The Secret Internet Protocol Router Network: the “Secret” Internet

Among the many things WikiLeaks has outed is the existence of the SIPRNet, or Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, used by the U.S. Federal Government to exchange confidential information. Unfortunately, “confidential” came to mean about half a million users worldwide, among them the alleged WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning who allegedly, famously dumped thousands of documents in Julian Assange’s lap.

With the term “router” in the name, this network sounds like a parallel Internet, not a VPN-like operation. That means dedicated lines, private communications and an interesting DNS manipulation that layers additional top-level domains onto the existing ones. reveals a few facts about users and exposure at

Popular Mechanics has a good “consumer-level” article at, light on the network protocols and a little heavier on the non-confidential details.

Also see the Wikipedia article on this former secret at

While I find it unsurprising that the feds would operate a secret network like this, I am impressed at just how un-secret it is. One could practically guarantee that this isn’t the whole story.

The Roots of Computing: the Sinclair ZX81

Okay, I’m the first to admit I’ve been working with computers for a long time, a really long time by today’s standards. My first experience involved punchcards and a DEC PDP8E, Cobol and Fortran in 1975. The fussiness of the technology left me cold, but since those classes I’ve always had a sort of hot-rodder’s obsession with computing hardware. Should I buy a dedicated word processor, or a full-on computer? Could I build my own? Kits were common back then, so that wasn’t a ridiculous question. But the minute I got my hands on my first 8086 (thank you forever, Oscar Boyajian!) a world opened up that has been growing at astonishing speed.

People who already were addicted to coding in the early 1980s gravitated to several emerging home-computer platforms like Atari. The Sinclair units had gone through several iterations, but Sinclair hit the first sweet spot with the ZX81. It became a consuming (and annoying) habit for teenagers who would later be tagged as geeks, then even later as bosses.

Now comes this great article from the BBC.  Check it out here:

Using Backtrack: Network Mapping: Identify Live Hosts: NBTScan



Given an IP address range or subnet, nbtscan specifically returns NetBIOS names mapped toresponding IP addresses. Verbose output ( -v ) returns the entire cached NetBIOS name table from each responding Windows machine, which is a great way to map deeper into a network.

Note that this is a Windows-only scanner. Not that it runs only on Windows (though it will run there as well as on *nixes); but it only maps Windows-only NetBIOS names, not IP hostnames.

Home Page and Tutorial:

eicar Test Files

Here’s something to think about: how often do you test your anti-virus software to ensure that it’s working properly? Using the European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research (eicar) test files, you can test the response of your anti-virus and anti-malware software. I currently have a ticket open with eicar to see how often they update the test files. I will post that information when I receive it. In the mean time you can check them out at the link below and try their test files.


Here is the response I received:


there is no update needed, because the EICAR antivirus test file becomes
an industry standard. Please read the information on our website.

Best Regards,
Marc Schneider


Stuxnet: A Declaration of Cyber War

One of the most insistent voices in cyber security (I invite you to tell me just who) has been very clear that he (that’s a clue) thinks the metaphor is wrong, and potentially disastrously wrong, when we talk about “cyber warfare.” War, he insists, is not the same as what crackers do.

Except that now, maybe it is.

Like most security people, I’ve been watching the Stuxnet story closely since word emerged into the open about this strange virus that targets industrial control systems.

Bruce Schneier took note on his blog at

The German Langner group blogged extensively, for instance at

And it became very clear this was as different from a “normal” piece of malware as the sun is from a candle. Now faithful reader Herbbie R. links me to a great Vanity Fair article at READ THIS ONE! Then I’d suggest a stiff drink.

Security? What security?

It’s been a hellish couple of weeks, because I took over a night class for a colleague who had a death in the family. Working 9-9 for any number of days will make one week/weak. Glad to be past that.

But what do my many active contributors feed me during this time? Good lord.

First, faithful follower Herbbie R. sends me this link about the private BSD/Linux distributors’ security email channel. Apparently this channel is no more, useful as it may have been in keeping the makers and distributors at least caught up with the curve, because somebody broke in and monitored those emails. You’da sorta thunk those BSD/Linux gurus would have their security down tight! But I’ve been hacked myself, so I won’t dig too hard. Read about it here:

Speaking of insider emails, I received an email that sorta-kinda looked like the ones I get from an organization to which I belong. I urged me to click all kinds of links plainly labeled with their destination (like my link just above). The difference is that if you hover over my link, you’ll see its destination is exactly what I say it is. This particular email’s links revealed very different destinations than they claimed. I fired off a warning to the organization, but later found the email was in fact valid. Safe? Trustworthy? No, but valid; the organization uses a third-party polling service for some of their activities, which was responsible for the misleading links.

You will be safe in imagining my response to learning this. Let me just say this: It is a serious violation of the Trust (I capitalize on purpose) I place in you, for you ever to send me misleading links. This is not a forgivable offense; it is a practice about which I most emphatically warn my clients. Misleading links are, in the vast majority of cases, pure evil. Asking me to click your misleading link just makes me really mistrust you. Is this really what you want?

And finally, about the onset of “Cloud Computing”: which makes me think of the weird Windows commercial of the couple trapped at the airport, who Remote Desktop into their home PC to watch recorded TV. As the woman says, in a strange faint strangled voice, “Yay cloud.” No, that’s not the cloud. That’s just scary: they’re still trapped in the airport!

Those of you who know what the cloud is, and are taking advantage of it, will be glad to read the article Cloud Computing Elevates the Role of IT at Read it and see the next great area of IT job demand. I’ll see you there.

Using Backtrack: Network Mapping: Identify Live Hosts: fping



Fping does a “fast ping” of a list of hosts. It’s set up as a scripting-friendly tool, with output that’s easy to parse. Supply a list of target IPs at the command line, or use an input file. Then fping will (very quickly) ping each IP in series without waiting for a response. If a host responds, it’s up and ready to exploit.

Take note of the very nice Perl script example on the man page.


Network Mapping: Identifying Live Hosts

Home Page:

Man Page: