3 November 2019

Surviving India's Water Crisis

by Akhil Ramesh Shenhav Ruttner

Earlier this year, another city ran out of water. This time it was Chennai, a metropolitan city in Southern India that is home to over ten million people. The city has been dependent on monsoon showers to fill up its reservoirs, which it primarily banks on to supply the ever-burgeoning population. However, Chennai is not the only dry city in India. India’s business capital Mumbai, it's information technology capital, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, which houses the new Amazon India headquarters, all suffer from water scarcity. Unfortunately, the dire situation is not isolated to urban centers. India’s rural communities suffer from an acute water shortage that has had a severe impact on the country’s crops—so much that the leading cause for farmer suicides in India’s agrarian states has been a lack of access to water for agriculture. The water scarcity has already cost jobs, lives and it is estimated to hamper India’s growth story.

The country with one of the aridest land areas, Israel, offers solutions.

Since its founding, the balance of water in the state of Israel has been negative. More water is consumed in the country than the average amount of natural precipitation. That necessity has been the mother of Israel’s numerous inventions in water technology. The nation has been preoccupied with exploring new technological solutions for its water challenge since its founding.

Indian nuke plant’s network reportedly hit by malware tied to N. Korea

by Sean Gallagher

A former analyst for India’s National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) has tied a malware report published by VirusTotal to a cyber attack on India’s Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. The malware, identified by researchers as North Korea’s Dtrack, was reported by Pukhraj Singh to have gained “domain controller-level access” at Kudankulam. The attack has been reported to the government.

So, it’s public now. Domain
controller-level access at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. The
government was notified way back. Extremely mission-critical targets

The attack likely did not affect reactor controls, but it may have targeted research and technical data. The attack apparently focused on collection of technical information, using a Windows SMB network drive share with credentials hard-coded into the malware to aggregate files to steal. Dtrack was tied to North Korea’s Lazarus threat group by researchers based on code shared with DarkSeoul, a malware attack that wiped hard drives at South Korean media companies and banks in 2013.

How India should deal with cyber attacks on critical infrastructure

Nikhil Pahwa

In response to a report from Kaspersky about a cyber attack, and a subsequent disclosure by a cyber security expert that it was on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, an official from the power plant hasn’t denied whether it faced any cyber attack, or was infected: only that the control systems are not connected to the Internet, and that the power plant units are operating without any operational and safety concerns.

Two things to consider here: This doesn’t mean that other systems related to the power plat, that are indeed connected to the Internet, weren’t affected. It also doesn’t mean that there weren’t any concerns earlier, or that there aren’t concerns related to other parts of the nuclear facility that might be connected to the Internet. Remember that a power plant had stopped operations on October 19, 2019. Also that an air-gap isn’t necessarily sufficient to prevent a cyber attack on a nuclear facility. This kind of an incomplete denial, and the ad-hominem of calling credible information from credible sources as “false information” is right out of the UIDAI’s playbook of denying that data breaches ever happened, and does little to address legitimate concerns.

Cyber attacks are here to stay, and how we respond to them needs to be given due consideration. A few points to consider:

The Taliban Got Way Deadlier in 2019, Says Pentagon’s Afghanistan IG

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The group mounted 3,500 deadly or wounding attacks this summer, even as U.S. airstrikes rose.

Taliban attacks that wounded or killed civilians or U.S.-allied troops spiked this summer ahead of September’s turbulent national elections and the disintegration of the U.S.-led peace process. 

Roughly half of the group’s 3,500 attacks between June and August caused casualties, a 24 percent rise over the previous quarter and 10 percent more than the same period in 2018, according to the latest quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR. 

Most of those successful attacks occurred in the south of the country, others in the north and the west. The single worst-hit province was Helmand. 

