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Snowden Spoofed Top Officials' Identity To Mine NSA Secrets

timothy posted 1 year,3 days | from the would-you-rather-he-hadn't? dept.

Crime 743

schnell writes "As government investigators continue to try to figure out just how much data whistleblower Edward Snowden had access to, MSNBC is reporting that Snowden used his sysadmin privileges to assume the user profiles of top NSA officials in order to gain access to the most sensitive files. His sysadmin privileges also enabled him to do something other NSA users can't — download classified files from NSAnet onto a thumb drive. 'Every day, they are learning how brilliant [Snowden] was,' said a former U.S. official with knowledge of the case. 'This is why you don't hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble.'"

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Amended quote (5, Insightful)

rsborg (111459) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707875)

"Brilliant people get you in trouble.'"

More like "Brilliant people expose the trouble you're currently in".
The security-state here keeps saying "if you don't have anything to hide, then you don't need privacy"

Well, if the NSA weren't doing shit that warranted whistleblowers, they wouldn't have the problems they currently do.

Re:Amended quote (5, Funny)

Rob Riggs (6418) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708045)

That's why I play dumb. Yeah -- that's it. I'm really brilliant in disguise so I will get hired. And keep up the facade so I won't get fired.

Re:Amended quote (5, Insightful)

lorenlal (164133) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708137)

I'm more worried that they're saying he was "brilliant." Those actions are trivial. I'm disappointed that's all he had to do to get that info.

Agree with his actions or not, anyone who declared him anything more than "some sysadmin who took some liberties with his access" shouldn't be in charge of gathering, investigating or protecting anyone's sensitive data.

Re:Amended quote (2)

timeOday (582209) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708265)

The "brilliant" comment was obviously not in specific reference to the sentence that was placed before it in the slashdot summary. If he did anything especially clever, I would guess they are not publicizing the details.

Re:Amended quote (5, Insightful)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708287)

I'm more worried that they're saying he was "brilliant."

Yeah, well, that's because they want to portrait him as a brilliant evil genuis who should be incarcerated for the rest of his life (as he's obviously so dangerous) rather than just a guy who downloaded stuff on his thumbdrive because their internal security was shit.

Snowden was never a "Whistleblower" (2, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708171)

So much wrong with all of this...

We can see why in this quotation from TFA which you mentioned:

This is why you don't hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble.

This is irrational and IMHO just plain ignorant.

How could you reach such a non-sensical conclusion? It requires a misunderstanding of both the technical difficulty of the tasks Snowden accomplished *and* an Asperger-level understanding of what motivates humans to perform.

The error: Interpreting Snowden's behavior as something 'difficult'...

What Snowden did was, on a technical level, something most people at or above his paygrade in IT could do. It is something **some** of us here on /. could do with little effort.

Snowden isn't some code-cracking wizard. Most people on /. could spoof users (or just steal login info) with some work.

Hopping a fence to get to a private pool is not 'innovative' or 'brilliant' thinking...that's all Snowden did.

It's not like he's DVD John....

Second, Snowden's info was *not new information*

We all knew since the PATRIOT ACT that the govt could do this...Bush renewed a domestic spying order to the NSA every 45 days after 9/11.

"NSA has massive database of American's phone calls"is the headline

So, Snowden is either *a full on spy for Russia/global Oligarchs* or *being duped into releasing info by the same*

He's not a hero, he's not a whistleblower, he's a misguided dupe that got taken advantage of, at best...

I've written this before, with links just like now...if you want to disagree, if you want to claim Snowden *did* release valuable information and not just technical details for things we already knew existed...you have to show evidence.

Snowden's info was of no use...and we didn't need any of this to have a "national conversation about privacy"

hundreds of thousands of Americans vehemently do activism to guard our privacy...these are every day people...we've been active since 9/11 and the Patriot Act and before...

2006 missing link (1)

globaljustin (574257) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708215)

Here's the link missing from my comment above

"NSA has massive database of American's phone calls"

even though most of us on /. could do what Snowden did, apparently I can't close a tag....my bad

Re:Snowden was never a "Whistleblower" (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708237)

squawk squawk squawk

Quite a shrill shill. Crackpots and paranoids and conspiracy theorists knew the government was listening to everything all of us do all the time.

Now we all do. That's an achievement. Maybe not worthy of the mission impossible theme song, but an achievement nonetheless.

