22 July 2017

*** Putin Faces Off Against America’s Founding Fathers

As the political theater surrounding the United States and Russia builds once again, now is as good a time as any to step back from the daily drama and make sense of the dynamics and characters at play. Though Russia is exceptionally good at crafting its foreign policy and positioning itself in multiple conflicts to better bargain with the United States, its efforts have yet to produce any tangible results. In fact, Russia's active reinforcement of the perception that the United States is weak and distracted has only spurred a natural rebalancing of power between the executive and legislative branches, just as the framers of the U.S. Constitution intended. 

Syria: The Land of Opportunity and Constraint

The most recent act of the unfolding drama began about a month ago on the crowded Syrian battlefield. Loyalists were busy trying to blaze a path from their western strongholds to the Iraqi border in the east, an endeavor Iran supported in hopes of realizing its own strategic goal of creating a land bridge between Tehran and the Mediterranean coast. Meanwhile, the United States was attempting to forge ahead with its fight against the Islamic State in Raqqa, as Russia searched for an opportunity to use its central role on the Syrian stage to bring about a crisis in order to re-engage Washington in negotiation. The scene was set for a head-on collision.

** What the India-China Doklam Standoff Means for Nepal

By Narayani Basu

The crisis drives home Nepal’s delicate position as it tries to balances ties with its neighbors. 

Should the ongoing stand-off between India and China at the Bhutan-China-India triboundary point escalate, where does Nepal stand? This question will be troubling Kathmandu as New Delhi sticks stubbornly to its guns and Beijing’s rhetoric grows shriller by the day.

In recent times, Nepal has preferred to maintain, in theory, what it terms an “equidistant” relationship with both countries. In practice, however, matters are a little different. Since Narendra Modi’s government swept to power in India in 2014, Nepal’s ties with New Delhi have frayed. 2015 saw the promulgation of a new Constitution in Nepal, under the aegis of newly elected Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. India’s reaction to this was as bizarre as it was brazen – not only did it merely “note” the existence of the new Constitution, despite the welcome it received internationally, but India imposed an “unofficial” blockade on Nepal in order to secure the rights of the Madhesi people (who have close ties to India’s own people in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar). The blockade lasted for five months – but given that India stood as Nepal’s largest trade partner, besides providing sole access to ports and seaways, the impact on the domestic economy as well as on bilateral relations was little short of brutal.

India's U-Turn on North Korea Policy

By Samuel Ramani

India’s new moves to isolate North Korea will reverberate across East Asia. 

On July 7, 2017, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) released a strongly worded statementcondemning North Korea’s July 4 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch. In their statement, Indian MEA officials described Pyongyang’s ballistic missile program and nuclear proliferation links as posing a grave threat to India’s security and international peace. The Indian MEA also called on all international supporters of North Korea to be held accountable for their actions.

India’s strident condemnations of North Korean belligerence follow a string of anti-Pyongyang actions authorized by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In April, India aligned with United Nations (UN) stipulations by banning all trade with North Korea, with the exception of shipments of food and medicine. This decision brought an abrupt end to a decade of growth in India-North Korea trade links.

While India possesses little leverage over North Korea, these policy shifts have profound implications for both Pyongyang and New Delhi. As India and North Korea have a long history of trade links and cordial diplomatic ties, India’s implementation of UN sanctions against Pyongyang could slow the progress of North Korea’s ballistic missile program and weaken its economy. In addition, India’s policy shift on North Korea will help Modi strengthen India’s relationships with South Korea and the United States, increasing New Delhi’s diplomatic profile and access to foreign investment.

China-Pakistan Water Axis On The Indus

Before the Belt and Road summit held at Beijing in mid-May 2017, several memoranda of understanding (MoU) were finalised between China and Pakistan. Significant among these was an agreement to construct an array of hydropower projects, to be referred to as the North Indus Cascade. Consisting of five major hydropower projects including the much delayed and controversial Diamer Bhasha Dam (DBD), the Cascade will cut across Gilgit Baltistan, a part of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), as well as Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Notably, China has committed a whopping USD 50 billion for this cluster of projects on the transboundary River Indus, with a projected cumulative hydropower generation capacity of over 22,000 MW.

