Posts Tagged ‘cyberspace’

Pakistan Army backs peace efforts, asks India to fight hunger first

December 23, 2018
“Pakistan is a peace-loving country and believes in peace within and peace without,” says Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
“Pakistan is a peace-loving country and believes in peace within and peace without,” says Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

While addressing the passing-out parade of 110th Midshipmen and 19th Short Service Course at Naval Academy, the COAS touched upon key issues related to the country’s defence and modern technology transforming the nature of warfare and warned that the “unannounced war against us” was yet to be over.

“Pakistan is a peace-loving country and believes in peace within and peace without,” the army chief said.

COAS tells newly inducted navy men to be ready to respond in case of surgical strike in battlefield, cognitive domain, media or cyberspace

“Wars bring death, destruction and misery for the people. Ultimately, all issues are resolved on the table through negotiations that is why we are trying very hard to help bring a lasting peace in Afghanistan by supporting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace plan. Similarly, our new government has extended a hand of peace and friendship towards India with utmost sincerity but it should not be taken as our weakness. Peace benefits everybody. It is time to fight against hunger, disease and illiteracy, then to fight against each other.”

Before sharing his thoughts about relations with the neighbouring countries, Gen Bajwa narrated the armed forces’ sacrifices to restore peace to the country and warned the young naval personnel about the challenges ahead. “Please remember, we are yet to get out from terrorism or sabotage phase of an unannounced war against us that the subversion phase has also started,” he said.

“Like the terrorists before, the protagonists of the new threats are, at times, our own people. Mostly misguided by ambitions, blinded by hate, ethnicity or religion or simply overawed by social media onslaught, some of our own boys and girls readily fall victim to such dangerous or hostile narratives.”

The response to such onslaughts or threats could not always be kinetic in nature, he said, suggesting the armed forces to deal with them in cognitive domain by producing or propagating a superior narrative. “But this can only happen if you have developed the ability to handle unwarranted criticism with patience and possess better intellectual skills to respond to such threats with logic and reasoning. You will be required to lead your troops, who rank amongst the finest in the world, into the battlefield with full zeal and confidence,” he said.

The COAS highlighted the need for adopting technologies amid growing advancement in science and technology, fast-changing faces of war threats and long-lasting impact of modernisation. “Modern technology has transformed the nature of warfare and has tilted the balance squarely, in favour of those nations that have embraced the change readily,” he said.

Gen Bajwa told the young navy men to keep themselves “abreast with the latest developments in the field of science, technology and warfare. But frankly speaking, even that will not be sufficient as the ever-increasing threat of hybrid war, to which we are subjected to, will need a totally new approach and change of traditional mindset.

“Therefore, you have to prepare and enable yourself to read the environment, gauge the enemies’ latest moves and be ready to respond, even when a surgical strike exists only in cognitive domain or media or even when the attack comes, not in the battlefield but in cyber space, or against country’s ideological frontiers.”

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2018


How China Walled Off the Internet

November 20, 2018

Today, China has the world’s only internet companies that can match America’s in ambition and reach.

It is years ahead of the United States in replacing paper money with smartphone payments, turning tech giants into vital gatekeepers of the consumer economy.

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And it is host to a supernova of creative expression — in short videos, podcasts, blogs and streaming TV — that ought to dispel any notions of Chinese culture as drearily conformist.

All this, on a patch of cyberspace that is walled off from Facebook and Google, policed by tens of thousands of censors and subject to strict controls on how data is collected, stored and shared.

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China’s leaders like the internet they have created. And now, they want to direct the nation’s talent and tech acumen toward an even loftier end: building an innovation-driven economy, one that produces world-leading companies.

Not long ago, Chinese tech firms were best known for copying Silicon Valley.

The New York Times

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But the flow of inspiration now runs both ways. American social media executives look to Tencent and ByteDance for the latest tricks for keeping users glued to their phones.

Tencent’s WeChat app, an all-in-one hub for socializing, playing games, paying bills, booking train tickets and more, paved the way for the increasingly feature-stuffed chat apps made by Facebook and Apple. Facebook recently took a page from TikTok, a Chinese service that is a sensation among Western tweens, by releasing its own highly similar app for creating goofy short videos.

If people in the West didn’t see this coming, it was because they mistook China’s authoritarianism for hostility toward technology.

But in some ways Chinese tech firms are less fettered than American ones. Witness the backlash against Big Data in the United States, the calls to break up giants like Facebook and the anxiety about digital addiction. None of those are big problems for Chinese companies.

In China, there is pretty much only one rule, and it is simple: Don’t undermine the state.

So titans like Weibo and Baidu heed censorship orders. Unwanted beliefs and ideologies are kept out.

Beyond that, everything is fair game. Start-ups can achieve mammoth scale with astonishing speed; they can also crash brutally. Thanks to weak intellectual property protections, they can rip one another off with abandon — not great for rewarding innovation, but O.K. for consumers, who get lots of choices.

And the money just keeps flowing in.

In another advantage, old-school industries like media, finance and health care have been dominated by lumbering state-run giants. That has allowed internet champions like Alibaba and Tencent to sew themselves into these businesses with ease.

