2 March 2017


By Nilanthi Samaranayake

Bangladesh’s acquisition of two submarines from China should not be narrowly viewed through the prism of India-China geopolitics. Rather, it should be understood in a wider context as a milestone by a modernizing naval power in the Bay of Bengal.


The impending arrival of two Chinese-origin submarines to Bangladesh together with China’s planned construction of submarines for Pakistan, has contributed to the perception among some observers that China is attempting to encircle India and reinforced concerns about a Chinese “string of pearls.”

Yet Bangladesh’s acquisition of two Ming-class submarines should not be narrowly viewed through this geopolitical prism. Rather, it should be seen in the broader context of the country’s force modernisation, which has important implications for Bay of Bengal security. In fact, Bangladesh’s development of its naval capabilities may contribute as a force multiplier to Indian security initiatives in the Bay of Bengal rather than being a potential threat to regional stability.

Rising Navy

Bangladesh’s latest acquisition has its origins in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s assumption of power in 2009 and Dhaka’s announced Forces Goal 2030. Under this project, Bangladesh has sought to augment its naval capabilities in “three dimensions,” going beyond solely surface platforms to include a naval aviation wing and undersea leg. Though an ambitious endeavor at the time, by 2011, Bangladesh had established a naval aviation wing by acquiring Italian helicopters and later German maritime patrol craft.

*** My Sahayak - My Buddy

By Capt Shantanu Chakravorty ( Veteran )

A few years back, I got a call from a number that I did not recognize. The voice at the other end was a bit shaky and quivering. He gingerly asked me in Hindi with a tone of rustics which is usually associated with people from the Northern Hills of India..

In confirmation that yes indeed I was "Chakravorty Sahab" his voice changed to that of Rightful Acquaintance . He asked me , “Pehchana Sahab”, I in my earnest sense had no clue, but could sense someone from the unit. .Not wanting to offend him, I did make that common dialogue of stating, - “Awaaz to pehchana lagta hai , but naam Nahi yaad aa raha hai,”(Had been 14 years since I had hung my Uniform, but didn't want to shatter the melancholic feeling of Bonhomie) Well he said Sahab," Mai Tejbir Singh Bol Riya Hu"

Tejbir Singh, my Sahayak allotted to me when I first joined the unit.. The menacing 6 feet 3 inches of the Hulk standing at the Gwalior railway station who was eager to take my modest belonging of a Black Trunk ' Boldly embossed with " 2nd Lt Shantanu Chakravorty" and the beige colored Bedding , our Worldly possessions that were issued from the Military Academy as a parting gift on passing out. He happened to be at one point a services level boxer , and a Sports Injury had rendered him with a Low Med Cat and hence could no longer cater to the heavy demands of a Gunner that warranted at our AD unit,,. .Hence by choice he volunteered to be a Sahayak and was allotted to me as my buddy..

** State-sponsored hackers turn to Android malware to spy on Israeli soldiers

A cyber-spying campaign targeting Android devices used by personnel within the Israeli Defence Force has been discovered by security researchers.

According to a blog post by Lookout and another by Kaspersky, more than 100 soldiers of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) became victims when the Android devices were infected by malware, called ViperRat. This malware extracted audio and images from the devices as well as hijacking the device camera to take pictures.

Researchers at Kaspersky said that the spying campaign has been operational since July 2016 with attacks reported as recently as February this year. They said that this campaign is not only active but likely to increase.

The campaign relies heavily on social engineering techniques, using social networks to lure targeted soldiers into both sharing confidential information and downloading the malicious applications. So far the hackers have only targeted members of the IDF, most of them serving around the Gaza strip.

“We've seen a lot of the group's activity on Facebook Messenger. Most of the avatars (virtual participants in the social engineering stage) lure the victims using sexual innuendo, eg asking the victim to send explicit photos, and in return sending fake photos of teenage girls. The avatars pretend to be from different countries such as Canada, Germany, Switzerland and more,” said Ido Naor, researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

Once hackers have built up a relationship with the victim, they suggest installing other applications to communicate. These apps are installed from a malicious URL, the attacker expects the victim to install the package manually. 