The MoU on these Indus projects was concluded between Yousuf Naseem Khokhar, Pakistan’s Secretary of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), and China’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Sun Weidong, on the side-lines of a conference organised by China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) on May 13. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was in Beijing to attend the BRI summit, was present on the occasion. Citing the critical importance of water and food security for Pakistan, Sharif expressed unequivocal gratitude for China’s generosity and applauded the efforts made by Chinese agencies and representatives. He observed: “Development of the North Indus Cascade is a major focus of my government and the construction of the Diamer Bhasha Dam is the single most important initiative in this regard.”1 And he commended China’s NEA for organising a separate session on DBD in the course of which various presentations were made by different companies and their assessment of the multibillion dollar project was also laid out.

Afghan forces liberate district in central Helmand


The Afghan National Army retook control of the district of Nawa from the Taliban today in central Helmand province. Nawa, which is adjacent to the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, was under Taliban control for nine months before Afghan forces could muster the strength to mount an operation and retake it.

The Afghan military, backed by forces from NATO’s Resolute Support mission, launched the operation to seize Nawa on July 15. The spokesman for the governor of Helmand said that the operation was launched from three directions, TOLONews reported. Afghan officials have estimated that at least 38 Taliban fighters were killed during the assault and supporting coalition airstrikes.

Yesterday, the Taliban released a statement that noted fighting in Nawa, and claimed to have killed 12 Afghan security personnel, including a local police commander – but made no mention of loss of control in Nawa.

Nawa was overrun by the Taliban in early Oct. 2016, after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden armored vehicle inside the district headquarters and an assault team team took control of the government buildings. One day after it fell to the Taliban, Resolute Support wrongly claimed that the Taliban assault was “repelled” and Nawa was “under government control.”

Southeast Asia Braces for the Post-Islamic State Era

By Bilveer Singh

The fall of ISIS will bring new threats to Southeast Asia. Is the region ready? 

When the self-proclaimed Islamic State was declared in June 2014, the primary concern in Southeast Asia was the security implications such a wannabe proto-state would have on the region. Once it became apparent that Southeast Asian fighters, especially from Malaysia and Indonesia, were “migrating” [hijrah] to Syria and Iraq, the fear was that this could complicate domestic politics through sectarianism with divisions within the Muslim community and between Muslims and non-Muslims. The gross brutalities perpetrated by the ultra-violent ISIS worsened fears of what the existence of such a cruel “regime” would mean for national security, either through large scale or “lone wolf” attacks.

Now, after more than 37 months of existence, Islamic State’s controlled territories and fighting forces have been severely degraded. With the loss of Mosul, it is only a matter of time before Raqqa will be recaptured. This would mean that the physical “caliphate” will disappear. Instead of being euphoric about the disappearance of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, however, new fears have risen in Southeast Asia. The defeat of ISIS in the Middle East will not signal the end of the threat of terrorism from extremist Islam. For Southeast Asia, there are three key issues that need addressing the day after the fall of ISIS.

The US Needs China To Act On North Korea. Now, That Is Harder Than Usual – Analysis

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein*
(FPRI) — Over the past couple of weeks since North Korea successfully tested an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of reaching Alaska (potentially with nuclear weapons), the United States and much of the world have lived under a heightened sense of urgency about North Korea’s missile capabilities. Policymakers from the Left to the Right are calling for action, but America is in a worse global position than usual to meet North Korea’s threats. Undoubtedly, policymakers want to do something, as policymakers always do. But it is less and less clear what that something can be, as long as China continues to be the key to pressuring North Korea.