With their mobile payment platforms, the two giants have built sprawling ecosystems in which vast amounts of commercial activity now take place. Little remains of daily life that has not been transformed. Shopping. Getting a loan. Renting a bike. Even going to the doctor.

This level of clout hasn’t gone unnoticed by China’s leaders. Never in the Communist era have private entities wielded such influence over people’s lives.

To keep tech in its place, the government is demanding stakes in companies and influence over management. Regulators have reprimanded online platforms for hosting content they deem distasteful — too raunchy, too flirty, too creepy or just too weird.

That’s why the best way for tech companies to thrive in China is to make themselves useful to the state. Nearly everyone in China uses WeChat, making the social network a great way for the authorities to police what people say and do. SenseTime, whose facial recognition technology powers those fun filters in video apps, also sells software to law enforcement.

The risk for these companies is that the government demands more, sucking away resources that could be better spent chasing innovations or breaking into new markets.

In China, says Lance Noble of the research firm Gavekal Dragonomics, the government’s support “can be a blessing and a curse.”

See the rest:


Congressional commission cites ‘crisis of national security,’ concludes task of rebuilding US military far from complete

November 15, 2018

After two years of full funding for the Pentagon, President Trump has essentially declared victory, and is ready to reverse the trend of ever-rising defense budgets. Last month Trump gave the Pentagon a surprise order to slash upcoming defense spending from $733 billion to $700 billion. From the president’s point of view, the last two defense budget hikes have largely solved the military’s woes, which included aircraft unfit to fly, units unprepared to deploy and stressed troops. “We’re rebuilding our military. We just had approved $716 billion. The year before that, we had $700 billion. So, we’re almost completely rebuilding our military with the latest and the greatest,” Trump said while in France over the weekend.

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NOT SO FAST: The first shot in the looming battle over next year’s defense budget was fired yesterday by Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe, who suggested that he will oppose Trump’s order to cut planned spending by tens of billions of dollars. The Oklahoma Republican insisted that top line for the Pentagon, overseas wars, and the nuclear arsenal should be at least $733 billion in 2019. That “should be considered a floor, not a ceiling, for funding our troops,” said Inhofe, who will return in January as Senate Armed Services chairman after Republicans held the chamber. Once inflation is factored, that would keep Pentagon funding at current levels with no new growth.

COMMISSION’S ‘CRISIS’ REPORT: Lawmakers now have new ammunition in the fight for a bigger budget. Inhofe was responding to a newly released report, “Providing for the Common Defense,” ordered up by Congress, which paints a grim picture of the Pentagon in crisis. “The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia,” the National Defense Strategy Commission writes in one of its key findings.

The commission, co-chaired by Ambassador Eric Edelman and retired Adm. Gary Roughead, was created by Congress in 2017, and mainly tasked with reviewing Trump’s National Defense Strategy. “We are concerned that the NDS too often rests on questionable assumptions and weak analysis, and it leaves unanswered critical questions regarding how the United States will meet the challenges of a more dangerous world,” the report said. It’s the latest in a series of recent reviews covering U.S. defense strategy over the past eight years, all of them bleak.

“In the 2010 report, we concluded that budget cuts and an increasingly complex international environment were leading to a potential train wreck. In 2014, the aftermath of the Budget Control Act, we said that the BCA was a strategic misstep that was disabling the U.S. because it was facing greater challenges around the world. In this report, I think, what we had to wrestle with was the consequences of all those warnings having been ignored,” Edelman said during a podcast this week with Michael Morell, former acting CIA director and a member of the commission.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, who was a leading force behind the past two years of defense budget hikes as House Armed Services chairman, said the commission’s report makes clear that Congress should not let BCA spending caps dictate U.S. strategy. “It also echoes some of my own concerns; that we are falling behind on key capabilities, that Congress is not reliably providing appropriate resources, and that we face difficult choices if we are going to provide the country with the defense it deserves,” the Texas Republican said in a statement.

IS MONEY REALLY THE ANSWER? Both Edelman and Roughead are set to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee later this month about their findings, which are likely to set the tone of the debate for now. But not everybody is taking them at face value. “Obviously if we’re vastly outspending Russia and China and we’re losing our competitive edge, our problem is not spending,” said Dan Grazier, a fellow at the Project on Government Oversight.

The findings may be used to justify a third year of defense hikes, but the Pentagon should instead complete its ongoing and first-ever full financial audit to see how its money is being spent, argues Grazier. “This report is in the grand tradition of Washington buck-passing. Whenever elected political officials do not want to have to take responsibility for what they anticipate being unpopular political positions, you assign a blue-ribbon task force to do a study and then the blue-ribbon task force comes back with the unpopular policy discussions,” he said.

BULLET POINTS: The Commission report is replete with nightmare scenarios and dire warnings that America’s military advantage has been eroded by years of budget cuts at home and “authoritarian competitors” abroad — especially China and Russia — who are pursuing determined military buildups aimed at neutralizing U.S. strengths. Here are some key conclusions:

  • Due to political dysfunction and decisions made by both major political parties — and particularly due to the effects of the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 along with years of failing to enact timely appropriations — America has significantly weakened its own defense.
  • The convergence of these trends has created a crisis of national security for the United States — what some leading voices in the U.S. national security community have termed an emergency.
  • These trends are undermining deterrence of U.S. adversaries and the confidence of American allies, thus increasing the likelihood of military conflict.
  • The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia.
  • If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat. These two nations possess precision-strike capabilities, integrated air defenses, cruise and ballistic missiles, advanced cyber warfare and anti-satellite capabilities, significant air, and naval forces, and nuclear weapons — a suite of advanced capabilities heretofore possessed only by the United States.
  • The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously.


