18 May 2017

***The Dalai Lama and the Shugden Schism

By M. A. Aldrich

Most people were not surprised when the Chinese government roundly condemned the Dalai Lama’s visit to Ulaanbaatar in November 2016 as a “splittist” attempt to undermine Mongolia’s respect for Chinese sovereignty. However, it was curious to later read similar denunciations on a website sponsored by monks and lay people that belong to the same monastic order as His Holiness. The criticism could come as a shock for those outsiders who assume that Tibetan Buddhists are united behind the Dalai Lama.

In an article published on December 21, 2016, the website, www.dorjeshugden.com, condemned the Dalai Lama for recklessness at a time when Mongolia was in negotiations for Chinese economic assistance. In a side comment, the article compared Mongolia’s economic crisis to the growing pains attributable to the transition from being “Asia’s next golden child to an awkward binge drinking and debt-ridden teenager with behavioral issues.” After referring to previous Chinese state loans to Mongolia, the article observed that the visit had “dampened the hopes of big brother China coming to Mongolia’s aid again [emphasis added].” The visit had “plunged the Mongolians deeper into despair” because it hindered the prospects of a bail-out by Beijing. The author also claimed that the Dalai Lama showed a selfish indifference to Mongolia’s plight.

In early February, the website carried another article using the same rhetoric as it laid the blame for Mongolia’s economic woes on the doorstep of the Central Tibetan Administration – the Tibet government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India – and its “underhanded political manipulations.” That’s an odd culprit to blame for the fiscal woes of the landlocked Central Asia country. For good measure, the article also took a gratuitous slap at India for its “meager” offer to assist Mongolia with its economic problems.

*** Exclusive: CPEC master plan revealed

The floodgates are about to open. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Beijing over the weekend to participate in the One Belt, One Road summit, and the top item on his agenda is to finalise the Long Term Plan (LTP) for the China-Pakistan Economic Corri­dor. [See next tab for details on how the plan was made].

Dawn has acquired exclusive access to the original document, and for the first time its details are being publicly disclosed here. The plan lays out in detail what Chinese intentions and priorities are in Pakistan for the next decade and a half, details that have not been discussed in public thus far.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the One Belt One Road summit in Beijing. — APP

 Two versions of the Long Term Plan are with the government. The full version is the one that was drawn up by the China Development Bank and the National Development Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China. It is 231 pages long.

 The shortened version is dated February 2017. It contains only broad brushstroke descriptions of the various “areas of cooperation” and none of the details. It was drawn up for circulation to the provincial governments to obtain their assent. It is 30 pages long. The only provincial government that received the full version of the plan is the Punjab government.

For instance, thousands of acres of agricultural land will be leased out to Chinese enterprises to set up “demonstration projects” in areas ranging from seed varieties to irrigation technology. A full system of monitoring and surveillance will be built in cities from Peshawar to Karachi, with 24 hour video recordings on roads and busy marketplaces for law and order. A national fibreoptic backbone will be built for the country not only for internet traffic, but also terrestrial distribution of broadcast TV, which will cooperate with Chinese media in the “dissemination of Chinese culture”.

*** Beating the Islamic State

by Ben Connable, Natasha Lander, Kimberly Jackson

Research Questions 

What new options can be pursued to defeat the Islamic State, stabilize the Middle East, and reestablish a sense of domestic security in the United States and Europe? 
Which of these options might be the most effective, and why? 

The U.S.-led strategy to defeat the Islamic State (IS) — a hybrid insurgent-terrorist group that as of mid-2016 controls territory in both Iraq and Syria — has been criticized for a lack of clarity, overemphasis on tactical objectives, and insufficient attention to the underlying causes of the greater civil conflict across both Iraq and Syria. This report assesses the current strategy and presents three options for a new strategy. Each of these options, derived from subject-matter-expert input, represents a broad strategic approach to defeating IS. Continuous counterterror focuses on containing and suppressing IS while accepting ongoing instability in Iraq and Syria. Practical stability seeks to reestablish the pre–Arab Spring order in Iraq and Syria, building stable states at the probable expense of democracy and human rights. The report recommends the third option: Legitimated stability. This approach pursues a long-term strategy that seeks to address the root causes of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, reconciling the disenfranchised Sunni Arab populations with their governments, and thereby removing the conditions that allowed IS to emerge and thrive. Other alternatives that fail to address root cause issues are likely to condemn the U.S. and its allies to continual crisis and unpredictable and unending reinvestment of resources, with little real gain in security or reduction in international terror.