** Keeping the score - Predators in an academic jungle

Sukanta Chaudhuri

Nowadays the University Grants Commission requires that college and university teachers be appointed and promoted on the basis of their academic performance indicators or APIs. These are used for academic assessment in many countries, but there is no standard format: each country, authority or institution devises its own. The UGC, too, allows each university to modify its general guidelines, subject to some overall stipulations.

The API system is intended to prevent the selection of teachers by subjective judgment, shading into nepotism and corruption. Like most schemes for academic improvement by mechanical means, it has not only failed to select the best candidates, but created a set of practices to ensure that this does not happen.

The problem can be traced to a growing policy of the world's leading academic journals. Under cover of the disarmingly named 'open access' model, whereby users can consult the journals online without charge, they are extracting money from researchers contributing papers. British academia tellingly calls this high road to publication the 'gold route'. There is also a 'green route', whereby a trickle of papers are printed without charge. Researchers in a hurry to publish their findings, in order to secure a job or pre-empt rivals in the field, can seldom afford to wait.

This system is gradually replacing the earlier one whereby journals were marketed at such exorbitant cost that the world's richest universities had begun to protest. Both new and old systems assume without contest that the electronic circulation of knowledge should command profit margins wildly disproportionate to costs. (No scholar associated at any stage - author, editor or reviewer - is paid a penny, and papers must be submitted in ready-uploadable form.) The technology of electronic publication gained ground in the post-Cold-War era. The upswing of global capitalism around that time captured this new territory from the start, overturning the earlier economics of academic print publication.

Kashmir and Article 370: Choice between isolation and integration

By Brig Anil Gupta (Retd)

As and when the Kashmiri leaders visualise any threat to their power they raise the bogey of "Article 370" to arouse Kashmiri sentiments in pursuance of their finely mastered craft of vote-bank politics. The recent statements of Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti on the floor of the state assembly have once again sparked the controversy regarding the future of the said article of the Constitution of India that grants autonomous status to the border state.

Article 35A has been inserted in the Constitution through a Presidential Order invoking the authority vested by Article 370. This article defines the “Permanent Resident” of the state and enables grant of special privileges to the “Permanent Residents.” Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has gone to the extent of terming those opposed to Article 370 as “anti-national”, thus in one stroke glorifying the stone-pelters, secessionists and separatists as “nationalists”. The prophetic statement of noted Urdu poet Maulana Hasrat Mohani, made before the Constituent Assembly of India on October 17, 1949 that “The grant of special status would enable Kashmir to assume independence afterwards” appears to be proving true.

Col (Dr) Tej Kumar Tikoo, in his book titled “Kashmir: Its Aborigines and their Exodus”, has stated, “To the gullible people of Kashmir, the abolition of Article 370 is projected as a catastrophic event that will sound the death knell of Kashmiri Muslim culture, but in actual fact, this argument is a ploy to prevent assimilation of Kashmiris into the national mainstream. That way, these power brokers continue to expand their fiefdom, perpetuate their hold on political and economic power and build a communal and obscurantist mind set, which in due course serves as a breeding ground for creating a separatist mentality.”

India-China Strategic Dialogue – both have core interests

By Bhaskar Roy

India and China will hold a new round of strategic dialogue in Beijing on February 22. The meeting will be co-chaired by Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui. The format was put in place when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited India in August last year.

According to Xinhuo (Feb. 17, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, “The dialogue is an important communication-mechanism” between the two sides expected to strengthen political and mutual trust, expand common understandings and further promote bilateral ties through this dialogue. All issues of mutual interest in bilateral, regional and international domain will be discussed”.

Xinhua is China’s official news agency and standard bearer of news which other official news outlets can publish. It is the mouthpiece of China’s official statements.

Referring to Indian media reports, the Xinhua said that issues to be discussed include India’s bid to join the NuclearSUPPLIERS Group (NSG) and India’s demand to list Masood Azhar, “the head of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM)”, as a designated terrorist under the 1267 sanctions committee of the UN Security Council. The report quoted Geng Shuang as saying the issues are multilateral rather than bilateral, while stressing that China’s stance is based on the rights and wrongs of the case itself.