This message will self destruct in 5 seconds...

so he did in fact break the law (0)

schneidafunk (795759) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707877)

Sorry, I am a fan of him and grateful he leaked only certain documents as opposed to Manning just dumping everything out into public, but stealing classified documents to leak is a bit different than the story we've been given as a true whistle-blower.

Re:so he did in fact break the law (3, Insightful)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707931)

What makes him -not- a whistleblower? He spotted illegal actions from his client (NSA) and used his privileges to prove him right.

Re:so he did in fact break the law (3, Interesting)

schneidafunk (795759) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708009)

You mean he abused his privileges. He is a low level tech, not privy to high level discussions. Compare him to Mark Felt, who was in a position of power and knew for certain through his daily dealings that the administration was abusing his power. He didn't have to raid Nixon's private files to show it. Here's a better analysis [theatlantic.com] for you.

Re:so he did in fact break the law (4, Insightful)

metrix007 (200091) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708179)

It sounds like he abused his privileges to confirm his suspicions, and then took a course of action. Which is the right approach, depending on the suspicions.

Re:so he did in fact break the law (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708183)

You mean he abused his privileges. He is a low level tech, not privy to high level discussions. Compare him to Mark Felt, who was in a position of power and knew for certain through his daily dealings that the administration was abusing his power. He didn't have to raid Nixon's private files to show it. Here's a better analysis [theatlantic.com] for you.

So only the powerful may expose the powerful?

Re:so he did in fact break the law (4, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708251)

Snowden's abusing his powers is an act of civil disobedience. The same tatics were used by Ghandi and the civil rights movement. It's a wrong that warrants a "tsk tsk, don't do that" and a stern look. He did it to expose evils so great and widespread that it would be hard to figure out which of the hundreds involved who merit it should be executed for treason first. That's not shoot the messenger here.

Re:so he did in fact break the law (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707937)

Who cares? ... Greater good... Lesser evil.... bla bla bla... All systems nominal... SNAFU

Re:so he did in fact break the law (4, Interesting)

aristotle-dude (626586) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707983)

Sorry, I am a fan of him and grateful he leaked only certain documents as opposed to Manning just dumping everything out into public, but stealing classified documents to leak is a bit different than the story we've been given as a true whistle-blower.

I think the type of information Snowden took was of a different sort. He stole information detailing the existence of spying programs, how they worked and their extent putting the programs themselves at risk whereas Manning stole and leaked operational information that potentially put lives at risk by exposing agents in the field and/or operational plans in the field.

What Snowden leaked so far embarrasses the government but is not "outing" anyone as an agent. This is more inline with what a whistleblower would usually talk about. He leaked the powerpoint slides as evidence of his claims.

Re:so he did in fact break the law (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708127)

Manning stole and leaked operational information that potentially put lives at risk by exposing agents in the field and/or operational plans in the field.

Except that in the Manning leak, the military or intelligence agencies have yet to point to a single agent or operation in the field that was stopped due to the leak. They've just repeatedly asserted this point without proof, and that means significant numbers of Americans believe them.

Re:so he did in fact break the law (3, Insightful)

DinDaddy (1168147) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708005)

Explain how any whistleblower is supposed to expose something if they are not allowed to make information public that the public does not already have access to?

Re:so he did in fact break the law (2)

schneidafunk (795759) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708063)

My point is I was under the impression he had the information readily available to him through his job, like Mark Felt. "Hacking" into areas he has no business in is a different story than what has been presented. It makes his defense, if he were to come back to the U.S., deserving of protection under the whistleblower status less credible.

Re:so he did in fact break the law (5, Insightful)

s.petry (762400) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708163)

Technically they are not supposed to go immediately to the public. Military, Government, and DOD people are supposed to use the chain of command first. Unfortunately, this does not work in most cases since the chain of command in a corrupt organization is also corrupt. Numerous court cases and stories are to be found regarding how internal whistle blowers are treated (sometimes killed with their whole family, etc...)

What Snowden did in this case is correct. Not going public mind you, but going to journalists who are supposed to be working for the public's interests.

What I, and many others, find so interesting is that our media has become so corrupt that we have to have alternative news sources which hold the original 'credo of journalism' in mind when working. I'm sure if he turned the data over to the NY Post, he would have been in jail and the public would still have no knowledge.