As President Donald Trump prepares to embark on his first foreign trip since taking office, he finds himself considering a conundrum that has beguiled his three predecessors — Clinton, Bush, and Obama — over the past two decades: What does “success” in Afghanistan look like? Put another way, what level of stability is required in Afghanistan to prevent the resurgence of jihadist groups that can pose renewed threats to United States? Importantly, two key factors have changed since Trump’s predecessors wrestled with this issue: First, the national security team around the president — Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, and Gen. John Nicholson, the commander in Afghanistan — have no learning curve when it comes to Afghanistan and the broader region. Second, the American people, having watched the U.S. military’s precipitous withdrawal from Iraq and the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, now have a greater appreciation of the need to deal with local instability as a means to keeping international terrorism at bay. Thus, as the president reviews options this week for America’s role going forward in Afghanistan, gone will be the Vice President Joe Biden-like recommendations of focusing solely on counterterrorism problems in isolation of local and regional dynamics.

India skips Belt Road Forum meet: Let's not fret, Hitory is not on China's side

Prakash Nanda

There are many in India who will answer "yes". Veteran journalist Prem Shankar Jha, perhaps, represents this school of thought best when he argues that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Beijing Policy is like “cutting off India’s nose to spite China’s face”.

However, these enthusiasts for OBOR should perhaps reconsider their stance, because even many Chinese experts are unsure how OBOR will proceed.

Essentially the brainchild of the Chinese president Xi Jinping, OBOR is a collection of interlinking trade deals and infrastructure projects throughout Eurasia and the Pacific, spanning more than 68 countries, encompassing 4.4 billion people and up to 40% of the global GDP.

But, nobody has exact clarity on what projects will constitute parts of the idea. As Christopher Balding, professor of economics at Peking University, says, “It means everything and nothing at the same time."

Chenggang Xu, professor of economics at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, told CNN that it helps to think of OBOR as a "philosophy" or "party line," rather than anything “concrete”.


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Posted by alpinedrome in Uncategorized

Kipling popularized the term ‘Great Game’ for rivalries and conflicts among Britain, Russia, France, and China to gain political and economic control of the Indian subcontinent and central Asian highlands during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Much of the literature on the Great Game, for instance Peter Hopkirk’s The Great Game (1990), has focused on its political history. This article deals with the topographic surveys, geological mapping and geographic exploration of the Himalaya as a direct consequence of the Great Game. This subject offers a fascinating field of research into the history of science and also sharpens our knowledge of Himalayan geography and geology. Here we particularly focus on how British institutions and personalities in India played a paramount role in the mapping and exploration of the Himalaya-Tibetan region. (A number of Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, Swiss and Russians contributed to this venture as well, but are not discussed in this article.)

The East India Company and Governor-General of Bengal

Although the British East India Company’s activities in India date back to the early seventeenth century, the year 1765, when Captain Robert Clive (1725-1774) forcefully obtained the sovereign rights (‘Diwan’) of Bengal from the Indian Mogul emperor Shah Alam, and the year 1772, when Warren Hastings (1732-1818) became the first Governor-General of Bengal, are starting points in our discussion because these events ushered in systematic exploration activities in the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayan region supported by both political and commercial entities based in Calcutta (Kolkata). This situation remained intact until 1858 (a year after the Indian Mutiny) when the seat of power moved to Delhi, and British Raj came under direct rule of the British Crown and Parliament represented by the India Office in London, and Governor-General of India and the Queen’s Viceroy in Delhi.

