5 September 2021

Cyber Weapons – A Weapon of War?

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

The character of warfare has changed fundamentally over the last decade. In the past, it was essential for an adversary nation or insurgent to physically bring weapons to bear during combat. That requirement is no longer a necessity. In cyber operations, the only weapons that need to be used are bits and bytes. In this new era of warfare, logistics issues that often restrict and limit conventional warfare and weaponry are not impediments. This new weaponry moves at the speed of light, is available to every human on the planet and can be as surgical as a scalpel or as devastating as a nuclear bomb.

Cyber attacks in various forms have become a global problem. Cyber weapons are low-cost, low-risk, highly effective and easily deployable globally. This new class of weapons is within reach of many countries, extremist or terrorist groups, non-state actors, and even individuals. Cyber crime organisations are developing cyber weapons effectively. The use of offensive Cyber operations by nation-states directly against another or by co-opting cyber criminals has blurred the line between spies and non-state malicious hackers. New entrants, both nation-states and non-state actors have unmatched espionage and surveillance capabilities with significant capabilities. They are often the forerunners for criminal financial gain, destruction and disruption operations. Progressively, we see non-state actors including commercial entities, developing capabilities that were solely held by a handful of state actors.

Chinese Cyber Exploitation in India’s Power Grid – Is There a linkage to Mumbai Power Outage?

  Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


On Feb. 28, 2021 The New York Times (NYT), based on analysis by a U.S. based private intelligence firm Recorded Future, reported that a Chinese entity penetrated India’s power grid at multiple load dispatch points. Chinese malware intruded into the control systems that manage electric supply across India, along with a high-voltage transmission substation and a coal-fired power plant.

The NYT story1 gives the impression that the alleged activity against critical Indian infrastructure installations was as much meant to act as a deterrent against any Indian military thrust along the Line of Actual Control as it was to support future operations to cripple India’s power generation and distribution systems in event of war.

India-France Agree on Space Security Dialogue

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

According to media reports, India and France have agreed to start a bilateral space security dialogue. This will be the third country with which India will be engaged in a space security dialogue. The other two countries are the United States and Japan, with such dialogues beginning in 2015 and 2019, respectively. For France, India will be the first Asian country with which it will have such a dialogue.

The idea of a space security dialogue between India and France comes as no surprise for a couple of reasons. First, France has remained one of India’s oldest and steadiest partners in the area of space and other strategic technologies. Cooperation between New Delhi and Paris across space and nuclear domains reflect the confidence and trust the two enjoy with each other. Second, the space security dialogue between the two countries is a sign of the worsening space security environment and a number of like-minded countries are coming together to brainstorm ways to address the growing challenges and threats in outer space.

What India’s Proposed Drone Law Means for Its Economy


In July, the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation released for public comment a set of draft rules for unmanned aircraft systems. Called the Drone Rules, 2021, these would replace the existing Unmanned Aircraft System Rules, 2021, and are likely to give the Indian economy a big boost.


Drones can reduce costs for businesses over the medium to long term by improving or automating some production processes. In fact, in Australia, the growth of the drone sector is expected to deliver cost savings to businesses of around $9.3 billion over the next twenty years.

For example, drones can perform inventory checks, which take up a lot of time and money. In the oil and gas industry, drones can complete this task in only a fraction of the time humans would need.

Will the Taliban regime survive?

Vanda Felbab-Brown

That the Taliban is back is power in Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 is immensely painful to the United States, NATO, and many Afghans. In 2001, the U.S. overthrew the Taliban regime to defeat al-Qaida, a goal it largely accomplished. But the U.S. also sought to vanquish the Taliban and leave behind a pluralistic, human-rights-respecting, and economically-sustainable Afghan state. It failed in those objectives. There were plenty of mistakes and problems with the international efforts, but most importantly the United States never succeeded in inducing good governance in Afghanistan or persuading Pakistan to stop its multifaceted support for the Taliban. Afghan leaders constantly put their parochial and corrupt self-interests ahead of the national one. The misgovernance rot hollowed out even the Afghan security forces which the U.S. spent 20 years constructing at the cost of some $88 billion.