Lengthy chain to get to the point, but the point is that he did not go "public". He went to journalists, and did so correctly in my never so humble opinion. Part of the journalism credo is to determine what to release to the public in order to present the story while protecting the Government.

Re:so he did in fact break the law (2)

epyT-R (613989) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708069)

Not when these actions expose illegal behavior by the government... Remember, it was this government that created such law in the first place. The more of their own law they violate, the less legitimacy they have.

Law and ethics are not necessarily congruent.. in fact, a lot of times, they aren't, but are passed off to be by politicians and ideological zealots.

Re:so he did in fact break the law (1)

jovius (974690) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708239)

In the end it comes down to the fact that no person can be totally controlled. It's always a wish. You are looking at the problem from the wrong end. The installation of nationalist and other power structures into the minds (even since being a newborn) can never reach an absolute authority - this is the facade, or the farce even.

What follows is that the control mechanisms would grow ad infinitum to control something that in reality is not controllable. Snowden exploited the obvious weakness in the system. The authorities do not want the simple fact to be inherently known, that the power is just an illusion. The illusion is backed up by real force however, which makes it very dangerous. Relatively few people have a huge deadly force at their disposal.

Whistle-blowing is not about getting handouts either... That would just enforce the farce further.

Re:so he did in fact break the law (1)

schneidafunk (795759) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708261)

To the person that modded me down, I know my opinion is not a popular one. I'm open to debate. However, you should be using your mod points to bump up good comments and modding down off-topic or blatantly offensive messages, not opinions you disagree with.

Brilliant? (5, Funny)

Traze (1167415) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707883)

So, having a way to change your identity to another users is brilliant? All System Admins must be brilliant!

Re:Brilliant? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44707903)

"So, having a way to change your identity to another users is brilliant?"

For timothy? Yes.

Re:Brilliant? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708041)

The former U.S. official by his own admission probably isn't brilliant so you can't really blame his ignorance.

Re:Brilliant? (1)

niftydude (1745144) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708083)

Yep: su username.
Genius!

Re:Brilliant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708121)

su (you can take that either way)

Re: Brilliant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708185)

Stupid would be a /. poster thinking sudo works on a remote service when called on the local machine.

Hey why don't you hack into NASA by sudo'ing into that nasa user on your lame laptop, moron.

Re:Brilliant? (2)

The MAZZTer (911996) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708229)

Hey guys I found this command called su which serves the sole purpose of allowing you to impersonate other users!!!!

You don't get to hire smart people for this job. (5, Interesting)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707885)

You either get brilliant or you get mildly capable. Smart people know they don't want to work in that environment. Brilliant people will take the job knowing they can use it to some kind of end. Mildly capable people handle requests and not much more, but are just happy to have a stable job in their field.

Brilliant? (4, Informative)

khb (266593) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707889)

Surely someone at the NSA knows about multi-level security, SELinux, and the like. No one should have had root access. Having architected the system so poorly, it hardly took a genius to walk off with their secrets.

Re:Brilliant? (5, Funny)

hjf (703092) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707943)

Yes... surely SOMEONE at the NSA knows about SELinux!

Re:Brilliant? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708151)

Best comment I have read in a long time.

For those who don't get it (although this is SD, so there shouldn't be), the NSA wrote SELinux.

Brilliant? (1)

ThatsLoseNotLoose (719462) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707891)

Every day we are also learning new definitions of brilliant.

Re:Brilliant? (2)

Cro Magnon (467622) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707927)

"Brilliant" is relative. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Re:Brilliant? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708175)

In the land of the blind the one-eyed man directs traffic.

Integrity (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44707895)

'This is why you don't hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble.'

Are brilliant people with integrity not available or do they simply cost to much.

Re:Integrity (1)

roguegramma (982660) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707939)

Brillant people are more prone to be independent thinkers, because they have experienced being smarter than others and thus having to think for themselves..

Re:Integrity (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707965)

People with integrity are not going to be working for the NSA. Kinda runs counter to what they do.

Re:Integrity (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708189)

Actually they have their own kind of integrity. They believe in what they do and that the end justifies the means. Snowden evidently felt the same way. He didn't let the law get in the way of what he felt was the right thing to do.

Re:Integrity (1)

cold fjord (826450) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708219)

Snowden worked for the NSA. He repeatedly lied to get his security clearance, position, and access. I take it you consider that QED?

