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Wanted: Cyber Warriors and Media Sanitizers

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Harconen
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« on: July 23, 2009, 08:53:56 pm »

Wanted: Cyber Warriors and Media Sanitizers

By Kim Zetter  July 22, 2009  |  5:57 pm  |  Categories: Cyber Warfare




Defense and intelligence contractor Raytheon is moving into the lucrative realm of cyber warfare, and wants to hire hundreds of “cyber warriors” to “play offense and defense,” according to an advertisement on the company’s web site.

“President Obama recently announced that cyber security is one of our country’s most urgent national security priorities,” reads the ad. “Raytheon is answering that call by hiring more cyber warriors this year to help fight the digital cyber war.”

The ad says the company has 250 positions available in its Intelligence and Information Systems (IIS) division. The jobs are for, among others, reverse engineers, kernel developers, and vulnerability and intrusion detection engineers. Raytheon also has positions available for something called “media sanitation specialists.”

The latter probably refers to workers skilled at erasing data from hard drives and other storage, rather than to workers capable of spinning the company’s message to journalists.  But Raytheon did not respond to a call seeking clarification.

Several defense contractors, including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) have recently been buying up smaller computer security firms in an effort to obtain billions of federal dollars coming into play as the government begins to ramp up its efforts to protect government, military and private critical infrastructure networks from attack.

Last month, the Defense Department announced the creation of a unified cyber command center to be located at the National Security Agency’s Maryland headquarters and headed by NSA Lt. General Keith Alexander. The command center will be responsible for protecting military networks and for developing cyber warfare weapons and strategies.

Raytheon purchased three computer network security firms (Oakley Networks, SI Government Solutions and Telemus Solutions Inc) in the last two years to build up its cyber security capabilities, and announced plans last December to add 300 more security engineers to its stable in 2009.

All of the positions mentioned in the company’s ad are in Linthicum and Fort Meade, Maryland, home of the NSA; Melbourne, Florida; Northern Virginia (various locations); and Garland, Texas, headquarters for Raytheon’s IIS division. The latter was also, for a brief time in 2000, the base of operations for a data mining project Raytheon conducted for the Defense Department’s Able Danger program, a counter-terrorism program set up prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks that was later faulted for failing to connect 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta to Al Qaeda.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/07/raytheon/#comments

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Harconen
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« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2009, 09:00:07 pm »



That commenter on your blog may actually be working for the Israeli government


Posted on July 14 2009 by Cecilie Surasky under Government , Media. 

Straight out of Avigdor Lieberman’s Foreign Ministry: a new Internet Fighting Team! Israeli students and demobilized soldiers get paid to pretend they are just regular folks and leave pro-Israel comments on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other sites. The effort is meant to fight the “well-oiled machine” of “pro-Palestinian websites, with huge budgets… with content from the Hamas news agency.” The approach was test-marketed during Israel’s assault on Gaza, and by groups like Give Israel Your United Support, a controversial effort to use instant-access technology to crowd-source Israel advocates to fill in flash polls or vote up key articles on social networking sites.

Will the responders who are hired for this also present themselves as “ordinary net-surfers”?

“Of course,” says Shturman. “Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the policy-explanation department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis. They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the Foreign Ministry developed.”

The full article, translated by Occupation Magazine into English here:

The Foreign Ministry presents: talkbackers in the service of the State
By: Dora Kishinevski
Calcalist 5 July 2009

Translated for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

After they became an inseparable part of the service provided by public-relations companies and advertising agencies, paid Internet talkbackers are being mobilized in the service in the service of the State. The Foreign Ministry is in the process of setting up a team of students and demobilized soldiers who will work around the clock writing pro-Israeli responses on Internet websites all over the world, and on services like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The Foreign Ministry’s department for the explanation of Israeli policy* is running the project, and it will be an integral part of it. The project is described in the government budget for 2009 as the “Internet fighting team” – a name that was given to it in order to distinguish it from the existing policy-explanation team, among other reasons, so that it can receive a separate budget. Even though the budget’s size has not yet been disclosed to the public, sources in the Foreign Ministry have told Calcalist that in will be about NIS 600.000 in its first year, and it will be increased in the future. From the primary budget, about NIS 200.000 will be invested in round-the-clock activity at the micro-blogging website Twitter, which was recently featured in the headlines for the services it provided to demonstrators during the recent disturbances in Iran.