But will the Taliban be able to maintain itself in power? The answer depends on how it handles and prevents armed opposition to its rule and manages the country’s economy and relations with external actors.


Murtaza Hussain

A SUNDAY DRONE strike in Kabul initially claimed by U.S. officials to have destroyed a car packed with “multiple suicide bombers” reportedly killed 10 civilians from one family, including several children.

The drone strike that hit Khwaja Burgha, a working-class residential neighborhood in Kabul, was said to have killed numerous members of the Ahmadi family, with the youngest alleged victim being a 2-year-old girl. Morgue footage shared on social media showed the burned bodies of several children, as well as photos of the victims before their deaths. One of the dead, according to members of the Ahmadi family who spoke to reporters, was a former Afghan military officer who had served as a contractor for U.S. forces, as well as a worker at a charity organization.

“The Americans said the airstrike killed Daesh members,” a neighbor of the family angrily told reporters after the strike, referring to the Islamic State. “Where is Daesh here? Were these children Daesh?”

Before the Taliban took Afghanistan, it took the internet

Emerson T. Brooking

The Taliban insurgents who conquered nearly all of Afghanistan in just two weeks counted social media among their weapons. They deployed Facebook and WhatsApp to help prevail over their opponents on the battlefield. They issued hundreds of premature declarations of victory via Twitter—using spam to amplify their messages and create a sense of inevitability. Their smartphones proved just as handy as their rifles when they entered Kabul on August 15, enabling them to film the first propaganda footage of their occupation.

Many Western observers have expressed surprise at the sophistication of these Taliban information operations. Some have suggested that this new media savvy signals the birth of a fundamentally different movement: a “Taliban 2.0.

Yet this is an oversimplification. A closer review of the group’s history and the conflict in Afghanistan reveals that the Taliban has waged—and now won—a singular, focused, twenty-year information war. While the platforms and methods of this conflict have evolved, the Taliban’s Islamic fundamentalist goals have not.

Deadly U.S. Strike Raises Questions Over Collateral Damage in Afghanistan

Jack Detsch and Amy Mackinnon

A U.S. airstrike aimed at Islamic State terrorists in Kabul over the weekend killed additional people beyond the target, the top U.S. military official acknowledged, an incident that human rights groups worry could indicate a trend toward more collateral damage from U.S. strikes in Afghanistan even as the 20-year ground war wrapped up this week.

It was not immediately clear that Sunday’s drone attack killed civilians, as reports from the ground indicated that as many as 10 innocent Afghans died after a U.S. missile hit a house near the airport. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. military is still investigating the full extent of the harm caused by the attack’s secondary blasts, which targeted plotters from the Islamic State-Khorasan, the local branch of the Islamic State.

“We had very good intelligence,” Milley said at a briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday. “We went through the same level of rigor we did for years.”

But the Biden administration’s desire to carry out over-the-horizon U.S. military strikes using drones and aircraft from the Persian Gulf instead of troops on the ground has begun to run afoul of human rights groups, who worry the Defense Department could be flying blind in densely populated urban areas like Kabul, where the Islamic State-Khorasan has sought sanctuary. Even after the group allegedly plotted bombings at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport that killed 13 U.S. service members and more than a hundred Afghans last week, advocates said the administration is likely to face questions about the lawful use of force in the drone campaign, another test for U.S. President Joe Biden’s foreign-policy agenda, which is seeking to put human rights first.

Afghanistan Was a Ponzi Scheme Sold to the American Public

Alan Richards and Steven Simon

As the political fight over who lost Afghanistan gets bloodier, the latest round has shifted from lamentation over the probable return of al Qaeda to the disorderly exit from Kabul. Vivid images of chaotic activity at the airport underscore this concern. But, in fact, the withdrawal could never have been orderly, as critics unthinkingly imply. An orderly, carefully prepared exit was structurally impossible.

To understand the U.S. exit from Afghanistan, think of Bernie Madoff. It is helpful to see the U.S.-built Afghan state as a Ponzi scheme—it was all a house of cards, and, at some level, everyone knew it. Certainly, anyone who was familiar with the U.S. government’s own inspector general reports over the past 10 years would know.