Al Qaeda Expands its Presence in Afghanistan

By Scott DesMarais and Emily Estelle

Key Takeaway: Al Qaeda has expanded its presence in Afghanistan since 2014 in collaboration with the Taliban. The Taliban and al Qaeda maintain, and will sustain, an enduring and intimate relationship that invalidates the premise of U.S. negotiations with the Taliban. The Taliban-al Qaeda partnership will allow al Qaeda militants to exploit any potential U.S. military withdrawal to expand further their access to safe havens in Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper reaffirmed the Trump Administration’s intent to reach a political agreement and continue the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan during a visit to the country on October 21.[1] U.S. President Donald Trump halted negotiations with the Taliban in September in the wake of a bombing in the country’s capital that killed a U.S. soldier.[2] It is unclear whether the U.S. and the Taliban will resume talks in the near term. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continues to expand its presence in Afghanistan in a close relationship with the Taliban that undermines a central premise of talks: that the Taliban will break with al Qaeda as part of a peace deal. Al Qaeda has already exploited previous U.S. drawdowns and is prepared to surge in collaboration with the Taliban if the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan.

US Forces Untrained, Unready For Russian, Chinese Jamming


AOC 2019: US troops have forgotten basic lessons of electronic warfare, and they’re not being forced to relearn them because even major training exercises are unrealistically easy, military and civilian experts warned this morning. Even when electronic warfare specialists are allowed to disrupt a unit’s radios and radar, often to paralyzing effect, they’re typically told to knock it off so training can continue as normal.

“We’ve got to stop wishing it away,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Poole, a Marine working at US Strategic Command. “We’ve got to stop willfully ignoring the fact that the bad guys have jammers too.”

A soldier gets help with VMAX portable jamming system

China’s Precarious Future


Morning commuters at the Tiantongyuanbei subway station in Beijing in 2011. (Michael Martina/Reuters)China’s Leninist state will continue the corrupt or otherwise inefficient allocation of resources, making robust economic growth even more elusive than it already is.

Editor’s Note: Owing to the Washington Post’s decision to end online publication of syndicated columns, this will be the last George Will column to appear on NRO.

Demography does not dictate any nation’s destiny, but it shapes every nation’s trajectory, so attention must be paid to Nicholas Eberstadt. He knows things that should occasion some American worries, but also knows more important things that should assuage some worries regarding Russia and China.

Communists are fascinated by contradictions. China faces a big one

On past form, boasts of China’s openness to the world will come thick and fast when President Xi Jinping addresses the Second China International Import Expo in Shanghai on November 5th. Speaking at the inaugural edition of that trade fair last year, Mr Xi cast China as a champion of free trade and mutually beneficial co-operation. Openness brings progress while seclusion leads to backwardness, he declared. Slipping into fluent Globalese, the blandly uplifting argot used at gatherings of world leaders, billionaires and ceos, Mr Xi beamed that it was natural to share the fruits of innovation “in our interconnected global village”.

China’s leader has every reason to offer warm words at the upcoming event. Even as his country grows richer and more powerful, it is dependent on the world in ways that it cannot control. China has ambitions to become a standard-setting technology superpower. For all its talk of self-reliance, it needs foreign know-how to get there. In the short term, China is anxious for a truce in its trade war with America. It wants to show other countries that it is a team player, unlike that rule-breaking bully in Washington. Further ahead its economy will need growing room. China is running out of useful places to build shiny airports and high-speed railway lines at home, and wants its own global brands to vie with Boeing or Apple. That will require new markets overseas.

US Military Strength Rated ‘Marginal’ as China, Russia on Move

Fred Lucas 

America’s military is stronger than before, but lacks the capacity to fight more than one war with a major power as adversaries such as China and Russia grow more ambitious, according to the 2020 Index of U.S. Military Strength. 

The Heritage Foundation released the 500-page report Wednesday, grading all four branches of the U.S. military and its nuclear arsenal as “marginal” based on manpower, equipment, and other factors. 

That’s middle of the road on a five-tiered scale that goes from the worst score of “very weak” to the best score of “very strong.” 

In a subcategory score, the Army got a “very strong” ranking for readiness, but its overall score was still marginal. The Marines improved their overall score of “weak” from the 2018 index.

The demand for socialism is on the rise from young Americans today. But is socialism even morally sound? 

China’s Precarious Future


Morning commuters at the Tiantongyuanbei subway station in Beijing in 2011. (Michael Martina/Reuters)China’s Leninist state will continue the corrupt or otherwise inefficient allocation of resources, making robust economic growth even more elusive than it already is.

Editor’s Note: Owing to the Washington Post’s decision to end online publication of syndicated columns, this will be the last George Will column to appear on NRO.