Neither Nehru Nor America, Lion’s Share Of Blame For Tibet’s Demise Lies With Its Own People

Jaideep A Prabhu 

Tibet: An Unfinished Story details the sad history of the Roof of the World from its earliest mentions in the West to its conquest, annexation and subjugation by China.

Halper, Lezlee Brown, and Halper, Stefan. Tibet: An Unfinished Story. London: C Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2014. 367 pp.

In the broader story of freedom and liberty, the case of Tibet is seldom heard. Journalists and activists scream about the Syrians, Rohingyas, Kurds and even the Yezidis, but one of the greatest acts of geographical and political usurpation and cultural and demographic genocide of the Cold War era – Tibet – gets only an occasional mention in the international press. Tibet: An Unfinished Story by Lezlee Brown Halper and Stefan Halper impressively details the sad history of the Roof of the World from its earliest mentions in the West to its conquest, annexation and subjugation by China, and to eventual relegation to oblivion by the world community.

Ostensibly starting with Herodotus' mention of Tibetan gold-prospecting ants, the Halpers quickly move through the mythologising of Tibet in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the British – no doubt, due to difficulty of access and a curious Oriental warp westerners have always displayed – and German interest in the early twentieth century in locating the Aryan homeland in Tibet to the critical years after the end of the Second World War when Tibet became one of the first pawns in the Cold War.

The book is impressive in its use of archives from the United States (US), Britain and available Chinese and Indian sources. The basic premise of Tibet is that the country was abandoned – betrayed? – by India, the US and Britain in its hour of need against China. Not only did Tibet not receive much military support, but it also found little bilateral political assistance even from the United Nations. Meanwhile, Mao systematically crushed the Tibetans. While this argument carries some weight, it does not consider the Tibetan role in their own fortunes, nor does it account for the material realities of the late 1940s.

Asian Ports: Pitfalls Of China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative – Analysis


Pakistan's Gwadar Port. Photo by Paranda, Wikipedia Commons.

Troubled ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, envisioned as part of China’s string of pearls linking the Eurasian heartland to the Middle Kingdom, exemplify political pitfalls that threaten Beijing’s ambitious One Belt, One Road project.

Political violence over the past decade has stopped Pakistan’s Gwadar port from emerging as a major trans-shipment hub in Chinese trade and energy supplies while turmoil in Sri Lanka threatens to dissuade Chinese investors from sinking billions into the country’s struggling Hambantota port and planned economic hub.

The problems of the two ports serve as pointers to simmering discontent and potential resistance to China’s ploy for dominance through cross-continental infrastructure linkage across a swath of land that is restive and ripe for political change.

Chinese, Pakistani and Russian officials warned in December that militant groups in Afghanistan, including the Islamic State (IS) had stepped up operations in Afghanistan. IS in cooperation with the Pakistani Taliban launched two months later a wave of attacks that has targeted government, law enforcement, the military and minorities and has killed hundreds of people.

China is investing $51 billion in Pakistan infrastructure and energy, including Gwadar port in the troubled province of Balochistan that is struggling to attract business nine years after it was initially inaugurated. The government announced this week that it had deployed 15,000 troops to protect China’s investment in Pakistan, a massive project dubbed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Counter-Extremism In Pakistan: Success Or Falling Short? – Analysis


In October 2016, a terrorist attack aiming to kill an entire generation of Quetta’s lawyers took place in Pakistan. The suicide bomber attack killed 72, including 53 lawyers, and injured another 122 people.

In response, Pakistan’s judicial commission has released the Quetta Commission Report. This largely criticises the government’s inaction in regards to the attack. This critique is a welcome and timely suggestion for an evaluation of the National Action Plan (NAP) which was implemented approximately two years ago.

