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COMMENT: Due to the limitations of time, we were not able to devote sufficient time to the following material in FTR #967. For that reason, we present the articles and discussion below.
IF we were Donald Trump, we would Tweet the following about this dynamic: #Scary. VERY bad!
Something to consider, as destructive cyberbombs are being preemptively placed on networks as a form of cyber-MWDs  and the US settles into a ‘Cold War’ modality with Russia. If any skilled hacker on the planet manages to hack a US nuclear power plan, that ‘cold war’ might heat up pretty fast whether Russia was behind it or not…especially if there’s a meltdown .
“. . . . The Washington Post reported  Saturday that U.S. government officials have already pinned the recent nuclear cyber intrusions on Russia. . . . Analysts remain quick to tamp down assertions that Russia’s fingerprint on the latest attack is a sure thing. . . . Still, it’s a pretty alarming situation regardless of who was behind it, in part because it’s an example of how potentially vulnerable things like nuclear plants are to any hacker, state-backed or not: . . . . Still, the source said a well-resourced attacker could try sneaking in thumb drives, planting an insider or even landing a drone equipped with wireless attack technology into a nuclear generation site. Reports indicate that the infamous Stuxnet worm, which damaged Iranian nuclear centrifuges in the late 2000s, probably snuck in on removable media. Once inside the ‘air gapped’ target network, Stuxnet relied on its own hard-coded instructions, rather than any remote commands sent in through the internet, to cause costly and sensitive nuclear equipment to spin out of control. . . .”
In that context, note that Devon Arthurs – a neo-Nazi-turned-Muslim–murdered two of his neo-Nazi roommates back in May. Brandon Russell – Arthurs’s surviving third roommate, was found with bomb-making materials, radioactive substances and a framed picture of Timothy McVeigh after police searched their residence. Russell planned to sabotage a nuclear power plant
Russell, we note, was in the National Guard. In the Nazi tract Serpent’s Walk , a book we feel is–like The Turner Diaries –is intended as a teaching tool, operational blueprint and manifesto, the
Underground Reich infiltrates the military, gains effective control of the opinion forming media and, following a series of WMD strikes blamed on Russia and a declaration of martial law, the Nazis take over the United States.
Brandon Russell’s activities fit very well into this scenario.
Surviving National Guardsman/Nazi Russell admitted to belonging to a group call Atomwaffen, which is German for “atomic weapon”.
Russell, and the rest of Atomwaffen, received an enthusiastic endorsement from brilliant Nazi hacker Andrew Auerenheimer. The brilliant Auerenheimer is a skilled hacker who MIGHT have the ability to trigger a nuclear melt down someday. Auerenheimer wrote about the Arthurs/Russell/Atomwaffen incident on The Daily Stormer. According to Auernheimer, the two killed roommates were “friends of friends” and the “Atomwaffen are a bunch of good dudes. They’ve posted tons of fliers with absolutely killer graphics at tons of universities over the years. They generally have a lot of fun and party.”
If any neo-Nazi hacker is capable of successfully taking down a nuclear plant, perhaps as part of a larger coordinated neo-Nazi attack or or just on his own, it’s Auernheimer.
Auernheimer shares in the McVeigh worship,recently proposing crowd-funding a McVeigh monument:
A sophisticated group of hackers has targeted U.S. nuclear plants in a wide-ranging hacking campaign since at least May, according to multiple U.S. authorities.
The hackers tried to steal usernames and passwords in the hope of burrowing deep into nuclear power networks, in addition to other utility and manufacturing targets.
But the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, sources familiar with the ongoing investigation and nonpublic government alerts told E&E News that heavily guarded nuclear safety systems were left unscathed by any recent cyber intrusions. Experts say the evidence so far points to a remote threat that, while advanced, likely could not have leaped from corporate business networks to the critical but isolated computer networks keeping nuclear reactors operating safely.
Still, the question that lingers is, who did it?
Suspicion has fallen on hackers with ties to Russia, in part because of past intrusions into U.S. companies and for Russia-linked attacks on Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and 2016.
Ukrainian security services laid the blame for the grid hacks at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s feet. Several private U.S. cybersecurity companies have also drawn links between energy industry-focused hacking campaigns with names like “Energetic Bear” back to Russian intelligence services.
The Washington Post reported  Saturday that U.S. government officials have already pinned the recent nuclear cyber intrusions on Russia.