China ‘on track to meet American military challenge’ in Indo-Pacific

November 15, 2018

China will be able to contest US operations throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region by 2035 – if not before, according to a commission that advises the US Congress on the national security implications of the US-China trade and economic relationship.

— PLA is already able to contest US ground, air, maritime and information operations in some strategic areas, report says

— The report also warns that as Beijing’s confidence in its army grows, there is a danger that it ‘will use force as a regional hegemon’

South China Morning Post
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 12:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 11:49am
 China will be able to contest US operations throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region by 2035, according to a US report. Photo: Xinhua

In a report to be delivered to the US Congress on Wednesday, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said China could already contest US operations in the ground, air, maritime and information domains within the “second island chain”.

The second island chain is a strategic defence line for the United States formed by the Ogasawara Islands, Japan’s Volcano Islands, the Mariana Islands and Palau.

That military capacity presented fundamental challenges to the US armed forces’ long-standing assumption of supremacy in these areas in the post-cold war era, the report said.

The conclusions were based on classified and unclassified hearings with witnesses from government, academia and the private sector, as well as research trips to Taiwan and Japan. Commission members were not granted visas to visit China to conduct research.

The report said that under the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping, China had significantly accelerated its military modernisation.

“As military modernisation progresses and Beijing’s confidence in the People’s Liberation Army increases, the danger will grow that [US] deterrence will fail and China will use force as a regional hegemon,” it said.

The PLA’s Strategic Support Force, a unit established in late 2015, poses a fundamental challenge to the US ability to operate effectively in space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, according to the report.

And after years of development, China’s missiles also presented “serious strategic and operational challenges for the US and its allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific”, the report said.

China’s coastguard had also removed all civilian functions and helped Beijing advance its maritime interests, it said.

Beijing has ramped up development and upgrades weapons across all military services, from unmanned underwater vehicles and amphibious aircraft to laser guns and supersonic fighter jets.

In addition, China has built several artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, installing missiles and constructing airstrips in a challenge to the US presence in the region.

China’s DF and HN series missiles have a range of up to 15,000km, putting the entire United States within their reach.

In late September, a Chinese destroyer nearly collided with a US warship in the disputed waters after making what the Americans described as an “unsafe and unprofessional” manoeuvre in an attempt to warn it to leave the area.

And in late October, Xi ordered the military region responsible for monitoring the South China Sea and Taiwan to assess the situation it faced and boost its capabilities so it could handle any emergency.

We need a campaign for free speech to take on the professionally offended

November 5, 2018

The internet has created a bruise-easy generation that is intolerant of people speaking out of turn

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Where is the spirit of Charlie Hebdo? You remember the outpouring of grief when 12 journalists were gunned down at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine. We did everything we could to show our solidarity with these martyrs to free speech.

By Boris Johnson
The Telegraph

Image result for Protesters opposing no-platforming policies, Nick Edwards

Protesters opposing no-platforming policies CREDIT:  NICK EDWARDS

We held a vigil in Trafalgar Square. We projected the Tricolore on to the walls of the National Gallery. And when we all went around with T-shirts saying “Je suis Charlie”, the meaning could not have been clearer. By wearing that logo, we were saying that we may not necessarily have approved of the content of the magazine – or the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed – but we defended absolutely their right to publish.

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The phrase “Je suis Charlie” became a meme. It was a hashtag. It was cool. It was on the lips of just about every UK politician. I therefore assumed that everyone accepted the vital connection between free speech – including the freedom to mock and debunk – and economic progress.

When this country rose to greatness in the 18th and 19th centuries, it wasn’t just the result of the industrial revolution, but of a concomitant social and intellectual revolution in which men like John Wilkes helped to throw off the shackles of censorship. And it was no accident that this period of technical innovation was accompanied by a new and astonishing irreverence in the media – bashing the church, bashing the crown – and with cartoons so lewd and scatological that these days they would be deemed not fit to print.

I imagined that when people claimed “Je suis Charlie”, they were true Voltairean believers in free speech. I have to say that in the three years since the massacre, I have started to wonder what on earth we all thought we were saying.

I have never known a time when people have been so terrified of speaking out of turn, or of causing offence, or else – perhaps even more frightening – of failing to react correctly when someone else has said or done something that might be deemed offensive.

Earlier this year, a man was fined £800 for teaching his dog to perform a Nazi salute. I hold no brief for this chap, and like most people I abhor fascism, even in dogs. But am I wrong to mourn the total waste of time and taxpayers’ money, both for the police and the courts? Isn’t the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, right when she says that there is already plenty of good statute about hate crime? Shouldn’t the police be encouraged to get on with cracking down on burglary and knife crime?