“To all intents and purposes the Internet is a theatre in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we must be active in that theatre, otherwise we will lose,” Elan Shturman, deputy director of the policy-explanation department in the Foreign Ministry, and who is directly responsible for setting up the project, says in an interview with Calcalist. “Our policy-explanation achievements on the Internet today are impressive in comparison to the resources that have been invested so far, but the other side is also investing resources on the Internet. There is an endless array of pro-Palestinian websites, with huge budgets, rich with information and video clips that everyone can download and post on their websites. They are flooding the Internet with content from the Hamas news agency. It is a well-oiled machine. Our objective is to penetrate into the world in which these discussions are taking place, where reports and videos are published – the blogs, the social networks, the news websites of all sizes. We will introduce a pro-Israeli voice into those places. What is now going on in Iran is the proof of the need for such an operational branch,” adds Shturman. “It’s not like a group of friends is going to bring down the government with Twitter messages, but it does help to expand the struggle to vast dimensions.”

The missions: “monitoring” and “fostering discussions”

The Foreign Ministry intends to recruit youths who speak at least one foreign language and who are studying communications, political science or law, or alternatively those whose military background is in units that deal with information analysis. “It is a youthful language”, explains Shturman. “Older people do not know how to write blogs, how to act there, what the accepted norms are. The basic conditions are a high capacity for expression in English – we also have French- and Swedish-speakers – and familiarity with the online milieu. We are looking for people who are already writing blogs and circulating in Facebook”.

Members of the new unit will work at the Ministry (“They will punch a time card,” says Shturman) and enjoy the full technical support of Tahila, the government’s ISP, which is responsible for computer infrastructure and Internet services for government departments. “Their missions will be defined along the lines of the government policies that they will be required to defend on the Internet. It could be the situation in Gaza, the situation in the north or whatever is decided. We will determine which international audiences we want to reach through the Internet and the strategy we will use to reach them, and the workers will implement that on in the field. Of course they will not distribute official communiquיs; they will draft the conversations themselves. We will also activate an Internet-monitoring team – people who will follow blogs, the BBC website, the Arabic websites.”

According to Shturman the project will begin with a limited budget, but he has plans to expand the team and its missions: “the new centre will also be able to support Israel as an economic and commercial entity,” he says. “Alternative energy, for example, now interests the American public and Congress much more than the conflict in the Middle East. If through my team I can post in blogs dealing with alternative energy and push the names of Israeli companies there, I will strengthen Israel’s image as a developed state that contributes to the quality of the environment and to humanity, and along with that I may also manage to help an Israeli company get millions of dollars worth of contracts. The economic potential here is great, but for that we will require a large number of people. What is unique about the Internet is the fragmentation into different communities, every community deals with what interests it. To each of those communities you have to introduce material that is relevant to it.”

The inspiration: covert advertising on the Internet

The Foreign Ministry admits that the inspiration comes from none other than the much-reviled field of compensated commercial talkback: employees of companies and public-relations firms who post words of praise on the Internet for those who sent them there – the company that is their employer or their client. The professional responders normally identify themselves as chance readers of the article they are responding to or as “satisfied customers” of the company they are praising.

Will the responders who are hired for this also present themselves as “ordinary net-surfers”?

