Brussels Terrorist Laptop Included Details Of Planned Attack In Unencrypted Folder Titled 'Target'

from the but-ban-encryption! dept

As the push to backdoor or ban encryption heats up, kneejerk politicians have rushed to embrace each and every recent attack and to immediately point fingers at encryption. Right after the Paris attacks, politicians started blaming encryption, even though evidence suggested they communicated by unencrypted SMS. Even months later, the press was ridiculously using the total lack of evidence of any encryption… as evidence of encryption. Then with the Brussels attacks from a few weeks ago politicians like Rep. Adam Schiff immediately tried to blame encryption insisting that “we can be sure that terrorists will continue to use what they perceive to be the most secure means to plot their attacks.”

Of course, now it’s being reported that a laptop seized from one of the suicide bombers in Brussels shows little attempt to actually hide plans of attacks. In fact, it showed that attack plans were kept in an unencrypted folder titled “Target.” And the only attempt to “hide” it was that the computer had been thrown in the trash.

The bomber referred to striking Britain, the La Defense business district in Paris, and the ultra-conservative Catholic organisation, Civitas, in a folder titled ?Target,? written in English, according to the source.

The laptop was found in the trash by police in Brussels shortly after the suicide bombings on March 22 that killed 32 people at the city?s airport and on a Metro train.

I’m wondering if Rep. Adam Schiff will now talk about the need to ban “folders” in operating systems?

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Comments on “Brussels Terrorist Laptop Included Details Of Planned Attack In Unencrypted Folder Titled 'Target'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

The bomber referred to striking Britain, the La Defense business district in Paris, and the ultra-conservative Catholic organisation, Civitas, in a folder titled “Target,” written in English, according to the source.

Which suggests much of the ‘targeting’ was wishful thinking and/or a means of getting the police to terrorize the targets in an effort to protect them.

David Svarrer (profile) says:

We are in a dark period of time

We, the tech society, should not enter into the dark pit of power desires.

We will do well in assisting the authorities with individual cases of decrypting particular phones belonging to heinous persons, terrorists, mass-murderers, etc.

However, with the complete distrust they have shown us, the citizens of this world, by incarcerating innocent people amongst top criminals, by applying torture and inhumane treatment to other human beings.

It is most unfortunate that our law enforcement are still populated with a few individuals whom cannot be trusted and whom are not being removed when revealed in their racist behaviours – for instance framing majorly black community people for crimes they have not committed, by abusing the fact that many from the black community cannot muster hundreds of thousands of dollars for a proper defense.

O.J. Simpson committed the murder – but was set free as he could pay a dream team of lawyers to reveal genuine technical holes in parts of the otherwise proper police work.

Normal black people do not have this opportunity, hence they end up being jailed for things they did not do, while the perpetrator, being any colour, went free.

Therefore, we cannot trust our authorities. IF we could trust our authorities such that we would know that any case would be run in a fair manner, then we would likely as a tech community have the necessary and desirable trust to blanket assist the NSA and other authorities in their otherwise good job of making the world a more peaceful place to live.

It is therefore we are in dark ages. The dark ages are documented in that both sides (NSA, CIA, etc. on one sides, and the enormous technical community on the other with the population) are arming themselves, instead of working together.

I would go as far as to say, that we could assist NSA and CIA, if they dissolve the Guantanamo and take the consequence of it.

We would be doing ourselves and the inmates a favour by subjecting these to a proper trial, where 2 aspects should be put into the trial:

1) The trial of these people’s crimes against humanity as terrorists.

2) The international society, represented by CIA, NSA et al, as being charged for illegal capturing, torture etc. – yet another crime against humanity.

If we do not treat terrorists with humanity (I even have a bad taste in my mouth writing this – while we MUST do that..), then our elected politicians and their security institutions (NSA, CIA et al), will be trusted by their electorate.

It is stupid of us, the tech community, not to assist the authorities on a professional, positive way.

However, it is also stupid of these same authorities to try to armtwist our community.