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We are getting to the stage where jokes are out, metaphors are banned; and in our universities the students are sticking their fingers in their ears and no-platforming speaker after speaker, including such blameless and eminent people as Germaine Greer, for heaven’s sake.

When I was at university, I remember that we invited Gerry Adams, even though we knew that he was a terrorist. We didn’t approve of the people we invited; but we wanted the chance to pit our wits against theirs. Isn’t that part of the point of a university? Banning Germaine, just because she might say something you find a teensy bit challenging? That isn’t the spirit of “Je suis Charlie”. It’s intellectual Luddism.

Look, I don’t want just to criticise the snowflakes and their trigger alerts and their non-percussive clapping. If we are to solve the problem, we have to understand it, and I think I know why people these days are so bruise‑easy. They want to ban the giving of offence, because all too often they have themselves suffered offence; and the culprit, I am afraid, is the internet, and the endless acts of pointless psychic aggression that are committed in cyberspace.

When this column was first put online, and when the esteemed readers of The Daily Telegraph were first invited to make comments beneath it, I am proud to say that their verdicts were almost embarrassingly kind. “Once again, the author has hit the nail on the head”, was the kind of thing they would say; or “I congratulate Mr Johnson on his splendid article”.

This lasted a year, or perhaps a bit longer. After a while, people cottoned on that there were no real constraints on what they could say or the aliases they could adopt; and soon the tone changed, and people would start with “Once again this obese Tory scumbag has got it totally wrong”, and some comments were so unflattering they had to be removed.

My point is that Twitter – and all the rest of the social media – can provide the pipette drops of affirmation that we all need to get through the day. But they can also give you a terrible kicking. Read any Twitter thread and you can see how a reasonable series of exchanges can suddenly become nasty, and people start snapping at each other like angry piranhas.

It is an iron law of human psychology that those who suffer are all too often moved to cause suffering in return. Those who experience pain have an urge to dish it out; and that, I think, might explain the censoriousness of so many people today.

It may be that young people are so often the victims of cyberspace microaggressions that they turn it round – and direct their anger on anyone else who has visibly transgressed. Hence the witch-hunts. Hence the rush to join the mob with flaming brands and pitchforks, as they converge on anyone who is deemed to have made a slightly off-colour joke or used a metaphor that would have passed without comment a few years ago, but which is now deemed to be outrageous.

How do we fix it? We need to fight, gently, for free speech. We need a campaign for the right to make jokes and the right, within the law, to be satirical to the point of causing mild offence; because it is when you endlessly shush people up, and stifle debate, that extremism flourishes.

And to that end it may sometimes be necessary for us all to grow a slightly thicker hide and take things a bit more in our stride – and instead of pandering to the professional offence-takers, we politicians should occasionally have the guts to say so.

Dark Web: Bypassing Facebook and getting back privacy

June 21, 2018

If Liran Sorani has his way, the dark web — a hidden internet badlands populated by hackers, drug runners, gun traffickers, pornographers and human part merchants — will one day also be a haven for ordinary folk seeking privacy away from Facebook.

Why it matters: Facebook is under intense pressure in the U.S. and Europe for its role in the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and its general failure to safeguard user data. The dark web is a possible alternative.

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  • Facebook’s flaws have energized privacy advocates, libertarians and others to seek out another, decentralized and encrypted cyberspace where no one is selling their data or deciding what they can and cannot say.
  • A combination of the dark web and blockchain could provide that place.
  • It would be a new social network that does not accumulate and husband people’s data.

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What’s going on: When most people want to use the Internet, they go on Google, Facebook, or — if they are in China — Baidu or WeChat. But it’s different if you are surfing for tools to, say, unleash a bot attack and reap some ransomeware profit.

  • For that, you need to go on the dark web, an entirely different network within the deep web — the 96% of the internet from which Google and every other traditional browser are locked out.
  • There, you hire a good hacker, professionals who hide under assumed names to elude authorities, says Sorani, cyber manager at Webhose, a Israeli data mining firm.
  • To get there, you don’t use Google, but instead download software like Tor or I2P. Then you enter at your own — considerable — risk.

The dark web is full of people just seeking anonymity, often from dangerous regimes, but it’s also a place where many take advantage of that anonymity to commit crime. It can be as exceedingly treacherous and spooky as it sounds — the unsuspecting can be ambushed in super-unpleasant ways.

That’s why the idea of it becoming a safe ground for Facebook refugees is counter-intuitive: if you are lulled into the wrong place, you could end up in a cyber attack, or subject to much more sophisticated, unpoliced scams than are seen on the public internet, with no recourse since everything is so shadowy.

But Sorani predicts blockchain will change all that. He suggests it will evolve into an easy tool accessed through a mobile app or browser and provide a “gateway that will seamlessly connect you to the (dark) network.” Sorani tells Axios:

“Facebook for me is like a nation. It has a policy. They define the policy. But with blockchain, nobody can shut it down. It belongs to the community. It will be free of censorship.”
— Sorani

The general idea isn’t new: Minds, an alternative social media platform, said earlier this year that it was weaving blockchain into its program, and Zeronet has said the same. In China, too, the gaming giant NetEase has released a beta of Planet, its own blockchain social media app.

