2 April 2017

*** Adjusting To An Imperfect Reality

by Scott Stewart

Security and counterterrorism procedures are often adaptive, for better or for worse. As attackers devise new methods to stage their assaults, authorities change their procedures accordingly. Following a recent attack in London, some people have been calling on British security services to do just that. At approximately 2:40 p.m. March 22, Khalid Masood jerked the steering wheel of his rented Hyundai Tucson sharply to the left at the entrance to London's Westminster Bridge, jumped the curb and pressed the accelerator.

Speeding along the sidewalk, he struck pedestrians who could not get out of his way; two people even jumped off the bridge to avoid being hit. As he neared the end of the bridge, Masood re-entered the roadway and sped toward the British Parliament building. He again jumped the curb to target more pedestrians before crashing into the building's perimeter fence shortly after passing Big Ben. Masood then leapt out of the wrecked car and ran around the corner of the compound to the Parliament's main vehicle entrance, where he attacked an unarmed police officer with a knife before being shot by a police officer inside the grounds. Though the attack lasted only 82 seconds, it killed five people (including Masood) and injured 50 more, some of them severely.



“[Gen. Martin Dempsey] told American troops based in Japan on Thursday that ‘the best way to avoid war is to prepare for it.’” Associated Press, April 25, 2013.

The idea of “peace through strength” can be traced back to at least Roman times and almost certainly goes back even further, but in U.S. history, it is associated with Ronald Reagan. In his essay, “The Ancient Foreign Policy,” historian Victor Davis Hanson salutes its origins and links this “common wisdom” to the concept of deterrence.

From Vegetius’s Si vis pacem, para bellum [If you want peace, prepare for war] to Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength,” the common wisdom was to be ready for war and thereby, and only by that way, avoid war, not to talk bellicosely and to act pacifistically … Deterrence (and with it peace) often was not defined only in material terms; it rested also on a psychological readiness to use overwhelming power to confront an aggressor … Again, deterrence (“the act of frightening away”) rested not just on quantifiable power but also on a likelihood to use it.

Though Hanson’s article was not intended as a theoretical exposition on deterrence, he describes a psychological battle based on the threat of force with the goal of preventing war. For most Americans, there is no contradiction in pursuing peace through the threat or use of a strong military when vital national interests are at stake.

** Where In The World To Invest? A Search Of The Globe

by Elliott Morss


It is easy to remain fixated on the US. Buoyed on by the Trump Presidency, US stocks continue up. But as measured by standard indices such as price/earnings ratios, US markets are high.

Please share this article - Go to very top of page, right hand side for social media buttons.

So where else, and by what standards do we choose?

Regional Growth

Consider first what is happening regionally as measured by projected GDP and population growth rates. Table 1 indicates that the populations of Sub-Saharan Africa are growing most rapidly followed by North Africa and the Middle East. Rapid urbanization is slowing growth rates in other regions. Population growth will at some point become a spur to economic growth as demand from growing middle classes emerge. When it comes to present-day economic growth, Asia leads all other regions.

Table 1. - Projected Population and GDP Growth Rates, By Region

** Putin’s Dance with the Taliban


Russia may be in decline economically and demographically, but, in strategic terms, it is a resurgent power, pursuing a major military rearmament program that will enable it to continue expanding its global influence. One of the Kremlin’s latest geostrategic targets is Afghanistan, where the United States remains embroiled in the longest war in its history.

Almost three decades after the end of the Soviet Union’s own war in Afghanistan – a war that enfeebled the Soviet economy and undermined the communist state – Russia has moved to establish itself as a central actor in Afghan affairs. And the Kremlin has surprised many by embracing the Afghan Taliban. Russia had long viewed the thuggish force created by Pakistan’s rogue Inter-Services Intelligence agency as a major terrorist threat. In 2009-2015, Russia served as a critical supply route for US-led forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan; it even contributed military helicopters to the effort.

Russia’s reversal on the Afghan Taliban reflects a larger strategy linked to its clash with the US and its European allies – a clash that has intensified considerably since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea spurred the US and Europe to impose heavy economic sanctions. In fact, in a sense, Russia is exchanging roles with the US in Afghanistan.

In the 1980s, US President Ronald Reagan used Islam as an ideological tool to spur armed resistance to the Soviet occupation. Reasoning that the enemy of their enemy was their friend, the CIA trained and armed thousands of Afghan mujahedeen – the jihadist force from which al-Qaeda and later the Taliban evolved.