“Of course,” says Shturman. “Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the policy-explanation department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis. They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the Foreign Ministry developed.”
Test-firing in the Gaza War
According to Shturman, although it is only now that the project is receiving a budget and a special department in the Foreign Ministry, in practice the Ministry has been using its own responders since the last war in Gaza, when the Ministry recruited volunteer talkbackers. “During Operation Cast Lead we appealed to Jewish communities abroad and with their help we recruited a few thousand volunteers, who were joined by Israeli volunteers. We gave them background material and policy-explanation material, and we sent them to represent the Israeli point of view on news websites and in polls on the Internet,” says Shturman. “Our target audience then was the European Left, which was not friendly towards the policy of the government. For that reason we began to get involved in discussions on blogs in England, Spain and Germany, a very hostile environment.”
And how much change have you effected so far?
“It is hard to prove success in this kind of activity, but it is clear that we succeeded in bypassing the European television networks, which are very critical of Israel, and we have created direct dialogues with the public.”
What things have you done there exactly?
“For example, we sent someone to write in the website of a left-wing group in Spain. He wrote ‘it is not exactly as you say.’ Someone at the website replied to him, and we replied again, we gave arguments, pictures. Dialogue like that opens people’s eyes.”
Elon Gilad, a worker at the Foreign Ministry who coordinated the activities of the volunteer talkbackers during the war in Gaza and will coordinate the activities of the professional talkbackers in the new project, says that volunteering for talkback in defence of Israel started spontaneously: “Many times people contacted us and asked how they could help to explain Israeli policy. They mainly do it at times like the Gaza operation. People just asked for information, and afterwards we saw that the information was distributed all over the Internet. The Ministry of Absorption also started a project at that time, and they transferred to us hundreds of volunteers who speak foreign languages and who will help to spread the information. That project too mainly spreads information on the Internet.”
“You can’t win”
While most of the net-surfers were recruited through websites like giyus.org, which was officially activated by a Jewish lobby [and has basically the same goal and modus operandi], in some cases is it was the Foreign Ministry that took the initiative to contact the surfers and asked them to post talkbacks sympathetic to the State and the government [of Israel] on the Internet and to help recruit volunteers. That’s how Michal Carmi, an active blogger and associate general manager at the high-tech placement company Tripletec, was recruited to the online policy-explanation team.
“During Operation Cast Lead the Foreign Ministry wrote to me and other bloggers and asked us to make our opinions known on the international stage as well,” Carmi tells Calcalist. “They sent us pages with ‘taking points’ and a great many video clips. I focussed my energies on Facebook, and here and there I wrote responses on blogs where words like ‘Holocaust’ and ‘murder’ were used in connection with Israel’s Gaza action. I had some very hard conversations there. Several times the Foreign Ministry also recommended that we access specific blogs and get involved in the discussions that were taking place there.”
And does it work? Does it have any effect?
“I am not sure that that strategy was correct. The Ministry did excellent work, they sent us a flood of accurate information, but it focussed on Israeli suffering and the threat of the missiles. But the view of the Europeans is one-dimensional. Israeli suffering does not seem relevant to them compared to Palestinian suffering.”
“You can never win in this struggle. All you can do is be there and express your position,” is how Gilad sums up the effectiveness so far, as well as his expectations of the operation when it begins to receive a government budget.
(*)  “department for the explanation of Israeli policy” is a translation of only two words in the original Hebrew text: “mahleqet ha-hasbara” – literally, “the department of explanation”. Israeli readers require no elaboration. Henceforth in this article, “hasbara” will be translated as “policy-explanation”. It may also be translated as “public diplomacy” or “propaganda” – trans.
gm

http://www.muzzlewatch.com/2009/07/14/that-angry-commenter-on-your-blog-may-actually-be-working-for-the-israeli-government/
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« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2009, 09:14:02 pm »

Behind the Cyberattacks on America and South Korea. "Rogue" Hacker, Black Op or Both?


The iconic American investigative journalist I.F. Stone once said, "All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed." Stone's credo is all the more relevant today when it comes to the pronouncements of intelligence agencies and their corporate masters, particularly where official enemies are concerned.

A widespread computer attack that began July 4 took down several U.S. Government, South Korean and financial web sites, the Associated Press reported.