China was always unlikely to work with the international community in pressuring North Korea, and has only reluctantly gone along with sanctions without putting much of an effort into enforcing them. This time, however, Chinese action and compliance in pressuring North Korea are even less likely due to other geopolitical tensions with the U.S. in the region.
A Game Changer, but No Revolution

The North Korean missile test may be a game changer, but the reality of the North Korean threat is far from new. In Seoul, the South Korean capitol, such fears have long been part of daily existence. North Korea’s threats of annihilating Seoul by turning it into a “sea of fire” (and other colorful expressions) are so frequent that most people meet them with a shrug of the shoulders. People here know full well that North Korea can destroy much of the country, and that it would not even need nuclear weapons to do so.

Malabar 2017: Was China the elephant in the ocean?

By C Uday Bhaskar

A spectacular image of three carriers steaming abreast with 12 other naval ships following in formation marked the conclusion of Malabar 2017 on Monday (July 17). The week long, three-nation exercise that brought together the navies of India, USA and Japan was conducted in the Bay of Bengal extending into the Indian Ocean region (IOR). 

A total of 16 ships, two submarines and 95 aircraft participated and this included three carriers – the USS Nimitz, the world’s largest aircraft carrier ; the INS Vikramaditya – and a Japanese helicopter-carrier; and a US nuclear submarine. 

While inter-operability is at the core of such exercises, Malabar, which is in its 21st iteration, has enhanced India’s credibility in the Indian Ocean region as a nation that is committed to a collective effort to secure the traditional ‘global commons’ – the oceans of the world. This is in keeping with the vision outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his advocacy of SAGAR ( security and growth for all in the region) – which is also the Sanskrit word for oceans.

The China factor has repeatedly come up in the animated public discourse about Malabar and some invalid linkages have been made with the current India-China tension in the Doklam plateau of Bhutan. 

China standoff: 'The Indian Army should stand firm'

'When sensitive territory goes into the hands of your enemy. he becomes more powerful in military terms.'

'Assuming the Chinese take over the Doklam Plateau they will not stop at that.'

'They will keep ingressing, and it will be easier for them to further expand their territory.'

'I feel the Chinese will vacate that area in two months after it begins to snow.'

Lieutenant General Dr D B Shekatkar (retd), PVSM, AVSM, AVSM, was in charge of the entire China front in Arunachal Pradesh during the Kargil War.

The general, who served extensively in the North East, also compelled a record number (1,267) of terrorists in Kashmir, trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan to give up terrorism.

General Shekatkar spoke to Rediff.com's Archana Masih on the India-China standoff in the Sikkim sector.

Why a plateau in Bhutan is important for India:

I know the Dokalam area in Bhutan since 1992 where the Chinese are exerting their claim. It is at the tri-junction of Sikkim, Bhutan and China.

It is legally important for us because in mountain warfare, even a 10 feet high ground is of importance.

Over the years, the Chinese came during the grazing season, stayed for a few days with yaks and went away. They used to tell the Bhutanese that this is our area.

Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. ‘Handed the Country Over’


BAGHDAD — Walk into almost any market in Iraq and the shelves are filled with goods from Iran — milk, yogurt, chicken. Turn on the television and channel after channel broadcasts programs sympathetic to Iran.

A new building goes up? It is likely that the cement and bricks came from Iran. And when bored young Iraqi men take pills to get high, the illicit drugs are likely to have been smuggled across the porous Iranian border.

And that’s not even the half of it.

Across the country, Iranian-sponsored militias are hard at work establishing a corridor to move men and guns to proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon. And in the halls of power in Baghdad, even the most senior Iraqi cabinet officials have been blessed, or bounced out, by Iran’s leadership.

When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure — about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent — were poured into the cause.

This Group Hopes to Push America toward Regime Change in Iran

Ted Galen Carpenter

American policymakers and pundits have an unfortunate history of embracing odious foreign political movements that purport to be democratic. During the Cold War, embarrassing episodes included Washington’s support for the Nicaraguan Contras and Jonas Savimbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola. The post–Cold War era provides ample evidence that influential Americans have not learned appropriate lessons from those earlier blunders. The Clinton administration made common cause with the Kosovo Liberation Army, which proceeded to commit numerous war crimes during—and following—its successful war of secession against Serbia. Both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations allied with Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC). The INC’s false intelligence regarding Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, which the New York Times and other prominent media outlets reflexively circulated, was one of the major factors that prompted the United States to launch its ill-starred military intervention in Iraq.