Why India is not part of the Belt and Road Initiative summit

Written by Srikanth Kondapalli

India has stayed away from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit which began in Beijing on Sunday, citing sovereignty, procedural and leadership issues. As many as 120 countries, including 29 at the top leadership level, attended the inaugural, underlining President Xi Jinping’s description of this being the “project of the century.”

India has cited the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir as the main reason for refusing to participate in the summit. Sovereignty and territorial integrity issues, which tie in with the nationalist nature of prime minister Modi’s government, are clearly top of the agenda.

Interestingly, this is true for Xi Jinping as well. China’s sovereignty claims over the disputed South China Sea islands has led it to challenge the world. Also, President Xi, soon after taking over as the leader in 2012, suggested he will not sacrifice “core interests” for the sake of developmental interests.

Aadhaar arguments: For and against

R. Sukumar

Aadhaar could be the answer to various problems faced by millions of Indians who desperately want to be on the grid—not off it. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

With three cases against it now pending before a yet-to-be formed constitution bench of the Supreme Court, it is time to look at the real issues around Aadhaar (and there’s no denying the fact that there are some, especially related to privacy and security).

That would mean looking beyond smear campaigns, old and new.

There have been several, including allegations that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) issued huge contracts to its then chairman Nandan Nilekani’s former company Infosys Ltd, and rumours that IndiaStack, an effort to create building blocks for a digital payments infrastructure spearheaded by volunteers and non-profits, is actually building a closed ecosystem that will benefit its own.



“We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!” That was Donald Trump tweeting in November 2013. Fast forward and President Trump is considering sending 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Although the precise troop numbers and particulars of their deployment are still being mapped out, all indications are that these additional forces would not directly contribute to the counter-terrorism mission. Rather, they would be sent to shore up the Afghan government forces fighting against the Taliban. As the White House reviews the proposed increase, there are numerous questions it should address. Four are paramount.

1. Is shoring up the Afghan government forces necessary to enable an ongoing counter-terrorism mission, and, if not, then what U.S. interests are at stake?

For the past three years, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan has focused on targeting al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and any other terrorists that could directly threaten the American homeland or U.S. persons and infrastructure overseas. The narrowness of the mission makes it easier to achieve and to sustain. However, the ability to conduct this mission — at least in its current form — is contingent on a friendly Afghan government remaining in control of its territory.

Time to Revisit the Durand Line


Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have deteriorated sharply over the last few years, as also evident in the increase in exchange of fire between security forces of the two countries, along the Af-Pak border. The last such incident took place on May 7 at the Chaman border in Balochistan, when firing by the Pakistan Army resulted in the death of Afghan soldiers. While Pakistan maintained that it had killed 50 soldiers and injured more than 100, Afghanistan contended that only 2 had died. This incident was in retaliation to an earlier one in which 9 persons were killed and 45 injured on the Pak side, when Afghan border forces fired at Pakistan security personnel guarding a census team.

Such border skirmishes are a manifestation of the inherent friction between the two countries, due to differences over the Durand Line, the border separating them. The Afghans have always viewed the Durand Line as an artificial border imposed on them by the British colonial rulers of India. For British India, this border was an attempt to secure itself by providing it strategic depth, and a buffer against Russian advances into the Indian subcontinent, through Afghanistan. Drawn by the British in 1893, this artificial border resulted in the formal cessation of vast tracts of what is now Balochistan and Pashtun-dominated areas belonging to Afghanistan, to British India.

Bangladesh 2017: Resurgence of Radicalism

Author: Bibu Prasad Routray

In the last two years, Islamist radicalism has witnessed resurgence in Bangladesh... much of these attacks are owned by the Islamic State. While the world believes these claims, government in Dhaka continues to con-test this popular narrative. The ruling Awami League (AL) government on the contrary blames the indigenous Islamists rather than the transnational terror formation for the terror acts. Its response to end such terror has consisted of a series of kinetic operations and systemic targeting of the Islamists.