Bottom line: “To access it today,” says Sorani, “you need to install it and understand the hazards. That’s why people are not using it by now. But when there will be sense in it —
when people decide, ‘I want my private life back’ — there is a chance this will go to the masses.”

Trump’s lack of cyber leader may make U.S. vulnerable

June 5, 2018

Experts and lawmakers worry the nation is rudderless on the vital issue of cybersecurity.

The absence of senior cybersecurity leaders in President Donald Trump’s administration may be leaving the United States more vulnerable to digital warfare and less prepared for attacks on election systems, according to lawmakers and experts worried about White House brain drain under national security adviser John Bolton.

Both Republicans and Democrats are expressing concern that the White House is rudderless on cybersecurity at a time when hostile nations’ hackers are moving aggressively, inspiring fears about disruptive attacks on local governments, power plants, hospitals and other critical systems.

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POLITICO spoke with nearly two dozen cyber experts, lawmakers and former officials from the White House, the intelligence community and the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense and State about Bolton’s decisions to oust the White House’s homeland security adviser and eliminate its cyber coordinator position. The overwhelming consensus is that Bolton’s moves are a major step backward for the increasingly critical and still-evolving world of cyber policy.

The widely respected cyber policy expert Tom Bossert, Trump’s former homeland security adviser, resigned in April just after Bolton joined Trump’s White House staff. Late last week, Trump named Doug Fears, a former Coast Guard Atlantic region chief of staff, as his new homeland security adviser, but while several sources praised Fears’ handling of disaster response issues, they noted that he is not a cybersecurity expert.

On May 15, Bolton eliminated the post of White House cybersecurity coordinator following the departure of Rob Joyce, who had held the job since shortly after Trump’s inauguration. Bolton’s staff has said cutting the cyber position would “streamline” decision-making in the National Security Council by reducing a layer of management. But other people familiar with the post say it’s setting up the U.S. for problems.

The leadership void erodes “confidence [that] we’re going to be ready, when we get hit by a cyber incident, to react with anything approaching swiftness and decisiveness,” said Chris Painter, who was the State Department’s top cyber diplomat from 2011 to 2017 — a post that former Secretary Rex Tillerson also eliminated early in Trump’s presidency. Painter said he worries about this indecisiveness “being detected by our adversaries.”

Michael Daniel, former President Barack Obama’s cyber coordinator, said the gap in the White House “represents a significant weakness.” And Greg Garcia, DHS’s first assistant secretary for cybersecurity during the George W. Bush administration, said everything that had been moving forward in the federal government regarding cybersecurity is “going to suffer a bit without some central coordination authority.”

As for Fears, said Daniel, “I don’t think that his appointment fundamentally addresses the void in White House leadership on cybersecurity matters . … That’s not his area of expertise, so this Administration still has a problem in that regard.”

Last week, nearly two dozen Senate Democrats sent a letter to Bolton calling the elimination of the cyber coordinator “a step in the wrong direction.” On May 16, the day after the National Security Council announced Bolton’s decision, eight House Democrats implored Trump to name a coordinator who could serve as “a visible figurehead that other government agencies, the private sector, and our allies can turn to for guidance.”

And on May 24, Maine Sen. Susan Collins became the first Republican lawmaker to voice concerns, urging the White House to publish a cyber strategy and saying a coordinator would be vital to its implementation.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who chairs the Armed Services cyber subcommittee, recently requested a meeting with Bolton to discuss the situation.

“A lot of us are concerned that cyber leadership is missing,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee. “It’s difficult to execute a mission with no one at the top.”

The White House and its allies defended the moves, saying they didn’t imply any lack of focus on cybersecurity. The Trump administration has taken public steps on cyber issues since Bossert and Joyce’s departures, issuing two alerts from the FBI and DHS about Russian and North Korean hacking.

“Cybersecurity is one of Ambassador Bolton’s highest priorities,” an NSC spokesman told POLITICO, adding that the administration “is focused on addressing the nation’s many cybersecurity challenges, not in laboring beneath layers of unnecessary and time consuming bureaucracy.”

Panic over the restructuring in the NSC is premature, said Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security cyber subcommittee. “How do we know that the organization chart isn’t going to be restructured and they’re going to create a new, different position that they feel is better suited to address cybersecurity as a priority?”

Fears, the new homeland security adviser, “clearly has a steep learning curve on cybersecurity issues,” said Ari Schwartz, a former top White House cyber official. But Schwartz and others said Fears was competent and well-respected, which would serve him well in coordinating agency discussions.

Still, said Jay Healey, a cyber conflict scholar at Columbia University, “unless Doug Fears insists on reestablishing a senior role for cybersecurity, he will be using [his] disaster recovery experience to deal with one cyber crisis after another.”

Jeanette Manfra, the DHS assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications, downplayed the negative consequences of eliminating the coordinator role. Speaking at a recent conference, she said agencies were ready for “a different type of governance” in which they made more policy decisions themselves.

Still, worries about the gaps in the White House’s cyber leadership have seeped into the private sector.

One former congressional staffer recalled meeting with a senior financial services executive when Bossert’s resignation became public. “He was despondent,” said the former staffer, who requested anonymity to discuss a private meeting. The executive, who “kept shaking his head,” told the staffer that the financial sector had “essentially written [the White House] out” of its incident response plan “because there was ‘nobody to work with.’”