NONE of us will win this way. We will all win, if we work on a case-per-case basis, on a voluntary participatory basis with the authorities, such that the authorities ALSO have a case to prove towards our tech community and if we do not find it justified, then we simply do not assist breaking up a certain phone.

I have created a wonderful encryption algorithm by the way, which works by 2 passwords. One, which generates the encryption algorithm to be used. Another password is then used with the algorithm to do the encryption of the plain text into cipher text. And – it is symmetric, and a zipper-algorithm (it means that it is self-locking).

I have another wonderful algorithm in the design, which is based on viterbi encoding, where the encryption just accurately distorts the viterbi-redundancy, such that when encrypted, it is not possible to recover a distorted version of the plain text, while, when decrypted, then the viterbi-backtracking is enabled. This makes it possible to make the brute force so much harder, as the encrypted code is not only encrypted, it is overlaid by a true random code, where one can even throw away the randomized seed afterwards!!!!

Imagine: You generate a random seed, then you throw it away, and let viterbi do the rest, while the encryption in itself solely deals with that part? Ain’t that sweet?

It means – no code – no decryption – and there is no more algorithm to crack – there is just a bunch of randomized junk…

OHHH I forgot: This one – the viterbi one – works by XOR’ing the random code onto the cipher text. Thereby it is net, de facto 100% random.

LET ME make it worse yet: IF NOW we assume that we use s true random source, ie. the time between the clicks on a geiger muller counter when exposed to caesium radiation – and middle the time and take 0 to be when its lower than average then 1 when its above – then we have a true random source of encryption, and now comes the sweet part: We viterbi the clear text, randomize it, distort the viterbi randomly.

Result: Total random. Ha!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: We are in a dark period of time

Seriously? Trust?

You may not know this but go to the mirror and repeat these words as you stare into it!

You cannot trust government or authority, ever. The moment you do, is the moment you invite the corruption you seek to avoid. I having mentions that trust of Authority is a possibility means that I (that’s right you in the mirror) am part of the problem and how we got into this situation to begin with. I know I am hardly alone, but I will try to move forward correcting my mistake and carrying the flag of “distrust of power and authority” until I go to my grave, for no man in a position to shackle my hands may never earn my trust and instead constantly prove their work & value to “The People” through the lens of Constitutional Rights!

You may now step away from the mirror and be a new man! ha ha ha… yea right! Back to Business as usual and go vote for that next party candidate!

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s very easy to stop terrorism. All we need to do is ban:
– Encryption… err
– Files… err
– Folders… err
– Operating systems… err
– Laptops… err
– Computers in general… err
– Electricity… err
– Solar energy… err
– Transportation… err
– Privacy… err
– And security… err
– Maths… err
– Teachers… err
– Schools… err
– Information… err
– I don’t know what I’m saying! Just ban LIFE.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

We sort of did arbitrarily BAN life. We regularly murder the unborn, and you can be easily murdered by the police if you so much as breath too close to them.

You can be arrested for resisting arrest, standing up for your own or another’s rights, and you can have your property removed from you without warrant or probable cause!

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: We regularly murder the unborn...

^This. I’m sick and tired of seeing every abortion characterised as the act of a wanton harlot with a viable but unwanted real person inside her. It’s not true.

No, I’ve never had an abortion. No, I’m not planning to have one. I just hate being lied to, so stop it. Every single person I’ve ever had this discussion with ends up admitting: “Sex should have a consequence.”

What does that even mean, apart from “Women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?”

No, I’ve not had extramarital sex and no, I’m not promoting it. That said, mind your own damn business where other people’s personal lives are concerned. I do.

/end rant

TDR says:

Re: Re: Re:2 We regularly murder the unborn...

No one ever said that protecting unborn life has any bearing on whether a woman works or not, so I don’t know where you’re getting that from. It has nothing to do with it. No one is lying to you. People just tend to use the idea of choosing as a justification for not wanting to own up to the responsibility of having a child just because they feel it would be inconvenient to them.