The NAP was created following a previous attack, on the Army Public School in Peshawar, that killed 133 children. It is a 20-point counter-terrorism and counter-extremism plan, formulated through a consensus of civil and military leadership. It covers – if vaguely – a range of issues, including the government’s actions on madrassa registration, the repatriation of Afghan refugees, the jurisdiction of military courts, and action against terrorist funding.

The new Quetta Commission Report is unique because of the unprecedented effort and research that went into it. It is easy to blame outside actors or influences, such as India, for terrorist attacks that take place in Pakistan, which is what the government often tries to do. In this report, the Commission clearly stated that there was no outside hand in the attack.

Islamic State is showing stunning resistance as Iraqi troops try to breach west Mosul

Nabih Bulos

An Iraqi officer prepares a rocket launcher for attacks on west Mosul. (Nabih Bulos / Los Angeles Times) 

It was around 3 p.m. when the Iraqi lieutenant finally accepted that his soldiers’ assault on Wadi Hajar, an industrial neighborhood in southwest Mosul, would not succeed.

Resting on the bumper of a battered black Humvee, he stared at the ground, his face pinched in anger and frustration. All around him was the urgent movement of men under fire, retreating. 

“The resistance is just too strong from this direction,” said the lieutenant, a counter-terrorism officer who for reasons of security gave only his first name, Mustafa. “It’s Islamic State’s main defensive line from the south.”

The first week of the campaign for western Mosul started with rapid territorial gains for the government. Iraqi troops, backed by U.S. special forces and coalition warplanes, swept through lightly defended villages, tightening the noose on Islamic State’s last redoubt in the city. 

Ukraine charges Russia with new cyber attacks on infrastructure

By Natalia Zinets

Ukraine on Wednesday accused Russian hackers of targeting its power grid, financial system and other infrastructure with a new type of virus that attacks industrial processes, the latest in a series of cyber offensives against the country. 

Oleksandr Tkachuk, Ukraine's security service chief of staff, said at a press conference that the attacks were orchestrated by the Russian security service with help from private software firms and criminal hackers, and looked like they were designed by the same people who created malware known as "BlackEnergy." 

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) could not be reached for comment. Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations from Kiev that it has been waging a "cyber war" on Ukraine since relations between the two countries collapsed following Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of Russian-backed separatist fighting in Ukraine's Donbass region. 

The allegations are the latest sign that Russia's behavior in conflict areas has not changed markedly since Donald Trump became U.S. president last month, calling for warmer relations between Washington and Moscow. 

The new attacks caused some of Ukraine’s cyber defenders to cancel plans to attend this week’s RSA cyber security conference in San Francisco, according to one Western expert familiar with the situation. 

If the allegations are confirmed, that could help Ukraine further its case for the United States to help coordinate a multi-national effort to counter the threat of Russian cyber warfare. 

"There is a global cyber war of Russia against (the) whole world," President Petro Poroshenko told Reuters in an interview in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos. 


By Evan Osnos, David Remnick, and Joshua Yaffa

The D.N.C. hacks, many analysts believe, were just a skirmish in a larger war against Western institutions and alliances.ILLUSTRATION BY CHRISTOPH NIEMANN


On April 12, 1982, Yuri Andropov, the chairman of the K.G.B., ordered foreign-intelligence operatives to carry out “active measures”—aktivniye meropriyatiya—against the reëlection campaign of President Ronald Reagan. Unlike classic espionage, which involves the collection of foreign secrets, active measures aim at influencing events—at undermining a rival power with forgeries, front groups, and countless other techniques honed during the Cold War. The Soviet leadership considered Reagan an implacable militarist. According to extensive notes made by Vasili Mitrokhin, a high-ranking K.G.B. officer and archivist who later defected to Great Britain, Soviet intelligence tried to infiltrate the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic National Committees, popularize the slogan “Reagan Means War!,” and discredit the President as a corrupt servant of the military-industrial complex. The effort had no evident effect. Reagan won forty-nine of fifty states.