Inside the World of Indian Moneylenders

By Moin Qazi

Though universally despised, the sahukar plays an indispensable role in most rural communities.

Almost every farmer in India’s massive rural swathes is tethered, in one way or another, to the sahukar, the Indian variety of the moneylender, the ubiquitous, ravenous loan shark.

For centuries, moneylenders have monopolized rural Indian credit markets. Families have lost land, farmers have been asked to prostitute their wives to pay off debts, and, when all else has failed, they have tied the noose to end their misery.

An inescapable cycle of debt continues to grip rural India, particularly its farming class. Yet the public image of menacing debt collectors does not reflect the actual plight of India’s three million farmers. Moneylenders have been around for generations, but their business has boomed ever since India’s economic priorities shifted, with globalization, from agriculture to industry. The arrival of high-cost seeds and pesticides and the attraction of bumper harvests have added to the debts. In farm belts moneylenders operate under the guise of farm input sellers.

In sharp contrast to banks and other lending institutions, there is no steel and glass, neither is there a leather couch or a coffee vending machine at the moneylender’s workplace. Vithal Radke’s business is registered as a shop because he hasn’t met the legal standards required to call it a finance agency.

Urgent next steps in banking sector reforms

Montek Singh Ahluwalia

Now that the Bills on goods and services tax (GST) have been passed by the Lok Sabha, the top priority must be fixing the problems of public sector banks. This requires action on three fronts. We must (i) accelerate recoveries from non-performing assets (NPAs), (ii) recapitalize public sector banks to strengthen their ability to expand credit, and (iii) introduce reforms that will increase the efficiency of these banks

This article explores how we might address these challenges.


The traditional strategy for dealing with NPAs has been to reschedule the loans. However, this helps only where projects suffer from a short-term “liquidity problem”. It cannot help when there is a “solvency problem”, i.e. the income stream simply cannot service the debt even over a longer period. Most of the large NPAs reflect solvency problems. revenue streams were overestimated and costs have increased beyond original projections.

Such projects can only be rescued if banks take a haircut and reduce the debt. Understandably, this is something bankers hate to do. There are two ways of handling the problem. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has notified schemes for both, but neither of them has worked.

Raja Mandala: Neighbourhood defence

C. Raja Mohan

New Delhi is waking up to China’s growing relations with India’s neighbours.

What we see today is the geographic expansion of the Chinese defence profile way beyond Pakistan to cover India’s other neighbours in South Asia and the Indian Ocean.

India’s plans to sign agreements on defence cooperation with Bangladesh during PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Delhi next month and the Chinese Defence Minister General Chang Wanquan’s travels to Sri Lanka and Nepal last week, underline the new dynamic of defence diplomacy in the neighbourhood. The Indian Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, is also travelling this week to Nepal and Bangladesh.

One would think these would be routine among neighbouring countries, but Delhi and Dhaka have not had institutionalised defence engagement all these years. That it might happen finally has generated an anxious debate in the Bangladeshi press. Some in Dhaka wonder if this is about Delhi trying to limit Beijing’s rising military

The Taliban's New Plan for Capturing Kunduz

By Franz J. Marty

KABUL — As they did in 2016, the Taliban are again concentrating on overrunning Afghan cities this year. By the end of February 2017, the Taliban had already launched an attack on Mehtar Lam, the capital of the eastern Afghan province of Laghman. And according to a confidential report exclusively obtained by The Diplomat, the Taliban have amended their tactics in view of an allegedly imminent assault on Kunduz City, where also U.S. and German forces are deployed.

On February 28, weeks before the usual insurgent spring offensive that traditionally starts in April, militants attacked Mehtar Lam, with fighting reportedly reaching as close as two kilometers to the center of town. Only two days later, on March 2, the governor of Laghman acknowledged that, at first, militants had managed to overrun several outposts, but he then assured that these outposts were retaken by government forces and that the attack had been successfully repelled. However, a statement from the provincial government released on March 13 again claimed to have foiled the Taliban’s plan to capture Laghman, implying that fighting continued at least until recently. And reports from March 18 even indicated that the insurgents were still just outside Mehtar Lam.