I believe that most who go through the procedure feel a measure of guilt and misgiving about it even if they never say so or admit it to anyone, even themselves, because deep down they know the truth. If something is truly right, then it needs no justification or debate. The fact that the debate exists and is as strong as it is suggests that the act is less right than many people would like to believe.

People have judged by appearances throughout our history, and the view of the unborn has been no different. People think that because in early stages it doesn’t look as much like a human baby as later on means it’s okay to kill it ignore the fact that DNA doesn’t lie. The unborn is human and alive, and its DNA is unique and very human.

I would not argue for banning the procedure, though, because that would likely create worse problems and not work anyway. But regulate it, and have every clinic have an independently written and vetted information program or class that people must go through first, one that shows the reality of what they’re thinking about doing and its consequences not just for the unborn but for the mother as well. Because it doesn’t just go one way.

Ultimately, abortion is a selfish act (unless done to save the mother’s life) because it puts the mother’s desires above the life of an unborn child. There are other options such as putting the baby up for adoption if a woman doesn’t feel she can raise the child. There’s no need to kill it. But then, pro-choice sounds more PR-friendly than anti-life, which is what their position really is.

David Svarrer (profile) says:

Re: Stop terrorism by banning means for the terrorists

You have strong points. Maybe that’s why the Taliban banned all of the above, without exception, as they knew, that any other organisation using any one thing from the above list, would be able to defeat them, sooner or later 🙂 :-).

My point with the above is maybe not so much the trust in authority, but the thing that we should not be so much in opposition.

I mean: Why would we not assist FBI on opening 1 (one) phone?

And FBI would – against this – have to accept that they would not be privy to the process, nor to the algorithms, or anything else.

FBI would be invited into the lab, and be bystanders in the process, as guests, not with any authority.

And if Apple in that process did not find anything incriminating, then FBI would be sent out again with their phone and no data.


In terms of your extremely wonderful list (and please remember to add water, fire, money, knowledge, from my list of neutral things which are being abused by humans), then I think our most important problem to solve is what to do with us as a human race, due to the way we misbehave.

We as humans, abuse everything we can get our hands on.

Pesticide manufacturers produce pesticides which unnecessariy kill off the bees. Then when told, the reaction is not a kind “Wow, let me try to change”. No. The public authority’s hard PUNISH-PUNISH stand on everything makes anyone making any mistake, go into denial, and thereby changes do not happen until the managing director is being waterboarded in his own insecticide-soup..

FBI does not come to Apple with a kind request, just to assist them against payment of a few fees. I mean: Hands on our hearts – if I was the FBI-boss, I would approach Apple with sensitivity and not try to abuse my position and armtwist Apple to do something. I would approach Apple and telling them that from time to time we have this problem, and we would likely need help many times each year. Then I would, as FBI, go to a judge to get the permission, in each case. Then I would create the possibility that Apple could employ a forensic police officer to take care of these jobs.

We mistreat each other. Race, gender, sexuality, everything is simply being abused to put other people down.

The list is very, very long. My point is not so much the particular things we do but the fact that we do abuse everything we have, in purely selfish impune directions.

THIS leads back to the original question: That authorities are full of people who are not fit for their office or their position, and therefore they misuse / abuse their position against other human beings.

THIS mistrust, created from this serious abuse, is the core reason why nothing works.

And this is the core reason behind both the terrorism, the terrorists, and the forces fighting them. It is de facto not the good against the bad. It is bad against bad.

The good people are not involved in any way. The good people are neither believers or not believers, religious or not religious – that categorization is useless here. The good people are those who would never do anything consciously to hurt other lifeforms.

So, you have a strong strong point in “Banning LIFE”.

Factually, that is what we are on our way to do, by our extremely selfish behaviours as the human race.

David Svarrer (profile) says:

Stone age?

Anonymous Coward wrote that bad shit never happened before computers were invented.

It is not true. The problem we are having is that the most powerful things in our little Earthly universe are neutral, and they are in high demand by both the good guys and the bad guys:


(continue yourself)

Now, even 18th century and before were cruel and gruesome to many people. Even stone age was cruel and gruesome to many people. The quantity of people was less, but still cruel.