Demography does not dictate any nation’s destiny, but it shapes every nation’s trajectory, so attention must be paid to Nicholas Eberstadt. He knows things that should occasion some American worries, but also knows more important things that should assuage some worries regarding Russia and China.

Writing in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs (“With Great Demographics Comes Great Power”), Eberstadt, of the American Enterprise Institute, warns of “negative demographic trends now eating away at the foundations of U.S. power.” America is the third-most populous nation, and between 1990 and 2015 it generated almost all the population growth of what the U.N. calls the more developed regions. From 1950 to 2015, it acquired almost 50 million immigrants — “nearly half the developed world’s net immigration.” Between the mid-1980s and the 2008 financial crisis, America was “the only rich country with replacement level fertility” (2.1 children per woman).

Proposals For ASEAN Action On South China Sea Issues Are Rash And Unrealistic – Analysis

By Mark J. Valencia

This week leaders of Southeast Asian nations are having their annual summit meetings. A major topic for discussion will be the South China Sea issues and what if anything it can and should do about them. Many pundits and players are offering their advice. https://www.crisisgroup.org/asia/south-east-asia/south-china-sea-needs-asean-more-ever; https://opinion.inquirer.net/124824/making-asean-matter; https://globalnation.inquirer.net/181683/asean-asked-to-do-more-to-resolve-scs-dispute Prominent among them is recently retired Philippine Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio. He was a key member of the Philippines legal team that brought an arbitration challenging China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea. The Philippines won but China has not abided by the ruling. Now Carpio has proposed specific ways ASEAN claimants could help enforce it. https://www.rappler.com/nation/243570-carpio-ways-asean-counter-chinese-intimidation-south-china-sea But his recommendations and similar ones designed to counter the ‘China threat’ are rash and unrealistic and unlikely to be accepted by ASEAN.

First some background and context. Under the previous Benigno Aquino administration, the Republic of the Philippines took China to international arbitration https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippines_v._China for violating the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) with its claims and actions in the South China Sea. In July 2016, the arbitration panel ruled that China has “no historical rights” based on its “nine-dash line” claim. It also declared that no feature in the Spratlys is entitled to a 200 nautical mile (nm) Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ ) or continental shelf. This reaffirmed the Philippine’s claim to its 200 nm EEZ in the South China Sea. 

China’s great game in the Middle East

China has significantly increased its economic, political, and – to a lesser extent – security footprint in the Middle East in the past decade, becoming the biggest trade partner and external investor for many countries in the region.

China still has a limited appetite for challenging the US-led security architecture in the Middle East or playing a significant role in regional politics.

Yet the country’s growing economic presence is likely to pull it into wider engagement with the region in ways that could significantly affect European interests.

Europeans should monitor China’s growing influence on regional stability and political dynamics, especially in relation to sensitive issues such as surveillance technology and arms sales.

Europeans should increase their engagement with China in the Middle East, aiming to refocus its economic role on constructive initiatives.



Pull the Nukes from Turkey — and Then Think Bigger


Removing America’s nuclear weapons from Incirlik Air Base doesn’t have to drive a permanent wedge between Washington and Turkey.

As Congress considers how to respond to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from Syria and Turkey’s subsequent attack on Kurdish forces in the region, a number of legislative options are on the table. In the House, Representatives Engel and McCaul have introduced a sanctions bill, as have Senators Risch and Graham in the Senate. Senator McConnell has introduced his own resolution to stop the withdrawal of U.S. troops. But one of the most significant actions the United States should take hasn’t made it into legislation: it must withdraw its nuclear weapons from Turkey.

At present, as many as fifty U.S. nuclear weapons sit under guard in an airbase in Turkey, just a 150-mile drive from the Syrian border. Meanwhile, tensions between Washington and Ankara continue to mount. Turkish forces recently attacked U.S. allies and troop positions in Syria, bracketing U.S. forces with artillery fire, apparently in an effort to pressure them to withdraw. This latest offense follows a steady rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, which threatens to do lasting harm to Ankara’s relationship with the rest of NATO. The rapid deterioration of Turkey’s relationship with the West raises serious questions about the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey. As the administration reviews this policy in the coming days, the smart solution is to remove these Cold War relics from Turkey once and for all.