Re:Integrity (3)

mwvdlee (775178) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707991)

The problem is that integrity usually comes with morality.
A moral person does not cover up injustice.

Any source that's not suspect? (2)

Iori Branford (1546617) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707905)

E.g. Non-US news.

Re:Any source that's not suspect? (1)

epyT-R (613989) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708155)

I wouldn't trust the news in your home country (where ever it is) any more than that coming from the US.

Brilliant? (5, Insightful)

geoskd (321194) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707907)

Umm, ok, now you have to be brilliant to "sudo su ".

This guy was a sysadmin. He had physical level access to the hardware. Anybody who is in that job and is competent can do what Snowden did. (or am I missing some as yet undisclosed salient detail?)

Re:Brilliant? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708013)

Yeah, I don't see the CEO and division chiefs and department heads designing and operating the hardware and software themselves so someone from IT has to be involved regardless. That isn't ever going to change.

Re:Brilliant? (4, Insightful)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708021)

Umm, ok, now you have to be brilliant to "sudo su ".

According to 99.99999% of the population. Yes.
Which of course makes most of us here freaking geniuses.

Re:Brilliant? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708113)

Umm, ok, now you have to be brilliant to "sudo su ".

According to 99.99999% of the population. Yes.

Which of course makes most of us here freaking geniuses.

if you're so smart why aren't you rich

Re:Brilliant? (5, Funny)

Rob Riggs (6418) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708061)

Umm, ok, now you have to be brilliant to "sudo su ".

Sucker. Now you'll never get hired by the NSA.

Re:Brilliant? (4, Insightful)

MiniMike (234881) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708107)

Well, which sounds better as a defense?

1) We got hacked by methods any average or better than average sysadmin could use. Thus our entire architecture is at risk at this can happen multiple more times. We have no adequate defense against this, and are thoroughly screwed.

or

2) We got hacked by a BRILLIANT HACKER! No one could have foreseen the ninja-like moves he used against us! Now that we've closed the obscure loophole that he used, the only flaw in our otherwise perfect system, our files are safe for eternity! Yay us!

It seems like they're going with #2.

Re:Brilliant? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708299)

Indeed, nothing new here, this is also why Julius Caesar wrote in the Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic War) that the Belgians were the bravest of all Gauls (which he explained by them being the most remote from civilisation): they gave him a good beating, so they must have been "special".

Mod parent up please.

Re:Brilliant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708115)

You're assuming he had access to the hardware that held in information in an unencrypted state. One would assume that the NSA protects this level of information with layers of encryption to try and prevent all of it from residing together on hardware in an unencrypted state. I would speculate that he need to perform the equivalent "sudo -su kalexander" in order to convince the system to give him the files unencrypted.

I would also imagine that there are protection in place specifically to prevent these types of attacks, so it was probably clever of him to figure out how to bypass those protections. Especially since it seems to have taken a good deal of time for them to figure out how it was done.

Re:Brilliant? (3, Insightful)

geoskd (321194) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708231)

You're assuming he had access to the hardware that held in information in an unencrypted state. One would assume that the NSA protects this level of information with layers of encryption to try and prevent all of it from residing together on hardware in an unencrypted state. I would speculate that he need to perform the equivalent "sudo -su kalexander" in order to convince the system to give him the files unencrypted.

One would assume, but one would be wrong apparently. According to several of the linked articles, the NSA state of security is fantastically sophisticated in many ways, but stone aged in others. In short, there is an entire class of sysadmins that the NSA has no good way of keeping track of, and worse, they don't even necessarily know who they all are...

Next Round (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708147)

Just wait until they find out what their DBA's can do...

Re:Brilliant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708199)

If it was easy to do what Snowden did then the NSA looks like a horses ass. Therefore what Snowden did HAD to be the work of the Einstein of Sysadmins.

Re:Brilliant? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708209)

maybe the brilliant part was arranging that he got the sys admin job in the first place

Ahh, that explains it. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44707915)

That explains why they really, really, really wanted to get their claws into him.

Forget the extreme negligence of morality of what they were doing, forget the fact that he leaked those secrets to international press.

It's just 100% pride. And I bet those top officials are the ones gunning for him.

Until they realize that what they were doing was unacceptable, this will continue.