There is mounting danger that the Trump administration is flirting with committing a similar blunder—this time in Iran. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked explicitly by Rep. Ted Poe whether the United States supported a policy of regime change in Iran when he testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in June 2017. Poe argued that “there are Iranians in exile all over the world. Some are here. And then there’s (sic) Iranians in Iran who don’t support the totalitarian state.” Tillerson replied that the administration’s policy toward Iran was still “under development,” but that Washington would work with “elements inside Iran” to bring about the transition to a new government. In other words, regime change is now official U.S. policy regarding Iran.

Exclusive: Iran's Foreign Minister Warns Donald Trump That Tehran Can Abandon the Nuclear Deal

Mohammad Javad Zarif

TNI’s Jacob Heilbrunn just sat down with Tehran’s top diplomat—and he was not happy with the Trump administration.

Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of the National Interest, spoke with Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister in an interview in New York on Monday, July 17, 2017. The following is a lightly edited transcript.

Jacob Heilbrunn: Yesterday you were on Fareed Zakaria’s show. And if, as you alleged, the Trump administration is indeed violating the spirit—if not the letter—of the Iran nuclear accords, what do you think your response will be to the Trump administration?

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Well, we’ve taken a route that has been prescribed within the nuclear deal, taken it to the joint commission, and we will discuss that in the joint commission to make sure that the shortcomings by the United States are remedied. This has been the subject of an ongoing debate within the joint commission, not only during the Trump administration but also during the previous Obama administration, when it took the United States, for instance, several months to clear the purchase of airplanes. It took the U.S. longer to clear the purchase of Airbus airplanes than it took for the purchase of Boeing airplanes. But nevertheless for Airbus it took about nine months and for Boeing it took about four months. Which in our view was too long, so we took the issue to the joint commission. And some parts of it were remedied, some parts of it were not, and this is the avenue that is open to us now.

North Korea's Nukes Will Only Go If Kim Gets to Stay

Roger Cliff

Time is running short if the United States wishes to prevent North Korea from acquiring the ability to attack the United States with a nuclear weapon. Recognizing this, the administration and outside advisors are floating a range of options to put pressure on Pyongyang. But most of these proposals are simply variants of ideas that have already been tried—and failed. A radically different approach is needed. If the United States wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, it must be willing to allow the communist government in North Korea to survive.

The price is steep, but the alternatives are worse. North Korea has already conducted five nuclear-weapons tests, and on July 4 tested a missile with enough energy to travel at least 5,500 kilometers, officially qualifying it as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). There is little reason to doubt that North Korea will sooner or later overcome the remaining technological hurdles in the way of its goal: the capability to reach a major U.S. city with a nuclear weapon small enough to be carried by a missile, but rugged enough to survive the rigors of being blasted into space and reentering through the earth’s atmosphere.

Straight Out of the Russian Intelligence Playbook


Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer and a Russian-American Lobbyist – among others - begs the question, was this a Russian intelligence operation? If so, is this typical Russian tradecraft, or something out of the ordinary? And what should we expect in the coming years? The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder asked former CIA Chief of Station Daniel Hoffman, who did a tour in the Soviet Union and is a Russia expert, his thoughts on this.

The Cipher Brief: Do you think the approach made to Donald Trump Jr. was actually directed by the Kremlin? Is something like this an example of intelligence collection tradecraft?

Daniel Hoffman: I believe this was indeed a Kremlin operation. I see this more as an attempted influence operation rather than traditional intelligence collection. The Russians at the meeting were not intelligence collectors, but they were suitable, from the Kremlin’s perspective, for an influence operation.

The presence of Rinat Akhmetshin, who reportedly served in the Soviet military does not appear to be a coincidence. Akhmetshin would lend credence to the Kremlin’s strategy of creating the impression of Russian government involvement from a distance, and add a measure of intrigue, given he served in the Soviet military. President Putin and his spokespeople might deny any official Russian government involvement but with a wink and a nod. Putin really does want the trail to lead back to the Kremlin because he knows any inkling of Russian government influence or interference would soil our electoral process. 