And – what made the world gruesome and cruel was never any of these extremely powerful means mentioned above. It was the intentional abuse of these means which was cruel.

Example: We drink water and it is life. Water is also used to “Water board” torture victims. Fire is good to warm ourselves with, while ancient red indians used fire to torture victims with. Etc etc. (the rest is trivial).

My point is, that we have not moved ourselves at all far from stone age. Only difference is, that the magnitude of impact of our abuse of neutral powers has escalated out of hands.

Pay attention to, that this is on all sides. Americans, Russians, Syrians, Iraqi, Muslims, Western societies, hackers, terrorists, school shooters, religions, fanatics, racists, …

So, we have descended as a human race in terms of the impact of the damage caused whenever one of us humans default to use of any of the above means for our own selfish purposes.

And we have grown closer as a race to become victims of our own self deceit about “human supremacy”. It is very simple, actually: With all these “Fights against Evil”, effects of which were so clearly was demonstrated in the humorous movie “The fifth element”, we will very suddenly, very abruptly all of us be winners of the Darwin awards.

A small part of us will win because we directly committed the indirectly suicidal acts on behalf of the human race.

The large majority of us will also win the Darwin awards for our contribution, because of that either we thought that all the evil of those few should be FOUGHT AWAY (by refusing to assist FBI in individual cases against obvious terrorists, while referring to that “Then we would open a Pandora’s box”, while we all know that helping FBI from time to time on a good note cannot hurt), or, we decided that it was none of our business, or, we decided not to do anything even though we could, out of cowardness, passivity or other irrelevant excuses :-)…

New Mexico Mark says:


real forensics people get excited when people try to use encryption – the more complex/esoteric the better.

1. Encryption is hard to get right and easy to screw up in some way.
2. When people falsely trust their security measures, they may be more likely to provide a treasure trove of information.
3. When a data source is sorted by entropy, the the portions someone really wanted to hide are obvious.
4. Even when encryption is done right, people often leave unencrypted trails separate from the primary encrypted data. (E.g. encrypted at rest but not in transit or vice versa, data held in memory, and yes, even printouts, written notes, etc.)
5. Finding encrypted stores that would have taken special effort to create, even if they are uncrackable, can encourage further effort in conventional investigation.
6. If encrypted data has an attack vector allowing it to be decrypted, that is gold since it helps with attribution and intent. But really, that’s just gravy in most cases.

David Svarrer (profile) says:

Re: Real Forensics ? Real Encryption?

Hi New Mexico Mark,

You are completely right. The more complex the easier it is to detect.

How about this one here:

Use one password to an encryption algorithm generating engine, which generates a one-time encryption software, which then uses another password to encrypt the plain text, after which the plain text and the algorithm is deleted from the computer.

Call: Shinpi E plaintext algorithmpassword encryptionpassword

In the other end, the same. Use one password, to generate the decryption algorithm, and the cipher-text, then place it as plain text on the machine, then delete the generated algorithm and the cipher.

And forth and back it goes.

Call: Shinpi D ciphertext algorithmpassword encryptionpassword

The Shinpi technology works this way.

My 15 cents (plaintext)

David Svarrer, you be clueless says:

Re: Re: Real Forensics ? Real Encryption?

Your goofy encryption schemes offer nothing. The recipient has to provide a decrypting key to get plaintext out – and an attacker can try keys as well. You’re not stopping a brute force attack, so what is the point of all your nonsense? Yes, I know – there is no point to your jibberjabber.

David Svarrer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Real Forensics ? Real Encryption?

Try to argue your case instead of just slinging out allegations such as “offer nothing”, and “what is the point of all your nonsense”, or “no point to your jibberjabber”.

Let me clarify a bit, why it works better with a machine generated algorithm:

There are 2 parameters to successful encryption or decryption:

1) The algorithm
2) The password

Now, you can only perform a traditional brute force attack, if you know the algorithm. And when you know the algorithm, then it is indeed easier to try.

Traditional brute force attack is based on that you use a certain algorithm and then you try key after key after key.