Active measures were used by both sides throughout the Cold War. In the nineteen-sixties, Soviet intelligence officers spread a rumor that the U.S. government was involved in the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In the eighties, they spread the rumor that American intelligence had “created” the aids virus, at Fort Detrick, Maryland. They regularly lent support to leftist parties and insurgencies. The C.I.A., for its part, worked to overthrow regimes in Iran, Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, Chile, and Panama. It used cash payments, propaganda, and sometimes violent measures to sway elections away from leftist parties in Italy, Guatemala, Indonesia, South Vietnam, and Nicaragua. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the early nineties, the C.I.A. asked Russia to abandon active measures to spread disinformation that could harm the U.S. Russia promised to do so. But when Sergey Tretyakov, the station chief for Russian intelligence in New York, defected, in 2000, he revealed that Moscow’s active measures had never subsided. “Nothing has changed,” he wrote, in 2008. “Russia is doing everything it can today to embarrass the U.S.”

In Defense Of Greece: An Open Letter To The IMF

By Elliott Morss, Morss Global Finance

It is time for the IMF to step back from the Troika table and sit down at the Greek table to remedy this Greek tragedy. To that end I have written this letter.

Managing Director Lagarde:

In retrospect, I think it is fair to say that all the major players in the Greek tragedy share some blame for what happened: 

The Greek authorities for approving far more generous pensions and other benefits than the country could afford; 

The European bank regulators for allowing banks to treat sovereign debt like cash in calculating their reserves; 

The European banks for purchasing so much Greek debt in light of the country’s deteriorating economic situation; 

Other Eurozone members, led by Germany, insisting that even today, austerity is the answer and no further debt forgiveness will be given. 

Admittedly, the Fund’s position is somewhat more nuanced. It started by agreeing that severe austerity was the answer. But it backed off austerity when it saw Greek unemployment jump from 9.6% in 2010 to 27.5% in 2013. It then switched to insisting on a huge structural reforms and further debt forgiveness. In reality, the structural reforms the IMF is insisting on, will be just as deflationary as the earlier austerity measure were. Why, because virtually all of them will result in reductions in government expenditure or increased tax collections.

So where do things stand today? Stasis: 

Aid in reverse: how poor countries develop rich countries

Jason Hickel
New research shows that developing countries send trillions of dollars more to the west than the other way around. Why? 

A report on global money flows has found that trade misinvoicing and tax havens mean the world’s givers are more like takers. Photograph: C Villemain/AFP/Getty Images

Last modified on Thursday 19 January 2017 10.56 GMT

We have long been told a compelling story about the relationship between rich countries and poor countries. The story holds that the rich nations of the OECD give generously of their wealth to the poorer nations of the global south, to help them eradicate poverty and push them up the development ladder. Yes, during colonialism western powers may have enriched themselves by extracting resources and slave labour from their colonies – but that’s all in the past. These days, they give more than $125bn (£102bn) in aid each year – solid evidence of their benevolent goodwill.

This story is so widely propagated by the aid industry and the governments of the rich world that we have come to take it for granted. But it may not be as simple as it appears.

The US-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and the Centre for Applied Research at the Norwegian School of Economics recently published some fascinating data. They tallied up all of the financial resources that get transferred between rich countries and poor countries each year: not just aid, foreign investment and trade flows (as previous studies have done) but also non-financial transfers such as debt cancellation, unrequited transfers like workers’ remittances, and unrecorded capital flight (more of this later). As far as I am aware, it is the most comprehensive assessment of resource transfers ever undertaken.

Chess without a queen: the tactical nuclear imbalance

Adam Cabot

In a game of chess, the queen is the ultimate power on the board. It can move in any direction and is a looming figure that any opponent should be wary of. If we’re to look at a tactical battlefield with a variety of high-tech weaponry (tanks, artillery, mortars and guided munitions, etc), we’d be remiss if we didn’t factor in the looming figure of tactical nuclear weapons. With a variable explosive yield and the ability to eliminate a division or airfield in the blink of an eye, it’s crucial that military commanders and national leaders alike don’t disregard that threat.

In his recent piece, Rod Lyon discusses ‘the concept of the great-power nuclear balance’ in regard to strategic nuclear weapons. His piece clearly illustrates how the US–Russia nuclear balance is important to global stability. But it’s clear that this isn’t the case when we look at the non-strategic or tactical nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia.