And I expect it will continue for a very long time..

sure (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707919)

Yeah, hire that incompetent idiot who will design the security precautions wrong in the first place. That'll work a lot better.

Brilliant people also get you out of trouble (1)

kawabago (551139) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707921)

While I did create the occasional problem, I solved so many more the occasional mistake can be overlooked.

"Brilliant"? Hardly (5, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707935)

"This is why you don't hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble." -- a former U.S. official with knowledge of the case.

Um... no. What is described in TFA is not "brilliant" at all, but a necessary part of being a sysadmin: you have control over user profiles.

The fact that the "former official" does not seem to realize this does not lead us to conclude that Snowden was brilliant... but rather that the mentioned official was anything but.

Re:"Brilliant"? Hardly (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708059)

a necessary part of being a sysadmin: you have control over user profiles.

Is it really, though. Wouldn't it be technically possible to create a system where not even root is able to login as a user (or atleast be unable to do anything when logged in) yet is still able to manage the system?

Re:"Brilliant"? Hardly (1)

Splab (574204) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708117)

No.

Re:"Brilliant"? Hardly (0)

SpanglerIsAGod (2052716) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708203)

Yes, on Mainframes it is standard practice and I believe there are Unix options that can do this as well.

Re:"Brilliant"? Hardly (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708207)

only if you define 'manage' as 'not doing administration tasks'

Re:"Brilliant"? Hardly (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708221)

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Haaaaaahahahahahahah no. If you can manage the system, you can do anything. Otherwise the system is unmaintainable and would need to be fully replaced any time any operating system-level changes are needed.

Re:"Brilliant"? Hardly (1)

abroadwin (1273704) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708283)

The fact that the "former official" does not seem to realize this does not lead us to conclude that Snowden was brilliant... but rather that the mentioned official was anything but.

It doesn't show that the official is anything but... it shows that the official believes the American public is anything but.

oblig Avengers... (5, Funny)

Tridus (79566) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707941)

The only thing that came to mind with the suggestion that they not hire brilliant people:

"An intelligence organization that fears intelligence? Historically, not awesome."
- Tony Stark

"Former U.S. official" (4, Insightful)

EMG at MU (1194965) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707949)

Sometimes I feel that these "former U.S. officials" and "anonymous staff members" should STFU. It just seems like they use their anonymity to say random shit that will create headlines and stroke their ego. The "don't hire brilliant people" quotation is just stupid. No one that would have to be responsible for their words would say that.

Brilliant? (3, Interesting)

Kreplock (1088483) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707953)

A sysadmin manipulating access privs hardly seems brilliant. Now if he'd leveraged some software exploits shortly before implementing patches that address said exploits, that would indicate a much greater knowledge of the systems he was looting - a certain grace or panache, if you will. I guess this "brilliant" quote is what you get when people who see these systems as a black box are doing the talking. I'm thinking reality resembles less Snowden brilliance and more NSA caught with their pants down.

You SHOULD hire brilliant people. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44707955)

Just don't ask them to help you with illegal, immoral, and boring shit.

So, yeah, the NSA shouldn't hire them (on first two accounts).

Come On (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44707959)

This is crap. Who believes this stuff?

Brilliant? (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707961)

How is it brilliant to be aware of the abilities and privileges that come with your job? Strikes me more as "not incompetent." It must be goddamn terrifying to be as stupid as this former US official, living in a world where pretty much anything anyone does appears as if it happened by pure magic.

Re:Brilliant? or just RTFM? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708011)

See, the problem is, the people running the show never assume that anyone will read the manual and use all the features.

It's like being shocked when someone drives a supercar at 220 mph.

Re:Brilliant? or just RTFM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708193)

Oblig. car reference.

Re:Brilliant? or just RTFM? (0)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708295)

If you don't know what a supercar is, why are you on the Internet?

Brilliant doesn't equate to trouble. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44707969)

Hiring brilliance doesn't equate to trouble. Hiring brilliance with morals and throwing them into the middle of something unconstitutional is what gets you into trouble. It's not Snowden's fault the NSA got caught red handed and red faced. The Government should abide by the rules, laws and limitations of power set forth by the people, after all - it's we who gave them the power.

It is well past time to take that power back. We shouldn't fear them, they should fear us. It's time for a Revolution.