Multiple media reports claim that the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Department of Transportation web sites were struck by a distributed denial of service (DDOS) assault that began last Saturday.

According to Computerworld, "a botnet comprised of about 50,000 infected computers has been waging a war against U.S. government Web sites and causing headaches for businesses in the U.S. and South Korea." The magazine reported July 7, "on Saturday and Sunday the attack was consuming 20 to 40 gigabytes of bandwidth per second, about 10 times the rate of a typical DDoS attack, one security expert said after being briefed by the US-CERT on Tuesday. 'It's the biggest I've seen'."

This is particularly embarrassing to DHS since the agency's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (U.S.-CERT) is responsible for preventing illegal hacking forays on government networks.

Attacks were also reported on the White House, the Department of Defense, the State Department, The Washington Post, U.S. Bancorp, the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. Affected sites in South Korea included those of the presidential Blue House, the Ministry of Defense, the National Assembly, Shinhan Bank, the newspaper Chosun Ilbo. South Korea's top Internet Service Provider, Naver.com crashed on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

Despite the unsophisticated nature of the cyber incursion that employed a variant of the MyDoom virus, unnamed "senior U.S. officials" told The Wall Street Journal that American and South Korean officials are "probing North Korea's possible role." The same anonymous sources said that the botnet attack "coincided with North Korea's latest missile launches and followed a United Nations decision to impose new sanctions."

That the cyber assault also "coincided" with a holiday fireworks accident that killed 5 workers in North Carolina, multiple deaths due to drunk driving on U.S. highways or an Italian railway disaster that claimed 21 lives, is hardly "evidence" of Pyongyang's shadowy hand.

Nevertheless, South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS), the successor organization to the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), was quick to blame the troglodytic Stalinist regime for the blitz. However, the opposition Democratic Party "accused the spy agency of spreading unsubstantiated rumors to whip up support for a new anti-terrorism bill that would give it more power."

In a media statement NIS said: "This is not a simple attack by an individual hacker, but appears to be thoroughly planned and executed by a specific organization or on a state level."

But given the nature of the event, not all cybersecurity specialists are convinced of a North Korean provenance. Amit Yoran, the former director of DHS' National Cybersecurity Division told Federal Computer Week: "I think at this point it is highly unlikely, highly improbable that any reliable attack-attribution data is available. It's a very intense process and it could take weeks. ... The analysis here--both technical and nontechnical--is not trivial and takes time."

In other words, NIS pronouncements should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. After all, this is an agency with a repressive pedigree and its own dodgy agenda. "Trained-up fierce" by the CIA and the Pentagon, the South Korean intelligence service has been involved in some of the worst human rights abuses in East Asia.

According to a series of reports by investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, the agency was involved in the mass murder of their own citizens. In 1980, the Army's feared "Black Beret" Special Forces and the KCIA were given a "green light" by Washington to suppress a pro-democracy uprising in the southern city of Kwangju in which some 2,000 students and workers were massacred; hundreds more were "disappeared," tortured and imprisoned.

And with hostilities between Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang steadily on the rise, one cannot rule out the possibility that the cyberattacks are an exploitable entré by enterprising security agencies for further escalating the current crisis. Recent U.S. history is replete with examples of "intelligence and facts ... being fixed around the policy."
« Last Edit: July 23, 2009, 09:15:47 pm by Harconen » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2009, 09:16:42 pm »

Fitting North Korea into the Frame

While the cyberassault "seemed to have come from South Korea," The Wall Street Journal reports that American and South Korean officials are "trying to assess whether this is some random attack or the North Koreans might be working through a proxy, said the official."

Just as likely however, someone or some entity may be trying to fit the repressive Stalinist regime into the frame.

Maneuvering to transform the thin gruel of fact into a meatier stew, Rodger Baker, the director of East Asian analysis at Stratfor, a private think-tank that describes itself as "the world leader in global intelligence" told Reuters the "timing of the cyber attacks raised suspicions about North Korea because it was around the U.S. Independence Day holiday and Pyongyang conducting missile tests."

