22 February 2017

*** Pull out and go where?

By Shiv Kunal Verma 

If India pulls out of Siachen, the Army would have to guard a much larger area with 15 times the troops. It would also cede strategic advantage to Pakistan. And China needs only an inch to take a mile

The Line of Control that separates Indian and Pakistani troops runs through some of the world's most inhospitable terrain. As one moves from the base of the Pir Panjal range towards the north—into the glaciated Great Himalayas and the Trans-Himalayan region—the conditions seemingly get worse. For the layman, used to judging physical discomfort by increasing altitude, Siachen is the final endurance test. Not surprisingly, national and international media often highlight the extreme conditions. In 2007, Myra MacDonald, the Reuters correspondent in India, gave her book on the Siachen conflict a somewhat catchy (and some would say apt) title—Heights of Madness.

*** With Unconventional Weapons, Drones Hit Their Limits

Could terrorists or other criminals use off-the-shelf drones to launch chemical, biological or radiological attacks? That was the question on many readers' minds after last week's look at how the Islamic State has used drones in Iraq and Syria.

At the time, I wrote that the hype surrounding the group's drone program would inspire jihadist sympathizers (and perhaps other criminals and terrorists) to use drones to try to conduct attacks in the West. I concluded, however, that the payload limits of commercially available drones, combined with a lack of access to military munitions, would limit the damage any drone attacks could wreak.

Graphic above: A man in a hazardous materials suit goes through a decontamination shower during a WMD training workshop in California.(JUSTIN SULLIVAN/Getty Images)

The public's interest in chemical, biological and radiological weapons is not surprising given the high profile (and somewhat exaggerated capabilities) ascribed to them by the media and Hollywood. Though the threat of an attack using such weapons could be grave in theory, there are practical constraints that would blunt its impact. By and large, these are the same constraints that would hamper any attempt to use biological, chemical or radiological weapons, regardless of how they are delivered.

The Difficulties of Biological Weapons

Of the three unconventional weapons, biological agents are the most capable of causing a true mass-casualty event. Though commercial drones are limited in the amount of weight they can carry - several kilograms at most - they could, at least in theory, convey enough of a biological agent to kill millions of people. But the nature of biological agents themselves curb their effectiveness as a drone-delivered weapon.

What makes India-UAE relations unique and thriving

By Md. Muddassir Quamar

India has good relations with countries in the Gulf and Middle East. In fact, it has no outstanding issues with any country in the region. Through delicate balancing it has been able to maintain excellent relations even with regional adversaries -- amidst conflicts and soaring tensions.

However, one country stands out in this relationship as far as New Delhi’s engagement with the Middle East is concerned -- especially under the Narendra Modi government -- and that is the United Arab Emirates. Since August 2015, when Prime Minister Modi visited the UAE, there have been several high level exchanges including the two visits of Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in February 2016 and January 2017. In between, UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (September 2015) visited New Delhi and Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar visited UAE (May 2016).

There are three key issues that define the longevity and the current bonhomie in India-UAE relations, thus explaining the diplomatic energy Prime Minister Modi has invested in reinvigorating the bilateral ties.

Firstly, it is the mutuality of economic interests: India is a large, fast developing market with significant energy needs and potential for returns on investments and the UAE has ability and appetite to invest in foreign shores. Its quest to find alternative destinations to the stagnating EU and Western market makes India an attractive and viable option.

Reviving the Quad: Japan, India, the U.S., and Australia 144 Shares

By Lavina Lee

If Donald Trump’s Twitter feed and the words of his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are to be believed, Washington is set to defend disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea from being ‘overtaken’ by Beijing, as part of an effort to stand up to China more generally. While the Obama administration’s approach was more diplomatic, the perceived lack of consistency and backbone when it came to standing up to China spooked many throughout the Indo–Pacific wanting to see stronger US resolve.

If President Trump proves genuinely ready to step into the fray where his predecessor did not, like-minded states will have an opportunity to take stronger steps to defend the existing regional order. Having said that, there will be no free rides. As Trump has said, regional allies and partners will need to contribute more to their own security.