For those unaware of the Madoff scandal, a Ponzi scheme is a series of lies, with little or no factual basis, that are sold to investors as brilliance. It depends on a continual infusion of funds from new investors; the new payments are initially used to pay the original investors. So long as more and more investors can be conned into providing their money, funds are found to pay previous investors, and the scam can continue. When it becomes hard to get continued funding, or when important investors begin to withdraw, others notice, become skeptical at first, then panic, and finally withdraw their money—and, as in a bank run, the rush for the exits ensues.

‘It’s Possible’ US and Taliban Will Target ISIS-K Together, Milley Says


The U.S. is planning more retaliatory strikes against ISIS-K in response to a suicide bombing last week that took the lives of 13 service members. But with no troops on the ground, options for targeting those terrorists are limited.

The U.S. could leverage the connections made during the airport evacuation to work with the Taliban to target their common enemy. However, the Pentagon’s top civilian and military officers seemed split on that approach as they spoke to reporters Wednesday.

“We're going to do everything that we can to make sure we remain focused on ISIS-K, understand that network, and at the time of our choosing, in the future, hold them accountable,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.

ISIS-K has about 2,200 fighters in Afghanistan, according to the UN. It seeks not only to target the U.S., but also to destabilize Taliban rule.

The Taliban Can’t Control Afghanistan. That Should Worry the West.

Fawaz A. Gerges

Last week’s suicide bombing near Kabul’s airport, which killed at least 170 civilians and 13 members of the U.S. military, raises alarming questions about the Taliban’s ability to provide security in Afghanistan as well as the country’s risk of becoming fertile ground for transnational terrorism. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on behalf of its local affiliate in Afghanistan.

Coming so soon after the Taliban’s swift victory over the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan, attacks by the Islamic State-Khorasan represents a direct challenge to Kabul’s new rulers.

Islamic State-Khorasan considers the Taliban “apostates” and agents of the United States and doubts whether they will implement Islamic law as puritanically and harshly as the Islamic State did in Syria and Iraq from 2014 until 2019. In its first official statement on the Taliban takeover in weekly paper al-Naba, the Islamic State said the Taliban did not win Afghanistan through jihad or armed struggle but through collusion with the Americans. The commentary hinted the group will militarily resist Taliban rule.

The Future of U.S.-Taliban Relations


The United States and the Taliban could cooperate on priorities that are in America’s “vital national interest,” the administration’s top diplomat said Monday, hours after the military mission formally ended.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the State Department could work with the Taliban on areas of mutual interest, such as securing the release of American hostages, making the region more stable, and conducting counterterrorism operations against ISIS-K, a branch of the Islamic State terrorist group that attacked and killed American troops at the Kabul airport last week.

But Blinken said that for that partnership to work, the Taliban will need to stand by promises it has made to govern the country differently than during its brutal reign in the 1990s when women and girls especially suffered.

“If we can work with the new Afghan government in a way that helps secure those interests...and protects the gains of the past two decades, we will do it,” he said. “But we will not do it on the basis of trust or faith. Every step we take will be based not on what a Taliban-led government says, but what it does to live up to its commitments.”

Don’t Underestimate Tajikistan in the Afghanistan Crisis

Ivan U. Klyszcz

The fast Taliban takeover of Kabul has been met with diverse reactions in Central Asia. In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the attitude has been one of pragmatism with strong signals about security. Other external actors, such as China and Russia, have been conciliatory toward the Taliban, even hinting at formal recognition. Tajikistan’s long-time ruler Emomali Rahmon diverged from his Central Asian partners and treaty allies to signal opposition to the Taliban takeover and expressed sharper concern about the presence of international terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

Dushanbe has been open about its preferences in Afghanistan, namely, the formation of a government that is not monopolized by the Taliban and that represents Afghanistan’s Tajik population. On August 25, Rahmon said that he would reject an Afghan government “created by humiliation and ignoring the interests of the people of Afghanistan as a whole, including those of ethnic minorities, such as Tajiks, Uzbeks and others.” This contrasts sharply with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who commented on August 20 that the Taliban takeover is a reality from which external actors must proceed in Afghanistan. Turkmenistan, for its part, has reportedly engaged the Taliban in dialogue to protect its border, and Uzbekistan has mostly followed the pragmatic line of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) — notably, an alliance Tashkent is not a member of.

