10 December 2016

*** Trump’s Mad Dog

By George Friedman

It has become rare for top military officers to stand up to their civilian leaders.

I have received several emails, primarily from non-Americans, asking why Donald Trump would select a man called “Mad Dog” to be secretary of defense. They are aware that “mad dog” is a term denoting a dog with rabies and are baffled why anyone normal would be given that name. I have decided to serve as a guide to the perplexed.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) welcomes retired U.S. Marine Gen. James Mattis as they pose for a photo before their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, Nov. 19, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

First, you should bear in mind that James Mattis is not normal. He is a United States Marine. As such, he is expected to go beyond the normal. Within the American family of services, the Marines pride themselves on going to extremes. Those who go beyond the extremes are rewarded with names like Mad Dog. Mad dogs are said to be tenacious, unwilling to accept defeat or to leave a teammate behind. This has little to do with rabies and everything to do with honor. And one of the tenets of honor is never to lie to others or yourself about war. War is about defeating your enemy, and that means killing them. And in killing them you may kill innocents. This is true, and you can’t lie about that. If that is unacceptable, don’t go to war.

*** Could India's Bold Nuclear War Plan Survive a Clash with Pakistan?

Arka Biswas

Massive retaliation in India's nuclear doctrine fails to serve the objective of nuclear deterrence.

Debate on the review of India’s nuclear doctrine heated up recently after Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar’s "personal" remarks on the no-first-use element of the doctrine. Parrikar’s statement provoked responses from former Indian government officials, politicians, domestic experts and international observers, which delved into another critical element of the doctrine – massive retaliation. Disagreements on whether massive retaliation serves the stated purpose of nuclear deterrence do not take into consideration the changing political scenarios which should ideally influence New Delhi’s nuclear weapons policy. Recalibration of roots, rationale and relevance of massive retaliation, with consideration of recent developments in the India-Pakistan nuclear dynamic, leads to the conclusion that massive retaliation fails to serve the stated objective of nuclear deterrence. If massive retaliation is retained in the nuclear doctrine, it will be due to the lack of a better alternative, not because of its efficacy as a strategy of deterrence.

** Investing in the Fight


This report examines the use of the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) in Afghanistan. It explores the effectiveness of CERP in supporting tactical operations in Afghanistan during the counterinsurgency-focused 2010–2013 time frame using qualitative and quantitative methods and describes CERP's origins, history, and existing research on the effectiveness of CERP in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The qualitative component of this analysis provides an assessment of CERP from the perspective of its implementers, drawing on interviews with nearly 200 military officers and noncommissioned officers who designed and implemented CERP projects. These data provide a fine-grain view of the program on the ground, examining projects its implementers thought were successful and those viewed as unsuccessful. Our intent is to understand how and why tactical and operational units used CERP and whether the program achieved its intended effects in the local areas where it was used.



India’s maritime watchers have had much to talk bout lately. A few days after it held a bilateral exercise with the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) in the Northern Arabian Sea, the Pakistan Navy claimed its “anti-submarine” assets had prevented an Indian submarine from entering Pakistani waters. The military’s public relations wing announced that on November 14, antisubmarine units of the Pakistan Navy detected an Indian submarine close to the Pakistani territorial sea and promptly “drove it away.”The next day, India rejected Pakistan’s claim, terming it a “pack of blatant lies.”Even as New Delhi was coming to grips with the grave accusation, however, the media reported that Islamabad had invited the Chinese navy to join its own ships in securing Gwadar port, presumably against the threat of an Indian attack.

This delirium from Islamabad should not be a surprise. Since September this year, when the Indian Army carried out surgical strikes across the line of control in Kashmir, Pakistan’s naval commanders have been nervous about an Indian naval build-up in the Arabian Sea. In the aftermath of the latest cross border exchange of fire, as the Indian navy embarked on a series of combat exercises on its Western sea-front, -Pakistan has been expecting an escalation in maritime tensions. The Pakistan Navy’s claim of detecting an Indian submarine in Pakistani waters appears to be a manifestation of a deep-seated paranoia over an Indian naval encirclement of Karachi. Since 1971, when Indian missile boats carried out a daring attack on Pakistan’s premier maritime hub, destroying a significant portion of the naval fleet and harbor facilities, Pakistani admirals have feared another assault at their strategic nerve-center. With tensions and tempers running high, Pakistan’s naval headquarters is besieged with anxiety over the prospect of another blockade in its near-seas.