If that’s the case, it might be time to revisit the Quadrilateral Initiative.

Much has changed since Kevin Rudd unilaterally withdrew from the grouping in 2008. China’s assertive actions to extend and defend its territorial claims in the East and South China seas have undermined its own rhetoric about a peaceful rise. While Beijing’s complete rejection of the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling in its dispute with the Philippines was anticipated, it also exacerbated fears about how China will use its growing military might and political influence.

Talking To The Taliban

by Vivek Katju

On February 15, 1989, General Boris Gromov walked across the Friendship Bridge on the Amu-Daria to complete a humiliating Soviet withdrawal. Twenty-eight years since, last Wednesday, Russia hosted a six-country meeting on February 15 to discuss Afghanistan. China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India joined Russia; the US was conspicuous by its absence. This confirms Russia’s return to a publically active, if not interventionist, role in a country it has considered strategically significant since Czarist times. Does this mark a fresh round of the Great Game?

Russia is asserting that the Islamic State (IS) is gaining significant ground in Afghanistan and will pose a grave threat to the Central Asian Republics and its own security. To counter the IS, Russia wants to confer international legitimacy on the Taliban; it has acknowledged its own contacts with the group and wants it to be accommodated in Afghanistan’s power structures. In pursuit of this, it has warmed up to Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Response to Hybrid War on CPEC?

By Andrew Korybko 

Pakistan’s Response to Hybrid War on CPEC?

The over 100 Pakistani martyrs who were killed over the past week as part of the joint US-Indian Hybrid War on CPEC don’t need to have their sacrifices be in vain.

Pakistan was attacked by terrorists over the past five days when eight separate blasts ripped through the country and reminded the world that Islamabad is on the front-lines in the War on Terror. Unlike after the end of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, this time it wasn’t just ‘wayward freedom fighters’ boomeranging back to their home base and setting off a chain reaction of blowback, but dyed-in-the-wool terrorists hell-bent on wreaking as much havoc as possible in order to offset China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Old Tactics for New Reasons

This major contextual difference is attributable to the redefined geostrategic significance of South Asia across the past couple of years. The CPEC has become the driver of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) global vision of New Silk Road connectivity and the poster project for the emerging Multipolar World Order, thus making Pakistan the “Zipper of Pan-Eurasian Integration” at the “Convergence of Civilizations”.

The US and its unipolar allies such as India have a completely different conception for how the future should look, and are dead-set opposed to CPEC for the simple reason that it would undermine their hegemonic ambitions. Instead of joining the project and contributing to a win-win solution for all of Eurasia, Washington and New Delhi have decided to sabotage CPEC out of the pursuit of their own subjectively defined self-interests.

Why We Will Never Beat the Afghan Taliban Militarily

It is now official beyond question. The senior ranks of the U.S. military and foreign policy leadership have now fully succumbed to the belief that all problems in the Middle East and South Asia must include, at their core, the application of lethal military power.

No other alternative is considered. Worse, the military solutions they advocate have literally no chance of accomplishing the national objectives sought.

The latest damning evidence — the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan testified before the Senate in February 2017 that he believes thousands of additional U.S. troops should be sent back to Afghanistan.

It is difficult to overstate the utter bankruptcy of a strategy designed to bring peace to Afghanistan based on sending large numbers of U.S. service members back into harm’s way. The Washington Post reported in early February that Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, Jr. said he “believes the new president may be open to a more robust military effort that is ‘objectives-based.’”

Questioned by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.), the general said he can definitely carry out his mission with less than 50,000 coalition troops, but hesitated a bit when asked if he could do so with less than 30,000.

CPEC and the Baloch Insurgency

By Shazar Shafqat

Balochistan stands to gain little from the massive project, despite being in desperate need of economic opportunity. 

Pakistan’s economic resurgence seems to be looming large. Trade through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has partially begun, further upping the excitement surrounding the $50 billion megaproject. But what does this mean for the impoverished province of Balochistan? After all, despite being home to Gwadar port, the crown jewel of CPEC, the province’s share in the CPEC bounty is a mere 0.5 percent.