The US currently has approximately 500 B-61 gravity bombs in its arsenal with around 150 deployed in Europe. Those tactical nuclear weapons possess a powerful yield but need to be delivered to their target by aircraft. That’s no easy task if we look at the gauntlet of surface-to-air missiles that the aircraft would have to navigate in order to reach its target area. Even if deployed on the stealthy F-35, the aircraft would still potentially need to navigate through advanced air defences. Stealth technology is by no means an impervious invisibility cloak.

Drones Do Excellent Urban Close Air Support; Mideast F-35A Deployment In Several Years


WASHINGTON: If Congress was skeptical of bombers and fighters doing Close Air Support, how will they react to MQ-9s doing the toughest CAS mission around — taking out targets in the close confines of an urban fight?

Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the soon-to-retire head of Air Combat Command, told reporters this morning that the Reaper is performing urban missions and doing a very fine job of it too. I understand there are videos of Hellfire missiles fired by Reapers snaking through an urban environment, heading through a window or door, exploding and leaving the structure intact (though it may not be very safe). While there have been isolated mentions of the Reaper performing CAS missions in Iraq and Syria, none have mentioned urban CAS operations, the most complex and difficult to perform given the difficulty of identifying targets, causing as little damage to homes and businesses as possible and killing as few innocents as humanly possible.

I’m sure most lawmakers who insisted on retaining the A-10 Warthog, beloved for its ugliness, titanium tub and the reassuring sound of its cannon destroying nearby enemy troops, did so because they honestly believe it simply does the mission better than F-15s, F-16s B-1s, B-2s or F-18s. But those who followed the debate between the Air Force, eager to retire the A-10 fleet and save several billion dollars, and lawmakers know that Sen. John McCain was extremely skeptical: “You’re throwing in the B-1 bomber as a close air support weapon to replace the A-10. This is the reason why there is … such incredible skepticism here in the Congress.” However, the B-1 has been a CAS weapon since 2001. The enormous and increasingly ancient B-52 has flown CAS missions since 1967.

The threat from within


Former Provost John Etchemendy, in a recent speech before the Stanford Board of Trustees, outlined challenges higher education is facing in the coming years. Following is an excerpt from that talk.

Universities are a fundamental force of good in the world. At their best, they mine knowledge and understanding, wisdom and insight, and then freely distribute these treasures to society at large. Theirs is not a monopoly on this undertaking, but in the concentration of effort and single-mindedness of purpose, they are truly unique institutions. If Aristotle is right that what defines a human is rationality, then they are the most distinctive, perhaps the pinnacle, of human endeavors.

John Etchemendy(Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

I share this thought to remind us all why we do what we do – why we care so much about Stanford and what it represents. But I also say it to voice a concern. Universities are under attack, both from outside and from within.

Infographic: Here’s How the Global GDP Is Divvied Up

By Robbie Gramer

The World Bank this month released new numbers on the state of the world economy, and the numbers tell an interesting story.

The United States still dominates the global economy, accounting for nearly a quarter of the world’s GDP, which the World Bank estimates to be $74.1 trillion in total. For all the talk of China overtaking the United States as the world’s economic juggernaut, Asia’s economic giant lags 10 percentage points behind — 14.84 percent of the world’s economy compared with the United States’ 24.32 percent. 

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Trump Can’t Deal With Iran If He Doesn’t Understand It

Tweets about putting Iran "ON NOTICE" are no replacement for appreciating the sources of Iranian conduct in the Middle…

Russia's soft warfare

Roman Dobrokhotov

Hackers, fake news, freaks, trolls and pranksters are Russia's new soft power weapon arsenal. 

Russia's new information warfare is more powerful and effective than Soviet propaganda, writes Dobrokhotov [Patrick Lux/Getty Images]

Roman Dobrokhotov is a Moscow-based journalist and civil activist. He is the editor-in-chief of The Insider. 

