There is a war out there

There is a war out there

Spirale del Silenzio
La Spirale del Silenzio di Noelle-Neumann
21 Luglio 2020
C’è una guerra là fuori
22 Luglio 2020

Thus began the hacker Cosmo, played by the talented Ben Kingsley, in the 1992 film “The Lords of the Scam” addressing Martin Bishop. In the film Martin Bishop, Robert Redford, is the head of a company of computer experts who offers pen test and assessment services to various organizations. At the time of university Bishop and his friend Cosmo had fun making computer raids and bank fraud, dreaming of changing the world. But when they meet, Cosmo, unlike Bishop, is part of a criminal organization which governs technologies to support money laundering. In the film we witness the struggle to take possession of the “SETEC Astronomy” device, a device capable of decoding all cryptographic systems. In the film Bishop also discovers that the name “SETEC Astronomy” is the anagram of “too many secrets”; the device, in fact, is able to cancel any cryptographic intervention.

Bishop manages to recover the device, as requested by the NSA, and in the last verbal clash with Cosmo the latter gives us this maxim “There is a war out there, my friend. A world war. And it doesn’t matter who has the most bullets, who controls the information matters. What you see, feel, how we work, what we think, is all based on information!”.

A film that has certainly anticipated the times and whose vision I recommend, the issues dealt with very current and if you read the news reports of these days we will discover that the film anticipates many of the themes today in the pages of newspapers.

When security is at the service of the bad guys

“We suggest you turn off and throw away your cell phone immediately.” This was how the message sent by the Enrochat company to its users read. But who is Encrochat and why this message? Let’s go in order; Encrochat is a company that provides end-to-end encryption solutions in order to guarantee the anonymity and security of its users. The Android terminals made available to the company are also modified in their hardware in order to prevent the functioning of the GPS and the camera. Encrochat phones are, basically, modified Android models on which the company has made available its secure messaging programs that allow data to pass through their servers. In addition, these phones have a function to quickly erase all content from the device by entering an emergency PIN. The company sold subscription phones at the cost of thousands of dollars a year.

These tempting features also guaranteed criminal organizations to manage their trafficking at risk of ZERO wiretapping. Criminal organizations were so calm that in one of the reports a drug dealer recommended using this technology.

However, the police decide to ruin the party, compromise the system by deciphering communications and the result is on the press release ( ): “… the operation led to the arrest of 60 suspects, the seizure of large quantities of drugs together with the dismantling of 19 drug processing laboratories”. Everything has emerged in recent days, but for those who are attentive readers, it will be possible to verify that Encrochat was already being talked about at the end of last year in the operation against the ‘ndrangheta called “Pollino”. Also in this case there was mention of a computer intrusion by law enforcement agencies …

A story of water with too much chlorine

But what happens in April in Israel? We are not talking about COVID, but about the national water system that is attacked, presumably by Iran, attempting to increase the levels of chlorine in the water that arrives in residential areas, a cyber attack that targets civilian targets.

Anonymous Israeli sources reported to the newspapers that the attackers violated the software that manages the pumps by masking the traffic passing through American and European servers in order to make the attribution of the attack more difficult. According to these sources, the attack would have had a dual purpose: on the one hand to raise the level of chlorine and other chemicals, on the other to trigger the blockage of the pumps leaving thousands of people without water.

Israel’s national cyber security officer described this operation as a coordinated attack targeting the destruction of national infrastructure, without ever mentioning Iran, but specifying that these developments will usher in the start of a new cyber war. Furthermore, we will note that the attempt to sabotage Israeli water systems marks a turning point in this type of hacking, not aimed at databases or classic IT systems, but aims to cause damage to real life and civilians.

If the national cyber cyber directorate had not detected the attack in real time, the chlorine or other chemicals could have been mixed in the wrong proportions and cause disaster.

How do I block the port

And as you can imagine, the reaction is not delayed, which journalistic sources attribute to Israel, on May 9th, the sea traffic of the terminal of the Iranian port of Shahid Rajaee freezes inexplicably. Seaports generally manage various IT systems for the ordinary management of loading and unloading of containers and goods from ships, transportation, storage in the structure, customs payments, maritime control systems, customer data, physical security systems and more. This management system is called Terminal Operating System (TOS) and allows the integrated management of the entire port structure. With this attack, on the one hand intelligence information was collected with regard to customers and the movement of the containers and on the other the operation of the entire structure was disabled from the loading of goods and containers on ships for transport and entry of goods to and from the port. What has materialized, all the computers that regulate the flow of ships, trucks and goods go to block simultaneously, creating countless problems on the waterways and on the communication roads that lead to the structure. Following a detailed forensic analysis, Iranian experts acknowledged that they had been victims of a computer intrusion that put the TOS management system out of use. The port was the victim of a complex cyber attack which, as anticipated, is attributed to Israel.


There is a war out there, a digital war that is fought over data and the digital ecosystem, that ecosystem that today becomes fundamental for the competitive development of the country, as the pandemic has shown us. An ecosystem that is still fragile and needs to be made increasingly resilient because those who have more bullets will not win the war …

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