Balochistan is undoubtedly in need of an economic lifeline. The metrics paint a dire picture for its residents: 70 percent of people in Balochistan live in poverty. In Balochistan, there are about 1.8 million children not attending school, which is perhaps related to the fact that more than 5,000 public schools in the region consist of nothing more than a single room. Health indicators are equally bad. The maternal death rate in Pakistan is 278 per 100,000, whereas in Balochistan it stands at 785 out of every 100,000. Almost 15 percent of the people of Balochistan suffer from Hepatitis B or C. Added to this, there’s an acute water shortage. These appalling statistics cut a sorry figure.

Yet with all the talk of CPEC being a game-changer for the country, the Balochs are still left waiting on the sidelines. Worse, the division of CPEC benefits repeats a long-standing pattern where the people of Balochistan are not allowed to benefit from the province’s own advantages. Natural gas was discovered at Sui in Balochistan, yet major parts of the province are still deprived of natural gas. Now Balochistan’s beneficial geography – namely, Gwadar port – might be used to enrich other provinces. Pakistani authorities must ensure that CPEC doesn’t repeat the earlier injustice meted out to the native Balochs. Balochistan must get its fair share of the economic corridor. Otherwise, faced with extreme poverty and disconsolate social indicators, the local people aren’t left with many options other than taking up arms.

Deconstructing Pakistan’s strategic culture


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In the contemporary arena, Pakistan is facing a host of issues ranging, from grave internal and external threats; regional isolation; descending global image; decades-long menace of religious extremism; historical alienation with its eastern neighbor (India), and western neighbor (Afghanistan); domestic institutional confrontations; and lastly, continued internal destabilization.

All these issues have a direct link with its strategic culture. Therefore, an overview of Pakistan’s strategic culture is imperative to offer a casual analysis.

On a theoretical level, strategic culture does not have a concise and standard definition, but the most agreed definition was provided by Jack Snyder, an American political scientist. According to him: “The sum total of ideals, conditional emotional responses, and patterns of behavior that members of the national strategic community have acquired through instruction or imitation and share with each other…”

Likewise, Alastair Ian Johnston, a professor at Harvard University, in one of his research article, defined strategic culture as: “An ideational milieu which limits behavior choices.” This ideational context is shaped by “shared assumptions and decision rules that in a degree of order on individual and group conceptions of their relationship to social organizational or political environment.”

Circle of violence in Myanmar: Ethnic rebel groups versus the army – How much longer?

By Obja Borah Hazarika

The National League for Democracy which came to power in Myanmar in April 2016 has the daunting task of tackling several critical issues pertaining to ensuring peace, promoting rights of ethnic groups, preventing sectarian violence, ensuring economic development and constitutional amendments, among others.

Struggles for rights by ethnic groups have been a marked feature of Myanmar’s recent history. Such struggles have led to insurgencies committed by various ethnic groups against the regime in power. Such struggles and offensives by these groups have led to the destabilisation of various regions as well as displacement of the masses due to the retaliation by the army.

With a view to resolving these ethnic demands, the government of President U Htin Kyaw held the first Union Peace Conference in Nay Pyi Taw from August 31 to September 3, 2016. This conference allowed various ethnic groups which had been rebelling against the government to present their demands in an open forum. However, the conference did not yield any substantive resolutions and more importantly, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance (MNDA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and Arakan Army (AA), which are three of the fiercest ethnic rebel groups in Myanmar, were not part of the ‘21st Century Panglong Conference’ thus diminishing the success of the conference.



As long as U.S. policy toward North Korea relies on coercive pressure, China will always be working at cross-purposes with it. The idea that North Korea is “China’s problem,” or that the path to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula runs through China, is a dangerous fallacy.

Social media is abuzz with news that China’s Ministry of Commerce announced it will suspend coal imports from North Korea as part of U.N. Security Council sanctions enforcement for the North’s most recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests in violation of prior Security Council resolutions. So China is finally standing arm-in-arm with the United States and international community to actually do something about North Korea. That’s great, right? Wrong.