Analysts remain quick to tamp down assertions that Russia’s fingerprint on the latest attack is a sure thing.
Without mentioning any nation-state by name, former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz noted on Twitter that “these ‘advanced persistent threats’ have long worried U.S. intelligence officials — and recent events prove they are very real.”
Referencing reports of the recent nuclear cyber incidents, he added , “These breaches make plain that foreign actors are looking for ways to exploit US grid vulnerabilities. We saw this coming.”
If U.S. intelligence agencies confirm Russian security services were involved in the attack on nuclear plants, tensions with Moscow could escalate. In a Twitter comment that attracted bipartisan ridicule, President Trump yesterday morning said that he and Putin had agreed to create an “impenetrable Cyber Security unit” to guard against hacking, only to apparently reverse his position hours later and suggest such an arrangement “can’t” happen.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, reiterated her calls for the White House to assess energy-sector cyber vulnerabilities and abandon proposed budget cuts at the Department of Energy. “The disturbing reports of the past 24 hours indicate that our adversaries are trying to take advantage of the very real vulnerabilities of our energy infrastructure’s cyber defenses,” she said Friday.
Drawing from the Ukraine playbook
In 2015, a group of hackers set sights on several Ukrainian electric distribution companies. The intruders broke into the utilities’ business networks with “phishing” emails designed to lure employees into clicking on a document laced with malware.
From there, the attackers mapped out their victims’ computer systems, even gaining access to the virtual private network utility workers used to remotely operate parts of Ukraine’s electric grid.
On Dec. 23, 2015, after months of waiting and spying, the hackers struck, logging onto the operational network and flipping circuit breakers at electric substations. They succeeded in cutting power to several hundred thousand Ukrainian citizens for a few hours in what became the first known cyberattack on a power grid in the world.
At first glance, the latest nuclear hackers appear to have drawn from the same playbook.
They used a “fairly creative” phishing email to gain a foothold on targeted networks, according to Craig Williams, senior technical leader and global outreach manager for Cisco Talos, a cybersecurity research division of Cisco Systems Inc.
Instead of stowing malware in the Word document itself, the hackers tweaked a control engineer’s résumé into beaconing out to a malicious server via a Microsoft communications protocol called Server Message Block. The cyber intruders could then swipe fragments of SMB traffic containing the victims’ login information to set up an authorized connection to the targeted network and move on from there, Williams explained.
The technique points to “attackers who are dedicated and who’ve done their research,” he noted.
While Williams said Cisco had detected a variety of energy companies hit by the phishing emails, he pointed out that “the nuclear sector is extremely hardened.”
Nuclear power plant operators have to abide by their own set of cybersecurity rules established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Following its most recent cybersecurity audits in 2015, the NRC reported “several very low security significance violations of cyber security plan requirements.”
None of those violations could have resulted in an imminent threat to nuclear safety, the regulator said.
The NRC plans to ramp up cybersecurity inspections later this year. The agency has declined to comment on reports of the recent cyber breaches at nuclear power generation sites.
Nuclear power companies have had to account for the possibility of a cyberattack on their safety systems since 2002, according to NRC guidance.
Electric utilities typically adhere to a three-step model for protecting their most sensitive systems from hackers. At a basic level, this setup involves an information technology network — such as a utility’s internet-connected corporate headquarters — and an operational network that includes grid control systems. Companies typically add a third layer or “demilitarized zone” bridging those two sides of the business, replete with firewalls, cybersecurity technologies and other safeguards.
Nuclear operators add at least two more layers to that model, drawing lines among the public internet, the corporate network, onsite local area networks, industrial “data acquisition” networks and, finally, the core safety system overseeing radioactive materials, based on government guidelines.
In the U.S., safety systems are often still “analogue,” having originally been built in the 1980s or earlier, before the recent spread of web-connected technologies.
Within that last, critical zone — Level 4 in nuclear industry parlance — tight physical controls prevent phones and USB drives from getting in; and operational data is designed to flow only outward through “data diodes,” with no potential for online commands to enter from the public internet or even the site’s own local area network.
“Anybody ever reports that somebody got a connection from the internet directly or indirectly into the heart of a nuclear control system is either full of crap, or is revealing a massive problem with some particular site, because there should be physically no way for that to actually be possible,” said Andrew Ginter, vice president of Waterfall Security Solutions, which markets one such “unidirectional gateway” or data diode to the U.S. nuclear sector. “To me, it’s almost inconceivable.”
