Wikileaks: ‘Marble’ is proof that CIA disguises hacks as Russian

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The Vault 7 release by WikiLeaks contains a series of documents, named “Marble”, detailing how CIA hacking tactics misdirect forensic investigators from attributing viruses, trojans and attacks.

After the release of “Year Zero” and “Dark Matter”, WikiLeaks has now released the third batch of stolen CIA documents. It doesn’t focus on tech companies, but on the American spy agency itself.

Previous Vault7 releases have revealed the CIA’s ability to mask its hacking fingerprints. It has now been revealed how the CIA inserts code fragments in foreign languages, and the tactic has been in use as recently as 2016.

According to the WikiLeaks release: “The source code shows that Marble has test examples not just in English but also in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi. This would permit a forensic attribution double game, for example by pretending that the spoken language of the malware creator was not American English, but Chinese, but then showing attempts to conceal the use of Chinese, drawing forensic investigators even more strongly to the wrong conclusion, — but there are other possibilities, such as hiding fake error messages.”

By doing so, it creates a means for virus writers to pretend that the malware was created by a speaker of a range of foreign languages. But not any foreign languages of course, because the languages are those of the US’s main cyber-adversaries – Russia, North Korea, China and Iran.

WikiLeaks suggests that this tech would trick security analysts to into thinking they were, for example, dealing with the Russians or the Chinese PLA.

The whistleblower believes that potentially “thousands” of cyber attacks could thus be attributed to the CIA, while the blamed is wrongly placed on foreign governments, noting that the CIA technique is the digital equivalent of a tool which disguises the English text on US produced weapons systems before they are provided to insurgents.

WikiLeaks said Marble is able to hide fragments of texts that would allow for the author of the malware to be identified, “designed to allow for flexible and easy-to-use obfuscation” as “string obfuscation algorithms” often link malware to a specific developer.

The source code released reveals Marble contains test examples in Russian, Korean, Arabic, Chinese and Farsi.

“This would permit a forensic attribution double game, for example by pretending that the spoken language of the malware creator was not American English, but Chinese, but then showing attempts to conceal the use of Chinese, drawing forensic investigators even more strongly to the wrong conclusion,” according to WikiLeaks, “But there are other possibilities, such as hiding fake error messages.”

The code also contains a “deobfuscator” which allows the CIA text obfuscation to be reversed. “Combined with the revealed obfuscation techniques, a pattern or signature emerges which can assist forensic investigators attribute previous hacking attacks and viruses to the CIA.”

“Marble forms part of the CIA’s anti-forensics approach. […] This would permit a forensic attribution double game, for example by pretending that the spoken language of the malware creator was not American English, but Chinese, but then showing attempts to conceal the use of Chinese, drawing forensic investigators even more strongly to the wrong conclusion, — but there are other possibilities, such as hiding fake error messages.

“The Marble Framework is used for obfuscation only and does not contain any vulnerabilties or exploits by itself.”

The Marble release appears authentic because WikiLeaks used “primary source documents,” John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst and whistleblower, told RT.

The first set of leaks, released on 7 March, described exploits used to compromise vulnerable Android devices, Apple iPhones, Samsung TVs, Windows PCs, and Macs.

Two weeks later, it leaked how the CIA was able to buy Apple Macs and iPhones, install spyware on them, and give them to targets. WikiLeaks spun this to suggest this might be happening in the factory, but the suggestion was unsupported by the leaked documents.

El Reg has independently confirmed that Assange and his co-workers have entered into talks with Microsoft, unlike whistleblower Edward Snowden, who unequivocally shared all the documents with the public without making any demands to the publications or companies.

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1 thought on “Wikileaks: ‘Marble’ is proof that CIA disguises hacks as Russian”

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