China’s suspension of coal imports is smoke and mirrors; an act of geopolitical misdirection. The United States is being played, as it has in the numerous past instances when China supported sanctions resolutions against North Korea at the United Nations only to fail to implement them. China allows exporters crossing the border from North Korea into China to “self verify” compliance with sanctions.


Andrew Korybko

The current century presents a plethora of strategic opportunities for Pakistan, provided that Islamabad knows how to pluck the low-hanging fruit and take the initiative. The steady development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is making the country ever more attractive for a wide variety of international partners, some of which have traditionally been aligned with Pakistan, and others which are entirely new and unprecedented. No matter which of the two categories these states fall under, it’s evident that they’re all interested in taking advantage of this game-changing series of infrastructure projects.

The Islamic State’s ‘business model’ is failing, study says

By Rick Noack

LONDON — When the Islamic State advanced in Syria and Iraq in 2014, its fighters looted banks, took over oil fields and kidnapped foreigners, seemingly without facing much resistance. But fortunes have changed, and the caliphate is now in deep financial trouble, according to a new study.

Donald Trump Will Defeat ISIS


The dysfunction at the highest levels of the American government right now obscures a dramatic reality: Donald Trump is going to defeat the Islamic State, and Americans need to be fine with that.

Like most of the people reading this, I have been so completely absorbed by the drama at the White House over the past week that its been easy to lose track of what’s taking place on the ground in the Middle East, where U.S. troops, diplomats, and intelligence professionals continue to work by, with, and through local forces to destroy the Islamic State.

Radicalization and the Travel BanWhen President Obama turned the affairs of state over to President Trump on January 20th, the Islamic State was in full retreat across Iraq and Syria. This was no accident: In the fall of 2015, while I was serving as the head of the Pentagon’s Middle East policy shop, the Obama administration ramped up its campaign against the group—and began to see the effects of that escalation when Iraqi forces retook Ramadi in December of 2015.

Over the course of a very difficult summer of 2015—one in which both Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria had fallen under the black flags of the Islamic State—civilian and military planners noticed an opportunity: For the first time since their campaign began in 2014, the U.S. and coalition forces surrounding the Islamic State were in a position to squeeze it from all directions.

Iranian Concepts of Warfare: Understanding Tehran’s Evolving Military Doctrines

By J. Matthew McInnis

Key Points 
Read the full PDF.
The year 2016 appears to be an inflection point at which Iran recognized its need to move toward a more conventionally offensive and expansionist concept of warfare. This could include foreign bases and air, land, and sea power projection capabilities. 

Despite this shift, Iran still primarily focuses military doctrine on defense, deterrence, and asymmetric warfare because they remain both hindered by weak offensive military capability and driven by high perceptions of threat from the US and regional adversaries. 

New resources from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and future United Nations weapons sanctions relaxation may encourage further expansion into conventional offensive capabilities. However, threat perceptions, particularly from potential clashes with regional rivals or direct conflict with the US, will be the more dominant factor in the extent to which Iran reorients toward offensive warfare. 

Executive Summary 

This study lays out how formal and informal structures in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) create strategy and doctrine, which institutions or individuals matter in shaping doctrinal ideas, and which historical and ideological factors drive IRI thinking about military power. The analytic framework provides a way to model the nature of IRI defensive and offensive doctrines, and it aims to explain how and why Iranian strategy and force posture may evolve as restrictions on resources and conventional weapon acquisitions are relaxed under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Rather than attempting to provide Tehran’s military operational manual, this study attempts to demonstrate how to conceptualize and study IRI military doctrine.

Empire by Other Means: Russia’s Strategy for the 21st Century

Agnia Grigas

Who needs territory? Russia uses soft power and information warfare to win control over former Soviet states

Reliving the past? Russian President Vladimir Putin makes an imperial entrance, top; Russian Colonel Igor Girkin led Russian troops to cross into Ukraine.