After Government Crackdown, What’s Next for China’s Edtech Firms?

Ekaterina Kologrivaya and Emma Shleifer

After posting stellar growth in 2020, Chinese education technology, or edtech, firms took a serious hit this summer. Concerned about high-stress education and falling birthrates, the government cracked down on profit-making, K-12 tutoring firms, which are now limited in their ability to earn, raise capital, or go public. Late last month, regulations were also tightened on foreign educators and teachers from public schools working in after-class centers.

If observers were surprised by the new measures, it was only by their extent. Both central and local governments in China have been reining in profitable after-school services since at least 2017, when the “Guiding Opinions of the Ministry of Education on After-School Services for Primary and Secondary School Students” were published. Suining No. 1 Middle School offered after-school reading services starting in 2019, while Beijing recently extended its public school day by two hours, cutting into the time students were spending in private tutoring centers. Last year, the Shaanxi government announced its schools could start charging after-school service fees while ensuring students with financial difficulties would be offered subsidies.

Biden’s Taliban Gamble and Over the Horizon Mirage

James Phillips

The Biden administration’s deepening dependence on Taliban cooperation in Afghanistan is a long-shot gamble doomed to fail. The administration, which mounted a chaotic last-minute evacuation that involved loose cooperation with the Taliban, is now contemplating closer cooperation with the radical Islamist movement, despite its long history of terrorism, to counter future Islamist terrorism.

As bad as the Biden administration’s cut-and-run policy has been in terms of abandoning Afghan allies and undermining the trust of NATO allies, the glaring drawbacks of trusting the Taliban to protect U.S. national interests in Afghanistan stand out.

The Biden administration has shared intelligence with the Taliban on the security situation near the airport since August 14. U.S. officials in Kabul reportedly gave the Taliban a list of names of American citizens, green card holders, and Afghan allies in hopes of easing the passage of those on the list through the Taliban-controlled outer perimeter of the city’s airport.


Murtaza Hussain

THE U.S.-LED global war on terror has killed nearly 1 million people globally and cost more than $8 trillion since it began two decades ago. These staggering figures come from a landmark report issued Wednesday by Brown University’s Costs of War Project, an ongoing research effort to document the economic and human impact of post-9/11 military operations.

The report — which looks at the tolls of wars waged in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and other regions where the U.S. is militarily engaged — is the latest in a series published by the Costs of War Project and provides the most extensive public accounting to date of the consequences of open-ended U.S. conflicts in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa, referred to today as the “forever wars.”

“It’s critical we properly account for the vast and varied consequences of the many U.S. wars and counterterror operations since 9/11, as we pause and reflect on all of the lives lost,” said the project’s co-director, Neta Crawford, in a press release accompanying the report. “Our accounting goes beyond the Pentagon’s numbers because the costs of the reaction to 9/11 have rippled through the entire budget.”

Calculating the costs of the Afghanistan War in lives, dollars and years

Neta C. Crawford

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 to destroy al-Qaida, remove the Taliban from power and remake the nation. On Aug. 30, 2021, the U.S. completed a pullout of troops from Afghanistan, providing an uncertain punctuation mark to two decades of conflict.

For the past 11 years I have closely followed the post-9/11 conflicts for the Costs of War Project, an initiative that brings together more than 50 scholars, physicians and legal and human rights experts to provide an account of the human, economic, budgetary and political costs and consequences of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Of course, by themselves figures can never give a complete picture of what happened and what it means, but they can help put this war in perspective.

The 20 numbers highlighted below, some drawn from figures released on Sept. 1, 2021, by the Costs of War Project, help tell the story of the Afghanistan War.

The CIA Is Better Than the U.S. Military at Creating Foreign Armies

Douglas London  and Bilal Y. Saab

The disintegration of the Afghan army—trained and equipped by the U.S. military for the past two decades—has once again raised questions about the efficacy of the Defense Department’s advise-and-assist programs with foreign partner militaries. The United States spent more than $83 billion trying to build up the Afghan force only to see it collapse in a matter of 11 days following a Taliban onslaught, itself triggered by the U.S. military withdrawal from the country.