Pay More Attention to the Women of ISIS

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As U.S. forces reduce their anti-ISIS efforts in Syria, and amid the group’s calls for lone-wolf revenge actions after the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, we must focus on a largely overlooked subset of its radicalized supporters: women. While security services have generally tended to approach women as victims, female participation in ISIS has evolved beyond caretakers and housewives.

In August, Pentagon officials estimated that the group still controlled a force of some 18,000 fighters, including some 3,000 foreigners. But thousands more might soon rejoin the group, freed from ad hoc detention centers as U.S. troops and its allied Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, flee ahead of Turkish armor and infantry.

When ISIS was in its final days of retreat, many of its fighters and their family members ended up in SDF detention facilities. Some 11,000 men, including 2,000 foreigners, were housed in such towns as Kobani and Ain Issa. One of the largest facilities is the al-Hol camp, 25 miles southeast of Hasaka, which holds some 70,000 people. Most are believed to be civilians displaced by the Syrian conflict, but as many as 30,000, including 10,000 foreigners, remain loyal to ISIS, SDF general Mazloum Kobane told the Washington Post earlier this month. 

Iran Pushes Iraq to the Brink

By Samantha Leathley

Protests have restarted in Iraq as of late evening on October 24, 2019 and are likely to escalate violently. This renewed backlash against governance failures, Iran’s influence, and a heavy-handed Iraqi government response to discontent marks a new phase of the unrest that erupted in early October 2019.

Iran and its proxies are pursuing a military and informational campaign to establish mechanisms for long-term population control in Iraq. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) previously warned that Iran had likely intervened to help suppress popular protests in Iraq between October 1 - 8. A diplomatic source has since confirmed that Iran deployed Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) advisers to help suppress Iraq’s protests.[1] Iran broadened this effort to prepare for a prolonged repression of Iraq’s Shi’a southern region to prevent further Shi’a-majority mass protests.[2] Iran has amassed significant influence over Iraq’s civilian government and security institutions; it views a Shi’a popular revolt against Baghdad as an existential threat. Meanwhile, Iraq’s highest Shi’a religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a sermon on October 11 holding the Iraqi government responsible for the violence that security forces and ‘extralegal militias’ inflicted on protesters. Sistani issued the Iraqi government an October 25 deadline to identify, arrest, and punish the forces responsible for violence.[3] Sistani’s sermon challenged Iran’s intervention in Iraq by singling out ‘extralegal militias’ – an indirect reference to Iran’s proxies – and by calling for greater accountability within a weak Iraqi government that is amenable to Iran’s influence and which Iran seeks to protect. Sistani therefore introduced a second source of Shi’a opposition to Iran, heightening Iran’s perception that it may face an existential threat.


Contract or Command: An analysis of outsourcing in defence

by John J Hesketh.


In the modern age, the provision of national security has been seen as a state responsibility and overwhelmingly as a state function, both in Britain and globally. During the World Wars and subsequently the Cold War, the expenditure and coordination to ensure national survival could only be achieved by the nation itself – although this came at an extraordinary price. When this period of assured defence requirements came to an end in the 1990s, governments worldwide seized the opportunity to radically downsize their militaries, typically by around a third (Heinecken 2014). Conflict and instability continued, although generally on a small scale, usually unpredictably and geographically disparate from the homeland security that twentieth century military strategy was largely based around.

Today, the UK government needs to continue to make provision for national security whilst operating within stringent fiscal boundaries – along with the social and welfare needs of the population. It is therefore unsurprising that the spotlight of efficiency was, and remains, pointed squarely at the MOD, an organisation that struggles to demonstrate cost-effectiveness in a field where there are few tangible benefits to the majority of taxpayers. Outsourcing offers governments the opportunity to “buy” services from the market, instead of the traditional “make” route – and theoretically increase efficiency and performance simultaneously. This report will consider the advantages and disadvantages of the MOD’s propensity to outsource and assess whether continued expansion of the practice should continue.

