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Statement of Purpose

I have been observing the hacker and hacktivist communities, at times very
closely, for many years. The exact definition of “hacker” and “hacktivist”
varies from author to author, so I shall make my interpretation of these words
very clear. Let us define a “hacker” as someone who utilizes their knowledge of
computers and of computer networks to make money via illegitimate means. Let us
define a “hacktivist” as someone who utilizes their knowledge of computers and
of computer networks to do justice when justice is not done by the state. I
have found that these two communities are inextricably linked, yet remain
completely separate entities. Many hackers double as hacktivists in their spare
time, although most hacktivists do not fancy themselves hackers.

Although hackers turned hacktivists have the very best of intentions, and their
input and expertise is of great value to the hacktivist community, they have
inadvertently suppressed the potential of the very community they are trying to
aid. The get-in-get-the-goods-get-out methodology of the stolen credit card
driven hacker community that has been transfered to the hacktivist community
via ideological osmosis has tragically affixed blinders to it. It has caused
the hacktivist community to think linearly and strive to do nothing more than
to blindly infiltrate target organizations and immediately leak whatever data
they happen to stumble across. This must change. Stealing and leaking data
makes a point, but it is sometimes necessary to do more than just make a point,
to inflict real, measurable damage. In certain, extreme cases an organization’s
disregard for human rights warrants its immediate and complete obliteration.

In this essay, I will discuss a multitude of ideological, operational, and
technical changes that ought to be made to the hacktivist community. These
proposed changes have been derived from my personal observations. Some will
find the ideas contained within this document to be the product of common
sense. I have found these people to be few in number. If the community accepts
my suggestions it will not only become more effective, but the risks associated
with participating in it will be drastically lowered. My intent in writing this
is not to aid criminals, but rather to aid people who wish to do battle with
governments and corporations that have become criminals. If freedom is to
remain on this earth, its people must be willing and able to take arms to
defend it, both physical and digital.

Personal Security

Sound operational security is the foundation from which all effective
cyber-offensives are launched. You should, at all times, put your own, personal
security above the success of your operations and interests. The security
precautions taken by most hacktivists I have met are mediocre at best, and
needlessly so. Maintaining sound personal security is by no means difficult. It
requires much caution but very little skill. I have devised a series of
security precautions that hactivists should take and divided them up into six
main categories: environmental, hardware, software, mental, pattern related,
and archaeological. We shall examine each individually.

(1) Environmental:

There are but two places you can work: at home or in public. Some people insist
that working at home is best and others insist that working in public is best.
The proper working environment debate has been raging on in the hacker
community for quite some time now, and has great relevance to the hacktivist
community, as most governments view hackers and hacktivists as one in the same.
Proponents of the “work in public” argument claim that by always working at a
different public location, you significantly lower your chances of being
apprehended. They argue that even if the authorities are able to trace many of
the cyber-attacks you took part in back to the public places where you took
part in them from, that does not bring them any closer to finding you. Most
retail stores and coffee shops do not keep surveillance footage for more than a
year at the most, and even if the authorities are able to get a photo of you
from some security camera, that does not necessarily lead them directly to your
front door, especially if you wore a hoody the entire time you where working
and the camera never got a clear shot of your face. On the other hand,
proponents of the “work at home” argument argue that the risk of being seen and
reported, or merely recorded while working in a public place far outweighs the
benefits of the significantly large increase in anonymity that working in
public provides. Both sides have legitimate points, and I urge you to consider
both of them.

If you decide to work in public, the number one threat you face is other
people. Numerous large criminal investigations have been solved using the
observations of average everyday citizens who just happened to remember seeing
something suspicious. If people sense that you are trying to hide something,
they will watch you more closely than they would otherwise. It is important to
always “keep your cool” as the old saying goes. Always try to sit in such a way
that your screen is facing away from the majority of the people in the room you
are sitting in. Corners are your friend. Try to blend in with the crowd. Dress
in plain cloths. Draw no attention. If you are in a coffee shop, sip some
coffee while you work. If you are in a burger joint, buy a burger. If you are
in a library or book store, set a few books beside your laptop. Also, be very
aware of security cameras, both inside the establishment you are working in as
well as on the street near it. Being captured on film is alright as long as the
camera can not see what is on your screen. Some store cameras are watched by
actual people who will undoubtedly report you if they find out what you are
doing. More and more governments are starting to place very high quality CCTV
cameras on their streets to monitor their citizens, and these devices can be a
problem if they are peering over your shoulder through a window you are sitting
beside. When working in public, it is possible that you may have to confront a
law enforcement officer face to face. Law enforcement officers can smell
uneasiness from a mile away, and if you look like you are up to no good it is
possible that a cop will come and talk to you. Always have some sort of cover
story made up before you leave home to explain why you are where you are. If
you are forced to confront a law enforcement officer you should be able to talk
your way out of the situation.