This, unfortunately, does not come as a surprise. Since the Taliban managed to briefly overrun Kunduz, the capital of the northern province with the same name, at the end of September and beginning of October 2015 – which marked the first time since the overthrow of their regime in 2001 that the Taliban had seized a provincial capital – they have continuously kept cities in their sights. During 2016, insurgents pressured the capitals of the provinces of Kunduz, Faryab, Farah, Helmand, and Uruzgan. While they managed to temporarily enter Kunduz and Tirin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan, fighting was limited to the outskirts of the other cities.

EXCLUSIVE: Trump Administration Not Yet Challenging China in South China Sea


WASHINGTON – The Navy has made several requests to conduct operations that would challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, but the administration has not granted them, Breitbart News has learned.

The operations are known as Freedom of Navigation Operations, or FONOPs, which would challenge China’s claims to its man-made islands in the South China Sea.

The Navy has requested to conduct several “Tier Three” FONOPs, which require White House approval. Those could entail sailing within 12 nautical miles of the islands, which would signal to China that they do not own the waters surrounding the islands.

Officials gave conflicting reasons the Trump administration is not conducting the FONOPs. Some officials believe they have been approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, but have not been acted upon by the NSC.

However, several officials say those requests have not made it past Mattis’ desk.

“The NSC is not holding [South China Sea] FONOPs,” said an NSC official on background. The White House directed questions to the NSC.

Some experts point to the lack of Pentagon appointees and an overall Asia policy as the main reason the FONOPs are not getting done.

In Rare Move, Chinese Think Tank Criticizes Tepid Pace of Reform


BEIJING — China’s ambitious plan to revamp its economy has bogged down. Flabby state conglomerates have thwarted attempts to whip them into commercial shape. Rules that treat millions of city-dwelling rural migrants like second-class citizens have barely budged.

Such criticisms are common from skeptical foreign economists who have long argued that President Xi Jinping’s efforts to remake China’s economy and fix pernicious social problems have been too slow and tepid.

But these withering findings on China’s reforms come from a startling place: from within the government itself.

Just as striking, this unflattering report card from a Chinese state think tank — published this month with little fanfare — faults misconceived “top-level design” in policies, as well as local bureaucrats and state managers reluctant to change.

It concludes: “Reform has to some extent fallen into stalemate.”

The report brings into focus a sharpening debate in China about economic priorities. Experts inside and outside China say the country’s economy needs to be overhauled to continue growing fast enough to provide jobs and higher incomes for its people.

China Is Building a 100,000 Strong Marine Corps

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The People’s Liberation Army allegedly plans to increase the size of its amphibious assault troops by 400 percent.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is set to increase the size of its Marine Corps from about 20,000 to 100,000, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on March 13. According to unnamed PLA insiders and experts interviewed by SCMP, elements of the expanded Marine Corps would be stationed abroad, including Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and Gwadar in southwest Pakistan.

The PLA Marine Corps (PLAMC), part of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has gradually been expanding its size over the last couple of years as its mission is slowly expanding from conducting operations in China’s coastal areas — including defending Chinese holdings in the East and South China Seas, next to preparing for a possible amphibious assault on Taiwan — to more global roles.

“The PLA marines will be increased to 100,000, consisting of six brigades in the coming future to fulfill new missions of our country,” a source told SCMP. The source also noted that two combat brigades were already transferred to the PLAMC, increasing the size from roughly 12,000 (two understrength brigades) to around 20,000.


With an election looming, the country’s often fraught race relations are as complicated as ever, but that hasn’t dented its appeal to a ‘third wave’ of immigrants from China

Paul Ying Qian, 32, first tried durian when he was 10 years old in his home town of Hunan ( 湖南 ), China. A family friend had sent his mother the pungent fruit, which the whole family enjoyed. Paul tried durian again when he was studying in Australia, but it was expensive and didn’t match the taste in his memory.

Now he lives in durian-obsessed Malaysia, but it isn’t the fruit that brought him here. It was the temperate weather, cleaner air and mix of Asian values and Western infrastructure. “It’s easy to join in the culture here, and not feel like a total outsider. The different races get on well, and it’s quite near China – much nearer than Australia. The education is good, and the country maintains its traditional face while also experiencing development. Back home the seasons are very dramatic with extremely hot summers and very cold winters. Malaysians are very friendly. I feel this is a good place for my next generation.”

Paul Ying Qian and his wife moved from China to Malaysia as part of the Malaysia My Second Home programme in 2009. Both of his young children were born in Malaysia.