In my case, one would need to try one key to create an algorithm, and then try another key to see, if one is lucky that it decrypts the content.

Therefore with “all my nonsense”, the point of my “jibberjabber” is that we have increased the complexity, which in turn ends up adding considerable factors to the power of the encryption.

There are many very traditional things one also would need to do – which is – either to keep the entire encryption jibberjabber on ONE machine preferably with ONE operating system (ie. Linux), and then enter the cleartext on that machine, then do the encryption jibberjabber (nonsense) there, then use for instance a USB key to transfer to a machine which is on the internet.

Similar, the other way, when the cipher text has been received, store it in a USB, then transfer it that way to the other machine (which is off the grid), then use the decryption jabberjibber nonsense to decrypt.

Further simple things (within the usual way of doing things) is to keep the entire algorithm generation and all that other jibberjabber nonsense nothing purely in memory, thereby set no footprint on the disk, and, also ensure that the so called “paging” file in the operating system is 0 size, such that no temporary copies are stored in the temporary directory for page files on the disk.

Thereby via very simple, very doable ways, one can now easy and without much hazzle, ensure a practical security which I think will have very serious problems being hacked/brute-forced by anyone.

Now, as “David Svarrer, you be clueless”, please enter into the discussion on a more serious note.

The above security of 2 machines is also known as “protocol based security”, however, here its just implemented via the hammer and nails one has in his own drawer.

David Svarrer (profile) says:

Re: Just because you got a hammer, not everything turns into nails...

I think we have been staring ourselves blind on IT technology. We have not sat down with a cup of coffee, looking at the traffic, at the person seated at the next table, sipping a bit and thinking a bit.

Your thoughts would go this way:

HOW would I, in a world where all communication is laid bare, where robot crawlers can listen into what I am saying in my own house, through walls and windows, where even if I fart in the toilet, my laptop connected to the internet will snap it up and AI analyze it to tell the NSA, CIA, etc, what I ate for supper?

This is the question which these criminals are asking themselves. And whether they are merely stupid or bright MENSA-candidates, they would likely get this one, single, intelligent idea:

We stay off grid.

Next question: How would we then communicate?

Through same thinking in the mist of the coffee, they would come up with this:

In writing, on paper (as it leaves no noise, cannot be seen through walls, leaves no trail on the internet).

Further question: How would we exchange communication?

Very easy. We agree to a place, where we can exchange messages. Like in the aforementioned case – a toilet cistern, in a mens toilet in the spa, the gym, the sports center, the mosque, the XYZ… Then we have trusted messengers to bring the messages.

Now, the place could be anywhere and everywhere. Either it would be a secluded place, or it would be a very populous place. In the forest in a particular tree. In a boat which can be rented, up under the place where the ores are being put. Under a public bench in the middle of the city.

The point of it all is, that it is not complex to do, due to the fact that our entire surroundings, are complex.

Our natural surroundings are so complex, in fact, that it is impossible by any surveillance force to intercept unless they step up their game.

It appears to me, that everybody sit with their computers and think that “The game is being played online, and how come nobody found the word “Target”” ?

My qualified guess is, that none of this game was played on the grid.

IF now they are in a hurry, then they can agree that the mere fact that one is calling the other greeting them (as is tradition amongst arabics), is the signal that there is a message to be picked up.

If they are NOT in a hurry, the entire thing can go on, very quiet, and the little delay in communicating the SD-cards, is being compensated by doing proper project planning.

THEREFORE, we shall not work on the tech platform, because the solutions which we shall apply, must be such abstract so that they embrace both the online, the offline and other approaches.

THIS, gentlemen and ladies – is the challenge. That we have got computers, and think that they are the holy sacrament. Just because of that we ourselves cannot make one fart without relaying it on social media, we should not think that such criminals are hindered by our laziness.

They have THEIR agenda too, and they will further THEIR agenda in the way they deem fit…

My 1 Dollar (in ciphertext)

David Svarrer (profile) says:

Terrorist computer thrown in the trash

The tragic part is, that unless this silly laptop with these silly criminal’s silly plans was on the internet, which can be highly doubted, then there is no way on earth that anyone, being it FBI, Europol, CIA, NSA or others, would be able to snap up the heinous plans.

