As the story covered by infosecurity-magazine, A new cyber defense system being developed by the NSA could
automatically launch counter-strikes against attackers who target the
US, whistleblower Edward Snowden has claimed.
With that intelligence the NSA system could then neutralize the
threat and even theoretically launch a retaliatory strike autonomously,
Snowden told Wired.
However, such a capability could end up targeting the innocent
compromised computers being used by an attacker as a botnet to launch
the initial threat, the whistleblower cautioned.
“These attacks can be spoofed,” Snowden told the site.
“You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it
appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we
end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?”
The second issue is that for the system to work effectively, the NSA
would have to gain access to all communications traffic coming into the
US. Seizing private comms without a warrant and with no suspicion of
wrongdoing would violate the Fourth Amendment, Snowden added.
Sean Sullivan, security consultant at F-Secure, agreed that the
MonsterMind may end up counter-attacking botnets comprised of
compromised computers belonging to US citizens or allies of the States.
“Counterattack options are only useful if the adversary has something to lose. Take North Korea as an example,” he continued.
“It might attempt to launch an attack from comprised resources. But
even if it used its own servers to attack US infrastructure – what
besides those servers is there to counterattack? North Korea isn’t wired
– it basically has nothing to lose.”
Sullivan labelled it an “overly complicated defense strategy”.
“A fraction of the money used by ‘MonsterMind’ could be spend on bug
hunting and eliminating vulnerabilities to achieve greater results,” he