If you decide to work at home, the number one threat you face is your own ego.
Just because you are at home does not mean that your working environment is
secure. Be aware of windows in close proximity to your computer as well as your
security-illiterate or gossipy family members. Security issues in relation to
network configuration begin to come into play when you work at home. If your
computer were to somehow get compromised while you are working at home,
perhaps by your government, it would be nearly impossible for the person or
group of people rummaging around inside of your system to get your actual IP
address (provided that you adhere to the software security guidelines that we
will discuss later). However, if your wi-fi password (or the name of your
printer, or the name of another computer on the network) contains your actual
last name and part of your address, tracking you down becomes very easy. A lot
of people name their network devices and structure their network passwords in
this way.

It is also possible that if an attacker that has infiltrated your computer
notices other machines on your network they can pivot to them (infect them with
malware using your computer as a spring board of sorts) and use them to get
your IP address. A lot of Internet enabled household devices have cameras on
them (your smart TV, your Xbox, and your high tech baby monitor to name a few)
and said cameras can potentially be leveraged against you. It is in your best
interest to not have any other machines running on your home network while you
are working. Also, change your wi-fi password every once in awhile and make
sure that the password on the administrative interface of your router is
something other than the out-of-the-box default. If your computer gets
compromised, logging into your router using username “admin” and password
“admin” is elementary for a moderately skilled attacker. Most modern routers
list their WAN IP address on their control panels.

Regardless of where you decide to work, be aware of mirrors and glass picture
frames near your workplace. In the right light, both of these items have the
potential to reflect crystal clear images of your screen to onlookers across
the room. In addition to this, understand that modern cell phones are your
worst enemy. Not only are they always going to be the weakest link in your
security setup, but if they are somehow compromised they are equipped with a
camera and microphone. Recent studies suggest that it is possible for smart
phones to listen to the high pitched noise your CPU makes and deduce your PGP
private key. Furthermore, the metadata collected by your phone coupled with
pattern analysis techniques could potentially allow your government to link
your real life and online personas together after some time. We will discuss
this in depth later. Leave your phones at home and if possible keep all phones,
yours or otherwise, far away from your computer. Other portable devices such as
iPods and tablets potentially pose the same risk that phones do and should be
treated the same.

(2) Hardware:

Modern computers come equipped with microphones, speakers (which can be used as
microphones under the right circumstances), and cameras. All of these features
can potentially be leveraged to identify you if your computer is compromised.
To mitigate these risks, these features should be physically removed. Your
computer’s microphone and speakers should be ripped out of it, but you should
not rip out your web cam, as it will alter the outward appearance of your
computer and potentially draw attention to you. Instead, open your computer’s
screen and snip the wires that connect to your web cam. Wrap the ends of the
wires in electrical tape so sparks do not jump in between them. If you must
listen to an audio file while working, use headphones. Only keep your
headphones plugged into your computer when you are using them. The computer you
use for your hacktivist activities also should not contain a hard drive, as
they are unnecessary for our purposes.

(3) Software:

Always use a TOR enabled Linux live system when working. At the present moment,
Tails (The Amnesiac Incognito Live System) is by far the best live distribution
for your purposes. You can read more about TOR at www.torproject.org and you
can read more about acquiring, setting up, and using Tails at tails.boum.org.
The Tails operating system lives on a USB flash drive. Every time you start up
your computer, you must first insert your Tails flash drive into it. The Tails
website will guide you through making said flash drive. Tails will
automatically direct all of your outgoing traffic into the TOR network in an
effort to hide your IP address. If you use Tails you will be completely
anonymous and be able to work with impunity provided that:

* You keep your Tails USB up to date. New versions of the Tails
operating system are released every few months.

* You do not login into your “real world” accounts while using Tails.
Do not check your Twitter feed while you are working.

* You do not use Tails to create an account with an alias that you have
used before. If you have been “0pwn” for the past seven years, now
is a good time to stop being 0pwn.

* You do not alter Tails’ default security settings. They are the way
they are for a reason.

* You do not use Tails to create an online account with a password that
you have used before. Doing this only makes deanonymizing you easier.

* You do not install and use random packages that “look cool”; they
could be miscellaneous. Only use packages and scripts that you trust.
Tails is not bullet proof.

* If you decide to set a sudo password when starting up Tails, make
sure that it is very strong.

* You stay conscious of metadata analysis techniques. We will discuss
these later.

* You switch exit nodes every ten to fifteen minutes. This can be done
by double clicking the little green onion in the upper right hand
corner of your Tails desktop and hitting the “Use a New Identity”
button.

* You follow the communication guidelines laid out later in this
document.

More information can be found on the Tails warning page: https://tails.boum.org/
doc/about/warning/index.en.html. Be aware that it is very easy for your ISP
(which is probably working closely with your government) to tell that you are
using both TOR and Tails. It is probably in your best interest to use something
called “TOR bridge mode”. You can read more about how to configure Tails to
use TOR bridges here: https://tails.boum.org/doc/first_steps/startup_options/
bridge_mode/index.en.html.