"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." - Thomas Jefferson
http://jpetrie.myweb.uga.edu/TJ.html

Seriously?!? (4, Insightful)

SecurityGuy (217807) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707971)

This isn't brilliance, this is just poor security. This is systems that had a vulnerable audit trail, or didn't bother auditing enough, or created records no one ever looked at. Surely user snowden su-ing to some top official throws a red flag somewhere, right? If not, why not?

Re:Seriously?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708165)

Agreed that if logging was not on or not installed someone failed big time in setting up the systems. You can even set logging up on a Windows domain for such events. Actually you could set up sensitive files with sysadmin no access on windows i.e. block the sid of the system admin group. Then set up a logging event if the access to the data is changed, Log it to a security group, independent of the sysadmin. One other comment I have heard is that due to the 7 hour difference between Ft. Meade and Hawaii, Snowden did not have folks watching what he was doing real time. but if true this whole episode raises the question of if the system design and implementation at the NSA is/was up to the standard that should be required.

It will happen again (hopefully) (4, Insightful)

Alain Williams (2972) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707973)

Inside the NSA is probably an amusing place to bea fly on the wall at the moment. All sorts of new procedures to try to stop someone else doing the same thing. However: it won't work, any defences that a man can put in place can be circumvented by another man, especially one working on the inside. They can make it hard, but not impossible - at least if they want their systems to remain useful. They have, at some level, to trust people to be able to operate.

The only way that the NSA can stop future embarassing revelations is for it to behave in a reasonable and moral way. That means a complete change of culture.

I did not say ''behave in a legal way'' since corrupt laws can easily be written.

Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44707979)

The ages-old mistery why so many government officials are, ahem, nincompoops solved.

We're fucked (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707981)

Every day, they are learning how brilliant [Snowden] was,' said a former U.S. official with knowledge of the case. 'This is why you don't hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble.

This official is dumb as a fucking rock if he didn't realize that a system administrator can bypass the very security measures he administers. And then on top of the ignorance, they attribute this breach to brilliance. OMG these people are looking incompetent. OTOH the general public may believe them and think snowden has super powers and this isn't someone elses fault.

Re:We're fucked (5, Insightful)

bware (148533) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708195)

OMG these people are looking incompetent. OTOH the general public may believe them and think snowden has super powers and this isn't someone elses fault.

This isn't about competence or incompetence. It's about putting as negative a spin as possible on Snowden.

Float a lot of trial balloons, make sure negative things get out there via anonymous sources, even if rebutted the next day, then the "traitor" contingent can forever quote the negative and leave the detailed rebuttals to others, which no one will read.

To wit: in this thread, Manning is excoriated as a traitor for releasing all the documents unredacted, but Manning did not - that was accomplished when professional journalists from the Guardian published the passphrase for an encrypted file.

So everything was true ... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707985)

It sounds like despite the initial protestations of how he'd exaggerated his abilities, and those of the surveillance program ... it's all proving to be true.

That his sysadmin privileges let him access stuff which was much more classified doesn't change that the system is capable of doing this, and likely is on a large scale.

So we've got a wide-reaching, in cases probably illegal system which can and does tap into everything -- and apparently the amount of oversight and controls they have on this is very limited.

More like Don't Steal Secrets If You Want Yours (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | 1 year,3 days | (#44707993)

The main problem is using wide-scale non-targeted vacuum programs that just suck up everyone's information everywhere.

Stop doing that and it is less likely that anyone who has half a brain won't be able to get masses of data you shouldn't be collecting in the first place.

This real or spoofed Data (1)

VEGETA_GT (255721) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708003)

I keep seeing the Us government keep putting out new revelations of how he did things to try and make him look worse and worse. In all honesty, I get the feeling at least some of what they are saying is pure BS in a smear campaign. Its just the feeling I get and am interested if others are right.

And as others have stated, for him to get all this data so easily (nothing shown shows any real hardships in gathering data) to me says these NSA systems may be very open to attack. As there security measures seam rather lax. I get the feeling there idea of security is a armed guard standing over the server watching for hackers.

my 2 cents plus 2 more

Headline: (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708015)

NSA opposed to hiring the best and the brightest.

I don't care how you quantify brilliance (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708031)

it has nothing to do with why he exposed the NSA... that's a question of having a conscience.