Donald Trump May Be Preparing for A Standoff with Iran Over Syria

by Seth J. Frantzman

U.S. policy on Syria has been on a roller coaster ride in October. It’s unclear what will come next because current options vary from withdrawing from part of Syria to leaving all of eastern Syria to increasing troop levels in areas where oil fields are located. President Donald Trump consults only a small team on Syrian issues and U.S. policy remains compartmentalized between the Pentagon and State Department. One thing is clear from the White House, the United States now wants to secure the oil.

The same day that Trump announced that a U.S. raid killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the president also responded to questions about his tweets that indicated the United States would secure oil fields in Syria. He said that the oil was “so valuable for many reasons, it fueled ISIS, it helps the Kurds, and . . . it can help us because we should be able to take some also.” Trump said he might work with an American oil company to develop the infrastructure. For now, the United States is “protecting” the oil. “That doesn’t mean we don’t make a deal at some point,” he said.

Russian Defense Spending

Is Angela Merkel Still in Charge?

By Jochen Bittner

HAMBURG, Germany — Two things make Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany look like an exemplary head of government: Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. Measured against the poorest of benchmarks, Ms. Merkel’s chancellorship, even after 14 years in office, appears stable, wise and exemplary. Measured against the leadership Germany and Europe need, it lacks all of the above.

To describe Ms. Merkel’s current term, which began in 2017, as strategic fatigue would be a friendly understatement. The chancellor appears to not only have lost interest in decision-making. She also shows little resolve to steer the country through a new era of staggering change.

While America retreats from Europe, China is pushing to get in the door, applying a divide-and-conquer strategy against the European Union’s 28 member states and its applicants in the Balkans. These are epochal tipping points that demand big answers. Ms. Merkel doesn’t appear to have any.

Don’t Leave Grand Strategy to the Generals

by Jasen J. Castillo
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The publication of Gen. James Mattis’s new book, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, which he co-authored with Bing West, has been met with much attention and fanfare. Concurrent with the book release, the former secretary of defense has given a number of television and radio interviews. Most of the early responses have been positive, although a few people expressed disappointment that Mattis was reluctant to criticize Donald Trump the same way he critiqued his other former bosses, Barack Obama and George W. Bush. There’s much to admire, though, such as his impressive accomplishments, his call for the study of military history, and his refreshing views on leadership.

Indeed, it’s hard to argue with a leader as noble and successful as Mattis, particularly as he stands in contrast to the excesses and social-media tweets of the current president. He is one of the country’s most courageous battlefield commanders and effective public servants. Nevertheless, admiring Mattis’s career and personality does not require one to accept all of his ideas about American foreign policy.

Implications of the US Withdrawal from Syria

By Dr. Yehuda Blanga

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The withdrawal of US forces from the Kurdish areas of northern Syria will help strengthen Iran’s standing in the country, make Russia the leading power in the region, and possibly lead to the resurgence of ISIS terror. All these outcomes will have far-reaching policy implications for the Middle East’s pro-Western actors and for the war on jihadist terror.

On the morning of October 24, 1973, the Israeli ambassador in Washington was summoned for an urgent discussion with White House Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Haig. The meeting marked the high point of the pressure the US was putting on Israel to halt the fighting on the Egyptian front and lift the siege of the Egyptian Third Army. Haig did not mince words and warned that if hostilities were to continue, President Nixon would consider disengaging from Israel. 

For the first time since the special US-Israeli relationship emerged in the early 1960s, Israel’s position and interests were on a direct collision course with Washington. The Nixon administration, which laid the foundations for normal US relations with Egypt during the Yom Kippur War, did not intend to let Israel spoil this process even at the cost of a crisis and damage to US-Israeli ties. Thus did Israel experience firsthand the price of friendship with (and dependency on) “Uncle Sam.” Jerusalem was forced to accede to the American dictate.

The EU or NATO: That is not the question

By Sven Biscop 

The European security architecture does not resemble a Le Corbusier or Oscar Niemeyer design. It is not a neatly planned whole in which every component elegantly and effectively fulfils a specific function. It rather resembles a sprawling palace complex, with every successive occupant adding, restyling or abandoning another wing. It functions, but one would never build it like that if one were to start from scratch. The debate about how to organize, and to fund, the European security architecture has flared up again since the European Union (EU) in its 2016 Global Strategyset itself the objective of achieving strategic autonomy in security and defense…

Banking comns’ ‘significant role’ revealed in cyber attack ‘war game’

by Stephen Delahunty

The ability of financial firms to communicate with each other and their customers has been tested in a Bank of England (BoE) day-long war-gaming exercise, designed to test the resilience of the financial system in the event of a major cyber attack.

