Network Politics, Introduction: Net-Attacks and Counter-Attacks

Note: This is a selection from Network Politics, a tdaxp series.

network_politics_md

How a Bookmaker and a Whiz Kid Took On an Extortionist — and Won,” by Scott Berinato, CSO Magazine, May 2005, http://www.csoonline.com/read/050105/extortion.html (from slashdot).

I’ve been diagramming a lot of different network attacks lately, so it’s neat to read a story about an real-life net attack and counterattack.

It started off with four classes of nodes. An Enemy (blue), conscripted attackers (dark grey), a victim node (light grey), and a Protagonist (red). Visually

medium_net_attack0.jpg

The Enemy wanted to extort several dozen thousand dollars from the Protagonist. To do this, he put malicious computer code on many innocent computers, making them “zombies.” At will he could have his zombies attack the victim node — the Protagonist’s web server. This was DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack that prevented the Protagonist’s computer from serving the outside world — disconnecting the Protagonist from his potential customers. The Enemy is directly communications his demands to the Protagonist.


Then, the Protagonist escalated. The Protagonist hired a Mercenary (pink). The Mercenary’s first task was to build a network of defenders (middle grey), which stands between the Enemy’s attackers and the Protagonist’s server. While this does not end the attack, it prevents serious harm as the Enemy’s distributed attacks are now met by distributed defense. The Protagonist and the Mercenary have friendly direct communication, while Enemy is still directly threatening the Protagonist. Visually:

medium_net_attack1.jpg

The Mercenary then began the counter-attack. He establishes direct friendly communication with the Enemy, lying about his identity. He determines the physical location of the Enemy — Russia. The Mercenary now co-opts his own networks of attackers — the Russian police (yellow).

In the coup de grace, the Protagonist attacks the Enemy through the Russian police. Visually:

medium_net_attack2.jpg

The end state? The attacker zombie nodes are liberated, the Enemy is pacified, the Mercenary has links to both a network of attackers and network of defenders, and the Protagonist can conduct his business safely.

medium_net_attack3.jpg

Thoughts to ponder:

  • While the story is about a technological attack on a gambling site, the network diagrams could tell many stories. The same diagrams can be used to examine the assassination of an Afghan tribal chief, the take-down of an insurgent network, a Chinese bandit moving into a valley, &c
  • In the story the Mercenary is altruistic. But assuming he is not, is the Protagonist now in more or less danger than during the original attack? How much potential power does the Mercenary have over the Protagonist?
  • In the story, the Enemy’s attacks are horizontal (devastating, but nonviolent and peer-to-peer) while the Mercenary’s counterattack is vertical (violent, resulting in imprisonment by men with guns). Nonetheless, a successful attack by the Enemy would have been devastating. Can horizontal and vertical attacks be equally destructive?
  • Note that the Enemy has lost all power in the final chart, because he is completely disconnected. The power dynamic has completely changed with all the same nodes still in place. Disconnectedness defines danger. Does connectedness define safety? Power?

Update: Welcome Thomas P.M. Barnett readers. I created this post by combining my graduate study in computer science with political science concepts. If you enjoyed this post, see also my History, Political and Military Doctrine and Connectivity sections.

Question about this post? Confidentially email tdaxp.

Update 28 October 2005: A new version of this analysis, looking at Speaker Hastert’s blog attack on oil companies, is now available.


Network Politics, a tdaxp series
Introduction: Net-Attacks and Counter-Attacks
Part 1, 0GW / 4GW: Iraqi Sunnis
Part 2, 0GW / 4GW: Christian Conservatives
Part 3, 1GW / 4GW: George Soros
Part 4, 2GW / 4GW: Social Security
Part 5, 4GW / 4GW: John Kerry

8 thoughts on “Network Politics, Introduction: Net-Attacks and Counter-Attacks”

  1. “Explicit laws cannot hold a society together. I now see explicit laws as vertical forces and vertical forces are, in the end, no match for horizontal forces. T”

    I agree that horizontal-implicit is stronger, but horizontal laws can also be explicit. Most religious communities in the United States have very explicit controls/rule-sets which tie the community together. Horizontal-explicit rules fill voids in the lives of many.

    Thoughts?

  2. On further examination of explicit laws, I feel my last paragraph is wrong in my May 7 posting:
    “A society can be held together with explicit laws, but, because explicit laws are always changing, the harmony, or frequency of the lightwave, is jagged and sometime destructive (civil war). Therefore, ways to keep the society in harmony are always being invented and reinvented, consciously or unconsciously. I guess that kind of brings us back to my discussion of 1984, the book, from another posting. Orwell is describing the ultimate way to keep a harmonically challenged society from tearing its’ oneself apart, us.”

    Explicit laws cannot hold a society together. I now see explicit laws as vertical forces and vertical forces are, in the end, no match for horizontal forces. The problem with our harmonically challenged society is not that it is held together with explicit laws. The problem is that it has two different sets of horizontal forces combined in one society and using one set of implicit laws. This defies the physics law of matter occupying only one space at one time. What makes this seemingly impossible situation possible is that the horizontal forces use only one set of implicit laws so the harmony is the same. The difference is that there are two vertical forces supported by the two different horizontal forces. Because vertical forces act on horizontal forces, the problem of harmony is born because each vertical force acts against the other common horizontal force.

    One horizontal force is communal and the other one individualistic. This leads to discourse not only because each vertical force acts on the other horizontal force, but also because each horizontal force naturally move between totalitarian and individualistic; between communal and anarchy; and back.

    If it were not for the vertical force attributes of explicit laws, explicit laws would be able to hold societies together. As it is, they would only be a temporary fix.