** The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shia-Sunni Divide

Geneive Abdo

An excerpt from Geneive Abdo's new book.

The Arab uprisings began with a seemingly secular cry, “The people want to overthrow the system.” In most countries, religious motivations were, at first, conspicuously absent; but, 5 years on, the initial unity has eroded into societal conflict in some countries and all-out war in others. Instead of agreed-on goals of social justice and a different form of governance, religious differences and how Muslims define themselves have emerged as newly salient characteristics throughout Arab society.

Throughout history, competing groups, sects, and schools of Islamic law all struggled to define the faith for a diverse and often-contentious community of believers, but the Arab uprisings brought identity and religion once again to the fore. A core issue in the post-Arab uprising era is the question: Who is a true believer and who is a nonbeliever? This exclusionist mind-set is most evident in the sectarian conflict between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, which poses a serious threat to the stability of regional states and to stakeholders in the wider world, including the United States and its allies.

A Foreign Policy More Supple

Khaled Ahmed

States have more room for manoeuvre if they keep their options open.

India’s brilliant ex-foreign secretary and a scion of great Indian statesmen, Shivshankar Menon, in his book ‘Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy’ (2016) begins by positing his thesis:

“All governments claim eternal consistency and success. Some even claim omniscience, and yet the essence of governance is choice. Choice involves uncertainty, risk, and immediacy; those who must make the choices operate in the contemporary fog that envelops events rather than from the certainty and clarity that come with time, distance, and reflection. Nowhere is this more true than in foreign policy decision-making. Diplomacy offers choices, and those choices must be negotiated with other sovereign actors not subject to a particular state’s customs, laws, and restraints.”

The above piece of wisdom can serve as advice to both India and Pakistan. The central idea is that a state has more room for manoeuvre if it keeps its options open, or more importantly, if it contrives to have more choices of action than just one or two. If you focus more on the need of freedom of action, you arrive at the idea of “flexibility” of response as the state faces a self-created crisis or a crisis imposed by another state. Only when the thinking of the state has room for suppleness will it have more choices or options for action.


Nalin Kumar Mohapatra

If Trump implements some of the election speeches into official policies, it could certainly ease tension and will reduce the “New Cold War” syndrome. The Russian President in his State of the Nation Address on December 1, 2016, as reproduced by the kremlin.ru, has also made a pointed reference towards “re-building” positive relationship with the United States by stating that “we need friends”

The recent victory of Donald Trump as American President raised hope that the relations between Moscow and Washington will be back to “normal” as the President-elect, Donald Trump, and Russian President Vladimir Putin share a common concern towards a number of global issues. Both the countries demonstrated the same optimism in the first half in the nineties of the last century when Russian policymakers considered America as their “natural partner”. The recent victory of Trump raises such a hope that both the countries can “mend” their fences and “reboot” their relationship to a new height. This optimism is emanating despite the fact that both the countries are having divergent opinions on various international as well as bilateral issues like NATO’s growing expansion in the Eastern Europe, deployment of missile warheads by both the parties aiming against each others, growing suspicion on part of Moscow what it claims regime changes by Washington in the post-Soviet space keeping its strategic interests in mind and Syrian question. Last but not the least is the West’s financial sanctions against

Border Tension Leaves India-Pakistan Trade In Crisis – Analysis

By Amitava Mukherjee*

Locations of India and Pakistan. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

Increased tension along the Line of Control (LOC), particularly in the wake of reported Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack at Uri and Indian surgical strike in response, has left its mark on India-Pakistan bilateral trade which has reached a crisis point with Pakistan, according to media reports, suspending the import of cotton and some other agricultural commodities from India.

As Pakistan has a fast expanding consumer market, low volume of bilateral trade is going to hurt India more than it can inconvenience Pakistan’s economic interests.

There may be some reasons behind the argument proffered by a section of economic experts that India-Pakistan trade relations have shown so little growth over the years that the present spurt in hostilities will not subtract anything from the total quantum of bilateral trade volume. This may be true about the formal trade structure but unofficial trade between the two countries has registered phenomenal growth in the last decade proving the point that a policy of increased give and take between the peoples of the two countries might come in handy towards reducing mutual tensions.

