20 February 2017

*** Martin van Creveld: women are a problem in the military, not the cure

By Martin van Creveld

Summary: Martin van Creveld examines the reason why the Israel Defense Forces’ enthusiasm to recruit women. It’s the same reason for the enthusiasm of the US military. Men are increasingly unable or unwilling to serve. He discusses some of the likely consequences of this experiment.

For about twenty years now, I have been warning whoever would and would not listen about the dangers of feminizing the military. Now, in my own country, the chicks — no pun intended — are coming home to roost. As readers will know, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are the only ones in history to have made women wear uniform even against their will. However, from the end of the War of Independence (1948) to the late 1970s they only did so in a variety of auxiliary Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) that had little impact on the fighting “teeth.” At that point a shortage of manpower generated by the forces’ expansion following the 1973 Arab-Israeli War on one hand and feminist pressures on the other caused the situation to change. Female officers and enlisted personnel increased in both numbers and importance until the IDF was blessed with three small “combat” battalions made up mostly of women. Albeit that they are deployed along the borders with Egypt and Jordan, where hardly a shot has been fired for decades past.

Fast-move forward. For about a month now I have noticed, in Israel’s most important paper Yediot Ahronot, a series of articles about various combat IDF units. How little the public knew about them. How wonderful they were. How important the missions they carried out, and how daring their feats. Which towns provided them with proportionally the largest number of recruits. And so on. Briefly. the kind of stuff you would expect from a military that has difficulties attracting manpower.

*** The Rise of Uyghur Militancy in and Beyond Southeast Asia: An Assessment

By Nodirbek Soliev

In this article, Nodirbek Soliev looks at 1) the growing disaffection of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region of China; 2) their susceptibility to recruitment by IS and Al Qaeda; and 3) their movement into Southeast Asia, where the more radicalized among them might link up with existing militant groups. To blunt these trends, Soliev believes the Chinese government must develop comprehensive counter-radicalization and community engagement strategies, and focus more aggressively on winning the “hearts and minds” of the Uyghur community.

Southeast Asia is witnessing evolving security risks from Chinese Uyghurs’ involvement in militant activities in the region. Although this is a relatively new phenomenon, it has transnational security implications for the region. This article assesses the threat of Uyghur militancy in Southeast Asia and beyond.


First reports of Uyghur militants’ presence in Southeast Asia emerged in September 2014 when Indonesian police arrested four Uyghurs attempting to link up with Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT or Mujahidin Indonesia Timor), a militant group in Sulawesi that has pledged allegiance to the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) terrorist group. Since then, six more Uyghurs had been killed among MIT militants (Sangadji 2016). In August 2015, two Uyghurs were found to be among the masterminds and perpetrators of the Bangkok bombing (Vonow 2016) which killed 20 people and injured over 120. On 5 August 2016, Indonesian police arrested five members of a Batam-based terrorist cell known as Katibah GR, which had reportedly received funding from the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) (formerly known as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM)), an Al Qaeda-linked Uyghur terrorist group fighting in Syria and Afghanistan. Katibah GR was involved in smuggling and harbouring two Uyghurs (The Straits Times 2016), one of them, named Ali, was arrested in December 2015. This article argues that terrorist networks linked to the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) and Al Qaeda are attempting to build connections with human smuggling networks to recruit Uyghurs coming from Xinjiang. IS and its local affiliates in Southeast Asia are keen to recruit and mobilise disenfranchised and radical-minded Uyghurs for their militant activities in the region. However, Al Qaeda’s affiliates, al-Nusra Front (now Jabhat Fateh al-Sham) and TIP in Syria, appear to be mainly interested in safeguarding existing recruitment channels in Southeast Asia to further their fight in the Middle East, rather than expanding their operations in Southeast Asia.

*** Why does the U.S. military have such a staggering record of failure?

Feb. 13 (UPI) -- The official end of the Cold War came in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the creation of the Russian Federation. Since then, remarkably, the United States has been at war or engaged in significant conflicts and military interventions in which tens of thousands of its soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen have been killed or wounded for over two-thirds of the intervening years. Iraq in 1991; Somalia in 1992-93; the global war on terror and Afghanistan 2001-present; Iraq 2003-present; and Syria and Yemen since 2016 represent a total of 19 of the past 26 years.