WASHINGTON, DC: During the first phone call between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on 28 January, both sides agreed on the need to improve the US-Russian relationship. While it’s still uncertain how this new relationship will evolve, the conclusion of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his confirmation hearing that “we’re not likely to ever be friends” is telling. More importantly, Tillerson noted that the Kremlin has “a geographic plan” and that it is “taking actions to implement that plan.”

Russia has much more than a simple territorial plan. In fact, in recent decades Moscow has actively pursued Putin’s long-term vision of reestablishing Russian power and influence in the former states of the Soviet Union and not shied away from redrawing borders and launching military campaigns.



The meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu was full of promising signs for Israel and the Middle East. 

Israel PM Netanyahu: 'There Is No Greater Supporter Of The Jewish People Than Donald Trump'

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met President Donald Trump at the White House they looked to melt the ice that had formed under the previous administration. They set out to put the trust and intimacy back into the relationship between Israel and the U.S., without surprises or betrayals.

Netanyahu was the fourth foreign leader to visit the new president, after only the U.K.’s Theresa May, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Canadian neighbour Justin Trudeau. The president had warm words for Netanyahu personally and for the “unbreakable bond with our cherished ally, Israel.” Obama’s overtures to the Middle East started with his Cairo Speech, reaching out to the Muslim world, and ended with a U.N. Security Council Resolution opposed to settlement building, with a bad deal with Iran in the middle. In contrast, Trump seems to be hugging America’s traditional allies close.

On three key issues Trump and Netanyahu see eye to eye: the fight against radical Islamist terror, the threat of Iran, and Israel’s importance as a strategic asset for the U.S. in the Middle East. These provide building blocks to recalibrate and reaffirm the U.S.-Israel alliance and, with renewed warmth, they present historic opportunities.

A Message to the President

Robert L. Barchi, Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Lee C. Bollinger, Robert A. Brown, and Ronald J. Daniels

Dear President Trump: 

We write as presidents of leading American colleges and universities to urge you to rectify or rescind the recent executive order closing our country’s borders to immigrants and others from seven majority-Muslim countries and to refugees from throughout the world. If left in place, the order threatens both American higher education and the defining principles of our country. 

The order specifically prevents talented, law-abiding students and scholars from the affected regions from reaching our campuses. American higher education has benefited tremendously from this country’s long history of embracing immigrants from around the world. Their innovations and scholarship have enhanced American learning, added to our prosperity, and enriched our culture. Many who have returned to their own countries have taken with them the values that are the lifeblood of our democracy. America’s educational, scientific, economic, and artistic leadership depends upon our continued ability to attract the extraordinary people who for many generations have come to this country in search of freedom and a better life. 

The U.S. Military's Next Big Worry: Invisible Russian Soldiers?

Michael Peck

Good news for Russian soldiers: not only will a miracle cloak make them invisible, but it will make them germ-free, too.

That’s the remarkable claim of the Future Research Fund, Russia’s counterpart to the Pentagon’s DARPA research agency. Future Research Fund director Andrei Grigoryev told Russian news site Sputnik News that his institute has developed a “membrane” with special properties.

“The obtained filter material by far exceeds all existing analogues in its ability to stop the most dangerous aerosol particles such as viruses, toxins, allergens. This technology could usher in a wide variety of protective materials for medical, military and other purposes,” Grigoryev told the site.

The “invention can also be used to obtain super lightweight and efficient elements of a soldier’s outfit to make them almost invisible,” Sputnik reported.

The article did not explain how a material that blocks germs also happens to confer invisibility. One possibility is that a material that stops microscopic organisms somehow also blocks or deflects electromagnetic energy such as light.

Future Fund seems to aiming its product to the sports world as much as the military. “We are already working closely with potential users, including military, and also with the producers of outfits for Polar regions, active leisure and extreme sports,” Grigoryev said. “We expect to complete field trials of our material before August 2017.”

A Glimpse Of Warfare’s Future, Today

By Colin Clark

WASHINGTON: Building seamless ties between US and allied forces is a dream long held and oft delayed. Allowing a friendly foreign commander to call in pinpoint US airstrikes simply, reliably and quickly with a phone is exactly the kind of military miracle science fiction and military visionaries have dreamt of since at least the late 1990s.