Marty Edwards, managing director of the Automation Federation, who until last month headed a team of industrial control security specialists at DHS, generally agreed that a remote connection would be nearly impossible to achieve. “When we tested those kinds of [one-way] devices in the lab, we found that you couldn’t circumvent any of them, basically, because they’re physics-based,” he said. “There’s no way to manipulate that stream.”
One source familiar with nuclear information technology practices, who agreed to speak about security matters on condition of anonymity, said that “in order to have a catastrophic impact, you have to get by the human in the control room” — no easy feat. “You’re talking workers who are regularly screened for insider [threat] indicators and psychological stability.”
Still, the source said a well-resourced attacker could try sneaking in thumb drives, planting an insider or even landing a drone equipped with wireless attack technology into a nuclear generation site. Reports indicate that the infamous Stuxnet worm, which damaged Iranian nuclear centrifuges in the late 2000s, probably snuck in on removable media. Once inside the “air gapped” target network, Stuxnet relied on its own hard-coded instructions, rather than any remote commands sent in through the internet, to cause costly and sensitive nuclear equipment to spin out of control.
But the source, who had reviewed recent DHS and FBI warnings about recent nuclear cyberthreats, added that there was no indication the actor behind it got close to nuclear operators’ crown jewels.
“To get around the data diodes and all the other defenses, it’d be unprecedented at this point,” at least from a U.S. perspective, said the source.
Would it even be possible?
“Maybe if you’re Vladimir Putin,” the source said.
Brandon Russell, a National Guardsman and self-described neo-Nazi, had plans to blow up power lines in the Florida Everglades and launch explosives into a nuclear power plant near Miami, his roommate Devon Arthurs told police.
Prosecutors on Tuesday played portions of a recorded interrogation Arthurs gave in the hours immediately after he was arrested in the killings of Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk.In the video, Arthurs offers a justification for the killings, claiming that Russell, the surviving roommate, was preparing to commit acts of terrorism.
“The things they were planning were horrible,” Arthurs said. “These people were not good people.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office presented the video excerpts in an effort to get U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III to revoke an order granting Russell bail, arguing that he poses a danger to the community.
Late Tuesday, the judge stayed the order. Russell will remain jailed while the judge reconsiders the issue.
Russell, 21, faces explosives charges after bombmaking materials were found at his Tampa Palms apartment May 19 during the murder investigation. Arthurs, separately, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in state court.
In the video, Arthurs sits beside a table in a white-walled interrogation room, his right leg resting over his left knee. He gestures with both hands as he casually describes Russell’s neo-Nazi beliefs and supposed plans to commit terrorist acts.
He said Russell studied how to build nuclear weapons in school and is “somebody that literally has knowledge of how to build a nuclear bomb.”
When a Tampa police detective asked Arthurs if his friends had any specific terrorist intentions, he said they had a plan to blow up power lines along Alligator Alley, the stretch of Interstate 75 linking Naples with Fort Lauderdale.
He also said they had a plan to fire mortars loaded with nuclear material into the cooling units of a nuclear power plant near Miami.
He said the damage would cause “a massive reactor failure” and spread “irradiated water” throughout the ocean.
“Think about a BP oil spill, except it wipes out parts of the eastern seaboard,” Arthurs said.
The detective asked why they wanted to do these things.
“Because they wanted to build a Fourth Reich,” Arthurs said. He said Russell idolized Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
“He said the only thing McVeigh did wrong was he didn’t put enough material into the truck to bring the whole building down.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Josephine Thomas noted during the hearing that the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station is near Miami.She also noted that when bomb squad members arrived at Russell’s apartment, their pagers alerted them to the presence of “two radiation sources.” The criminal complaint says those were thorium and americium, both radioactive metals. . . .
A man told police he killed his two roommates because they were neo-Nazis who disrespected his recent conversion to Islam, and investigators found bomb-making materials and Nazi propaganda after he led them to the bodies.
Devon Arthurs, 18, told police he had until recently shared his roommates’ neo-Nazi beliefs, but that he converted to Islam, according to court documents and a statement the Tampa Police Department released Monday. . . .
. . . . In the apartment with the victims’ bodies on Friday, investigators found Nazi and white supremacist propaganda; a framed picture of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh; and explosives and radioactive substances, according to the court documents.