Netanyahu’s China Visit

By Roie Yellinek

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu visited Beijing on March 20-21, 2017 – his second visit to China during the term of China’s current president, Xi Jinping. The trip was the product of an invitation from Xi, a point emphasized by Netanyahu’s office to deflect criticism over the frequency of his foreign junkets. The official reason for the visit was the marking of the twenty-fifth anniversary of diplomatic relations between the countries, but it could represent an opportunity for Israel to play a more prominent role on the international scene.

The prime minister’s office has stated that beyond marking the anniversary of the Chinese-Israeli bilateral relationship, PM Netanyahu’s visit to China this month had primarily a financial objective. The main goals were to continue building up the countries’ financial relationship, enhance cooperation, draw Chinese investment to Israel, and open the door for more diverse Israeli investment in the Chinese market. In addition, the trip was intended to continue an ongoing dialogue about establishing a free trade agreement between China and Israel, as well as mutual participation in the third Innovation Conference. During his visit, the prime minister met with President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, and the heads of the largest corporations in China.

Saudi Arabia Pivots to Asia (For Now)

By Owen Daniels

The Obama administration’s much vaunted pivot to Asia was supposed to signal a U.S. strategic shift away from Middle East security issues toward commerce and diplomacy further east. Although the success of the Obama team’s ability to shift diplomatic and military focus is up for debate, recent diplomatic trips suggest that Saudi Arabia is attempting to flip the script and perform an Asia pivot of its own.

In March, King Salman concluded a three-week Asian tour spanning China, Japan, Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia, while his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), met for the first time with President Donald Trump in Washington, DC. Broadly, both trips aimed to drum up investment for the Kingdom’s ambitious economic reform plan, Vision 2030, and to shore up security partnerships. But while the trips touched on similar themes, each provided distinct takeaways. In the near term, the Kingdom will turn to Asian partners for their relatively stable economic and political relations. However, shared security concerns over Iran and desire for American investment will ensure the Saudis do not drift far from the United States.

In the Middle East, Russia is reasserting its power

Bombs and diplomacy, both part of the toolkit

THE black fur hat looked odd on a Libyan warlord. But fur is de rigueur in wintertime Moscow, which has become an essential stop for Middle Eastern leaders like Khalifa Haftar, who visited twice in 2016. This month his rival, Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, dropped by. Jordan’s King Abdullah, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu have all stopped at the Kremlin for audiences with Vladimir Putin this year.

The visitors are a sign of Russia’s growing activity in the Middle East. “The policy is wider than just Syria,” says Andrei Kortunov of the Russian International Affairs Council, a think-tank. Russia’s interests in the region include security, arms sales and oil. But most important, the Middle East offers a platform to reinforce Russia’s status as a global power. “Those who have strong positions there will have strong positions in the world,” says Fyodor Lukyanov of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, a government advisory body.

This Is How Russian Hackers Will Attack the US Next


The U.S. needs to be planning now how it will respond. 

Russia has been the subject of much American press speculation this spring, as questions and suspicions swirl regarding its involvement in alleged hacks during the U.S. presidential election. While the details of these specific attacks remain unclear, what is clear is the danger posed by the superpower’s well-established hacking prowess. The question is not if Russia will conduct another major cyberattack on the U.S., but when.

As such, America needs to be planning now how it will respond. In 2015, cyberthreat firm FireEye alleged Russian nexus-hackers had caused power and energy outages across Ukraine, impacting thousands of citizens. No other country has been so publicly accused of conducting a cyber-to-conventional attack (a cyberattack with visible, physical consequences). Russia leadership has also publicly prioritized its information warfare and cyberweapons. “Information is now a species of weapon,” wrote Russian major general Ivan Vorobvev in 2013.

As proven by the alleged hacking activities this U.S. presidential election, the fear of information warfare is very real. However, the US must also remain vigilant about cyber-to-conventional attacks; many of our critical infrastructure networks are littered with vulnerabilities, and consumer technology is moving more and more citizens into the line of battle.

U.S. Top Source Of DDoS Attacks In Q4 2016

In Q4 however, the U.S. took first place as China slipped to fourth. With over 180,000 attacks, there is a large gap between the United States and the second-placed UK. According to Akamai, the total of 751,895 attacks marks a 4% increase on Q4 2015.

This chart shows the share and number of DDoS attacks in Q4 2916, by country of origin.
You will find more statistics at Statista.