Another "expert," Nicholas Eberstadt, a senior researcher at the rightist American Enterprise Institute (AEI), linked the cyber blitz to a recent flurry of missile tests as well as to North Korea's recent test of a nuclear device. He told Asia Times: "The general purpose was clear. When one looks at the nuclear chessboard, their security is integrally tied to cyber-warfare. ... This strategy fits in integrally with tests of atomic devices."

Eberstadt's proof? He has none, but handily furnishes us with a speculative worst-case scenario that has the North launching a massive artillery and missile attack on major U.S. bases "in tandem with a full-scale cyber-offensive." In other words, Eberstadt has conjured up a digital bogeyman to scare the kiddies.

Such pronouncements are all the more remarkable given the decrepit state of the North's technological infrastructure. Computerworld reported July 10, there "are just over a million telephone lines installed in the country of 26 million people, home PCs are rare and Internet access is heavily restricted."

While the country has made IT expertise a priority, the publication averred that "North Korea's sophistication in hacking makes it less likely to be behind the attacks."

Despite something as trivial as evidence, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, urged President Obama to launch a cyber attack against North Korea.

Hoekstra told the right-wing America's Morning News radio show on Friday, "some of the best people in America" had been investigating the attacks and have concluded that "all the fingers" point to North Korea as the culprit.

That Hoekstra's comments were showcased by the radio mouthpiece of The Washington Times, speak volumes to the agenda being pushed here.

The far-right news outlet is a wholly-owned subsidiary of clerical-fascist, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church empire. With long-standing ties to Japanese and Korean fascists and war criminals, including reputed yakuza capo tutti capos Ryoichi Sasakawa and Yoshio Kodama, "Moon's Korea-based church got its first boost as an international organization when Kim Jong-Pil, the founder of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, brokered a relationship between Moon and ... Japan's leading rightist financiers," according to a definitive series of reports by investigative journalist Robert Parry.

Added Hoekstra, North Korea should be "sent a strong message."

"Whether it is a counterattack on cyber, whether it is, you know, more international sanctions ... but it is time for America and South Korea, Japan and others to stand up to North Korea or the next time ... they will go in and shut down a banking system or they will manipulate financial data or they will manipulate the electrical grid, either here or in South Korea," Hoekstra said. "Or they will try to, and they may miscalculate, and people could be killed."

Hoekstra's provocative statements echo remarks offered up by STRATCOM commander General Kevin Chilton. In May, Chilton suggested that "the White House retains the option to respond with physical force--potentially even using nuclear weapons--if a foreign entity conducts a disabling cyber attack against U.S. computer networks," according to a disturbing report published by Global Security Newswire.

And with a vested interest in blaming their historic enemy for the cyberstrike, enterprising defense and security grifters on the southern side of the 38th parallel--and in Washington--have been hyping reports that the Stalinist regime is building a "cyber division" within the North Korean army.

Indeed, Bloomberg News reported that "South Korea's Defense Ministry plans to spend 489 billion won ($382 million) next year to beef up its defense against cyber warfare, the ministry said in a budget report today."

Who might benefit from such a large expenditure of public funds? Why private U.S. defense and security corporations of course!

Amongst the largest U.S. firms doing business with the South Korean Ministry of Defense, one finds the usual suspects. These include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, L3 Communications and Booz Allen Hamilton to name but a few of the dozens of corporations with a stake in the South Korean military bazaar. That all of the above-named entities are heavily-leveraged in the emerging cybersecurity market is hardly a coincidence.

The Korean Herald reported in its July 10 edition that "some experts here [are] now fingering hackers in the United States" as the culprits. Hong Min-pyo, the CEO of the security software firm Shiftworks who forensically examined the virus, "raised the possibility of the distributed denial of service attacks originating from a locale in the United States, which also was hit by the attacks."