Using the end of World War II in 1945 at a starting point and including the Korean War (1950-53) and Vietnam Wars (from 1959 when the first Americans were killed to withdrawal in 1974), Americans have been in battle for 37 of the past 72 years or well over 50 percent. And the record has not been impressive. Korea was a draw. Vietnam was an ignominious defeat vividly portrayed by the poignant image of the last Huey helicopter lifting off the roof of an apartment building in Saigon.

The only outright victory was the first Iraq War in 1991 in which President George H.W. Bush had the sound judgment to limit the objective to ejecting Saddam Hussein and his army from Kuwait and then withdrawing the bulk of our forces. Tragically for the nation, Bush's son, George W. Bush, presided over arguably the greatest American strategic catastrophe since the civil war --the second Iraq War -- a conflict that produced the Islamic State and is still being waged today without an end in sight.

*** Tracking the Trends and Numbers: Islam, Terrorism, Stability and Conflict in the Middle East

Far too much of the current U.S. debate over immigration and terrorism is focused on fear, rather than on an effort to understand the forces driving unrest and extremism in Islam and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, or on the data available on the trends involved. The Burke Chair at CSIS has prepared a detailed overview of these trends and the data available in graphic and map form in a report entitled Tracking the Trends and Numbers: Islam, Terrorism, Stability and Conflict in the Middle East. 

The trends involved are complex, and there are many uncertainties and gaps in the numbers. Any survey also necessarily understates the very sharp differences between countries, and a focus on the MENA region necessarily ignores the trends and forces shaping instability and extremism in other parts of the Islamic world like Sub Saharan Africa, South Asia, Central Asia, and East Asian states like Indonesia and Malaysia.

At the same time, enough data are available to make several key points:

1. The MENA region is a region of instability and unrest. (pp. 7-9) 

The MENA region may be a key source of violence and terrorism, but this is only one of many threats in the region, almost all of the violence is contained within the region and consists of Muslims killing Muslims, and the threat of terrorism and extremism is far broader than either ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, or al Qaeda and any of its affiliates. 

The case against weaponising water


With growing water scarcity across many parts of the world, competition over access to this vital resource has been known to spark conflict. Following the September 2016 Uri attack in India, the government made plans to retaliate against its neighbour by exercising its right to use water of the western rivers—allocated to Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty—by building dams, canals and reservoirs. This paper aims to address the legal, economic and social implications of this policy decision. It concludes with an observation that any project India decides to conduct on the transboundary rivers must not only be economically and environmentally feasible, but also comply with India’s obligations under customary international law.


‘Whisky is for drinking; water is for fighting over’. This maxim, popularly attributed to Mark Twain, can be rightly put into context of the current discussions around water resources. The scarcity of water around the world has resulted in competition among its users, and the history of conflicts over freshwaters is long and distressing. The US-based Pacific Institute has documented various incidents of tensions emerging over water from across the globe. These cases include those where water had been used for political goals or as a weapon during military actions. Water reservoirs have been made targets of terrorist attacks, and have become the subject of disputes in the context of economic and social development projects. The Institute’s Water Conflict Chronology List includes nearly 400 known water conflicts[i]from the 3rd century BC till 2015.[ii] Table 1 shows the growth in reported water conflicts between 1980 and 2015.

Pakistan’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa: The Conundrum in Action

By Umair Jamal

What’s behind the house arrest of Hafiz Saeed, the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa? 

The Pakistani government has placed Hafiz Saeed, the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the political arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was banned and blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, under house arrest in Lahore. However, this is not the first time that Saeed has been held under preventive detention: in 2001, immediately following an attack on India’s parliament, Saeed was put under house arrest, and again in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks.

The two most common explanations that have emerged as the potential reasons for Saeed’s house arrest concern United States and Chinese pressure on Pakistan. In this regard, Pakistan’s action of restricting Saeed’s movement is being considered an attempt to deter U.S. President Donald Trump from taking tougher measures against the country and to reassure and appease the Chinese leadership of Pakistan’s commitment toward dealing with all sorts of internal security threats.

While addressing Saeed’s arrest, the Pakistan military’s media wing in a statement said that “This was a policy decision taken by the state in the national interest and several institutions will have to play their role.” Moreover, the statement further noted that “Individuals are less important than the state. The national interest must prevail” while emphasizing that “no foreign pressure [was] behind this decision.”