Geostrategic Convergence of India’s Act East Policy and Indo-Pacific Strategies

By Surbhi Moudgil

Asia today stands at a geopolitical intersection with increasing shift in economic powers, growing strategic disability and subverting unilateral contentions grounded on unsettled historical differences.[i] In the midst of manipulation of power projection in Asia lies India’s unique geostrategic position to augment interstate cooperation in South, South East Asia, and the IOR (Indian Ocean Region), which is India’s contiguous region, not only geographically but also culturally and historically. India has common features with all its immediate neighbours, which they don’t share in such magnitude or depth among themselves. Consequently, making India believe its approach towards expansion of its ambitious Act East Policy and Indo-Pacific prospects is promising.

India’s commitment to engage with ASEAN countries economically, strategically and culturally under the umbrella of AEP is evident, especially due to the Indian Prime Minister recent visits to Lao, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Myanmar. Furthermore, his visit to Australia and Fiji has expanded the horizon of AEP to the contiguous Indo-Pacific region. He had also said, “For too long India and the US have looked at each other across Europe and the Atlantic. When I look towards the East, I see the Western shores of the United States.” [ii] Connecting Indo Pacific strategies to Act East Policy (AEP) further widens the spectrum of the previously underlined policy of Look East Policy (LEP) focused majorly on trade and economics.

Nagrota Attack : Focus On Solution Not The Problem

By Rameshwar Roy

There is a very popular Japanese story about a complaint having been received from a customer who had been sold a soap package without the soap. Since the company’s image was at stake, a high profile investigation was ordered into all aspects of such a lapse. The study group came up with the recommendation to install a very sensitive and expensive scanner to detect any soap case going empty out of the assembly lines in future. When the same problem was projected to a group of workers in the soap factory, they came up with a very simple solution – that of installing a high speed circulator fan to blow away any empty soap case that may be there on the conveyer belt. One may wonder what relevance this has to the terrorist attack in Nagrota cantonment? This article will discuss the the logic of it all from a soldier’s perspective.

India has been victim of terrorist strikes for close to three decades. They have struck with impunity and reactions have been inadequate to say the least; pathetic, hollow, non-committal and routine. The Kargil conflict in 1999 resulted in the all-empowered Group of Ministers (GOM) report in 2002, called the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) for overhaul of security mechanism in the country. Tragically nothing much would have happened, so we cried over it by setting up the Naresh Chandra Committee report to review the progress of the KRC, ten years later in 2012. Another four years went past but we have heard nothing yet again! May be due to the highly classified nature of ‘National Security’ issues involved in the report? How long should we continue to hide our inadequacies under the veil of ‘secrecy’?

Indian Navy going down the way of the other two Armed Services

The Navy was different from the Air Force and the Army because of its institutional tilt towards indigenization of equipment it used, especially major hardware such as capital weapons platforms. It had the warship directorate as part of Naval Headquarters that, over the years, has acquired the capability to design everything from fast patrol craft, corvettes, frigates, missile destroyers, to aircraft carriers. The only demerit on can point to in this respect has been the curious lack of confidence of the sub-directorate for submarine design that, despite designing and developing the Arihant nuclear-powered ballistic missile firing submarine (SSBN) with Russian assistance, still wants some foreign, preferably Western, firm to hold its hand in the prospective Project 75i — the indigenous next-gen conventional submarine. It’s mystifying that this should be so.

According to stalwart submariners like VADM KN Sushil (Retd), the 75i designers got stuck, unable to decide on things like the diving depth. More likely, the problem of designer-diffidence is, perhaps, due to submarine design unit being unsure it can translate the design into actual engineering drawings to pass on to the production unit. This was among the crucial aspects in which Russian help was sought and given by Russia on the Arihant. This lack of confidence in producing a wholly Indian designed conventional sub, — design to delivery, is bad enough. Now the Navy has gone a step further in the slippery slope of dependence on foreign suppliers. 

Same Country, Same Army, Same Enemy but now a Different Result

By Lt Gen JS Bajwa

“A nation that will insist on drawing a broad line between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and thinking done by cowards.”

— Sir William Francis Butler

In the past, India had borne the brunt of many Pathankot’s and Uri’s with patience and restraint. It presented irrefutable evidence of the connivance of Pakistan in those terrorist attacks. Always with the hope that Pakistan will take cognisance of India’s concern and reign in the terrorist groups who have had a free run in their country spitting venom at India, plotting and planning further attacks.