    I still agree with my Orwell statement.

  3. The one thing wrong with the last graph is that it shows you are still networked with the Russia police. I don’t mean it is drawn wrong; I mean one problem is that you are now networked with the Russian police. How do you know it wasn’t the Russian police to begin with, and their objective was to get networked with someone in the gaming industry?

    You show no lines off the yellow blocks of the Russian police still attached to the enemy. Even if it was legit, I would expect to see either lawyer, family members and other partners with the enemy still attached to the Russian Police. In fact when the enemy is let go by the police, he now takes a piece of your company and begins another attack somewhere else.

    I’m trying to see a win-win situation here and it is hard to see. The mercenary is now stronger than your enemy was. The enemy, if he survives, is now just a little smarter than before. You also have the fact you are dealing with, at least in some context, the Russian police. My guess is you will suffer another attack simply because there are too many people relying on the enemy to attack so they can be rewarded.

    Go Apple?

  4. Hi Mark

    A couple years ago I had to take a physics course, physics 201, to complete my associate’s degree requirement in mechanical engineering. I wasn’t able to take PHY 202 but was able to take PHY 203 and it was better than the first term. The courses were illuminating for me and I haven’t been able to turn my mind off since. I hope that doesn’t sound too weird, but what I mean is that I ended my training, to become a mechanical technician, studying cylinder regeneration as a means for water desalinization. I studied cylinder regeneration for about a year and It turned out my idea was just the opposite of what was needed and someone else had the correct idea. While the project was disappointing, the amount of analysis I had to use to completely understand cylinder regeneration was tremendous, at least for me. To understand cylinder regeneration you need to understand the energy equation, and quantum physics.

    It is my guess that the reason physicists maybe able to comprehend your theories so well is because there is only one science and that science is physics. That is not to say that history or political science is not science, what I mean to say is that political science is basic physics.

    Of course this is only my theory. Physics is basically about: the sum of all forces is equal to zero, or the sum of all forces is not equal to zero. When all the forces are equal to zero you have no movement. When the forces are not equal you then have movement. I believe the horizontal and vertical components of society are forces and can be examined as forces. That is why I say political science is basic physics.

    The vertical component and horizontal component of society are forces. The vertical force destroys, or not, horizontal forces. The horizontal force fans out in all directions horizontally and supports its own vertical force, and forms its base. The defining boundaries of the horizontal force depend on how all the pieces fit together, or harmony of the society. The vertical and horizontal forces now form a society and are equal in strength. The implicit laws of that society act like the frequency of a particle-wave to combine the two forces into a strong society. Without frequency there is no particle-wave. Without implicit laws there is no society.

    A society can be held together with explicit laws, but, because explicit laws are always changing, the harmony, or frequency of the lightwave, is jagged and sometime destructive (civil war). Therefore, ways to keep the society in harmony are always being invented and reinvented, consciously or unconsciously. I guess that kind of brings us back to my discussion of 1984, the book, from another posting. Orwell is describing the ultimate way to keep a harmonically challenged society from tearing its’ oneself apart, us.

  5. In regards to your bullet point:
    In the story, the Enemy's attacks are horizontal (devastating, but nonviolent and peer-to-peer) while the Mercenary's counterattack is vertical (violent, resulting in imprisonment by men with guns). Nonetheless, a successful attack by the Enemy would have been devastating. Can horizontal and vertical attacks be equally destructive?

    I can see how horizontal and vertical attacks can be equal, however I believe the horizontal attack to be exponentially more so. When you say nonviolent and peer-to-peer it sounds like it has less importance. While it maybe nonviolent, I believe its potential for destruction is far greater than that of the vertical attack. While they may have killed or captured the attacker, did they actually destroy the conditions that produced the attacker? While the short-term solution was effective, it didn’t equal the amount of destruction the attacker could have caused. In other words it is a matter of diminishing returns by simply going after the attacker all the time.

    I see the vertical and horizontal parts of society as electro magnetic radiation or a particle-wave. A particle-wave is made up of potential energy. The magnetic potential acts like the vertical society. Vertically it acts like a particle and creates the “punch” similar to how wars act.

    The electrical potential acts similar to the horizontal society. Whither the horizontal component is destroyed, destroys, or coexists depends on its frequency or harmony that it has on both inside and outside forces.

    If you can actually compare horizontal and vertical societies to a particle-wave, the important comparison would be between the two horizontal and vertical components. While the vertical component packs the punch, it is the horizontal component that really does the damage. This is because if you double the vertical component you double the impact the particle-wave has on its surroundings. However if you double the frequency you have 4 times the intensity of the particle-wave. This is because the horizontal component has area. The vertical component has only height or amplitude but the horizontal component spreads out in all directions, which gives it an area of interest. Anything with area has to have an exponent in it.

    I think it was Mark Safranski who said to watch out for things that change exponentially because a rule-set re-set is about to happen. While the vertical and horizontal components of a particle-wave are equal in force, the horizontal one really predicts whither the particle-wave lives or dies. I think the same can be said about a vertical or horizontal attack. It is not how many times you destroy the attacker; it is the condition of the homeland that is important. I think connectedness does define both safety and power; you just have to watch who you connect with.

  6. Larry wrote:

    ” While the vertical component packs
    the punch, it is the horizontal component that really does the damage.”

    In this sentence Larry just summarized why a System Perturbation attack or event is so devastating.

    Very well done ! I'm going to have email this one to Tom.

    Larry, how long has your interest been in physics ? In my experience physicists tend to swiftly ” get” the Sys Perturb. concept in PNM and grasp the implications faster than most ppl.

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