Unofficial statements from NSA (4, Insightful)

mounthood (993037) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708051)

All these people "with knowledge of the case" better watch-out they don't go off-message or they could find themselves hunted as whistle-blowers too, but they'll be OK as long as they keep talking about Snowden and not crimes he exposed.

su? (1)

epyT-R (613989) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708095)

There's nothing 'brilliant' about admins who can switch to other users. Just about every system allows that with one command. This 'official's' statement is a smear, plain and simple.

Brilliance Standard Seems Low (1)

techdolphin (1263510) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708105)

Snowden used his sysadmin privileges to assume the user profiles of top NSA officials in order to gain access to the most sensitive files. His sysadmin privileges also enabled him to do something other NSA users can't — download classified files from NSAnet onto a thumb drive.

Perhaps my standard of brilliance is different, but having a sysadmin who knows how to take the identities of other users and does so does not seem particularly brilliant. Then, also using his privileges to download to a thumb drive does not seem particularly brilliant. I would expect any sysadmin to be able to figure this out.

If this is the standard for brilliance at the NSA, then it has a real problem.

Snowden = BOFH (0)

phocutus (670853) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708109)

I know if the government abused the people's trust, I'd try to blow the whistle. Sounds like he's the real BOFH deal to me. I mean I know JPL-NASA is riddled with fraud, I'm just waiting for the real internal nasty docs to get released. Time to re-invent and fix our own shit. The USA is a laughing stock. We have Nuclear test sites which are on the brink of failure, sites devastated by natural disasters we ignore. Our Nation continues to get raped via its resources and the people are being raped of their Constitutional rights. Obama, where are all these "Green Jobs" at? So far nothing absolutely NOTHING has been done to help the American people in my life-time, where the corporate greed continues to spawn it's seed everywhere. Alternative Energy? Fixing the farm-land, inventing medical marvels, etc. What about that shit? Oh wait, we're going to lobby with Silicon Valley and give Amazon kudos for warehouse plants? Give me a fucking break. US Govt = Big Fucking Fail

relevant joke (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708135)

A soldier in the Red Army is sent to a Gulag for 31 years after running across the drill-square of his barracks shouting "The political commissar is an idiot!": 1 year for insulting the commissar & 30 for revealing a state secret.

"Brilliant people get you in trouble..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708139)

... or you could not do things you're not supposed to be doing. That'd probably get you in less trouble. Probably.

Dear NSA (5, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708197)

You need to hire some of these "brilliant" people so that you don't get snowed by a Snowden. By all accounts he accomplished what he did by having incompetent management above him. This was a management problem, and one that you knew better about, or should have known better about - if you had some of those brilliant people who knew what they were doing in management!

Serenity anyone (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#44708205)

This reminds me the issue in Serenity of showing off a mind reader to a room full of people with the highest level of clearance. In the movie, the powers that be sent an assassin with no limitations to kill her out of fear about what might have been gleaned. In this case, it seems like they have realized that Snowden had complete access, so they are as much scared of what he may have grabbed as they are angry that he did it.
Detaining Miranda in the hope he had a copy of the files makes sense, despite the backlash, if they are desperate to find out what all was taken.

Brilliant people are fine, hire for loyalty (0)

SuperKendall (25149) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708211)

You can always hire brilliant people.

You just have to hire ones that will be loyal enough not to abuse the positions they hold.

If you find yourself doing things where people you hire start to become more inclined to betray you than not, perhaps it's time to re-think direction.

In this particular case, it sure looks like Snowden hired with the intent of doing exactly what he did, as he hit the ground running so to speak. So what does that say about the quality of the intelligence they are gathering they could not properly screen a guy who would have access to everything?

I'm sure Snowden's Russian handlers are having quite a good laugh.

P.S. I'm with others that knowing how to "su" as admin is not brilliant, but basic...

Deliberate actions (1)

david.emery (127135) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708235)

The more that comes out, the more convinced I am that his actions were planned and deliberate, and even more than the-person-formerly-known-as-Bradley Manning, this constitutes something approaching treason.

What? (4, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | 1 year,3 days | (#44708247)

" 'This is why you don't hire brilliant people for jobs like this. You hire smart people. Brilliant people get you in trouble.'"

No, what happens is when you do shit that shocks the conscience, someone, somewhere, is going to expose you for the douchebag that you are.

Stop being a douchebag.

--
BMO

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