They also found a fourth roommate, Brandon Russell, crying and standing outside the apartment’s front door in his U.S. Army uniform.
“That’s my roommate (Russell). He doesn’t know what’s going on and just found them like you guys did,” Arthurs told the police officers, according to the report.
Federal agents arrested Russell, 21, on Saturday on charges related to the explosives.
The FBI said Russell “admitted to his neo-Nazi beliefs” and said he was a member of a group called Atomwaffen, which is German for “atomic weapon.”
Major Caitlin Brown, spokeswoman for the Florida National Guard, confirmed Russell was a current member of the Florida National Guard. But she couldn’t immediately provide any other information.
Arthurs started the chain of events on Friday when he held two customers and an employee hostage at gunpoint at a Tampa smoke shop, police said. He was complaining about the treatment of Muslims.
“He further informed all three victims that he was upset due to America bombing his Muslim countries,” police Detective Kenneth Nightlinger wrote in his report.
Officers talked Arthurs into letting the hostages go and dropping his weapon, and took him into custody.
While in custody, police said Arthurs started talking about killing two people, and then he directed them to a condominium complex where the four roommates shared an apartment.
“I had to do it,” Arthurs told police. “This wouldn’t have had to happen if your country didn’t bomb my country.”
Inside the apartment, the officers found the bodies of 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk. Both had been shot.
Police called in the FBI and a bomb squad, which found enough explosives to constitute a bomb, according to federal agents.
At first, Russell told agents he kept the explosives from his days in an engineering club at the University of South Florida in 2013, and that he used the substances to boost homemade rockets. The agents wrote that the substance found was “too energetic and volatile for these types of uses.”
Russell has been charged with possession of an unregistered destructive device and unlawful storage of explosive material. Court records did not list an attorney for him.
Andrew Auernheimer, a notorious computer hacker and internet troll, wrote a post about the killings for The Daily Stormer, a leading neo-Nazi website.
Auernheimer, known online as “weev,” said in Sunday’s post that he knew the shooting suspect and both of the shooting victims. He said he banned Arthurs from The Daily Stormer’s Discord server, an online forum, for posting “Muslim terrorist propaganda” earlier this year.
“He came in to convert people to Islam,” Auernheimer said during a telephone interview Monday. “It didn’t work out very well for him.”
Auernheimer described Himmelman and Oneschuk as “friends of friends” and said they belonged to the Atomwaffen group.
“Atomwaffen are a bunch of good dudes. They’ve posted tons of fliers with absolutely killer graphics at tons of universities over the years. They generally have a lot of fun and party,” he wrote.
In extremist circles, there appears to be a bump of interest in Timothy James McVeigh.
Yes, that Timothy McVeigh. The guy who used a Ryder truck to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 , killing 168 innocent children and adults and wounding more than 600 others.
His act 22 years ago, for those who may have forgotten, was the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
McVeigh was convicted of terrorism and executed just three months before those attacks.
His name and heinous crime are not forgotten, nor should they be, while there seems to be a growing admiration for McVeigh in some extremist circles. One militia honcho even likened McVeigh to Jesus Christ.
Check out these recent mentions of McVeigh:
In mid-May, police in Tampa, Florida, responded to the scene of a double-murder involving young, self-described neo-Nazis.
Brandon Russell , who shared the apartment with the murder suspect, was charged with possession of bomb-making materials and chemicals, including ammonium nitrate – the same kind of material used by McVeigh.
In Russell’s bedroom at the apartment he shared with the murder suspect and the two slain neo-Nazis, police found a framed photograph of Timothy McVeigh. Russell, who’s in custody, hasn’t publicly explained that fascination.
More recently, neo-Nazi Andrew ‘Weev’ Auernheimer , who writes for the racist web site “Daily Stormer,” said he was serious in proposing a crowd-funding account to raise money to build a “permanent monument” in a memorial grove honoring McVeigh.
“Think of it, a gigantic bronze statue of Timothy McVeigh poised triumphantly atop a Ryder truck, arms raised as if to form an Algiz rune from his body, with a plaque that states the honest truth,” Auernheimer wrote. “Nothing would be a greater insult to these pizza-party guarding federal swine than a permanent monument honoring [McVeigh’s] journey to Valhalla or Fólkvangr atop the piles of their corpses.”
“I am not joking,” Auernheimer wrote. “This should be done. Imagine how angry it would make people.”