One U.S. government organization that has been generally more effective than the Pentagon in improving some capacities and capabilities of foreign partners, and at decidedly less cost in blood and treasure, is the CIA. And that’s even when considering those costs against substantial CIA casualties over 20 years in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in Lebanon and Vietnam.

But first, it’s important not to compare apples to oranges. For a start, CIA programs are much more modest in scale and limited in mission than those of the U.S. military. It’s one thing to train and equip a smallish group of fighters and another altogether to build a national army from scratch.

Is the U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan the End of the American Empire?

Jon Lee Anderson

How does an empire die? Often, it seems, there is a growing sense of decay, and then something happens, a single event that provides the tipping point. After the Second World War, Great Britain was all but bankrupt and its Empire was in shreds, but it soldiered on thanks to a U.S. government loan and the new Cold War exigencies that allowed it to maintain the outward appearance of a global player. It wasn’t until the 1956 Suez debacle, when Britain was pressured by the U.S., the Soviet Union, and the United Nations to withdraw its forces from Egypt—which it had invaded along with Israel and France following Gamal Abdel Nasser’s seizure of the Suez Canal—that it became clear that its imperial days were over. The floodgates to decolonization soon opened.

In February, 1989, when the Soviet Union withdrew its military from Afghanistan after a failed nine-year attempt to pacify the country, it did so in a carefully choreographed ceremony that telegraphed solemnity and dignity. An orderly procession of tanks moved north across the Friendship Bridge, which spans the Amu Darya river, between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan—then a Soviet republic. The Soviet commander, Lieutenant-General Boris Gromov, walked across with his teen-age son, carrying a bouquet of flowers and smiling for the cameras. Behind him, he declared, no Soviet soldiers remained in the country. “The day that millions of Soviet people have waited for has come,” he said at a military rally later that day. “In spite of our sacrifices and losses, we have totally fulfilled our internationalist duty.”

America’s Strategic Baggage in the Middle East: Is it Necessary and Sustainable

Col Daniel L. Magruder, Jr

A main challenge facing national security policy makers in the Middle East is how to reduce ambitions and military commitments to sustainable levels. How do the United States and its partners cost-effectively stabilize the region, deter Iran, and counter violent extremists? These are challenges that must be balanced against the structural changes in the international order. All the while, America’s military capabilities that underwrite conventional deterrence are eroding. While the United States is a global power with global responsibilities, the National Defense Strategy Commission warned about the “growing tendency to conflate the stating of desired objectives with the wherewithal to accomplish them.”1 A superpower should be able to sustain its posture in the Middle East until acceptable political objectives are met. Troop levels are low in individual war zones, casualties are rare, and the fiscal cost is a bargain by historical standards. However, these estimates do not consider strategic baggage accrued over the past two decades of sustained engagement in the region. And, while it is entirely possible the United States could sustain this level of effort, it does not mean it increases American security or prosperity.

Can a Pragmatic Relationship With the Taliban Help Russia Counter Terrorism?

Dara Massicot

Much of the discussion on the geopolitical implications of the former Afghan government’s recent collapse has focused on what China may do next. However, Russia is the active regional influencer in the unfolding crisis, given its decades-old experience and networks in Afghanistan. In the weeks and months ahead, Russia can apply its diplomatic, intelligence, and military tools to prevent the spread of instability beyond Afghanistan. Some of Russia’s choices may conflict with U.S. goals for Afghanistan, but there are areas of alignment.

Russia’s Goals for Afghanistan

For many years, Russian officials predicted that the former Afghan government and its Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) would likely collapse without U.S. support. In 2017 Russia’s special representative to Afghanistan noted that “a whole set of factors makes the ANSF incapable of putting up resistance to the armed opposition on their own” and that a rapid U.S. pullout would likely prompt an unraveling of key institutions.