Wanted: A Give-And-Take Diplomacy for the North Korea Crisis

Amitai Etzioni

America should make a serious attempt at give-and-take diplomacy with China before the situation with North Korea becomes untenable.

Let me play for a moment the academic and question the international-relations theory that underlies the Trump administration’s approach to pushing China to help curb the North Korean nuclear threat. Much of that approach seems to be building on what could be called the Dale Carnegie theory of international relations. Trump asks Chinese president Xi Jinping nicely to help; Xi demurs; Trump voices his disappointment—as if the two were members of a country club and Xi did not help him set up for some social event.

First, Trump used flattery to gain Xi’s assistance. “I have great respect for [Xi],” he told the Financial Times in April. “I have great respect for China. I would not be at all surprised if we did something that would be very dramatic and good for both countries and I hope so.” He also described Xi as “a man that I’ve gotten to like and respect” and noted that the Chinese president “has been putting pressure on [Kim] also.” However, as time passed and Xi did not deliver, Trump publicly expressed his personal disappointment: “So much for China working with us,” he said in one tweet. He also noted in another tweetthat “North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!”

Trends in World Nuclear Forces, 2017

Source Link
By Shannon Kile and Hans Kristensen 

Key Facts 

At the start of 2017 nine states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea)—possessed approximately 14 935 nuclear weapons. 

None of the nuclear weapon-possessing states are prepared to give up their nuclear arsenals for the foreseeable future. All of these states are either developing or deploying new weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so. 

India and Pakistan are expanding their military fissile material production capabilities on a scale that may lead to significant increases in the size of their nuclear weapon inventories over the next decade. 

The USA plans to spend $400 billion over the period 2017–26 to maintain and modernize its nuclear forces, buy replacement systems and upgrade its nuclear weapon production infrastructure. 

By some estimates, the USA will spend up to $1 trillion by the mid 2040s on its nuclear modernization programmes. 

North Korea appears to have made technical progress in its military nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and may have built up to 20 nuclear warheads. However, there is no open-source evidence that North Korea has produced nuclear warheads that can be carried on ballistic missiles. 

Military Steps Up Recruiting of Cyberwarriors

By Sandra Erwin

Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone says he is baffled by complaints that tech-minded young people are not interested in government service.

He believes the problem is not disinterest but rather a lack of awareness of the opportunities that the military offers, especially in cybersecurity.

“The feedback we get is: ‘You’re downplaying what you’re doing as a mission,’” said Nakasone, commanding general of U.S. Army Cyber Command. 

“We are trying to improve our messaging,” he said last week at the Defense One Tech Summit in Washington, D.C.

Nakasone assumed command in October 2016 after serving as a top intelligence officer in Afghanistan. The Army stood up its cyber command in 2010 as part of the larger U.S. Cyber Command.

The military is trying to be more creative in how it markets itself to potential tech talent, he said. Although the best and brightest college grads tend to be lured by big-money jobs in the private sector, there are many young people who are drawn to the military life and its culture. Recently, Army Cyber Command invited hackers to break into a network and promised those who succeeded would be invited to join the organization, said Nakasone. About 800,000 gave it a shot, and 1 percent of them actually delivered the goods.

U.S. Special Operations Forces – Searching for Lasting Peace in Somalia

Somalia remains one of the most politically destabilized countries in the world. It has been ranked the most fragile state seven times over the last ten years by the Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index. The fledgling government’s inadequate ability to provide security and functioning institutions for the country’s 11 million citizens threatens its legitimacy and provides ample opportunities for insurgencies such as al-Shabaab (“The Youth”) to proliferate and fill the void in governance. Widespread violence and sporadic famine since 1988 have resulted in over a million internally displaced persons and refugees. What’s more, the country’s distinct and decentralized clan culture exacerbates nation-building efforts and calls into question the utility and practicality of a centralized national government.