India too had the ultra-liberalists and candle light brigade who took no time to raise a hue and cry and compel the government to absorb the blow and be magnanimous. After all throughout its history India’s had been at the receiving end of more vicious attacks and plundering raids, so one more would not destroy this “ancient civilisation”!! Indian can afford to be benevolent and benign, so they said. Unfortunately, the earlier governments, with its bevy of ‘like-minded’ parties, were not in favour of a ‘hard’ option.

China Hails Progress Toward Military Reforms, Improved Jointness

As the major reorganization of the Chinese military nears its 1-year anniversary, the Chinese press and propaganda organs are reflecting on the progress made and steps yet to take in this core part of China’s military modernization project. Though the reforms have made major progress toward streamlining the command structures, commentaries and editorials in official publications calling for the PLA to “cast off” old concepts about the predominance of the Ground Forces (PLAGF) are further indication that the transition has not gone smoothly. Joint operations, the ability of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Rocket Forces to work together in coordinated campaigns, also remains a key bottleneck for the PLA.

China is attempting to resolve a number of issues that remain in terms of military coordination between disparate regions and between military services. The military reorganization reduced the number of Military Regions from 7 to 5, and streamlined the command structure to prevent bottlenecks in communication due to the Ground Forces’ primacy in key organizations. The continuing attention given to “Big Ground Army, Big Military Region System Mindset” (大陆军、大军区体制下的思维定势) is understandable given the virtual omnipresence of Ground Force’ officers throughout the previous PLA structure.

Connecting Heavenly Tibet

The Tibetan plateau is witnessing a great deal of infrastructure development. This is not new, but the Chinese investments have taken much larger proportions in the recent weeks. 

According to the website en.tibetol.cn, the Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has vowed to invest 543.1 billion yuan (88 billion US dollar) “to improve transportation conditions and promote the economic and social development during the 13th five-year period (2016-2020).”

What does it means?

Undoubtedly, it will bring tens of millions Chinese tourists on the plateau.

One hundred million soon?

The 12th Five-Year Plan

During the previous five-year period (2011-2015), 300 kilometers of high-level roads were built in the TAR while the Lhasa-Shigatse Railway started its operations in 2014; further 63 new airlines have been opened, linking 40 cities in China. 

New Terminal for Lhasa Airport

Recently, the design of Terminal 3 of the Lhasa Gongkar has been made public. 

It is said that the design was inspired by “traditional Tibetan culture in the pursuit of the heart of the sun and the moon - the eternal Shambhala". 

What does this mean? Is not clear.

China Tibet Net added that this project will “not only meet its functional purpose, but also perfectly combine architectural style and regional culture".

China's $4 trillion OBOR will span 65 countries with 70% of the world's population

China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative is at the center of Asia's infrastructure buildout. Geographically, OBOR could span 65 countries responsible for roughly 70 percent of the world’s population. Economically, it could include Chinese investments approaching $4 trillion.
Asia's infrastructure market is growing by 8 percent annually over the next decade, rising to nearly 60 percent of the global total. All told, the region’s infrastructure needs are estimated to exceed $1 trillion annually.

A U.S. Army Role in Countering China’s A2/AD Efforts: The Expeditionary Coastal Artillery Brigade

By Dean Cheng

In much of Asia, ground forces continue to exercise substantial political and bureaucratic power. In most Asian militaries, the ground forces are the largest service and control a substantial portion of most nations’ military budgets. This, in turn, means that ground force commanders exercise substantial political power, both within their respective national security establishments, and also in their political environments. Consequently, the U.S. Army potentially plays a vital role through its interactions with local militaries as fellow ground force leaders who speak the same “language.” This political role is further enhanced by the common desire among many of these militaries to work with a premier ground force, arguably the premier ground force in the world. Because of the various wars in which the United States has engaged since 1990, the U.S. Army has combat experience that is unrivaled in the Asia–Pacific region—which means that the U.S. Army represents a key means of engaging significant military and political players throughout the Asia–Pacific region.


Countering China’s A2/AD strategy will be a major focus of future U.S. defense planning, and the United States will need to consider innovative, non-traditional approaches. 

New approaches will require more than technological fixes, and must focus on the Chinese strategy as a whole, encompassing organizational and doctrinal changes as well. 