The politics of counting, illustrated

Pranay Kotasthane

Census—a descriptive count of residents (not citizens) — is again in the news in Pakistan. The sixth national decennial census is now planned to begin on March 15 2017, after a gap of 19 years. The last census—held in 1998—was also delayed by six years.

This piece by Sarah Farooqui explains why Pakistan has found it difficult to hold a census exercise at regular time intervals. These specific insights from Pakistan however can also be extrapolated to two general observations in the realm of political theory.

One, census taking as a measure of state capacity

Many political theorists have been obsessed with one question — which parameters are leading indicators for the capacity of a state? Common answers are: ability to raise taxes as an indicator of the economic power of a state; and a state’s ability to remain entrenched from the citizens as an indicator of the political power of the state.

Chinese military approaches technological ‘near-parity’ with NATO in air domain – think tank

Ali Wael

Beijing’s military development has placed it on ‘near-parity’ with Western nations, with some weapons having no equivalent, a British think tank says. Meanwhile, NATO members are lagging behind in the development of advanced military capabilities.

The warning comes from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), one of the world’s leading defense research institutes, which presented its annual assessment (the Military Balance 2017) on the world’s armed forces on Tuesday. China’s growing capabilities and the danger they pose to Western dominance were the focus for IISS director John Chipman, who presented the assessment in London.

“We now judge that in some capability areas, particularly in the air domain, China appears to be reaching near-parity with the West. Also Beijing is now beginning to offer for export some of its modern military systems,” he told the audience.

One particular weapon the institute sees as a possible threat is the PL-10 short-range air-to-air missile, which “only a handful of leading airspace nations are able to develop,” according to Chipman.

Not only does it have superb homing capabilities and poses a threat to Western aircraft in a hypothetical armed conflict with China, Beijing also offers it for export, which would “complicate the operations of any Western air force” anywhere it proliferates, he said.

Will China Pay for Syria to Rebuild?

By Wang Jin

With U.S. President Donald Trump assuming power, there are signals that he might essentially outsource the Syrian conflict to Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, this still leaves a difficult problem for both the United States and Russia: who will pay for the post-war economic reconstruction, at an estimated cost of $1 trillion dollars, in Syria after more than six years civil war? To some, China is a likely contender to take on that role.

It seems that China has both the political willingness and economic capability to cover expenses that the international community — especially Russia, Iran and Syria — will need to help Syria’s economic reconstruction. In return, China would play a major economic role in Syria.

Politically, China has been standing with Russia, Iran, and the Syrian government by upholding the slogan of “non-intervention” and emphasizing a “political solution” rather than a “military solution” since the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011. China’s concerns in Syria are influenced by domestic factors. On the one hand, China worries that Islamic extremism could expand from the Syrian war zone into China’s western provinces, such as Xinjiang and Ningxia, where the Uyghur, Hui, and Chinese Muslim populations are concentrated. The long-lasting civil war has provided Islamic extremists, including many Uyghur extremists from China, a place to train and fight. China fears these Islamic extremists may eventually return to threaten China’s domestic safety.

Escalating Islamic terrorism in Xinjiang: Warning bells for Beijing

By Jai Kumar Verma

China, which vetoed India’s efforts to blacklist Masood Azhar in the counter-terror committee of the United Nations, is itself suffering from Islamic terrorism in Xinjiang autonomous region. Azhar is the founder of UN-designated terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (J-e-M) and also owes allegiance to other terrorist outfits including Harkat-ul-Ansar and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen but China, with the ulterior motive of helping its all-weather friend Pakistan, blocked India’s efforts in the UN.

Pakistan, which is the epicenter of terrorism, created several terrorist outfits as it launched a low intensity war against India and wanted to achieve ‘strategic depth' in Afghanistan. The architects of these terrorist organisations were officers of the creepy Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and they aroused the sentiments of leaders and workers of terrorist outfits by interpreting Islam erroneously with mala fide intentions. Nonetheless, with the passage of time, the leaders of a few terrorist outfits discontinued obeying ISI and launched terrorist activities inside Pakistan as well as in friendly countries like China.