We should indeed not assume that these criminals are neither stupid or without means, wits or intelligence.

The very unwanted and undesired and – as previously proven by former articles by undersigned – USELESS – craving from the mentioned law enforcement agencies to get insight into encrypted phones, insight into people’s computers, etc. etc., is not even useful for the same authorities.

I have proven in former articles, that it is even not working, because things which are really well encrypted and concealed, will not be found, even by trained, motivated, dedicated, empowered, intelligent professionals. I am one of them.

I would, indeed, use any other means, instead of this “hat and blue glass” approach.

I fear that good old professional police work is drowning in the attempts to break into information which one cannot break into.

Lets for instance say, as an example, that a criminal is working with a group of other criminals, some of them locally in a team in Bruxelles, others in a team in Paris, upto the two attacks.

How about if they communicated via physical messages, brought forth and back via public toilets and messengers?

NONE of them would then need to travel. They only visit their local bar or mosque or sports centre, and in the cistern in the male toilet, just like any exam-fraudster would do it in secondary school, the notice has been put, days in advance, by the messenger. And once read, its being flushed. And an new notice is being put, …

Meanwhile, they have an eager traffic on internet, with emails, pictures of their family, discussions about the Quran and other silly things – and not even a word about any action or activity, because – that is not the way they would communicate.

THEN – on a laptop which is naturally not on the internet – they make their plans, and discuss them etc. – and the USB-stick or even smaller – the SD-card (holding 8 gigabyte in less than 1/2 square-centimeter by 1 millimeter) – is exchanged via the very same system.

I think, gentlemen and ladies, that these people are indeed not stupid.

If one analyses the log on the computer, unless its been tampered with, (which is unlikely), one can see if the computer has been online or not. I guess – bet – that it was never online.

Now tell me, which “surveillance method”, or “tapping”, would be able to “decrypt” a computer or “invade” it, while it is simply never online.

WHICH security measure is more secure, than simply keeping a machine for such planning, off the grid?

WHY does banks keep their entire banking network off the grid? They have INTERNET access, yes, but these internet-based machines are linked via protocol-based anti-intrusion systems, which makes it virtually impossible to go “backwards” and enter into the banking systems.

No, gentlemen and ladies, we are dealing with intelligent criminals here, and they also know the limitations of security you can have, when you are on the internet.

Let us even go a bit further. The criminals could have one machine being online, and another which they work on, and solely and only using a USB stick or SD ram card to communicate in between them.

On the off grid machine they encrypt and steganograph their heinous acts, and on the online machine they copy the data in form of a picture and send it to a third party (or via drop box, or, even directly via email), to their grandma in Spain. The grandma sends the picture further to their collaboration group in XYZ.

My point is, the entire setup is simple, it is almost uncrackable, cannot be infiltrated, … There is simply no reason to spend even one more USD on even trying.

There are so so so so so many other ways to crack this nut, but .. Is it not FBI, CIA, NSA, Europol who are the professionals here? I have written to them severally about ideas etc., but they remain quiet. So I must assume that they know what they are doing – at least when it comes to other ways of cracking the nut. Or do they? If they knew, why then, had they not “Cracked” the nut of the most recent attacks in India, France, Belgium, Denmark, .. ?

I think that a hitherto unprecedented way should also be explored – namely to put up a populi based security infrastructure, where the people can pop in and add their contribution to the whole picture.

Just like Google for instance are providing infrastructure in form of the Android system, and more than 2 million people are developing software for the Androids, in similar ways it could be very relieving and opening up, if FBI, CIA, NSA etc. instead of their useless secrecy and “affairs” instead opened completely up, and invited the population to contribute within a security framework.

Imagine if we were our brothers keeper? That we could contribute within a certain limited framework to the global security, … ?

My 1 Dollar (unencrypted)

(I will not even outside the public sphere grant them the “glory” of calling them “terrorists”, because, criminals is what they are, no more, no less),

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