Security researchers, on whom the government often depends for insights into evolving threats, were also frustrated. “The elimination of the [coordinator] position after [Joyce’s] departure confirms my worst fears — the administration is absolutely unwilling to listen to cybersecurity experts,” said former NSA hacker Jake Williams, the founder of the security firm Rendition InfoSec.

Since the Obama administration created the White House cyber coordinator role in 2009, the position has been key in resolving conflicts among agencies, preparing Cabinet leaders to make major policy decisions and responding to crises, according to cyber experts and former government officials who spoke to POLITICO.

Those experts conceded that agencies’ day-to-day operations will proceed normally — including the bulk of DHS’s work on election security and protection of critical infrastructure such as banks and the electric grid, and the Pentagon’s various operations in cyberspace.

But they said it will likely become increasingly difficult to bring agencies together to formulate big-picture strategies, such as how best to use America’s potent cyber capabilities — the intelligence community and the military often spar over this issue — how to more effectively deter adversaries like Russia from launching cyberattacks, and how to improve existing efforts like DHS’s security partnerships with states. Other debates requiring input from multiple agencies, such as how hard the government should press tech companies to use warrant-compatible encryption, will also stall, they said.

“If you don’t have those individuals really pounding the table … to drive that policy process,” said Lisa Monaco, Obama’s second homeland security adviser, “you’re not going to get those options surfaced, teed up, and decisions made.”

Michael Bahar, a former Democratic staff director on the House Intelligence Committee and top lawyer at the NSC, stressed that the coordinator’s role is far from trivial, especially in forming and executing an “an all-of-government strategy” across various agencies. “Because the bad guys or adversaries are certainly not waiting around for us to restructure,” he said.

The White House maintains that government-wide discussions on cyber have not suffered.

“With the existing structure, the administration continues to hold malicious cyber actors accountable, modernize federal networks, plan for tomorrow’s cyber-workforce and promote cybersecurity to both the public and industry,” said the NSC spokesman.

But recent events have bolstered experts’ concerns that an NSC devoid of top cyber officials might have trouble resolving agency disagreements about the language of key reports or major executive orders. Already, White House turmoil delayed by three weeks the publication of key strategy documents that Trump asked agencies to put together in a May 2017 executive order. Several of those reports finally appeared last week, but without any accompanying message from the White House explaining how it would use the documents to develop new policies.

“It is hard to imagine the indefinite postponement of a marquee event such as that would have happened if Bossert/Joyce were still at the [White House],” said a tech industry lobbyist familiar with internal administration dynamics, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

Daniel, the former Obama cyber coordinator, also feared that the gaps will cause “operational impacts” if one agency wants to launch a campaign — like a botnet takedown, a series of arrests or a military strike — that will affect the priorities and interests of other agencies.

“Those may not be getting resolved very quickly,” he said, “and so operations may have to be put on hold.”

But on the other hand, some experts worry that agencies will begin acting more boldly on their own if they see delays and gridlock in the NSC process. That “increases the risk that consequential [agency] decisions fly under the NSC’s radar, thus increasing the risk that the White House becomes blindsided by decisions made without its full awareness and input,” said DJ Rosenthal, a former Justice Department and intelligence community official who served as director for counterterrorism at the NSC.

The lack of a cybersecurity coordinator may become especially acute in a crisis. For instance, Monaco pointed to Daniel’s role in leading the response to the massive hack of the Office of Personnel Management that came to light in 2015, which exposed highly sensitive security clearance documents on more than 20 million current and former federal employees and applicants. That break-in was widely believed to be the work of Chinese hackers.

“Those discussions had to come together, at the first instance, [through] the cyber coordinator, and then ultimately to [Cabinet secretaries],” Monaco said. “But you needed one person driving that.”

Monaco also praised Daniel for his handling of Heartbleed, a major security bug that required rapid evaluations of federal computer systems. In the current White House, she said, “who is the sole person responsible for [ensuring] that agencies across the federal government are making sure that they are not vulnerable to those types of … legacy vulnerability?”

Experts also worry that the lack of a coordinator will complicate the administration’s efforts to protect elections.

DHS has been “leaning forward” in its day-to-day consultations with states to prepare for this year’s midterm elections, said Frank Cilluffo, director of the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, but he said the government lacks a more strategic approach. “Disinformation, active measures — that’s more than just a DHS mission,” he said. “That’s an FBI mission. That can be an intelligence mission overseas.”

White House officials must knit all those efforts together, he said.

Jeh Johnson, Obama’s second homeland security secretary, said the government needs “senior people leading the cybersecurity charge. … At the White House level, there appears to be no one running traffic control.”

The lack of a cyber coordinator will also hamper the administration’s efforts to promote international norms and build alliances on digital security issues, said Painter, who played a key role in getting the G-20 to formally disavow cyber-enabled intellectual property theft. That “never would have gotten done” without the involvement of senior White House officials, he said.

The same was true of a 2015 deal in which China and the U.S. both agreed not to hack each other’s computer systems for economic gain. “That was about two years of consistent pressure not just by me but by the highest levels of our government,” he said.