Russia has been making the headlines of international media for a while now. But none of that had to do with a strong economy or a powerful army because Russia simply doesn't have either. Instead, it has learned to interfere through other means in the politics, media, elections and national security of other countries.

The United States still cannot get over the Russian interference in last year's presidential elections, while European countries are terrified at the prospect of something like that happening to them this year.

The new methods of Russian influence are well-known, but it seems that Western countries have turned out to be unprepared for them.

In the coming months, a whole bunch of European countries will be having elections: in March, the Netherlands; in April, France; in September, Germany and Norway; and perhaps early elections in Italy. And all of these countries without exception have already complained about attacks by Russian hackers.

In France, they attacked Emmanuel Macron, the main opponent to far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who insists on the revoking of sanctions on Russia.

Saudi-Iran: Proxy Wars Escalate To Direct Cyber Attacks

By Salek Ahmed

The never ending cyber war between Iran and Saudi Arabia has reached a new height – Same goes for the use of Shamoon malware from Iran against the Kingdom. The renewed attacks have come after a four-year sabbatical with what seems like a newer, improved strain of the Shamoon malware virus. The Saudi government had issued a warning notice last month to all telecommunications companies of the detection of the malware attack on many organizations and networks, including government departments.

The 2012 attack was carried out using the original virus. That time Aramco the state-owned oil producer was the primary target, in what is still today one of the most destructive attacks detected. 30’000 or more computers were damaged or destroyed in the attack.

On February the 10th the State Department issued a report which stated that 75% of Aramco’s computers were compromised in the 2012 attack, the cost was not declared, but the five months it took to mitigate was at “an extreme cost.”

U.S. officials have warned that this orchestrated attack is a renewal of its takeover strategy of the region. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia‘s demise could tip the balance away from U.S. and regional allies. Other allies such as Qatar, have also been attacked by the malware originated from Iran. Shamoon was used against Rasgas, a Qatari-based gas company.

An internal National Security Agency memo warned of the expansion of Iranian influence in the middle east using cyber attacks on opposing countries in the region.

What will the cyberwars of the future look like?

Yael Grauer

In the dead of winter, the electricity goes out. Not just in your town, but in many small towns nearby. After a few hours, power returns — but not everywhere. In some places it's out for days. Hospitals struggle to keep generators running to treat hypothermia sufferers; emergency lines are jammed, preventing ambulances from being dispatched. An overwhelmed police force struggles to maintain calm. What first appeared an inconvenient accident is soon revealed as an act of sabotage: Someone wants the power down. Someone is sowing chaos and waiting to take advantage.

This was the nightmare scenario lurking beneath the recent breathless reporting by The Washington Post that "Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid" via a Vermont utility. The specter of foreign invaders lurking in the nation's infrastructure prompted a statement from Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy: "This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides — this is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter." Other politicians were equally heated, with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin calling Russian president Vladimir Putin a "thug" and saying, "This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling."

Soon, though, the Post had to acknowledge that the Russians hadn't infiltrated Vermont's power grid after all. The computer in question, a laptop not connected to the grid, reportedly triggered an alarm when a user logged into his Yahoo email account, as millions of people do every day. Experts dismissed the false alarm.

The speed with which politicians rushed to cast blame speaks to a pervasive cultural concern about the vulnerability of interconnectedness. As more devices come online — think of the much-vaunted "Internet of Things," encompassing cars, refrigerators, dolls, baby monitors, and more — it's easier to imagine them becoming weaponized, used to disrupt our increasingly digital lives. For a certain cast of mind, it's easier to imagine that everything is connected and vulnerable, even if that's not the case. At the same time, there are real dangers. When experts talk about the often murky concept of "cyberwar," they're often tempering understandable paranoia with realism. Like William Gibson's concept of the future, cyberwar is already here, but it's not evenly distributed — and certainly not in the fully formed way of actual war.

Reaching for the stars

Written by Gopal N. Raj 

Last week, ISRO launched a record 104 satellites on a single launch vehicle. The bar will be raised further when India fires its most powerful rocket ever, the GSLV Mark-III

Illustration by C R Sasikumar

Last Wednesday, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) opened its launch activities for 2017 by deploying an eye-popping 104 satellites on a single Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), making it seem easy to accomplish. There’s more to come.