Russia, NATO, Trump: The Shadow World

Robert Cottrell

NATO and Russia are close to war, according to General Sir Richard Shirreff, recently NATO’s second-in-command. In 2017: War with Russia, he writes that Russia could invade the Baltic states, which are NATO members, while NATO does nothing. When crisis strikes, the British prime minister is at the pub, the Germans are paralyzed by anxiety, and the Greeks and Hungarians are in Russia’s pocket. The Americans are raring to go, but three countries have to fall before they can persuade their European partners to share their sense of urgency.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin; drawing by James FergusonAnd one could almost now say that Shirreff’s alarmism has been overtaken by events, which are conspiring to demolish even the outward show of solidarity on which NATO relies for its deterrence. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and Turkey’s post-coup crackdown call into question the strategic direction of two of NATO’s major military powers. As for Donald Trump’s argument during the presidential campaign that America’s richer allies should pay adequately for their protection, it was a fair point in principle, but a fatal thing to say in public. It made clear that America’s commitment to NATO would not be unconditional under President Trump; and if America’s commitment is not unconditional, then fairly obviously it will not extend to nuclear war. The cat is out of the bag. Seen from Moscow, the West has not been in such inviting disarray since the Suez crisis of 1956. Whatever constraints Putin may now feel upon his land-grabbing instincts, they must be entirely domestic in nature. NATO is no longer one of them.

Oil Deal Won't Last Long

by Lance Roberts

This week, OPEC managed to reach the much-hyped agreement to cut output in a bid to boost oil prices. The ministerial meeting in Vienna is said to have clinched a deal to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day to 32.5 million barrels per day, the deal comes with a condition that non-OPEC producers also cut production which will be discussed in early December. This is usually where the deal falls apart.

The deal is only for 6-months, and the reality is there is very little expectations that OPEC, or the other producers, will actually comply. Furthermore, the deal will only reduce oil output very modestly and will do little to impact the long-term supply/demand imbalance. Furthermore, any cuts made by OPEC will likely be more than offset by increases in U.S. production which is already on the rise particularly in the Permian Basin.

However, oil traders remain extremely long oil at this point and as such a reversal of oil, once again, back to the low 40’s is very likely.

Furthermore, note the very high correlation between the direction of oil contracts and the S&P 500.

The Struggle Against Terrorism: Lessons Learned & Next Steps

Sarah Sewall 

Thank you John and to MIT’s Center for International Studies for bringing us together this afternoon. It’s always wonderful to be back among familiar faces in Cambridge.

I want to make sure we have plenty of time for questions later, so let’s dive right in.

Two months ago, we marked the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. For a decade-and-a-half, the United States has engaged in a far-reaching effort to protect American citizens and allies from the threat of terrorism. We have devoted hundreds of billions of dollars to develop new military and intelligence capabilities, enabling the U.S. to strike terrorist operations and leaders in distant lands and prevent untold violence against people across the globe.

But few would argue that, despite all of that effort, the threat of terrorism has receded. Indeed, many Americans feel no safer today than they did fifteen years ago. That is an unsettling reality, and it demands that all of us in the field of international security take a sober assessment of our approach.

If we compare where we are now with the period right after 9/11, the parallels are striking. Fifteen years ago this month, OperationEnduring Freedom in Afghanistan was well underway. Today, the U.S. once again leads a multinational coalition against a terrorist menace – this time in the form of Da’esh. And once again, in the face of our military power, the terrorist group loses fighters and territory each week.



Thucydides surely did not lack ambition. He hoped his massive narrative would be “a possession for all time.” In writing his first and only book, Thucydides claimed

It will be enough for me if these words of mine are judged useful by those who want to understand clearly the events which happened in the past and which (human nature being what it is) will…be repeated in the future.

He might be accused of hubris but not of overreach. Most scholars of history, including our good friends at Zen Punditand The Strategy Bridge, concede Thucydides achieved this hubristic goal. Human nature has not changed and events played out between Athens and Sparta have, if not exactly repeated, have certainly rhymed again and again. The constant interplay of fear, honor, and interest in human conflict has been seen again and again. His History of the Peloponnesian War is a classical text and has rightly earned the Athenian consideration as one of the fathers of history.

Thucydides called war a “savage schoolmaster,” and he offered his carefully crafted history to reduce the blood bill of learning. He quite effectively addresses the role of strategic assessment, the importance of domestic politics in conflict, the complexities of alliances and diplomacy, and the interplay of land and sea warfare. For this reason, Thucydides sits on a pedestal among historians, and his work is considered required reading for serious students of strategy and military history. There is much to learn from him, and it is not surprising that major educational programs, especially the U.S. Naval War College where I once studied, start their strategy programs with a week devoted to this once discredited admiral from Athens.