And White House officials have been key to resolving debates between the military and the intelligence community on how and when to use their increasingly powerful cyber tools, the experts said. The Pentagon often wants to loudly and publicly disrupt enemy networks, while the spies would prefer to keep their capabilities secret and use them for intelligence collection.

Developing national strategies to deter nation-states or criminal hackers from carrying out cyberattacks in the first place also requires White House coordination. In addition, the coordinator and homeland security adviser have been key to promoting the White House’s broad cybersecurity agenda to the public, through interviews and at industry conferences.

Several experts made the analogy to the corporate world: If boards of directors are focused cybersecurity, C-suite executives have to focus on it, which means mid-level managers have to focus on it, too.

“That’s how you create a culture of cybersecurity,” said Bahar, the former NSC and House Intelligence staffer. “If you don’t have it at the board level, or the equivalent in government, then you risk not having cyber receive sufficient attention that it needs.”

Martin Matishak contributed to this report.

Russian hackers targeting millions of devices around the world, US and UK warn

April 17, 2018

Intelligence agencies say spying could be preparation for future attacks

By Lizzie Dearden Home Affairs Correspondent
The Independent

Russian hackers are targeting millions of devices around the world to spy, steal information and build networks for potentially devastating future cyberattacks, the US and UK have revealed.

The first ever joint “technical alert” from the two countries urged members of the public and businesses to help combat vulnerabilities with basic security precautions.

Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – an arm of British intelligence agency GCHQ – said Russia was its “most capable hostile adversary in cyberspace”.

In a call with The Independent and other outlets, he said all attacks uncovered by American security services had directly affected the UK, including intrusion into the energy sector.

“This is sustained targeting of multiple entities over months that we believe the Russian state to be behind,” Mr Martin added.

“The purpose of these attacks could be espionage, the theft of intellectual property and they could be positioned for use in times of tension.

“There are millions of machines being globally targeted, trying to seize control over connectivity.”

The total is believed to include tens of thousands of home devices in the UK alone, which could be used “at scale” for wider operations.

US to impose new sanctions on Russia in wake of Syria chemical attack, says UN ambassador Nikki Haley

Security services admitted they do not know the full scale of attacks by state-sponsored Russian hackers, who are using routers connecting people’s homes and offices to the internet to spy on the information going through them, harvesting passwords, data and other information that could later be used in an attack.

Mr Martin said some efforts are directly targeting the British government and critical national services, such as the NHS, where the crippling impact of North Korea’s WannaCry attack showed the devastating potential of cyber warfare last year.

Other targets include internet service providers and the private sector, providing a “basic infrastructure” to launch future operations.

​GCHQ has been tracking Russian actors for more than 20 years but the threat has come to renewed global attention following global ransomware incidents, power outages in Ukraine and alleged interference in foreign elections.

American officials denied that Monday’s “pre-planned” warning was linked to any increase in malicious activity following air strikes against the Kremlin’s Syrian allies on Saturday.

Bombing targeting chemical weapons stores by the US, UK and France worsened tensions with Vladimir Putin’s government further following the Salisbury nerve agent attack, diplomatic expulsions and ongoing sanctions over the Ukrainian war.

Rob Joyce, special assistant to Donald Trump and the US National Security Council’s cyber security coordinator, said Russia was amassing a “tremendous weapon” but there was no specific intelligence on the targeting of elections.

“When we see malicious cyber activity, whether it be from the Kremlin or other malicious nation-state actors, we are going to push back and push back hard,” he added, detailing cyber defence, sanctions and prosecutions.

Mr Joyce said “all elements of national power” were being mounted against the threat, including counter-attacks and asymmetric warfare.

Security services warned that global connectivity provided by the “internet of things” relied upon in modern life was being exploited and issued advice on how civilians and businesses can protect their devices, as well as national defences.

They stressed that threats came from countries other than Russia, as well as criminals seeking to profit.

Switches, firewalls and Network Intrusion Detection System (NIDS) are also being exploited in what are known as “man-in-the-middle” attacks.

Security weaknesses combined with a “Russian government campaign to exploit these devices” threatens the UK and US’s safety, security, and economic well-being, the NCSC said.

The Kremlin has denied persistent accusations of malicious cyber activity but last year Mr Putin conceded that “patriotic” Russian hackers may be acting “in the fight against those who speak badly about Russia”.

Keir Giles, an expert in Russian information warfare at Chatham House, said the line between government, business and the criminal world was blurred.

“The bottom line is these attacks would not be coming from Russia without Russian state collusion – if they wanted to stop it they could,” he told The Independent.

Mr Giles said Russia’s attacks had become more blatant due to a lack of deterrents during Barack Obama’s administration.

“They have not cared for some time about being identified as the source of hostile activity,” he added.

“Russia is far less concerned about being a rogue state because they have no reputation to maintain, they are behaving more like North Korea than the European nation they once pretended or aspired to be.

“This is just another symptom of Russia believing it is in an advanced state of conflict in the West in every domain apart from overt military clashes.”

Ewan Lawson, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), said actors could be viewing browsing history, emails, messages or sending information elsewhere.