How is this resurgence of radicalism likely to evolve in 2017? This has been analysed by taking into the two principal factors: operational strength and influence of the Islamists; and Official counter terrorism policy. Read more of this post

Chinese Defense Adviser Says Djibouti Naval Facility Is A Much-Needed ‘Military Base’

By Minnie Chan,

An influential Chinese defence adviser explicitly called the navy installation China is establishing in the East African country of Djibouti a “military base” and said China will need more facilities like it to protect the nation’s growing overseas interests.

Professor Jin Yinan, a retired major general and former director of the strategic research institute at the PLA’s National Defence University, told an open forum in Hong Kong on Thursday that he expects the project will be finished and soon put into service. But his description of the installation as a military base was a striking departure from Beijing’s past descriptions of the project as a “support facility”.

“We said in the past that we would never build an overseas base but now we build one. Why?“ Jin said. “Will China copy the US to seek hegemony in the world? No. We have to protect the Chinese maritime interest faraway.”

China is constructing a naval base in Djibouti to provide what it calls logistical support in one of the world’s busiest waterways. The defence ministry said in a statement last year that the facility was mostly for resupply purposes for anti-piracy, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations.

The long-awaited changes in the operational and tactical units of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have begun with a formal announcement by President Xi Jinping in April 2017. After initiating major reforms in late 2015 and throughout 2016, the Central Military Commission (CMC), service headquarters, and military regions (now theater commands) have been reorganized resulting in the reallocation of many personnel and the demobilization of an unknown number of active duty personnel. But, as part of the ongoing 300,000 man reduction, even larger cuts in personnel will follow as headquarters and units at corps/army-level and below are eliminated, re-subordinated, or restructured.

By 2020, when the structural changes now underway are scheduled for completion, the PLA should number two million active duty personnel. Though the reforms since 2015 are the most significant set of changes for the PLA since the 1950s, they are but an intermediate step, the 2020 milestone, in the PLA’s “three-step development strategy” initially announced in 2006. The strategy’s final goal was modified in 2008 and defined as “reach[ing] the goal of modernization of national defense and armed forces by the mid-21st century.” [1] As such, more adjustments to the PLA’s structure and capabilities can be expected over the next three decades as technology improves and China’s domestic and the international situations change. Throughout this process the reforms will be evaluated to determine if they meet the objectives of building a strong military to defend China’s core security requirements, capable of deterring and winning informationized wars, and accomplishing a variety of military operations other than war such as anti-terrorism, internal stability maintenance, disaster relief, and international peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations (MOD, May 26, 2015).

An ISIS–Al Qaeda ‘Frankenstein’ Could Be On Its Way

by Adbul Basit

The Islamic State terrorist group, which emerged as the trendsetter of the global jihad in 2014, is past its prime and glory. Currently, it is on the defensive, fighting for its survival, unlike the 2014 offensive when it was expanding territorially, shocking the international community with its unapologetically brutal videos and flaunting its cash to attract foreign jihadists in the thousands.

ISIS has been on the receiving end of significant territorial losses in Iraq and Syria, travel restrictions dissuading would-be foreign fighters, dwindling finances and high casualty rates among its foot soldiers. The terror group’s social media propaganda arm, Al-Hayat, is not even half as active as it was last year.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda central, which remained the undisputed leader and champion of global jihad until 2014, is in an abysmal state of affairs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since Osama bin Laden’s death, Al Qaeda has lost its mojo and it has become a jihadi pariah. Only fifty to sixty members and operatives of Al Qaeda are in the Af-Pak region; the rest have been killed or arrested, or have relocated to the Middle East. Al Qaeda has not carried out any large-scale terrorist attacks in the last seven years. The terror group has been reduced to a footnote in annual threat assessments. Currently, it is depending on its Yemeni branch, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), for funding and its Taliban allies for shelter, protection and movement.

The End of the Road

I made my decision on a deserted stretch of Highway 8 near As Salman, Iraq, on the last day of February in 1991. It was a much easier decision than I had anticipated, but in the closing hours of Operation Desert Storm I knew that I was committing to a career in the United States Army.

I was not yet four years removed from a discussion with my Professor of Military Science that, at the time, had convinced me that my time in uniform would be short:

“Congratulations! You’re Regular Army!” He said.