Xinjiang autonomous region is the largest province of China and shares borders with several countries, including Pakistan, from where Uighur Muslim radicals import the extremist form of Islam. In the top echelon, both China and Pakistan talk about their “irreplaceable” friendship but now leaders of Xinjiang province are worried about the Islamic terrorism perpetrated by Pakistani Taliban.

Trump Is Showing How the Deep State Really Works


The who, what, where, and why of the Trump administration’s first major scandal — Michael Flynn’s ignominious resignation on Monday as national security advisor — have all been thoroughly discussed. Relatively neglected, and deserving of far more attention, has been the how.

The fact the nation’s now-departed senior guardian of national security was unmoored by a scandal linked to a conversation picked up on a wire offers a rare insight into how exactly America’s vaunted Deep State works. It is a story not about rogue intelligence agencies running amok outside the law, but rather about the vast domestic power they have managed to acquire within it.

We know now that the FBI and the NSA, under their Executive Order 12333 authority and using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as statutory cover, were actively monitoring the phone calls and reading text messages sent to and from the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

Although the monitoring of any specific individual is classified TOP SECRET, and cannot be released to foreigners, the existence of this monitoring in general is something of an open secret, and Kislyak probably suspected he was under surveillance.

Countering the Expansion of Transnational Criminal Networks

PDF file 1.6 MB 
Research Questions

What are the operational characteristics of transnational criminal networks? What are the strategic alliances among criminal groups and other actors along the key nodes of clandestine smuggling routes?

How do transnational criminal networks threaten U.S. interests?

What U.S. government policies and programs can be used to combat these networks?

What are some roles the U.S. Army could play in combatting TCNs, consistent with U.S. policy?

In July 2011, President Barack Obama promulgated the Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime. In the letter presenting the strategy, the president stated that the expanding size, scope, and influence of transnational organized crime and its impact on U.S. and international security and governance represent one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century. Through an analysis of transnational criminal networks originating in South America, this report develops a more refined understanding of the operational characteristics of these networks; the strategic alliances that they have established with state and other nonstate actors; and the multiple threats that they pose to U.S. interests and to the stability of the countries where they operate. It identifies U.S. government policies and programs to counter these networks; the roles of the Department of Defense, the geographic combatant commands, component commands, and task forces; and examines how U.S. Army assets and capabilities can contribute to U.S. government efforts to counter these networks. The report also recommends reconsidering the way in which nontraditional national security threats are classified; updating statutory authorities; providing adequate budgets for the counternetwork mission; and improving interagency coordination.

The Power of Persuasion in Countering Terror


As part of the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) during the Obama administration, Michael Ortiz helped develop and launch a new CVE strategy and also worked to build the case internationally for those efforts. The Cipher Brief’s Mackenzie Weinger spoke with Ortiz, the first U.S. diplomat focused on countering violent extremism policy at State, to learn more about the department’s CVE programs, how the government works with the private sector, and what challenges lie ahead.

The Cipher Brief: What are some of the ways in which the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism has worked to prevent the spread of violent extremism?

Michael Ortiz: We have a multifaceted approach. We realized early on, and this was even before I arrived at State Department, that we needed a global architecture to support CVE efforts. And what I mean by global architecture is ensuring that there are organizations and resources out there to provide support to CVE efforts around the world. During her tenure, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton set up the Global Counterterrorism Forum, which is an organization of a number of countries that shares best practices on counterterrorism issues. CVE became a big part of that.

Need for an independent Fiscal Council

Anupam Manur

Budgets are essentially about the future — collecting revenue and then spending it. Since, it is about the future, budget allocations have to be based on forecasts. But, these budget forecasts are almost always wrong and sometimes they are wrong by a big margin. This can have a significant impact on the actual receipts and expenditure and thus, on the fiscal deficit.

In this year’s budget, for example, Mr. Jaitley’s budget exercise was almost completely in the dark. He worked with data from only the first half of 2016–17. There are also structural breaks in the data that were not considered. The first break was in November 2016 due to demonetisation and the second break will come when the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime takes over. In what seems like a silly error, Mr. Jaitley has projected revenue collections from cesses and surcharges over the full year (amounting to Rs. 2.96 lakh crores). However, these cesses and surcharges are most likely to disappear when the GST is rolled out sometime in July 2017.