Air Force Research Institute (AFRI)

· Strategic Studies Quarterly, Winter 2016, v. 10, no. 4 

o NASA in the Second Space Age: Exploration, Partnering, and Security

o Why Washington Doesn’t Debate Grand Strategy

o Liberating Cyber Offense

o Does China Have a Monroe Doctrine? Evidence for Regional Exclusion

o Prohibiting Interference with Space-Based Position, Navigation, and Timing

o Managing Decentralized Cyber Governance: The Responsibility to Troubleshoot

Latest Issue of Parameters Now Online

Parameters (Autumn 2016 Vol. 46, No. 3)
Special Commentary
Rebalancing Offshore Balancing by Michael G. Roskin
Adapting to Strategic Change
The US Army's Postwar Recoveries by Brian McAllister Linn
Rightsizing the Army in Austere Times by Charles Hornick, Daniel Burkhart, and Dave Shunk
Myths about the Army Profession
Five Myths about Our Future by Don M. Snider
On Strategic Communications Today
Using Information in Contemporary War by James P. Farwell and Darby J. Arakelian
Information and Warfare: The Israeli Case by Gideon Avidor and Russell W. Glenn


Combating Terrorism Center (CTC)

· CTC Sentinel, November/December r 2016, v. 9, no. 11 

o The Global Terror Threat and Counterterrorism Challenges Facing the Next Administration

o The Islamic State’s External Operations and the French-Belgian Nexus

o The Age of Selfie Jihad: How Evolving Media Technology is Changing Terrorism

o The Consequences of Russia’s ‘Counterterrorism’ Campaign in Syria

o The Mosul Campaign: From Here to the Horizon

They Have, Right Now, Another You

Sue Halpern

Harvard University Press, 356 pp., $29.95 Stephen Crowley/The New York Times/ReduxPeter Thiel speaking at the Republican National Convention, Cleveland, July 2016. Thiel, the first outside investor in Facebook and a cofounder of PayPal, is a founder of Palantir, a Silicon Valley firm funded by the CIA, whose algorithms allow for rapid analysis of voluminous data that it makes available to intelligence agencies and numerous police forces as well as to corporations and financial institutions.A few months ago The Washington Post reported that Facebook collects ninety-eight data points on each of its nearly two billion users. Among this ninety-eight are ethnicity, income, net worth, home value, if you are a mom, if you are a soccer mom, if you are married, the number of lines of credit you have, if you are interested in Ramadan, when you bought your car, and on and on and on.

How and where does Facebook acquire these bits and pieces of one’s personal life and identity? First, from information users volunteer, like relationship status, age, and university affiliation. They also come from Facebook posts of vacation pictures and baby pictures and graduation pictures. These do not have to be photos one posts oneself: Facebook’s facial recognition software can pick you out of a crowd. Facebook also follows users across the Internet, disregarding their “do not track” settings as it stalks them. It knows every time a user visits a website that has a Facebook “like” button, for example, which most websites do.

Are Mobile Phone Payments Secure?

David Lott
A consistent and leading reason consumers give as to why they don't use their mobile phone to make payments is their concern about the phone's level of security. While many consumers don't believe that mobile payments are as safe as other payment methods, is that actually the case?

For more than six years, the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Boston have been supporting the Mobile Payments Industry Workgroup (MPIW). The MPIW was created to facilitate the development of a vision for a mobile payments environment that will be effective, secure, and ubiquitous. This group has met frequently to address the issues of technology, standards, security, privacy, functionality, regulation, and adoption barriers. The various deliverables from past MPIW meetings focus on security and risk and can be found on the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's website.

As this blog has noted numerous times over the last two years, the migration to chip cards for in-person POS payments will shift more fraud over to the card-not-present (CNP) market. With the introduction of numerous mobile wallets since 2014 that can be enabled on smartphones, the MPIW believed that an assessment should be made of the risk issues associated with commerce generated through the mobile phone - or m-commerce - whether through a browser or a specific wallet application. Over the last eight months, Fed representatives and mobile payment experts have been working on the development of a white paper, which was released on November 8. You can access the full report here.

A Beginner's Guide To Encryption

Encryption is the friend of anyone who wants to keep their private information private, but it is used surprisingly little.

In the simplest possible terms, encryption means that anyone without the correct permissions, or “key”, who tries to view your data will see only gibberish that is impossible to untangle.