“That’s great,” I replied.

“And you've been branched Ordnance!!” He added.

“Ordnance? What’s that? That wasn't even on my dream sheet.” I answered.

“They’re the guys who fix typewriters. You’ll love it!”

Fuck me. Typewriters? What the hell? “Really?” I replied. “I thought I would be branched Engineers?”

“Really? What was your major?”


“Oh. Well, congratulations! Regular Army!!”

To defeat ISIS for good, US needs to take the war beyond the battlefield


We are about to score tremendous tactical victories against ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria. The ISIS, or as the Arabs say, Daesh, strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa are about to fall, with much thanks to Iraqi forces, American advisers and miscellaneous militia units. But this is the beginning of a victory, not its final act.

A brilliant Naval officer, a SEAL with many combat tours, recently told an audience of scholars and practitioners in Washington, D.C., that, when Americans say counterterrorism, what they really mean is counterterrorist actions. We are fixated on the battle, the kinetic fight. The other aspects of counterterrorism — stability operations, propaganda and recruitment, returning foreign fighters, and reconciliation or incarceration — often go unaddressed. To win the war against Daesh, we will have to dive deeper into the non-kinetic tasks.

BrexitUnited Kingdom Theresa May's Gamble

By Andrew Gawthorpe

Since her sudden and unexpected call last month for a general election in June, British Prime Minister Theresa May has managed to shed the reputation for indecisiveness that has dogged her since she took power from David Cameron last fall. Also contributing to public perceptions of her strength, she has gone on the attack against the European Union, handily manufacturing a spat by accusing Brussels of seeking to tip the election against her by leaking details of a tense conversation she had recently had with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at a private dinner. As can be expected, the admixture of nationalist posturing to political combat has proven intoxicating. The woman once nicknamed “Theresa Maybe” has now been recast by the press as the reincarnation of Boudicca, a warrior queen who led ancient Britons in a revolt against Roman occupation.

All signs point to a dramatic victory for May’s Conservative Party in the upcoming election, scheduled to take place on June 8. Many observers hope that an increased parliamentary majority will free May from the right wing of her own party, which is pushing for the United Kingdom to drive what many consider an unrealistically hard bargain in its negotiations with Brussels. With such voices sidelined, she would be able to make compromises with the EU that will mitigate the damage of its departure. Apparently anticipating just such a result, money markets have grown more optimistic about the United Kingdom since the election was announced.

Russian ‘Cyber Troops’: A Weapon of Aggression

By: Sergey Sukhankin

Speaking to the Russian parliament (Duma) last February, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu announced the creation of “information operations troops” (“cyber troops”) within the Armed Forces. He emphasized that state “propaganda should be smart, accurate and effective” and that that these new formations “will be much more efficient than the ‘counter-propaganda’ department that operated during the Soviet period” (TASS, February 22). It is dubious, however, that the responsibilities of “cyber troops” will be reduced solely to “propaganda.” Rather, it seems that this unit is to become the main tool of Russia’s offensive cyber operations as a part of “information warfare.”

The official history of the Russian cyber troops goes back to 2012, when Dmitry Rogozin (at the time heading the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry) addressed the issue publicly for the first time. In 2013, an anonymous source confided that formations of this kind had been established under the umbrella of the Russian Armed Forces (RBC, February 22), but at the time there was no solid evidence available. Then, in April 2015, the official state news agency TASS reported that a unit of Russian “information operations forces” were deployed to the territory of the Crimean Peninsula (TASS, April 17, 2015). Nonetheless, in the meantime, the Russian side continued to deny the existence of cyber troops. For instance, in January 2017, the first deputy director of the Russian Duma Defense Committee, Alexander Sherin, claimed that “Russia does not have such formations.” Similar statements were made by top-ranking Russian officials related to security and mass communications, such as Viktor Ozerov and Alexey Volin (Interfax, January 16). This silence was interrupted only by Defense Minister Shoigu’s official announcement in February.