There are two main reasons for inaccuracies in budgetary forecasts. One, by its very nature, economic forecasting is an imprecise science. It is dependent on other forecasts, which are equally imprecise, such as economic growth and the weather. Further, forecasters are notoriously ineffective in predicting the next wave of technological breakthrough or the “sudden” change in the business cycle. Throw in the unpredictability of the monsoon, which has a non-trivial impact on the Indian economy, and one can understand the mistrust of budget forecasts. Two, the Finance Minister is always incentivised to make projections that are favourable. The announcement of a big government scheme will be better sold if the Finance Minister can justify it with a projection of increased revenue collections due to higher GDP growth. This explains why the fiscal deficit target set in the budget for the coming year is rarely met. In six of the last eight years, revenue forecasts of the government fell short by around 10 per cent, due to overestimation.

SOCOM Will Soon Lead the Pentagon’s Anti-WMD Efforts. Here’s What It Still Needs.


America’s special operators know how to catch bomb-makers, but need new expertise on other areas of the fight.

U.S. Special Operations Command will soon begin coordinating the Pentagon’s efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction, which means the command is going to need new kinds of expertise and capacity.

This shift will require more than moving existing capabilities between commands. The challenge will be to elevate nonproliferation, counter-proliferation, and consequence management synchronization activities for disparate risks — think Fukishima nuclear disaster, Ebola public health emergency, Syria chemical weapons destruction and loose nukes — in a single command that is already engaged with a global counterterrorism campaign.

The DoD strategy for countering WMD has three components: containing and reducing threats, preventing the acquisition of related material, and responding to crises. SOCOM is well positioned for the first — thanks to long experience and expertise in counterterror operations and in tracking and rendering safe nuclear weapons and related material — but less so for the others.

(Such efforts had been coordinated by Strategic Command’s Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction, or SCC-WMD, at Fort Belvoir, Va., but STRATCOM lost the job amid criticism of lack of attention and investment.)

Great question…what DID I learn in command?

by Gregg Sanders 

The question shouldn’t have been a surprise. “So, you just came from command. What did you learn?” Here was my chance to impart all the wisdom I had accumulated over the previous 18 years, culminating in command of a Navy Super Hornet squadron. “So, what did you learn?…”, the inquisitor repeated. “Um…” I sputtered. I had no clue what to say.

A VFA-147 Argonaut jet in “Star Wars Canyon,” Panamint Valley, CA.

I had just concluded my command tour with Strike Fighter Squadron 147 in Lemoore, CA when I began my Navy Federal Executive Fellowship at The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University. With this amazing opportunity to broaden my skillset as an officer, I was excited to share anything I could to help this impressive group of mid-20s civilians. I recognized very early that I could learn a lot from them, as well.

I quickly struck up a friendship with an incoming master’s student named Colin Steele. I was impressed with him as a person, by his depth of knowledge on security issues, and how he carried himself. It was clear that he was eager to learn from anyone who had anything useful to teach, and the military fellows appeared to be pretty high on his list. Little did I know his curiosity would provide me with my first big learning opportunity.

Mastering the Profession of Arms, Part II: Keeping Pace with Changes

Mick Ryan

In December 2016, the southern hemisphere’s first Defence Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF Aus) was held in Canberra, Australia. A manifestation of the first DEF in Chicago in 2013, it assembled a variety of army members to pitch ideas about the future of the profession. Over two days, new ideas about education, training, professional development, and other aspects of warfighting were discussed. I have written previously about the outcomes of DEF Aus. But it was also clear from the activity that there is an ongoing shift in the type of people we are seeing join our Army, and importantly, a change in how they think about improving the organization. This evolution reflects the larger changes that are impacting military organizations, and the profession of arms.

In the first installment of this series, I proposed that like war, the profession of arms reflects Clausewitz’s dual approach to war. It is a profession underpinned by enduring features while also constantly evolving as society and technology changes. What are the drivers of these changes? That is the question I turn to in this installment.

Understanding the enduring features of the profession of arms provides insights into the culture of military organizations. More importantly, understanding the drivers of change in the profession can help ensure the relevance of military education and training continuums. In reviewing the competencies required of a contemporary (and likely future) military professional, there are multiple influences that demand consideration. While the nature of the profession will remain stable, the skills and attributes it requires will evolve.



