'Book', so no trickery with the passphrases (i.e. substituting whitespaces with series of numbers, or swapping 'a's with 'e's).
Yes, using something from the Koran as a passphrase is totally dumb, but the guy was -supposedly- a religious bigot, and they're quite often blind to reality and logic.
If that was the case, it would be true poetic justice.
The thumbs down icon? I don't like extra judicial executions. Now that I think of it, I don't like executions, full stop.
...but would a religous zealot consider himself permitted to execute a harlot for the glory of the sky-fairy? Given that they're already hi-jacking a plane full of folks, you know...
I know I probably wouldn't volunteer for the stripper job. Mind you, I wouldn't be qualified being the wrong side of thirty-five and male.
I hate to break it to you, but the "War on Terror" is actually waged by "us".
It's not going to end anytime soon. We have politicians endulging in control freakery, talking heads in remunerated fearmongering, neocons in imperial wankfests and defense industry mavens in money hoovering...
Hell no, it's not going to end. Ever.
Hoorah! The wicked witch is dead. And two chinless wonders got married at the taxpayers' vast expense last week too. Double ding dong hoorah.
What a wonderful distraction from the fact the western world is pinned down in two wars it cannot win, the locals in our 'friendly' Arab dictatorships are toppling their western-backed dictators who give us the oil on the cheap and the western world is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy and default while the Chinese march ever onwards towards world domination.
But we shot a bad guy who was hiding in a house with no phone lines and no internet who communicated the odd message with the outside world via a runner.
Of course it's good news, and it probably makes the world a marginally better place. But it seems our leaders are pretty good at tossing us media morsels of joy to detract from the fact that the western world is heading for the buffers, or possibly the bottomless precipice beyond.
Beer, because in the end let those who want bread and circuses have them... I'll stick to beer to cheer me up.
"They will crack the encryption but say they cannot so al-Qaeda will continue to use it.
We did this in the 2nd world war with the enigma machine"
The Americans were more focused on the Japanese following their surprise visit to Pearl Harbor.
They did break the Japanese Purple cipher.
The Japanese did *not* find out.
Intersting conjecture as to what might be on the hard drive. If it was not internet-connected, the PC would be limited in its usability for terrorist activity and planning. The only output would be hard copy, and Bin Laden would be unlikely to print anything out. He might have sent orders via USB stick, but this seems unlikely also. On the other hand, the PC might have just been for "civilian" use, and contain nothing intersting. Or it might be disguised to look like that.
The most valuable thing on there might be the address book. Al Qaeda top brass, along with any spies in operation, might be worring right now.
As for the encryption, who knows ? If Bin Laden was lax, they might break it. I rather think that if the PC contains stuff that needs to be protected, BL will have the best possible security and the very longest passwords.
Im wondering just what they will find if would be funny if this was protected using a decent encryption system it takes massive effort and time to break then when the finally get it they find its just a video if osama saying to kiss his ass or something. If the guy spent that much time avoiding leaving digital footprints he probably wouldnt even use the computer for anything important.
Then again he could just have been that dumb it there's a good chance there's nothing to find.
Whats the bet that they are using something like AES encryption one of the best out there using a 256bit key it would take upto 50,955,671,114,250,100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years to brute force it using a system that was trying 2^56 permutations per second. Obviously a key may found within that time. Given that AES 256 is considered military grade and used by companies like Microsoft.
Theoretically AES could be used with larger keys though that would take a good programmer to write that but anyone saying that there aren't programmers among the terrorists is delusional.
Id love to see keys of that strength broken be brute force, or if a decent attack can be found that would be a great step for cryptography breaking the most used common standard :)
I predict that after waiting a plausible amount of time (say 4-8 months) it will be announced that the official plans for the WTC attacks have been discovered and decrypted 'proving' for once and for all that Osama planned and executed it.
Expect also 'intelligence' from the recovered gadgetry to be used as pretext for further offensive actions, including (I should imagine) action / stance-taking against Iran.
No doubt I'll be labelled a cynical and a crazed conspiracy theorist... today. Happy to be proven wrong but it doesn't *usually* end up that way.