The current edition of PRISM, the official publication of the National Defense University’s Center for Complex Operations offers this intriguing example of what will doubtless become the future of warfare, for us, our enemies and our competitors:

“The Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) Ground Force Commander surveys the farmland in front of him. His unit of ISOF soldiers has just captured two ISIL Commanders (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) at a house 50 kilometers from Baghdad-far enough away to put this unit in danger of being overrun if ISIL fighters respond quickly. He knows that his enemies must have received the call to arms only minutes ago, and are on the way to his location.

“He commands his soldiers to be prepared for contact at any moment while he pulls out his cell phone. As cell phones go, this is a good one. He holds one of the newest Samsung Galaxy Note phones, but it is more than just a phone for this Commander-his device is securely linked back to U.S. special operations advisors. He quickly pulls up the MyTrax application and types out a quick message to his Operations Center: ‘Jackpot,’ he has captured his high value targets for this mission. As soon as he hits ‘send,’ he hears the staccato pop of gunfire to his left.

What's next for the drone war?

By Kelsey D. Atherton

If Trump follows Obama's precedent, careful consideration and gradual transparency. But that's a pretty big "if."

On Jan. 20, the drone war entered its third Administration. Over the inaugural weekend, American drones fired missiles at suspected Al Qaeda fighters in Yemen, killing five people. The drone war, that is, the popular, unmanned-vehicle term for America’s strategy of targeted killing, is an outgrowth of President George W. Bush’s war on terror, a vestigial organ that became the centerpiece for the Obama administration’s eight years of low-intensity warfare. With much of American national security strategy poised to change under the new Trump administration, it’s worth taking a step back to examine what, exactly, the United States hoped to do with its drones.

The United States is, it’s worth noting, at war. It is in fact still at war, and has been ever since the passage of the Authorization to Use Military Force in the week following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. That act, still in effect into its fifth presidential term, gives the President broad powers to use force against persons and organizations that can be linked back to the Sept. 11 attack, and has been interpreted broadly enough to include ISIS. This is the context in which the drone war was born, an adaptation of a military scout into the most iconic aircraft of modern counterinsurgency warfare.

Rethinking the Drone War is a collection of reports recently published by Marine Corps University Press. The focus is about the national security potential for, and legitimacy of, drone strikes, and the dangers of civilian casualties, as the United States uses remotely piloted vehicles to pursue a war on terror.

Study: 70 percent of US oil, gas companies hacked last year

Source Link

A survey of U.S. oil and gas cybersecurity risk managers indicates that the deployment of cybersecurity measures in the industry isn’t keeping pace with the growth of digitalization in oil and gas operations. In a study from the Ponemon Institute – The State of Cybersecurity in the Oil & Gas Industry: United States – just 35 percent of respondents rated their organization’s operational technology (OT) cyber readiness as high.

The Ponemon Institute – which conducts independent research on privacy, data protection and information security policy – examined how oil and gas companies are addressing cybersecurity risks. Its authors surveyed 377 individuals in the United States who are responsible for securing or overseeing cyber risk in the OT environment – including upstream, midstream and downstream applications.

With most respondents describing their organization as being in the early to middle stage of maturity with respect to their cyber readiness, 68 percent of respondents said their operations have had at least one security compromise in the past year, resulting in the loss of confidential information or OT disruption.

Facebook algorithms 'will identify terrorists'

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has outlined a plan to let artificial intelligence (AI) software review content posted on the social network.

In a letter describing the plan, he said algorithms would eventually be able to spot terrorism, violence, bullying and even prevent suicide.

He admitted Facebook had previously made mistakes in the content it had removed from the website.

But he said it would take years for the necessary algorithms to be developed.

The announcement has been welcomed by an internet safety charity, which had previously been critical of the way the social network had handled posts depicting extreme violence.

In his 5,500-word letter discussing the future of Facebook, Mr Zuckerberg said it was impossible to review the billions of posts and messages that appeared on the platform every day.

