In order to strengthen the video streaming service, Amazon quietly carried out the negotiation process for the purchase of Elemental Technologies in 2015. Elemental is a startup that specializes in video file compression technology. The CIA and the International Space Station (ISS) were noted to have been Elemental clients in handling video cases.
Amazon does not carelessly negotiate to buy Elemental given the startup’s reputation which makes money from government projects. Amazon appointed an intermediary who later revealed that Elemental servers were bought from a supplier named Supermicro Computer, Inc. apparently too wasteful.
Amazon then conducted an investigation, dismantling Elemental’s servers to find out why Elemental’s servers were so wasteful. When the server parts were stripped, a chip was never recorded in the engine’s design. Rice-sized chip stuck on the motherboard turned out to be a useful spy tool to infiltrate the system. As many as 30 companies from the United States, including Amazon and Apple, are believed to be affected by this smart tactic because they both use servers from Supermicro Computer.
Professional hacker Joe Grand said that “hardware is very far from radar [researchers or digital security teams]. This finding is like black magic.
The Chinese government, through the sub-contractor used by Supermicro Computer, is suspected of having links to the chip.
Thus Jordan Robertson’s report titled “The Big Hack”, published in the October 8, 2018 edition of Bloomberg Businessweek. The report uncovered how China infiltrated US companies.
Unfortunately, Robertson’s report that revealed the existence of the chip was doubted even by those suspected of being victims, such as Amazon and Apple. The National Security Agency (NSA) and Defcon (the elite hacker conference) also called the report a lie and “the publisher’s biggest mistake”.
A year passed, there was no further news about the Bloomberg report. The world of technology still believes that reports of the chip’s findings are excessive. However, in October 2019, as Wired reported, cyber security researcher Monta Elkins proved that super-small-sized spy chips are not impossible.
“We often think that a chip like this feels like a fantasy, but it really isn’t like that,” said Elkins, Hacker-in-Chief of digital security company FoxGuard.
The Wired report says, Elkins has proven that a special soldering tool for $ 150, a microscope for $ 40, and a 5-millimeter ATtiny85 chip installed in the Arduino Digispark logicboard for $ 2, and a few lines of code to ignite a password recovery system installed in the victim system, is capable of created a spy chip similar to Bloomberg’s report.
In his experiments, Elkins successfully broke through a Cisco-made firewall machine, ASA 5505.
“I can create this tool from home with a relatively simple material. “There are people out there who are much smarter than me and they are very likely to do it easily,” said Elkins. Moreover, of course, with state support.
China, which is accused of being behind a chip the size of rice, is often linked with digital crime not only through the hands of state organizations, but also through corporations. Huawei, for example, is suspected by the US of having a special relationship with the Chinese Government. That suspicion culminated when Ren Zhengfei, founder of Huawei, was known to have participated in the Communist Party Congress in 1982.
Vox’s report states that in 2014 Huawei was not allowed to participate in US government tenders related to telecommunications networks. In August of the same year, the US strengthened the ban by issuing special rules blocking the use of Huawei infrastructure by the government and its contractors.
Apart from China, the country that is often accused of being the mastermind behind digital crime is North Korea. In fact, as reported by Reuters, North Korea is estimated to get $ 2 billion in money through cyber crime, for example by stealing money from banks or crypto money institutions or companies in 17 world countries. The money that was successfully collected was used to finance the creation of nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
As disclosed to the Financial Times, Director of the Korea Institute of Liberal Democracy, Yoo Dong-rul, stated that “all trade gates, regardless of legality, have been closed to North Korea. Weapons are limited “.” As a result, cyber activity is the only thing that can be sought to earn money, “he added.
Hacker group called Lazarus Group aka APT 38 aka HIDDEN COBRA aka Guardian of Peace aka Whois Team is said to be related to the North Korean government. According to McAfee’s official website, this group is believed to be behind the break-ins of various banks, such as Ecuador’s Banco del Austro ($ 12 million), Tien Phong Bank Vietnam ($ 1 million), Bangladesh Bank ($ 81 million), and Far Eastern International Bank ($ 60 million) . This group also succeeded in stealing 235 gigabytes of data from its neighbor, South Korea, which contained the plan of the Super Junior country to destroy Pyongyang.
Then, what about countries that do not have the ability to hack? The answer is simple: buy tools and / or services.
Made in Israel
Last May, Facebook, through Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) (the publication standard of security vulnerability findings, numbered 2019-3568) confirmed the security gap on WhatsApp. In the CVE 2019-3568, all devices installed on WhatsApp, both on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone operating systems, specifically WhatsApp users for Android before version v2.19.134, WhatsApp Business for Android before version v2.19.44, WhatsApp for iOS before versions v2.19.51, WhatsApp Business for iOS before version v2.19.51, and WhatsApp for Windows Phone before version v2.18.348, are declared vulnerable.
WhatsApp security hole allows attackers to install malware which can then sneak into cameras, microphones, instant messaging applications, capture screenshots (screenshots), to record every keyboard knock. Terrible, malware attacks via security holes on WhatsApp can be done in a simple way: the attacker just make phone calls to the target.
An Israeli company called NSO Group is suspected to be behind this heinous act. However, NSO Group boss Shalev Hulio, told CBS News, rejected the allegations. He said, “NSO Group only sells products to prevent crime and terror.”
Not only once has the NSO Group become involved in digital crime. When The Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi was killed, the equipment sold by the company was said to be used.
“When the Khashoggi murder took place, I immediately checked whether there was an NSO product used. We are clean. There are no artificial tools we use, “said Hulio.
But who really is NSO Group?
An investigative report released by Haaretz last year called the NSO Group a technology company based in Herzliya Pituah, a suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel. In 2015, the company was bought by Francisco Partners for $ 130 million. The main selling NSO is technology devices, especially the very popular Pegasus Spyware.
Pegasus is a spy malware that works by looking for security holes in the victim’s system or application, as happened with WhatsApp. When this malware successfully enters the victim’s device or machine, the device will be easily controlled by the owner of Pegasus. Citizen Lab, an information study laboratory based at the University of Toronto, said that NSO’s sophisticated devices, especially Pegasus, have been used by around 45 countries, including Mexico, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, Haaretz said that Pegasus had been used by at least 15 countries, including Indonesia.
In 2016, Pegasus was sold for $ 650,000 or more than Rp9 billion.
The Haaretz report stated that Pegasus was used in Indonesia to create a database of people suspected of being gay and was used to carry out anti-minority propaganda.
“At present, every government that does not respect the privacy of its citizens is equipped with the spy capabilities created in Herzliya Pituah,” Haaretz wrote.
Roy, the source interviewed by Haaretz, revealed that the use of NSO-made devices is entirely the responsibility of the buyer. “I cannot forbid anything. You can’t sell a Mercedes to someone but forbid them from driving at speeds of more than 11 kilometers per hour, “he said.