Before we get into idle theory about how intel/counter-intel REALLY operate (no but for serious) and speculation on what kind of cryptography may be at work on this 'mother lode', one might take time to survey the political aspect of this incident, which most people acknowledge is a fairly well-established and important part of the puzzle, to say the very least.
The War on Terror is a huge self-justifying, self-perpetuating PR machine to frame the latest iteration of the neo-Conservative-led era of 'targeted killings', wholesale invasions, the various interventions that lie somewhere between the two, and new legislation and police procedures on home soil that allow the defenestration of previous established civil rights.
Al Qaeda is a nebulous entity which does not need or require any central leadership, expertise, or information. In all serious analysis of mujahideen strategy and tactics, whether they be aggressively defensive warriors on the ground in occupied territories or kamikaze plotters planning ideological mass murders for reasons of pseudo-spiritual vengeance, these are not people who require a vast network of intelligence. In fact anything other than immediate local intelligence is utterly irrelevant to them.
Seriously, we've had this long to reflect on it — what on earth do you think bin Laden would want, regardless of security concerns, at his disposal in terms of intelligence that would be useful to the enemy?
For more on this, research 'asymmetrical warfare', and if you're feeling a bit flippant, 'Foundation and Empire' (Al Qaeda = Arabic for Foundation).
This is pure PR. Killing Osama bin Laden is an entirely pyrrhic victory for anyone who isn't a US official justifying themselves to their superiors in the light of their predecessors. Now they just have to mythically embellish the significance of his death. The US needs every opportunity it can get to at least create the impression of progress if not success after committing to this ongoing violent and exhausting project with no established escape or success clauses.
"This is pure PR. Killing Osama bin Laden is an entirely pyrrhic victory for anyone who isn't a US official justifying themselves to their superiors in the light of their predecessors."
Yes. But it's likely to be an entirely *real* victory for Obama when he's up for re-election.
Americans have quite a tendency to fall in love with any leader who shows just a hint of successful dictator. They're quite prone to the old my-country-right-or-wrong routine.
Obama's decision to send in humans, rather than missile (who might have been *killed*, like that's not part of a soldiers job description) was what has scored most PR points in the US.
In some ways there may be no real reason to decrypt the data.
Just for openers there were said to be a range of data storage devices. E.g. trace their origin, trace any other aspects of their physical nature, such as serial numbers. Perhaps even look for silly things like fingerprints, DNA, pollen, dirt, etc. Some of this might well be 'CSI basic' stuff but a huge number of real cases have always been detected by pattern recognition, often without ever discovering what the chatter actually carried.
Were the thumb drives always used, once only? If the devices were not new then partially removed but 'hidden by wear levelling' data could be 'useful'.
It should be born in mind that with no internet or phone access(?) shoe-net has its value and allegedly messenger-net gave away a lot of the game.
Above all we can all have a field day making up stories and guesses, some of us might even wish to muddy the far from clear waters.
Well, I reckon that if I was a spook and had a bunch of HD from the leader of a terrorist organisation, I'd be jumping about rubbing my hands in glee and generally gloating about all the underlings I was about to capture regardless of whether or not I expected to get anything off those discs.
Since he was an evil man, clearly it would be Emacs (dons flamesuit at this point). Presumably on a 72 character green screen, to remind him of the number of virgins he was expecting to meet up with and green being the color associated with Islam.
It'll be really depressing if the West's nemesis has been plotting attacks using Word 97 or something like that. Visions of jihadi Clippy: "I see you're trying to blow up some infidels. Would you like help with that?"
So, they took the body to a US carrier where it could be dumped overboard and took the hard disks for examination to a place 'full' of the best cryptographers / hackers with the latest equipment.
Sure, that will stop anyone speculating what (who) they might have stashed away - NOT on US soil, where any inconvenient human rights / lawyers / newspapers may apply / be watching / asking too many questions...
"Ever been on a flight out of Saudi. Full of ladies with full guiness bottle robes drinking orange juice. The pilot announces we are now out of Saudi airspace and there is a rush for the toilets. Several minutes later the ladies return in the shortest miniskirts I have seen outside a porn movie, and proceed to get staggeringly drunk."