Tails is unique in that it has a special feature that wipes your computer’s
memory before it shuts down. This is done in order to mitigate risks associated
with the dreaded “cold boot attack” (a forensics method in which a suspects RAM
is ripped out of his or her computer and then thrown into a vat of liquid
nitrogen to preserve its contents for later analysis). This feature is also
triggered if you pull your Tails flash drive out of your computer while you are
working. If while you are working you ever feel that the authorities are about
to move in on you, even if you have a seemingly irrational gut feeling, yank
your Tails flash drive out of your computer. Tails also has a feature that
allows it to disguises itself as a Windows desktop. Using this feature in
public will reduce your risk of capture significantly.

(4) Mental:

A skilled attacker is well disciplined and knows that he must keep his actions
and skills a secret in order to remain safe from harm. Do not flaunt the fact
that you are dissatisfied with your government, a foreign government, or a
particular corporation. Do not attend protests. Do not publicly advertise the
fact that you have an above average aptitude for computer security offensive or
otherwise. And whatever you do, do not tell anyone, even someone you think you
can trust, that you are planning to launch an organized cyber-attack on any
organization, big or small. If you draw attention to yourself no amount of
security precautions will keep you safe. Keep your “real” life mentally
isolated from your “hacktivist” life. One lapse in operational security could
end you.

Be alert and focused. Remain mentally strong. Come to terms with the illegality
of your actions and what will happen to you if you are apprehended. As a wise
man once said, “A warrior considers himself already dead, so there is nothing
to lose. The worst has already happened to him, therefore he’s clear and calm;
judging him by his acts or by his words, one would never suspect that he has
witnessed everything.” It is perfectly acceptable to be paranoid, but do not
let that paranoia consume you and slow your work. Even if you are extremely
cautious and follow this document’s advice to the letter, you still may be
hunted down and incarcerated, tortured, or killed. Some countries do not take
kindly to hacktivists. It is best that you be honest with yourself from the
beginning. In order to operate effectively you must be able to think clearly
and see the world as it actually is.

(5) Pattern Related:

When your online persona is active your real life persona ceases to exist, and
an observant adversary can use this to their advantage. If your ISP, bank, and
mobile phone provider are “cooperating” with your government and allowing them
to browse through all of their records (a fair assumption in this day and age)
then, eventually, they will be able to deduce your real identity by comparing
everyone’s data to information about your online persona. If the government
looks backs on all of the records they have collected in the past year and
notice that you never make a credit card purchase, watch Netflix, go on your
Facebook, Google, or Twitter account, or change your physical location while
1337Hax0r64 is online on some anti-government forum on the deep web, they will
assume that you are 1337Hax0r64. Even information about your home network’s
bandwidth usage can give away your real identity.

Luckily, performing the type of metadata analysis attack described above takes
time, usually many months. It is very important that you change aliases often,
preferably every three or four months. Shed your old names like a snake sheds
its skin. When you do change your online name, make sure your new identity
can not be tied back to your old one.

DO NOT not launch cyber-attacks from your own computer. Launch attacks only
from hacked servers, servers purchased with washed bitcoins, or free shell
accounts. Certain types of cyber-attacks produce a large amount of traffic over
a short amount of time. If the bandwidth usage of your home network spikes at
the same instant that a government or corporate server is attacked, the time it
takes to deanonymize you is reduced significantly. This is especially true if
you launch multiple attacks on multiple occasions. Launching attacks in this
way can be mentally exhausting. Configuring a new attack server with your tool
set every time your old attack server is banned (an inevitable occurrence) can
be a tedious task indeed. I personally recommend creating a bash script to
automatically install your favorite tools to make this transition process
easier. Most hackers and offensive security professionals use under thirty
non-standard tools to do their job, so configuring a new server with everything
you need should not take very long if you know what you are doing. Consider
equipping your server with TOR and a VNC server (for tools that require GUIs
such as most popular intercepting proxies) as well.

(6) Archaeological:

You must insure that there is no forensics evidence of your actions, digital or
otherwise. If the government breaks into your house and rummages through your
things, they should find nothing interesting. Make sure that you never make any
physical notes pertaining to your hacktivist activities. Never keep any
computer files pertaining to your hacktivist activities in your home. Keep all
of your compromising files, notes, scripts, and unusual attack tools (the ones
that can not be installed with apt-get or the like), and stolen information in
the cloud. It is recommended that you keep all of your files backed up on
multiple free cloud storage providers so that in the event that one of the
providers bans your account you still have all of your data. Do not name your
cloud accounts in such a way that they can be connected back to your online
persona. Never, under any circumstances, mention the names or locations of your
cloud accounts to the people you work with. Always hit the “Use New Identity”
button on your TOR control panel after accessing your cloud storage solutions.
Every time you shed your old alias, shed your old cloud accounts.