Needless to say, the United States has significant strategic interests in Somalia, aptly named “the world’s longest running collapsed state” by Davidson College’s Ken Menkhaus. The country’s status as a hotbed of instability and Islamic extremism poses clear and convincing security threats to the United States and its allies within and around the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Given the complex operational environment in Somalia and the U.S. public’s aversion to the prospect of conventional “boots on the ground,” the choice to deploy Special Operations Forces (SOF) in pursuit of established political objectives has proven wise.

Visualizing Multi-Domain Battle 2030-2050

by Romeo Ayalin II and Megan Brady

The future battlefields of 2050 and onward will be complex, spanning physical and virtual domains and engaging and fighting enemies in ways we never have before. These battlefields will include various types of new threats, forcing the military to develop innovative strategies to protect our homeland. To be successful on the future multi-domain battlefield, the military will need to capitalize on the convergence of technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and big data, to pursue partnerships with the private sector, and to allow for new roles of leadership. The military as we know it today needs to refine and transform to serve and defend the United States and its allies in a more connected and complex future. The military needs to understand the challenges inherent to the rapidly changing battlefield domains, to undertake the exploitation of technology and to establish a grand strategy. With the successful execution of these transformational imperatives, the United States will have a key foundation to ignite the “third offset”.

The future battlefield will be characterized by the demand for fused data, cyber infrastructure, digitally enabled technologies and an agile mission command structure. The capability to manage the flow and exploit all elements of intelligence will be paramount to success. The future operating environment will be a complex one consisting of contested domains, lethal battlefields, dispersed organizations and degraded operations. Our Armed Forces will fight within and across disparate and distributed areas of operation. 

Data protection and privacy: choices before India

Rahul Sharma

How do we uphold data privacy in a “smart” world dominated by the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors, algorithms and apps? Can individuals have a meaningful degree of control over the vast amount of personally identifiable information (PII) generated and transacted across platforms in cyber space? Or are we on course into a world where online privacy would become a “luxury good”, as indicated by experts in a survey by Pew Research Center.

There are increasing call-outs advocating the need for India to enact a comprehensive data protection law. Here are a few reasons in support of the argument:

With the Digital India roll-out, push on digital payments, rising e-commerce penetration, and an unprecedented number of platforms and services transacting PII of individuals, a stronger data protection regime is a must to foster trust in the data ecosystem. With rising cybercrime and data breaches, and absence of strong data protection regulatory framework ensuring consumer protection and right to recourse, individuals tend to resort to non-electronic means for transactions. A survey by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Internet Society, shows that privacy issues top the concerns that constrain e-commerce growth.

Cutting Cyber Command’s Umbilical Cord to the NSA


Despite the many logistical and operational challenges of a transition, many acknowledge that U.S. Cyber Command must eventually separate from the National Security Agency. According to news reports, the Trump Administration is now finalizing plans to separate Cyber Command from its parent organization, the National Security Agency. While the details of the reorganization are still being worked out, an official decision could be announced in the coming weeks. In March, The Cipher Brief spoke with General Michael Hayden, former director of both the NSA and CIA, about how Cyber Command came about, the different roles and authorities between the NSA and Cyber Command, and why they must eventually be separated.

The Cipher Brief: How did U.S. Cyber Command come to be and what strategic role does it play in cyberspace?

Michael Hayden: I was the first commander of a Cyber Command-like entity. We called it Joint Functional Component Command Net Warfare (JFCCNW). I took authority for that in early 2005 and worked with General James Cartwright, who at the time was commander of Strategic Command. The idea is simply this: in the cyber domain the technical and operational aspects of defense, espionage, and cyberattack are frankly indistinguishable – they are all the same thing.

You Can Buy Password Stealing Malware For Just $7 Online

‘A Simple – Yet Threatening Malware’

Selling this type of malicious malware for this low a price is something new in this dark, digital wilderness of mirrors. ProofPoint noted that “the malware is essentially a password stealer that was available on the product’s official website, ‘ovidiystealer[.]ru. And, like any other consumer product website, it features customer reviews, statistics regarding the sales and efficacy of the product, and much more,” Mr. Hassan wrote.