Apart from the staggering drunk bit, I've seen exactly the same thing happen on a Emirates flight from Dubai to Rome - I was wondering if it was a one-off or a regular event.
Has anyone considered something like encrypted RAID?
the idea being that 8 drives all contain part of the data but to a casual observer it would look like random noise.
Assemble it correctly using the interferometric light trick (anyone seen "National Treasure") and it should be simple.
Also might be worth looking on the "blank" sheets in the printer as under normal room lighting or even UV they would be totally blank .
AC, because this might be useful to a certain Three Letter Agency...
A news report said that the computers, minus their hard drives, were left behind.
I'm surprised the time was taken to remove the hard drives - although perhaps there was concern the computers might be booby-trapped, like World War II cipher machines. While the hard drives are the important parts, I would have imagined detailed study to determine which keys on the keyboards were used more often, for example, in order to help guess passwords.
I wonder if this is just a big ruse of CIA.
Lets say they found some stuff:
1. Don't publish the fact and use the info to get the terrorist caught.
2. Publish we got harddrives and while we read the info all terrorist change places
Lets say they didnt find anything:
1. Don't publish that they didn't find anything, or publish it, terrorist are going to be a bit wary but nothing basicly changes.
2. Publish that they found a ton of intel, terrorists go on a full scramble to move ammo, explosives and operator making them more likely to be caught.
By logic the most likely scenario is that they didn't find anything and are hoping with lying to get terrorist to scramble from their hiding places to new places, and cut contacts between cells.
Habeas corpus... no body, and lack of non-US independent confirmation = field-day for conspiracy theories. ?
As for whats on OBL's PC, well no internet and no phone lines... does NSA +/- US Govt (+/- others) have sniffers on GlobalStar/Thuraya/iridium sat phones?
Also, AES is useless compared to GSM rolling key transfer (out-of-internet-band).
Bin Ladens PC was not a server so don't expect the mother lode of information... maybe his Al- Quaeda buddies elsewhere have the server and he just used sandboxed IE as a remote viewer? Citrix had better start praying for their share price that the US Military or the NSA don't find an ICA client installed...
After 10 years of analysis it will be realized that the 10 gigs of over 850,000 PGP encrypted files were all random sized output from /dev/random. However due to staring at it too long, snow ghosts will be seen in the randomness that will get extrapolated into Osama being pissed because of an Iranian rebuff, Chad developing the bomb, Syria discovering uranium in their hills, the second coming of Osama and the Jihadi Death Star, the beginning date of the battle of Armageddon in the Plains of Megiddo, Israeli porn star videos and goats.
Even if we make the assumption that these couriers carried encrypted drives, that doesn't mean they stayed that way. Bin Laden's camp was physically firewalled from the internet - he may well have worked on the concept that if his security was defeated there, it's game over anyway, and not kept his local hardware so well secured.It's hard to protect against a physical compromise of a computer, short of the old thermite on the hard drive trick, which didn't happen.
And also remember, not all intelligence is in the messages themselves. It may be even more important just to know where the messages came from, and where they were going.
I mean, if they have found lots of data and hope to get their fingers on more of those people, why talk about that and warn them? They would rather keep quiet, learn from the data what they can and act. But if they haven't found anything to speak of, then suddenly talking about loads of data makes sense: This will cause some people to panic and to run. You may catch them easier then.
Look, they went to another country without visas, lost an expensive helicopter, didn't manage to get the guy without knocking his and his wife's brains out, dropped the body in the ocean on the way back, lost the photos...
They need to show the tax payers at least something for all that trouble...
Author of the article? Commenters? In your rush to praise the operational expertise of Osama bin Shithead while trying to appear ever-so-clever yourselves, you filled up quite a daunting scenario. One thing about scenarios though - useless if you're not right. And none of you were, so your posts were so much pissing in the wind. Congratulations..
And - seriously? "....didn't manage to get the guy without knocking his and his wife's brains out?" As if there were ever any other plan.
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