In the 20th century, the Soviet military’s penchant for area of effect artillery and armored firepower had earned it the reputation of a large hammer always in search of nails. This popularized impression stuck with Russia long after the Soviet Union’s demise, but today’s Kremlin employs military power in a much more nuanced manner to pursue its objectives. In recent conflicts, Russia has demonstrated a keen understanding of how to apply this instrument of national power to achieve desired political ends, doling out force in prescribed doses in the quest for decisive leverage. Although Russian military power remains a blunt force instrument, the state wields force more like a rapier, demonstrating discretion and timing.

In a previous article on the key pillars of Russian strategy, I argued that Moscow favors an emergent strategy based on “fail fast and fail cheap” approaches. The Russian military itself has a long way to go in terms of modernization, but conversely, America’s political leadership needs to reexamine how great powers, with far fewer resources, use the so-called “big stick” to get the job done. The unipolar world order appears to be rapidly melting, while great powers are back on the agenda. When it comes to use of force by peer rivals contesting America’s interests, it is only going to get harder from here on out.

The United States may not wish to emulate Russian approaches, but American strategists should certainly study then. Those who fail to learn from the experience of others must inevitably gain it at personal cost. As Mark Twain is said to have said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” To take another step along the journey of understanding Russian strategy, I explore how Russia changes facts on the ground, compels its adversaries, and achieves much of this on the cheap. The goal is to examine Russian use of force and draw lessons for an era when American use of power must become judicious, timely, and better married to something that resembles political objectives.

The Crazy Way Japan's Military Could Have Beat America During World War II

James Holmes

If a military triumph lay beyond Tokyo's reach, the second two methods remained available in the Pacific. Japanese commanders could have husbanded resources, narrowing the force mismatch between the warring sides. They could have made the conflict more costly, painful, and prolonged for America, undercutting its resolve. Or, alternatively, they could have avoided rousing American fury to wage total war in the first place. By foregoing a strike at Hawaii, they could have enfeebled the opponent's resolve or, perhaps, sidelined the opponent entirely.

Let's face it. Imperial Japan stood next to no chance of winning a fight to the finish against the United States. Resolve and resources explain why. So long as Americans kept their dander up, demanding that their leaders press on to complete victory, Washington had a mandate to convert the republic's immense industrial potential into a virtually unstoppable armada of ships, aircraft, and armaments. Such a physical mismatch was simply too much for island state Japan -- with an economy about one-tenth the size of America's -- to surmount.

State of the Internet / Security Q4 2016

By Akamai 

The fourth quarter of 2016 was relatively quiet for web application attacks. The biggest sales season of the year usually signals a marked increase in the number of attacks for all customers - especially retailers. Many merchants breathed a sigh of relief at not being attacked during their most important shopping days.

That's not to say everyone got off without some stress. The days surrounding Thanksgiving, traditionally mark the start of the holiday shopping season in the U.S.. In our Spotlight on Thanksgiving Attacks, we describe an overall daily attack trend and how four retail sub-verticals were each hit by different types of attacks.

The Mirai botnet continued as one of the largest threats in the fourth quarter, but it is not the only Internet of Things (IoT)-based botnet. At least two other major IoT-based botnets are in use. They may be variants of Mirai or new, unrelated botnets. In any case, IoT continues to provide resources to fuel future DDoS attacks. In an analysis of scanning on ports 23 and 2323, we explain our conclusion that, although some timelines place the development of Mirai in early July 2016, our data indicates earlier reports - as early as May 13th.

The CSS Blog Network

By Eugene E Guang Tan and Benjamin Ang


States all around the world are seeking to restrict the proliferation of ‘fake news’ to insulate their populations against messages that may destabilise their societies. But is the state the best entity to combat fake news?


IN 2016, several populist politicians around the world gained power by drawing on the emotion and biases of their supporters. Many of these followers appear to have been swayed by fake news, not verifying the ‘facts’ that their leaders provide them. More worrying, the leaders themselves seem not to care about the veracity of what they are spreading. Fake news can present as websites that deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news, and often using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect.