About 40 firms took part in the voluntary exercise, alongside the BoE, the Treasury, City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority, and UK Finance, the industry trade body.

It is the latest in a series of simulated attacks hosted by the BoE every couple of years in an attempt to identify any weaknesses in the response of banks and other financial institutions to a major cyber attack. The ability of firms and organisations to communicate with each other is also tested.

On Monday, the treasury committee warned that regulators must act to reduce the unacceptable number of IT failures in financial services sector.

UK Finance chief executive Stephen Jones said: "Operational resilience is crucial in a modern financial system and the industry continues to invest billions to ensure systems, human and digital, are robust and secure. When incidents do occur, firms work around the clock to minimise disruption and get services back up and running as quickly as possible."

WhatsApp Claims That an Israeli Tech Firm’s Spyware Targeted Human-Rights Activists and Journalists

By Adam Entous

This spring, a team of engineers at WhatsApp detected a series of suspicious calls on the messaging service’s networks, many of them emanating from phone numbers in Sweden, the Netherlands, Israel, and other countries. At first, WhatsApp wasn’t sure what was happening. Then the engineers, working with their counterparts at Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, realized that the voice and video calls were somehow infecting targeted phones with advanced spyware, using a penetration method that the company had never encountered before. Most disturbing to the investigators was that it appeared many of the targeted phones became infected whether the calls were answered or not—what’s known as a zero-click vulnerability.

The malware then instructed the targeted phones to upload their content to servers owned by Amazon Web Services and other companies, where the stolen data was stored and could be accessed by the intruders. After the malware was loaded on some of the targeted phones, the call logs were wiped. Victims who heard their phones ringing overnight found no evidence of the calls in the morning.

How Lasers Work, According to the World's Top Expert

Lasers help us pay for groceries and zap us back into health, but what's their secret? Nobel laureate Donna Strickland steps us through the science.

Whether you’re losing your mind at a Pink Floyd tribute show or playing with your cat, there’s hardly a situation that wouldn’t be made better with a few lasers. “Optical masers” were first described by physicist Charles Townes in the late ’50s and since then they’ve come to define modern life. They’re used to scan groceries at the checkout, read DVDs, guide missiles, perform surgery, and even to produce nuclear fusion.

But if you’re not exactly sure what lasers are or how they work, you’re not alone. WIRED caught up with physicist Donna Strickland, whose work with lasers earned her a Nobel Prize in 2018, and challenged her to explain a laser at five levels of difficulty. Strickland’s explanation at the expert level made total sense, but she also explained it to a child—you know, just in case.

Time to Pay for America's Cybersecurity

By Michael Curley

A U.S. Army unit in Afghanistan comes under heavy fire from the Taliban. As the Company Commander and his men hunker down, he reaches for his 2-way radio to call for back-up. When he touches the on-button, nothing happens. His radio has been hacked.

At a local electric utility in Ohio, the controller gets a routine notice that power from outside generators will be cut back in 10 minutes. No problem. This happens every day at this time. Power companies share the responsibility of generating electricity on the grid. So, according to company policy, the controller activates a generator within his own system. As he pushes the control switches, nothing happens. The utility has been hacked. Minutes later a blackout occurs. The community is in total darkness. No heat. No lights. No Internet. Uncle Joe’s dialysis machine shuts off. Aunt Jane’s respirator stops.

Think this is fiction? Think again. In 2015, a hacker group the authorities call “Sandworm” caused a blackout in Ukraine that left more than 250,000 people in darkness for 6 hours. In Afghanistan, the hacker is the Taliban. But when the electric power goes out in Ohio, who’s the hacker? Foreign powers, criminals, pranksters?

Is it time for a U.S. cyber academy?