Modern wars are won by grinding, not by genius

WRITTEN BYCathal J Nolan

War is the most complex, physically and morally demanding enterprise we undertake. No great art or music, no cathedral or temple or mosque, no intercontinental transport net or particle collider or space program, no research for a cure for a mass-killing disease receives a fraction of the resources and effort we devote to making war. Or to recovery from war and preparations for future wars invested over years, even decades, of tentative peace. War is thus far more than a strung-together tale of key battles. Yet, traditional military history presented battles as fulcrum moments where empires rose or fell in a day, and most people still think that wars are won that way, in an hour or an afternoon of blood and bone. Or perhaps two or three. We must understand the deeper game, not look only to the scoring. That is hard to do because battles are so seductive.

War evokes our fascination with spectacle, and there is no greater stage or more dramatic players than on a battlefield. We are drawn to battles by a lust of the eye, thrilled by a blast from a brass horn as Roman legionaries advance in glinting armor or when a king’s wave releases mounted knights in a heavy cavalry charge. Grand battles are open theatre with a cast of many tens of thousands: samurai under signal kites, mahouts mounted on elephants, a Zulu impi rushing over lush grass toward a redcoat firing line. Battles open with armies dressed in red, blue, or white, flags fluttering, fife and drums beating the advance. Or with the billowing canvas of a line of fighting sail, white pufferies erupting in broadside volleys. Or a wedge of tanks hard-charging over the Russian steppe. What comes next is harder to comprehend.

27 Questions to Identify Culture and Define Vision

I’ve had a lot of conversations lately about organizational culture and vision. [To me, vision is where the team is going and culture is the behavior, beliefs, and norms that get it there.] One point of dispute deals with when the new leader of an organization (say, an incoming commander) should begin shaping the culture and setting the vision.

Some feel that culture-setting is a ‘Day 1 activity’ that centers on the leader’s influence…“I’m the new leader and here’s how I want things to run.” Others feel it is haphazard and potentially disastrous to join a team and immediately set it off on a new course…“I need to understand the culture before I know what to change.”

Regardless of your personal preference, it’s tough to argue that leaders should ignore culture and vision. Even a leader who immediately drives vision and culture will have to assess whether or not the team is meeting the intent. Identifying and understanding culture, for all leaders, is a critical task.

Soldiers participate in a sunrise run during annual training at Fort Stewart, Ga., Jan. 11, 2017. The soldiers are assigned to the Georgia National Guard’s 78th Troop Command, 110th Combat Services Support Battalion. Army National Guard photo by Capt. William Carraway

U.S. military cyber operation to attack ISIS last year sparked heated debate over alerting allies

By Ellen Nakashima

A secret global operation by the Pentagon late last year to sabotage the Islamic State’s online videos and propaganda sparked fierce debate inside the government over whether it was necessary to notify countries that are home to computer hosting services used by the extremist group, including U.S. allies in Europe.

While U.S. Cyber Command claimed success in carrying out what was called Operation Glowing Symphony, the issue remained unresolved and now confronts the Trump administration, which is conducting a broad review of what powers to give the military in countering the Islamic State, including in the cyber realm.

As part of the operation, Cyber Command obtained the passwords to a number of Islamic State administrator accounts and then used them to access the accounts, change the passwords and delete content such as battlefield video. It also shut the group’s propaganda specialists out of their accounts, former officials said.

Cybercom developed the campaign under pressure from then-Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, who wanted the command to raise its game against the Islamic State. But when the CIA, State Department and FBI got wind of the plan to conduct operations inside the borders of other countries without telling them, officials at the agencies immediately became concerned that the campaign could undermine cooperation with those countries on law enforcement, intelligence and counterterrorism.

Terrorist Use of Virtual Currencies: Containing the Potential Threat


Will virtual currencies (VC) increasingly replace traditional methods of funding terrorism, including the halawa system? According to Zachary Goldman et al, extremists in the Gaza Strip have already used virtual currencies to fund their operations and members of the Islamic State have been particularly receptive to the new technology, at least at the local level. To prevent the spread of VC funding on a larger scale, our authors argue that counterterrorism communities should adopt three guiding principles to shape their future policies. Explore them here.