The sale of this kind of malware at such a cheap price; and that “can be so easily accessed by criminals,” is unusual Mr. Hassan noted. So, in that sense, Ovidiy is an outlier and/or, breaking the mold. 

According to ProofPoint, the malware is designed for one purpose: steal passwords. And, Mr. Hassan adds, Ovidiystealer posts ‘customer reviews,’ and satisfaction/effectiveness, and notices/alerts regarding updates and newer versions. Customers can pay using “RoboKassa – a Russian-based, digital platform for transferring money, and similar to PayPal,” Mr. Hassan explained. “Customers can also use credit cards,” he added, something that I would not recommend.

‘A Closer Look At The Malware’

“Ovidiy is currently being sold in the Russian [digital] market,” Mr. Hassan writes; and, “has a number of versions.” ProofPoint’s research showed Ovidiy first became available in June 2015; and, “the malware is written in .Net; and, the executable files are encrypted — making further [detailed][ analysis and investigation difficult. Furthermore,” he adds, the author of the malware goes by the name of “The Bottle.” 

When the NSA Spots a Crack in Commercial Software – Should It Tell?


One of the only tasks the U.S. Constitution declares that the federal government must do is to provide for the common defense. That is the government’s foundational truth and purpose; to protect American lives, liberty, and their pursuit of happiness from those that would disrupt it. So, the question on whether and when government should disclose digital vulnerabilities should be explored from the perspective of which option does a better job at defending Americans.

First is the emotional argument that government is putting grandma at risk by not immediately disclosing vulnerabilities. In reality, she is already at risk from the metric ton of published vulnerabilities that remain un-remediated for up to a decade across the network. And grandma, with potentially limited technical capabilities, would not be able to shore up her defense even once a patch is released unless a grandchild would come over. Therefore, if the main reason why we should disclose all vulnerabilities is to improve American citizens’ individual defense, more disclosure won’t help. Figuring out how to mandate or automate the patching of devices by default would be the key to individual defense in order to enable a stronger collective defense.

Military cyberwar operations headed for revamp after long delay

WASHINGTON (AP) — After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation's military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America's ability to wage cyberwar against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to U.S. officials.

Under the plans, U.S. Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency.

Details are still being worked out, but officials say they expect a decision and announcement in the coming weeks. The officials weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter so requested anonymity.

The goal, they said, is to give U.S. Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet and other intelligence data from around the world — a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces.

Making cyber an independent military command will put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea and in space. The move reflects the escalating threat of cyberattacks and intrusions from other nation states, terrorist groups and hackers, and comes as the U.S. faces ever-widening fears about Russian hacking following Moscow's efforts to meddle in the 2016 American election.

Japan’s Defense Ministry Plans to Boost Number of Cyber Warriors

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The defense ministry is mulling a plan to significantly increase the size of its cyber warfare force. 

The Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) is considering increasing the number of soldiers in its Cyber Defense Unit (CDU) from around 110 to 1,000 and establishing a new working group to study cyberwarfare techniques, according to unnamed government sources. The initiative is part of the Japanese government’s plan to boost its cyber defense capabilities ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, a source told Kyodo News, Japan’s leading news agency.

Japan’s cyber defenses remain underdeveloped, especially in the military realm.

The Japanese MoD only stood up its first Cyber Defense Unit (CDU), initially composed of 90 soldiers and tasked with defending military networks, in 2014. Overall, the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) has a few hundred soldiers deployed to protect the military’s critical information infrastructure, which increasingly has come under attack from Chinese, Russian, and North Korean state-sponsored and non-state actors.

Japan continues to be adamant about that it will not acquire offensive cyberwar capabilities as they would violate Japan’s constitution, which outlaws the use of force beyond self-defense. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeatedly stated that the the reinterpretation of Article 9 of Japan’s pacifist constitution (the 2015 “Legislation for Peace and Security” does not apply to JSDF activities in cyberspace.