By Gregory Conti
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If you are reading this article, you'll probably agree that cybersecurity is a critical threat to national security. American is one of the most technologically advanced, and technologically dependent, nations on Earth. Our adversaries know and exploit this. Across the government and military we are rushing to secure our systems, but fighting and often losing an uphill battle. To change the tide, we need to create a service academy dedicated to cybersecurity and cyber operations. This idea isn't new, but the need is critical.

Today, each service academy focuses on the requirements of the military service it feeds. This is as it should be. West Point focuses on the land domain, the Naval Academy on the sea, and the Air Force Academy on air and space. Absent is an academy for cyberspace, which was recognized as a warfighting domain in 2011.

We are missing an opportunity. No, it's more than that. We are putting our nation at risk.

Tethering Pegasus: WhatsApp Takes NSO Group To Court – OpEd

By Binoy Kampmark

A lawsuit filed in a US federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday threw up a few interesting, and disturbing considerations. In it, the Facebook-owned platform WhatsApp advanced an allegation that now seems commonplace: that the Israeli spyware Pegasus (known in computer wonderland as a remote access trojan) had again made an appearance, deployed against 1,400 WhatsApp users. In a process that now seems familiar, the spyware made by Israeli cyber-firm NSO Group is triggered by activating a link sent to the phone, turning the device into a veritable surveillance machine. 

In the case of WhatsApp, the attacks are focused on the video calling system as a supply line for the malware and were first detected in May 2019 after the platform noted suspicious activity on its network. The platform duly asked its users to upgrade its app to cope with any malicious code that had been transmitted between April 29 to May 10.

On October 28, WhatsApp made a public attribution to the NSO Group as a prelude to legal action in US courts. The legal action involves two main grounds: seeking a permanent injunction that would block NSO from accessing the systems of Facebook, its parent company and a ruling that NSO’s actions constituted a breach of US federal law and California state law on computer fraud. Additional grounds of breach of contract and wrongful trespass are also being ventured.

National Security in a “Liquid” World

Carmit Padan, Vera Michlin-Shapir

Since the 1980s, we have witnessed rapid changes in a world characterized by a neo-liberal economy, increased human migration, and information technologies developing at an unprecedented pace. These transformations are putting stress on modern state structures and have allowed non-state players to enter the heart of global consciousness. These new entities pose new security challenges, including ethnic conflicts, civil wars, the use of robotics-based autonomous weapons, and terrorist attacks both in the physical sphere and cyberspace. The articles in this memorandum, authored by former and present Neubauer research associates at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), assert that the political, economic, and social changes, as well as the challenges to security now faced by the West (including Israel), converge to create a different agenda for analyzing security and strategy issues, forcing us to redefine the very concept of “national security.”This memorandum consists of articles written by young researchers—PhD candidates and others—who were part of the Neubauer Research Fellowship Program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and participated in the Neubauer Research Project which was carried out at INSS during 2017 .The research fellows who took part in this project studied together various aspects of national security linked to Israel’s domestic, regional, and international strategic environment. The objective of the project was to examine concepts and patterns in present day’s national security and contemporary research in the field, as a basis for an up-to-date analysis of specific issues relevant to Israel’s national security.

The Case for Fiber to the Home, Today: Why Fiber is a Superior Medium for 21st Century Broadband

The debate over the best infrastructure to deliver fixed last-mile broadband service in the 21st century is settled, and fiber is the undisputed winner. Fiber-to-the-home deployments are a better option for consumers today, and they are the only option that will allow expansive, efficient upgrades to America’s networks for a generation.

This is not to say that no broadband technology will ever surpass fiber-optics, but we know the limitations of existing technologies in use today. Currently, the alternatives to fiber face headwinds that fiber does not, including limited bandwidth, attenuation, noise, upstream/downstream asymmetry, and latency. While other means of delivering high-speed broadband are not too far behind fiber right now, the properties of each technology will allow fiber deployments to scale up quickly and easily while copper and wireless broadband networks will struggle to keep up. If we install fiber-to-the-home connections today, we’ll be able to upgrade the transmitters at each end without touching the underlying cables, yielding massive performance increases at low cost for decades to come. Fiber will enable the next generation of applications that depend on high-throughput, low-latency, high-reliability connections. There is an identifiable “speed chasm” between fiber and everything else that is only going to grow more pronounced in time.