The space agency is now gearing up to send the “Satellite for South Asia” on a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) next month. This is a satellite that Prime Minister Narendra Modi directed ISRO to produce three years back. The GSAT-9, as it is also known, is intended to provide a range of communication and broadcasting services to neighbouring countries. (Pakistan, however, decided to opt out.)

Far more momentous will be the first developmental flight of the country’s most powerful launch vehicle thus far, the GSLV Mark-III, which is currently expected to take place in the second half of April. This is a massive rocket that weighs one and a half times as much as its predecessor, the GSLV, and, more importantly, will have twice its heft in terms of payload capacity. So it will be able to carry communication satellites that are too heavy for the latter and which ISRO must at present launch abroad at a cost of hundreds of crores of rupees each.

Cyberspace will be war creator, says varsity VC

PANAJI: Cyberspace will inevitably become a creator of war, Goa University (GU) vice-chancellor Varun Sahni said. He was speaking on the subject of maritime geopolitics at the International Centre Goa (ICG), Dona Paula, on Thursday. 

Sahni debated on the extent to which maritime space, air space, outer space and cyber space are "global commons". He explain how "conflict has claimed maritime spaces and air columns by way of naval wars and air fights." Though, the outer space and the relatively-new cyberspace have not yet been militarized, they are being securitized by countries across the world as a precaution to any future outbreak of war, he said. 

"We are beginning to reach a stage where outer space may get militarized. It is already securitized in the sense that there are bi-sattelites and China is also conducting space experiments. The next step is to militarize their domain and if this happens, the global common will disappear," he said. 

How IDF soldiers’ phones got turned into spying devices

For many months now, an unknown threat actor has been tricking servicemen in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) into installing Android spyware. Israeli media says that the threat actor is likely Hamas, but Lookout researchers aren’t so sure.

“ViperRAT [as the researchers dubbed the malware] has been operational for quite some time, with what appears to be a test application that surfaced in late 2015. Many of the default strings in this application are in Arabic, including the name. It is unclear whether this means early samples were targeting Arabic speakers or if the developers behind it are fluent in Arabic,” they researchers noted, but pointed out that “Hamas is not widely known for having a sophisticated mobile capability.”

The malware

The malware comes in two forms: 

A first-stage app that functions as a low-level device profiler and a downloader for the 
Second-stage app – spyware that is able to extract contact information, images, SMSes, call logs, audio files, device network and device handset metadata, geolocation information, browser search history and bookmars, record video and audio, and take screenshots. 

ViperRAT samples can communicate with command and control servers through an exposed API as well as websockets.

The Cyber-Intelligence Nexus: Russia’s Use of Proxies


What if network defenders knew that a cyber operation occurred during Moscow business hours, that it involved a Russian IP address, and that the cyber actors used a Cyrillic keyboard? Would those indicators by themselves be enough for attribution? Given the Russian cyber environment, the answer is clearly “no.” Those indicators could be shared by any of the cyber actors in Russia, with or without the support of the Russian government, or by other worldwide actors trying to masquerade as Russians. 

The Russian government itself is advanced in its cyber capabilities, but it also has access to Russian hackers, hacktivists, and the Russian media. These groups disseminate propaganda on behalf of Moscow, develop cyber tools for Russian intelligence agencies like the FSB and GRU, and hack into networks and databases in support of Russian security objectives. Russia’s use of such proxies complicates attribution after a cyber incident, making it harder to determine whom to respond to, constraining potential cyber deterrence against Russian entities.

Russia cannot be prevented from complicating attribution through proxy use. These proxy relationships are institutionalized and mutually beneficial for both Russia’s government and its proxies. Instead, the key to better attribution is intelligence – both technical and traditional. It is necessary to understand not just the bits and bytes of malware, but also Russian actors’ cyber tactics, techniques, and procedures, as well as proxies’ motivations and relationships .