Unlike corporate media here in the heimat, the Herald referenced critics who warned "against politicizing the latest cyber infections," including opposition Democratic Party lawmakers who "protested the passing of the anti-cyber terrorism bill citing invasion of privacy and internet censorship." The opposition demanded the government "offer concrete evidence to prove that North Korea was involved in the latest attacks."

But given the right-wing political offense currently underway in Seoul and Washington, opposition lawmakers may have a very long wait.
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« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2009, 09:17:57 pm »

A Sociopath with a Keyboard and a Grudge ... or Something More Sinister?

The unsophisticated nature of the attack should have alerted the media that any number of bad actors, particularly cybercriminals who specialize in transforming computers into zombie machines, or botnets, for their own nefarious purposes were prime suspects.

Computerworld reported July 8, that "an updated version of the MyDoom virus is responsible for a large DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack that took down major U.S. Web sites over the weekend and South Korean Web sites on Wednesday, according to Korean computer security company AhnLab."

Since its 2004 appearance, MyDoom has become "the fasted-spreading e-mail worm in Internet history." When a PC is infected with MyDoom, malicious code enables the program to harvest email addresses and mail itself out endlessly, the publication reports. According to AhnLab, the latest version contains an additional file with a list of web sites to be attacked.

Computerworld reported July 9, that infected systems also contain a destructive Trojan "programmed to encrypt user data or reformat the hard drive of a PC," thus erasing the evidence.

Joe Stewart, a researcher with SecureWorks who examined the code, told Computerworld that the botnet "does not use typical antivirus evasion techniques and does not appear to have been written by a professional malware writer."

Stewart told the publication that it is unusual to see low-profile state web sites being hit. "Who goes around targeting a site like the FAA or the U.S. Treasury? It's not something that most people would think to attack."

When contacted Friday for an update, Stewart told Computerworld there is "still zero evidence of North Korean involvement." Though relatively lengthy in duration, Stewart believes the attack could have been launched by a single person.

Who then might attack "low-profile web sites" such as the Federal Trade Commission for example?

According to Wired, the FTC shut down an Internet Service Provider for its illegal and highly-lucrative hosting practices.

Identified as a "Black Hat" firm variously known as "Pricewert," "3fn.net" and "APS Telecom" the company was accused by the FTC June 3 of "actively recruiting" to its hosting service "thousands of 'rogue' web sites distributing 'illegal, malicious, and harmful electronic content including child ****ography, spyware, viruses, trojan horses, phishing, botnet command and control servers, and ****ography featuring violence, bestiality, and incest'."

Wired reported that the company "had thousands of servers" in the San Jose, Calif. area and the firm "actively shields its criminal clientele by either ignoring take-down requests issued by the online security community or shifting its criminal clients to other internet protocol addresses controlled by Pricewert so that they may evade detection."

The Washington Post reported June 3, that "Botnet experts ... have found that 3FN housed many of the command and control networks for 'Cutwail,' one of the world's largest spam botnets. As late as mid-April, Joe Stewart, a botnet expert and director of malware research at SecureWorks, tracked nearly a dozen Cutwail control networks hosted at 3FN."

Which raises an uncomfortable question for security "experts" hyping North Korea's alleged "cybersecurity threat:" were the past week's attacks the work of a sociopath with a keyboard and a grudge, particularly if one of his/her botnets lost the critical command and control hubs that make spam, an illicit drugs market and Internet **** profitably sizzle?

While we may never know who actually launched the incursions, we just might have a slight inkling of who'll benefit. As Antifascist Calling reported July 6, plans are already afoot to roll-out Einstein 3, a Bush-era surveillance program to screen state computer traffic on private-sector networks.

In partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency, communications, defense and security firms such as AT&T, General Dynamics, L3 Communications, MCI, Qwest, Sprint and Verizon stand to make billions from contracts under the government's Managed Trusted Internet Protocol Services (MTIPS) program with its built-in "Einstein domain."

http://antifascist-calling.blogspot.com/2009/07/behind-cyberattacks-on-america-and.html
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