Some commentators fear that this is leading to a new normal where extremely biased views become the mainstream, thanks to fake news. These extreme views can cause divisions in society, foment unrest, and in some cases, lay the foundations for violence, such as the fake news that a pizza restaurant was operating a child abuse ring.

Hack the Pentagon II finds vulnerability in secure DoD systems

by Tony Ware

The Department of Defense has been alerted to critical vulnerabilities in a secure file transfer system it uses after a group of 80 security researchers vetted and recruited by application security company Synack Inc. participated in a sanctioned Hack-the-Pentagon exercise from Jan. 11-Feb. 7.

Founded by two former National Security Agency analysts, Synack was commissioned in spring 2016 to carry out bug bounties on public web applications and most recently to gather adversarial intelligence through a concentrated attack on sensitive DoD mechanisms replicated within a digital laboratory.

Synack’s team of ethical hackers used proprietary vulnerability intelligence technologies to identify ways to bypass network barriers, exfiltrate data and take control of the file-transfer tool, which is used to move mission-critical emails, documents and images within the Pentagon and in the field.

DoD employees are reportedly fixing the gaps and are considering further projects to test and secure cracks in command and control and human resources systems.

Read the original announcement, which contains a link to a more detailed Bloomberg report on the internal systems breach tests.

Concerns over Trump’s alleged use of personal, unsecured smartphone

The Department of Defense has been asked to provide information on the reported use of a personal, unofficial smartphone by President Donald Trump to communicate via his personal Twitter account.

In a joint letter sent to DoD Secretary James Mattis on Feb. 9, Sens. Tom Carper, D.-Del., and Claire McCaskill, D.-Mo., expressed concerns over reports that Trump continues to use an “old, unsecured Android phone” despite being provided a “secure, encrypted device approved by the U.S. Secret Service” prior to taking office.

Noting the national security risks that would follow a compromised smartphone, as well as the need to document and maintain all presidential tweets as required by the Presidential Records Act, the senators have asked what steps the Defense Information Systems Agency has taken to secure presidential communications while preserving them for the National Archives and Records Administration.

As senior/ranking members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Carper and McCaskill have requested DoD provide written responses by March 9 on the situation, as well as all steps taken or planned by DISA in regard to protective measures on Trump’s communication devices.

National Cyber Security Centre officially opened by Queen as Chancellor warns business to ‘sharpen’ its approach

By Josh Loeb

Dr Ian Levy, technical director of the new National Cyber Security Centre, opened by the Queen in London today, reveals how he hopes to shame trusted firms into complying with best practice on stopping hackers

“At the moment it’s fear, uncertainty, doubt – that is the entire narrative.”

This is computer scientist Dr Ian Levy’s precis of public attitudes to cyber crime.

As someone at the forefront of the fight against hackers - as technical director of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), officially opened by the Queen today – he should know.

Levy is plain-speaking and refreshingly critical of much that is wrong with the current mindset around cyber-crime.

“The interesting thing for me is that this narrative is driven by a massively incentivised group: the cyber-security industry,” he says. “They are incentivised to make it sound bad so you buy their magic ambulance.”

Experts’ responses to whatever botnet or bug is in the news can entail little more than “giving it a really cool name, shouting about it and running round claiming it’s the end of the world,” says Levy, witheringly.

Interpol warns terrorists can use drones to attack infrastructure facilities

News New York, Feb 14: The Interpol has warned that terrorists could possibly use drones loaded with explosives to attack key infrastructure facilities, setting off cascading disasters that travel beyond national borders. 

The world has become more vulnerable due to the cyber-connectivity of infrastructures, which has turned them into "an appealing target" for terrorists, Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock told the Security Council by video-conference on Monday. 

Representational image. Image courtesy: PTI. "As our cities and infrastructure evolve, so do their weapons," he said at a special session on combating terrorist threats to critical infrastructure like bridges, power lines, airports and nuclear power plants. Terrorists could adapt and refine the tactics they use in conflict zone like portable unmanned aerial systems or drones with explosives to attack key facilities, Stock said. 

Other tactics they could adapt include hacking attacks, armoured vehicles carrying bombs and simultaneous outbreaks of shootings, he said. 

Stock said that the international community should create critical standards and procedures to prepare for such eventualities. Countries should protect their borders and prevent movement of terrorists and intercept tools and materials that could be made into the next weapon, he added.