A More Dangerous Globalism


PRINCETON – “America first,” thumps Donald Trump. “Britain first,” say the advocates of Brexit. “France first,” crows Marine Le Pen and her National Front. “Russia first,” proclaims Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. With so much emphasis on national sovereignty nowadays, globalization appears doomed.

It’s not. The struggle playing out today is not one of globalism versus anti-globalism. Rather, the world is poised between two models of integration: one is multilateral and internationalist; the other is bilateral and imperialist. Throughout the modern age, the world has seesawed between them.

Since 1945, internationalists have had the upper hand. They advocate cooperation and multilateral institutions to promote global public goods like peace, security, financial stability, and environmental sustainability. Theirs is a model that constrains national sovereignty by binding states to shared norms, conventions, and treaties.

The year 2016 tipped the scales toward bilateralists, who regard national sovereignty as an end in itself. The fewer external constraints, the better: peace and security result from a balance of great powers. Theirs is a model that favors the strong and punishes the weak, and that rewards competitors at the expense of cooperators.

Why The London Attacker Was No Lone Wolf

Jytte Klausen

JYTTE KLAUSEN is the Lawrence A. Wien Professor of International Cooperation at Brandeis University and an Affiliate at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University.

The terrorist attack near the British Parliament on Wednesday, in which a man rammed a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London, parallels last year’s incidents in Berlin and in Nice where large vehicles were also used to kill crowds of people. In the aftermath of these events, the attackers have been widely called “lone wolves.” This is a myth that must be dispelled [1]. Lone actors they were, but only on the day of the attack [2].

In London, the assailant has been identified as Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old British-born man, who had recently been living in Birmingham, a major city in the West Midlands. He had used several aliases, including his birth name Adrian Russell Elms (later Ajao after his mother’s marriage), and had at some point converted to Islam. He was married and had children. The police had previously investigated him [3] but determined he was not a security risk.

Marine exercise takes aim at emerging technologies

By: Mark Pomerleau

The Marine Corps, in conjunction with the Navy, is readying for a major exercise to test new technologies and address potential capability gaps under the guise of multi-domain battle.

The Ship to Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation, or S2ME2, Advanced Naval Technology Exercise, or ANTX, will take place in late April at Camp Pendleton, California, with a focus on how the naval force projects power in a 21st century contested environment.

Much like the other services within the joint force, the Marine Corps is grappling with more than a decade at war against technologically inferior adversaries while near-peer competitors observed U.S. tactics and invested in technologies and concepts to compete and win against the military.

"Our challenge is in the information age trying to leverage technology to come up with solutions to be able to maintain the capability of projecting power against a near-peer competitor in a forcible way,” said Col. Daniel Sullivan, chief of staff for the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.

He said the commandant has charged them with using creativity to leverage the naval research and development enterprise and come up with solutions to this problem — getting at electronic warfare, spoofing, swarming unmanned aerial vehicles, how to use autonomous robotic systems to do things that Marines used to do in the past, such as beach reconnaissance or mine clearing, he added.

America's plan for stopping cyberattacks is dangerously weak

by Greg Allen 

Outside contributors' opinions and analysis of the most important issues in politics, science, and culture. 

In 1899, diplomatic representatives from the world’s leading nations, many in elegant suits adorned with gold pocket watches and sporting exquisite waxed mustaches, gathered in the Hague, Netherlands, for a grand conference. The diplomats set out to achieve nothing less than taming the destructive potential of a new military technology. The recent invention of motor-driven military aircraft had led all nations to fear man-made storms of balloons raining bombs on their cities.

After weeks of tense negotiations, the diplomats emerged to announce a stunning victory for world peace: a five-year ban on the offensive military use of any aircraft — which they hoped would soon be made permanent. Fifteen years later, in 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, the diplomats’ soaring ambitions crashed into two stubborn facts: Airplanes are critical for winning a modern war, and losing a modern war is terrifying. The ban evaporated, and bombs fell on every European belligerent’s capital save Rome.


Chris Pleasance has article on the Daily Mail Online’s website this morning (March 27, 2017) discussing Russia’s new Zicron, hypersonic cruise missile, which travels between 3,800 and 4,600 mph — five to six times the speed of sound. Mr. Pleasance writes that “experts warn the ‘unstoppable’ projectiles could spell disaster for the Royal Navy’s new 6.2B Pound Sterling aircraft carriers — the HMS Queen Elizabeth, and the HMS Prince of Wales.” The hypersonic cruise missile is capable of carrying warheads ranging from high explosive to nuclear.