"The complexity of the issues we've seen has outstripped our existing processes for governing the community," he said.

He highlighted the removal of videos related to the Black Lives Matter movement and the historical napalm girl photograph from Vietnam as "errors" in the existing process.

7 deadliest cyberattack techniques for 2017

by Aaron Boyd

The threat landscape in cyberspace is constantly evolving. High-profile events throughout 2016 showcased new and innovate attacks targeting individuals, nations and critical infrastructure.

Many of the most successful techniques continue to evolve and will be seen again in 2017, likely in new, nastier forms.

Researchers from the SANS Institute are looking ahead to 2017 and, based on trends, offered up the seven most dangerous new attack techniques for the coming year during the 2017 RSA Conference in San Francisco.
Rampant Ransomware

Ransomware itself is not new – the first known example, Gpcoder, was discovered in 2005. But as encryption techniques get stronger and more ubiquitous, innovative hackers are deploying ransomware attacks at an exponential rate, encrypting data and devices until the victim agrees to pay.

“There’s been an explosion of ransomware, especially crypto ransomware,” said Ed Skoudis, who leads SANS’s pen testing and hacker exploits immersion training program. “They are so much more powerful now.”

Skoudis noted that encryption is a powerful tool for securing data and systems, but hackers have shown that it can be just as effective as a weapon.

Mac Malware Attacks Tied To Russian Spy Group That Hacked DNC

Source Link

Fancy Bear – also known as APT28 and Sofacy – is the Russian hacking unit that hacked the Democratic National Committee. They also made headlines when they breached NATO, the White House, and then the World Anti-Doping Agency and the U.S. Anti-doping Agency – an incident that led to the leaking of medical documents on numerous elite athletes. Now, they’re in the news again. This time, it’s for an advanced strain of malware that targets Mac computers. Security researchers have labeled it XAgentOSX, and it’s built for espionage.

XAgentOSX will capture screenshots, steal passwords, log keystrokes, and search for desirable files such as iPhone or iPad backups. The information it gathers is then uploaded to a remote FTP server. The malware is also modular, and its controllers can send new modules to it at any time to expand its capabilities.

What ties XAgentOSX to Fancy Bear? Both Palo Alto and Bitdefender discovered similarities between the Windows malware the group is known to have used in previous attacks. Certain commands exist in both versions and both communicate via the same command and control URL.

Am I At Risk?

If you’re a Mac user, you might be wondering if XAgentOSX is something you need to worry about. The good news is that the average Mac user is not likely to be a Fancy Bear target.

Whether or not you need to be on the lookout for their phishing attacks ultimately depends on where you work. Fancy Bear is a cyber espionage group, and as such they tend to focus their efforts on government and military groups, non-government organizations (like think tanks), and contractors.

Ukraine accuses Russia of cyberwar amid new attacks on its power grid

By Jason Murdock

Key security officials in Ukraine have accused hackers aligned with the Russian government of targeting its critical infrastructure, including the power grid and the financial systems, using a strain of malware previously linked to a major state-sponsored cyberattack.

Ukraine's security chief, Oleksandr Tkachuk, said on 15 February the attacks were linked to a gang that uses a type of computer malware dubbed BlackEnergy. In an unprecedented attack, the attackers allegedly used it to cause a widespread electricity blackout in Kiev two years ago.

"Russian hackers [have] become an important tool of the aggression against our country," Tkachuk said, as reported by Reuters.

He said the latest round of cyberattacks used a type of malicious software called Telebots with the aim of infecting its national infrastructure.

In late 2016, Slovakian cybersecurity firm Eset, which has previously tracked the BlackEnergy gang, said Telebots malware was used in "targeted cyberattacks against high-value targets in the Ukrainian financial sector." Its main aim was simple: cyber-sabotage.

"It's important to say that these attackers, and the toolset used, share a number of similarities with the BlackEnergy group, which conducted attacks against the energy industry in Ukraine in December 2015 and January 2016," Eset experts wrote in a blog post. "In fact, we think that the BlackEnergy group has evolved into the Telebots group."