Information Warfare: Instant Hacker In A Box


May 28, 2009: Expanding on a hacker analysis tool (COFEE, or Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor)  Microsoft developed for the police and military two years ago, there's now a similar tool that enables a non-hacker to analyze wireless network activity, and determine which targets can be attacked with a variety of hacker tools and weapons. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has several teams (including one from the navy and another from the air force) developing versions of this cyberattack system.

The navy and air force involvement makes sense because both services have been developing similar tools for electronic warfare, particularly for aircraft. These systems tend to be largely automatic, as pilots, or even weapons officers in the back seat of a fighter, don't have a lot of time to work a screen full of options. It's different with penetrating or disrupting Internet type wireless networks. These would be encountered by ground troops, both in combat, or on patrol. The cyberattack system has to be simple enough for a soldier to learn how to use it with minimal (a few hours) instruction, but flexible and powerful enough for a more experience operator to get the most out of it.

This concept was first tested two years ago, when Microsoft Corporation quietly introduced a powerful tool for getting past security on laptops and PCs running the Windows operations system (which about 90 percent do). The device was a USB thumb drive called COFEE. When you capture an enemy computer, you plug in COFEE and then use over a hundred software tools to quickly get whatever information is on the machine. COFEE can quickly reveal passwords, decrypt files, reveal recent Internet activity and much more. A lot of this can be done without COFEE, but with the Microsoft device, intelligence collection is a lot faster.

Microsoft has distributed thousands of COFEE devices to police and military intelligence personnel in the United States, and some foreign countries. COFEE was developed mainly to assist the investigation of Internet based crime. But military intelligence operators find it very useful in uncovering enemy plans quickly, so additional raids can be quickly made. Islamic terrorists love their laptops, and never go killing without them. The success and popularity of COFFEE got the ball rolling on similar tools for other aspects of Cyber War.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close