tl;dr of the reports of a cop instance going around Show more
The admin of hackers.town recently posted https://hackers.town/@thegibson/101693197693941092 (cw: glancing allusion to prison rape) - a sampling of slides from a presentation in which they identified themself as a "Proud Member of FBI Infragard".
For those not familiar, InfraGard is a non-profit "partnership between the FBI and members of the private sector" that "provides a vehicle for seamless public-private collaboration with government that expedites the timely exchange of information and promotes mutual learning opportunities relevant to the protection of Critical Infrastructure", according to its website (linked from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InfraGard which says much the same).
As you might imagine, a great many people are upset that a large fediverse instance is being run by someone who describes themselves as proud to be involved in the funneling of information to the FBI, especially given the long history of FBI informants being made to infiltrate left-wing groups for spying and entrapment purposes. See for example https://berries.space/@undyne/101694112267233862 from @undyne.
I think that probably gives everyone enough context to make decisions.
Do what thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Infragard for laybeings:
Infragard is described as a public sector/private sector partnership (part of the FBI, though I don't know off the top of my head which one) where they share intel pertaining to information security with active security professionals. This means, you have to work for a company which is in a fairly important field, such as aerospace, a tier-1 or tier-2 ISP, finance, or software products. I worked at NASA at the time, and later went into fintech. Both times I had to join Infragard because I did information security as my job. When I worked as a pen tester for a consultancy, it was before Infragard existed, otherwise I'd have had to join.
Yes, I had to undergo a background check. They want to make sure that members work for established companies, actually do security work, and don't have any connections to criminal groups that would try to misuse the information (at the time it was Russian organized crime they were worried about).
Being a member of Infragard means you get access to bulletins a couple of weeks before the information goes public. Most of it is under Chatham House rules - you can use it, but you can't say "I got this from Infragard."
Unfortunately, most of this information is between three and six months out of date. If you do even a minimal amount of proactive intel gathering as a security practitioner (run honeypots, read your server logs manually once or twice a week), or have any kind of intelligence system in place (#exocortex) you'll scoop them easily.
Supposedly they have classified infosec intel that they disseminate, but I've never seen any of it. If I had, common sense says I'd stay the hell away from a site like hackers.town and not say a damned thing about this tempest in a teapot.
Infragard has periodic members-only meetings where they talk about stuff going on. The group nomenclature /APT [0-9]*/ was first brought up during some of these seminars. Once in a great while a speaker will bring up something timely, but most of the time the meetings are pretty much a waste of time. Most of the ones I went to had to do with security policy compliance (meaning, "Did you follow all the steps in $handbook to lock your shit down?"), logging and analysis, that Windows XP wasn't going out of support just yet (at the time), and stuff like that. It's usually two or three speakers with an MC from Infragard while the rest of us sit in uncomfortable plastic chairs drinking crappy coffee and eating more-than-halfway-decent bagels and muffins for breakfast.
Yes, I had to wear a suit to attend. Highly uncomfortable in the DC metroplex in the summer, I can assure you.
No super-secret info, tips, or tricks were given out. I wish. It's all stuff that you'd know anyway if you'd ever been a system administrator. Hell, most of the people there weren't even techies, they were policy wonks. Quite a few times I was the only person there who actually worked /with/ and /on/ computers in any capacity. I was certainly the only person there with long hair.
For the record, if you want the High Gibson 0-day intel, crash a room party or two at Defcon or HOPE. That's where the good stuff is.
Infragard does not solicit, demand, or even request intel from its members. Everything was push (they tell us stuff), not pull (we tell them stuff). I doubt they'd even listen to us if we did tell them anything. A couple of times I spoke to presenters during breaks to correct them, because their knowledge of something was incorrect (see above remark about doing proactive infosec stuff) and either their eyes glazed over or they "Well, actually"'d me.
It's nothing really impressive if you have a technical background. Most of the time you'd be bored out of your mind, unless you were a checkbox-checker that did C&A (certification and accreditation) work (which is NOT actually testing security, it's asking questions on a checklist, only about 1/3 to 1/2 actually have anything to do about actual infosec; but that's a rant for another time).
Ostensibly I'm still an active member even though I haven't logged into the Infragard portal in about three years, though I still get the e-mails (I currently have over 200 in a folder, unopened, because most of the information is simply useless), and I can't be bothered to sit on the phone for three hours until I get through to a human who can unlock the account I never log into, anyway.
At no time, to the best of my knowledge, were any of us questioned about things we knew about or did. We were never even asked about stuff we saw going on in our own networks. I certainly wasn't, and I saw a lot of shit flying around on the Net at the time. Nobody ever told (or even gently suggested) to any us to keep an eye and ear open for anything interesting happening on Twitter, Facebook, or anything else. Hell, at the time Infragard didn't even seem to know anything about Lulzsec's shenanagains at the time, nor did any of the other members I talked to at seminars. I was the only person in the DC Infragard chapter who did, because I'd tasked part of me with monitoring the situation.
If the FBI /did/ want to monitor the Fediverse... well, pull up your profile and hit View Source. You'll see an RSS feed for everything you post. Here's mine: https://hackers.town/users/drwho.atom
tl;dr, they could surveil the Fediverse with a feed reader or even a shitty Perl script. No NSA magick required. Not even an account on that instance is required. So, there would be no point to standing up an instance for the purpose of surveillance.
Ask me anything I forgot about. I'll answer honestly and to the best of my ability. If I don't know, I'll say "I don't know."
Love is the Law, Love under Will.
@drwho Added to the thread under a CW - thanks.
@packbat Understood, and thank you.
I really appreciate that info & perspective. Thanks.
@thraeryn You're welcome.
It sounds like a better-informed version of Grandma's forwarded emails warning of the latest phishing scam.
@thraeryn I wouldn't put it quite that bluntly, but you're within visual range of it.
A bunch of technomancers in the fediverse. Keep it fairly clean please. This arcology is for all who wash up upon it's digital shore.