Mr. Pleasance writes that the “British Navy’s anti-missile defenses are only equipped to shoot down projectiles traveling 2,300 mph — meaning they would be useless against the Zicron.” In essence, this would be the equivalent of a major league baseball player swinging at a pitch that has already crossed home plate. Mr. Pleasance adds that this vulnerability/gap, would “force [British] aircraft carriers to anchor outside their estimated 500 mile range.” But, by taking this defensive measure, British carrier-based jets and helicopters would be unable to reach their targets, carry out their mission, and returning without running out of fuel — effectively rendering them useless,” he wrote. 

Mr. Pleasance quotes Pete Sandeman, a naval expert as saying: “Defense against hypersonic missiles presents a huge challenge. Even if the missile is broken up or detonated by close-in weapons, the debris has so much kinetic energy that the ship may still be badly damaged.”

UK minister says encryption on messaging services is unacceptable

LONDON (Reuters) - Technology companies must cooperate more with law enforcement agencies and should stop offering a “secret place for terrorists to communicate” using encrypted messages, British interior minister Amber Rudd said on Sunday.

Local media have reported that British-born Khalid Masood sent an encrypted message moments before killing four people last week by ploughing his car into pedestrians and fatally stabbing a policeman as he tried to get into parliament in an 82-second attack that struck terror in the heart of London.

There may be difficulties in taking on technology companies - in the United States, officials have been trying to make U.S. technology firms provide a way around encryption, talks that have intensified since a mass shooting in San Bernardino.

But while saying she was “calling time on terrorists using social media as their platform”, Rudd also appealed for help from the owners of encrypted messaging apps such as Facebook’s WhatsApp, backing away from seeking to introduce new legislation.

Asked for her view on companies which offer end-to-end encrypted messages, Rudd said: “It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide. We need to make sure organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.”


Lily Hay Newman had an online article last week, (March 23, 2017), on WIRED.com’s website. Build a digital mousetrap, and the digital mice will eventually find a way around it. And, the ingenuity and cleverness of the cyber thieves continues to evolve, and as you might expect — they get more devious with time. Ms. Newman begins: “Your antivirus (AV) software might come with some annoyances. It might slow your computer down. “But, researchers have discovered a more sinister downside: A well intentioned debugging tool found in many versions of Microsoft Windows can be used maliciously to gain access to vulnerable antivirus programs, and weaponize them.”

“Discovered by researchers at the Israeli cyber security defense firm — Cybellum, the so-called “DoubleAgent attack” takes advantage of the Microsoft Application Verifier, a tool used for strengthening security in third-party Windows applications, to inject customized code into programs. The approach could potentially manipulate any software target; but, antivirus programs would be particularly appealing to an attacker since they have such extensive system privileges for scanning,” Ms. Newman wrote.

“You’re installing antivirus to protect you [your devices]; but actually you’re opening a new attack vector into your computer,” said Slava Bronfman, CEO of Cybellum. “Hackers usually try to run away from AV, and hide from it — but now, instead of running away — they can directly attack the AV. And once they control it, they don’t even need to uninstall it, they can just keep quietly keep it running.”

Physical keys making comeback in digital world

Jungwoo Ryoo

With all the news about Yahoo accounts being hacked and other breaches of digital security, it’s easy to wonder if there’s any real way to keep unauthorized users out of our email and social media accounts.

Everyone knows not to use the same username and password combination for every account – though many people still do. But if they follow that advice, people end up with another problem: Way too many passwords to remember – 27 on average, according to a recent survey. That can lead to stress about password security and even cause people to give up secure passwords altogether. It’s an ominous feeling and a dangerous situation.

But there is hope, through what is called “two-factor authentication,” in which a user needs not only a login name and password but also another way to validate her identity, before being allowed to connect to, say, Gmail or Snapchat. That way, even an attacker who gets a user’s login name and password still can’t access the account.

When it happens, this usually involves the user either receiving a text message on her phone with a six-digit code, or opening an app on her phone that will give her the code, which changes every 30 seconds. As a cybersecurity researcher, I know that even as this method is just starting to become common, a newer method, a return to the era of the physical key, is nipping at its heels.