Infographic: The 5 phases of a ransomware attack

By Alison DeNisco 

Ransomware is the most profitable type of malware attack in history—and attacks will only get worse in the future, according to Cisco Systems' midyear report on the state of cyber security, released Tuesday. It's now important for employees to understand the different phases of an attack and best practices to prevent them.

Ransomware is "weaponized encryption," said James Scott, senior fellow and co-founder of the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, and co-author of the 2016 Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology Ransomware Report. Attacks involve malware delivered through spear phishing emails that lock up valuable data assets and demand a ransom to release them.

Hackers who previously used ransomware only to secure money from individual users are now looking to steal data from larger hospitals and corporations and sell it on the Dark Web, Scott said.

"Ransomware is the new DDoS," Scott said. "You have experienced, sophisticated hackers using ransomware as the upfront distraction that sets the organization into chaos and occupies the time of their IT people. It allows for the mercenary to go in, map the network, find vulnerable devices and set up beachheads for future attack."

I Side With the 'Bad Guys' on Encryption

By Stephen L. Carter 

One of the more intriguing pearls in FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week was his disclosure that the Bureau has been unable to penetrate the encryption on about half of the 6,000 cell phones seized in the course of various investigations between October and March. To Comey and the senators, this was plainly a problem. I will confess that my own feelings are more mixed.

Let’s start at the top. Criminals and terrorists use cell phones. A lot. Those cell phones contain a trove of information: calls made and received, text messages, lists of contacts. But law enforcement is finding it harder and harder to penetrate the encryption that protects the privacy of ordinary users and bad guys alike.

Khalid Masood, who killed five people and injured 50 in a terror attack in London in March, used WhatsApp to send a message from his cell phone just before his rampage began. The appeal of WhatsApp is its end-to-end encryption of whatever you send, encryption even the company cannot break. Initially, law enforcement worried publicly about being unable to read Masood’s final message or discover the recipient. Some weeks later, the message was somehow retrieved. The means used have not been disclosed, but there has been speculation that the authorities never broke the encryption but instead somehow obtained Masood’s password.

U.S. military cyber operation to attack ISIS last year sparked heated debate over alerting allies

By Ellen Nakashima 

A secret global operation by the Pentagon late last year to sabotage the Islamic State’s online videos and propaganda sparked fierce debate inside the government over whether it was necessary to notify countries that are home to computer hosting services used by the extremist group, including U.S. allies in Europe. 

While U.S. Cyber Command claimed success in carrying out what was called Operation Glowing Symphony, the issue remained unresolved and now confronts the Trump administration, which is conducting a broad review of what powers to give the military in countering the Islamic State, including in the cyber realm. 

As part of the operation, Cyber Command obtained the passwords to a number of Islamic State administrator accounts and then used them to access the accounts, change the passwords and delete content such as battlefield video. It also shut the group’s propaganda specialists out of their accounts, former officials said. 

Cybercom developed the campaign under pressure from then-Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, who wanted the command to raise its game against the Islamic State. But when the CIA, State Department and FBI got wind of the plan to conduct operations inside the borders of other countries without telling them, officials at the agencies immediately became concerned that the campaign could undermine cooperation with those countries on law enforcement, intelligence and counterterrorism. 

Next Industrial Revolution: Research Shows More Robots, Fewer Jobs

by Fabius Maximus, 

Here is a milestone economics paper, showing that the new wave of automation is already a net destroyer of jobs. The next industrial revolution has begun, and the effects will accelerate from here. We have to start thinking about ways to divide the new wealth it produces - and handle the massive unemployment.

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

“On average, the arrival of one new industrial robot in a local labor market coincides with an employment drop of 5.6 workers."

For years mainstream economists have mocked warnings about coming wave of automation, confident that new jobs would appear to replace those lost - as repeatedly happened during the past several centuries. But Wassily Leontief (Nobel Laureate in Economics) said in 1983 that this industrial revolution might be different, more like the destruction of horses’ jobs in the 20th century.