“The concern with the presence of someone on your network is are they simply there looking or as a preparatory measure for something more nefarious?” the former RAF officer added.

“Either is bad. We haven’t seen a lot of damaging attacks yet but I believe we’re going to. If they were on a transport network, for example, the potential is there to disrupt train services. You could get into the signalling network.”

Read the full alert and advice here.

A previous version of this article stated that “billions” of machines had been targeted, but the figure was changed to “millions” following clarification from the NCSC.

Pentagon looks to counter ever-stealthier warfare

March 24, 2018


© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File / by Sylvie LANTEAUME | Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has warned that both Russia and China are experimenting with ways to take out the US military’s satellites

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US military has for years enjoyed a broad technological edge over its adversaries, dominating foes with superior communications and cyber capabilities.

Now, thanks to rapid advances by Russia and China, the gap has shrunk, and the Pentagon is looking at how a future conflict with a “near-peer” competitor might play out.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson recently warned that both Russia and China are experimenting with ways to take out the US military’s satellites, which form the backbone of America’s warfighting machine.

“They know that we are dominant in space, that every mission the military does depends on space, and in a crisis or war they are demonstrating capabilities and developing capabilities to seek to deny us our space assets,” Wilson said.

“We’re not going to let that happen.”

The Pentagon is investing in a new generation of satellites that will provide the military with better accuracy and have better anti-jamming capabilities.

Such technology would help counter the type of “asymmetric” warfare practised by Russia, which combines old-school propaganda with social media offensives and cyber hacks.

Washington has blamed Moscow for numerous cyber attacks, including last year’s massive ransomware attack, known as NotPetya, which paralyzed thousands of computers around the world.

Little Green Men invaded Crimea — Photo: Sergey Ponomarev

US cyber security investigators have also accused the Russian government of a sustained effort to take control of critical US infrastructure systems, including the energy grid.

Russia denies involvement and so far, such attacks have been met with a muted US military response.

– Public relations shutdown –

General John Hyten, who leads US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told lawmakers the US has “not gone nearly far enough” in the cyber domain.

Image result for General John Hyten, photos

General John Hyten

He also warned that the military still does not have clear authorities and rules of engagement for when and how it can conduct offensive cyber ops.

“Cyberspace needs to be looked at as a warfighting domain, and if somebody threatens us in cyberspace, we need to have the authorities to respond,” Hyten told lawmakers this week.

Hyten’s testimony comes after Admiral Michael Rogers, who heads both the NSA — the leading US electronic eavesdropping agency — and the new US Cyber Command, last month said President Donald Trump had not yet ordered his spy chiefs to retaliate against Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Russia has also been blamed for the March 4 poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in England.

NATO countries are working to determine when a cyber attack might trigger the alliance’s Article 5 collective defense provision, General Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of NATO forces in Europe, said this month.

Image result for u.s. satellites, photos

NATO “recognizes the difficulty in indirect or asymmetric activity that Russia is practising, activities below the level of conflict,” Scaparrotti said.

In 2015, the Air Force opened the highly secretive National Space Defense Center in Colorado, where airmen work to identify potential threats to America’s satellite network.

After officials told a local newspaper, The Gazette, that the center had started running on a 24-hour basis, Air Force higher ups grew alarmed that too much information had been revealed.

In an example of how sensitive the issue of cybersecurity now is, the Air Force reacted by putting its entire public operations department on a “stand down” while it reviews how it interacts with journalists.


Fight vs terrorism, extremism extends to cyberspace

March 17, 2018
 / 03:14 PM March 17, 2018

The challenge of fighting terrorism extends out of the battlefield as the threat increases in cyberspace, a struggle for many governments worldwide.

“Because of encryption, ISIS has been able to survive in cyberspace. Encryption remains to be the greatest challenge of the military, law enforcement, and national security agencies,” said Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, head of International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism in Singapore, at a forum held in Manila early this week.

Image may contain: one or more people and people sitting

He said that many activities of terrorists online such as propaganda and recruitment are “undetected” because of their mastery of social media and the use of encryption, a secure method wherein no one else can access their communications.

The encryption feature exploited by terrorists is also a privilege for legitimate activities, especially those that involve national security.

This expertise of terrorists has left nation-states to “monitor ineffectively terrorist communication,” Gunaratna said, saying that arrangements should be made by governments with technological companies to crack encrypted messages of terrorists in order to make a breakthrough.

“This is the context of the new face of terrorism,” he added.

Daniel K. Inouye- Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) Director Rear Admiral (ret.) Peter Gumataotao acknowledged that radical groups like ISIS use “virtual reality” to recruit and connect with people.

“[They use it] to connect to people from different places not just educational institutions but communities with like-minded interests can get radicalized,” he said in an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the APCSS workshop on extremism last Friday.

Fake news is another aspect of cybersecurity that they could exploit, he added.

At the same time, Gumataotao said it is also in cyberspace that allows groups concerned to educate people ‘vulnerable to be disenfranchised’ to have a better understanding of things and prevent them from being radicalized.

“We need to start talking about how do we become resilient. We need to collaborate…[We should also look on the] bigger impact of cyber on our society, how we are interdependent on it,” he said. /jpv


Experts push for collaboration between nations, agencies to prevent another ‘Marawi siege’

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