While much of the nation was focused on the White House as Joe Biden was inaugurated as President on January 20th, across town at the Pentagon, 4% of the entire internet was being transferred to a mysterious private company in Florida. Other than a handful of journalists at the Associated Press who started looking into it recently, the vast majority of the nation was completely unaware. That would be like the United States selling off a chunk of land bigger than the state of Montana and nobody noticed.
Now, security experts and conspiracy theorists are wondering what the Pentagon is doing with this huge swath of IP space. The value of the 175 million IP addresses exceeds $4 billion. And to add even more intrigue, the company it was transferred to has past connections to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
”It is massive. That is the biggest thing in the history of the internet,” said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik, a network operating company. It’s also more than twice the size of the internet space actually used by the Pentagon.
The Associated Press was able to uncover the top layer but were barely able to dig any deeper. The Pentagon acknowledged the transfer and said in a statement issued Friday by Brett Goldstein, chief of the Pentagon’s Defense Digital Service, it was being used to “assess, evaluate and prevent unauthorized use of DoD IP address space.” It also hopes to “identify potential vulnerabilities” as part of efforts to defend against cyber-intrusions by global adversaries, who are consistently infiltrating U.S. networks, sometimes operating from unused internet address blocks.
According to Zero Hedge:
The company, Global Resource Systems, was established by a Beverly Hills attorney, and now resides in a shared workspace above a Florida bank.
The company did not return phone calls or emails from The Associated Press. It has no web presence, though it has the domain grscorp.com. Its name doesn’t appear on the directory of its Plantation, Florida, domicile, and a receptionist drew a blank when an AP reporter asked for a company representative at the office earlier this month. She found its name on a tenant list and suggested trying email. Records show the company has not obtained a business license in Plantation.
Incorporated in Delaware and registered by a Beverly Hills lawyer, Global Resource Systems LLC now manages more internet space than China Telecom, AT&T or Comcast.
One name is linked to Global Resource Systems in the Florida business registry – that of Raymond Saulino – who as recently as 2018 was listed in Nevada corporate records as a managing director of a cybersecurity/internet surveillance company called Packet Forensics. According to the report, “The company had nearly $40 million in publicly disclosed federal contracts over the past decade, with the FBI and the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency among its customers.”
In 2011, Packet Forensics and Saulino, its spokesman, were featured in a Wired story because the company was selling an appliance to government agencies and law enforcement that let them spy on people’s web browsing using forged security certificates.
The company continues to sell “lawful intercept” equipment, according to its website. One of its current contracts with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is for “harnessing autonomy for countering cyber-adversary systems.” A contract description says it is investigating “technologies for conducting safe, nondisruptive, and effective active defense operations in cyberspace.” Contract language from 2019 says the program would “investigate the feasibility of creating safe and reliable autonomous software agencies that can effectively counter malicious botnet implants and similar large-scale malware.”
Saulino is also listed as a principal with a company called Tidewater Laskin Associates. Incorporated in 2018 (and sharing the same Virginia Beach, VA address as Packet Forensics – a UPS store – with different mailbox numbers), Tidewater obtained an FCC license in April 2020 for unknown reasons.
It makes sense that the Pentagon would be using the space to catch cyberattacks before they’re able to spread across the spectrum. Such a large portion of the internet would be extremely challenging for massive hack attempts to sidestep. As far as we know, the space wasn’t being used by the government prior to the transfer. As for the company now charged with stewarding the project, its history jibes with the Pentagon’s official story.
Nevertheless, something doesn’t feel right. There are many different and arguably better ways to conduct such cybersecurity activities without drawing attention the way that it has. One can argue they simply didn’t anticipate anyone finding out, and considering this wasn’t revealed until three months after the transfer, the notion is plausible. However, it still doesn’t pass the smell test.
What seems more likely is something much more nefarious. The government’s ability to conduct digital spying is hampered by oversight and red tape. Transferring this block of the internet out of the Pentagon means its also outside the purview of Congress. Their ability to conduct a cybersecurity operation would be much better served by spreading out the block rather than consolidating to a single source. Considering that source is apparently unreachable by the press, we should assume that whatever the Pentagon says it’s being used for is not the whole truth. It may even be an outright lie.
Jazz Shaw at Hot Air seems to agree:
Making things even murkier is the fact that the name of the company – Global Resource Systems – is the same as another company that used the same Florida address but shut down ten years ago after allegations of computer fraud. And this new version of GRS now controls more internet space than China Telecom, AT&T or Comcast, according to the AP report. The only other question the Pentagon answered on the subject was to say that none of the 175 million addresses have been sold off. So what’s actually going on? If the military is just engaging in some massive counterterrorism work in cyberspace and doesn’t want to reveal the details, that’s certainly understandable. But the key players involved and the way this is all being handled certainly makes it look fishy.
If this is just a cybersecurity ploy, it seems clumsy at best. If it’s something different such as a massive surveillance scheme or a powerful hacking hub, then we may have 4% of the entire internet working against us without oversight.
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