Facebook Quietly Makes a Big Admission

BACK IN FEBRUARY, Facebook announced a little experiment. It would reduce the amount of political content shown to a subset of users in a few countries, including the US, and then ask them about the experience. “Our goal is to preserve the ability for people to find and interact with political content on Facebook, while respecting each person’s appetite for it at the top of their News Feed,” Aastha Gupta, a product management director, explained in a blog post.

On Tuesday morning, the company provided an update. The survey results are in, and they suggest that users appreciate seeing political stuff less often in their feeds. Now Facebook intends to repeat the experiment in more countries and is teasing “further expansions in the coming months.” Depoliticizing people’s feeds makes sense for a company that is perpetually in hot water for its alleged impact on politics. The move, after all, was first announced just a month after Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol, an episode that some people, including elected officials, sought to blame Facebook for. The change could end up having major ripple effects for political groups and media organizations that have gotten used to relying on Facebook for distribution.

Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs

Managerial Technicalism: The Evolving Nature of Canadian Decision Making in the Afghanistan War, 2001–2014

The Second Nagorno- Karabakh War: Takeaways for Singapore’s Ground- Based Air Defense

India’s Acquisition of the S-400 Air Defense System: Implications and Options for Pakistan

The Provisional Air Corps Regiment at Bataan, 1942: Lessons for Today’s Joint Force

Changing Political Dynamics in South Asia: The Belt and Road Initiative and Its Effects on Indian Regional Hegemony

The China–Australia Cold War: Unpacking National Security Concerns and Great Power Competition

Stewards of the Status Quo: US Air, Space, and Cyber Imperatives in the Indo- Pacific Gray Zone

Geopositional Balancing: Understanding China’s Investments in Sri Lanka

To Honor Its Commitment to UN Arms Trade Treaty, China Must Sacrifice

Missile Woes: Why North Korea’s New (Monster) ICBM May Signal Significant Shortcomings in North Korea’s Nuclear Deterrent

Cybercrime Hotspots

Aoibheann Thinnes

Executive Summary
Organized cybercrime groups pose the most significant financial threat to institutions and individuals in the United States (U.S.), more so than nation-states or terrorists engaged in cyberattacks, and the volume and cost of these fraud-based cyber campaigns are growing exponentially. In the financial services industry, LexisNexis Risk Solutions reports that from 2018 to 2019 the average number of successful fraudulent attempts increased by 85 percent and the financial services industry suffered more login and payment attacks than any other industry in 2020.

The United States Secret Service (USSS) oversees and protects the U.S. financial and payment systems. The USSS seeks to proactively prepare for cyber threats and successfully intercept cybercriminals and their illicit activities before they inflict serious harm to financial institutions. This report assesses common features of organized cybercrime groups and the socioeconomic conditions that influence cybercrime networks in specific countries. It seeks to provide a preliminary picture of how organized cybercrime groups operate and evolve and the conditions that likely allow them to thrive in particular locations using the case studies of Nigeria, India, and Mexico.

AI-Generated Text Is the Scariest Deepfake of All

WHEN PUNDITS AND researchers tried to guess what sort of manipulation campaigns might threaten the 2018 and 2020 elections, misleading AI-generated videos often topped the list. Though the tech was still emerging, its potential for abuse was so alarming that tech companies and academic labs prioritized working on, and funding, methods of detection. Social platforms developed special policies for posts containing “synthetic and manipulated media,” in hopes of striking the right balance between preserving free expression and deterring viral lies. But now, with about three months to go until November 3, that wave of deepfaked moving images seems never to have broken. Instead, another form of AI-generated media is making headlines, one that is harder to detect and yet much more likely to become a pervasive force on the internet: deepfake text.

Last month brought the introduction of GPT-3, the next frontier of generative writing: an AI that can produce shockingly human-sounding (if at times surreal) sentences. As its output becomes ever more difficult to distinguish from text produced by humans, one can imagine a future in which the vast majority of the written content we see on the internet is produced by machines. If this were to happen, how would it change the way we react to the content that surrounds us?

bersecurity Is Dead — What Now?

Sean Steele

As one of the executives I work with recently said to me: Nobody pays attention until we’re pumping gas into plastic bags.

The past few months have exposed what many of us have been anticipating for the past decade: widespread, successful cyber attacks aimed at disrupting critical infrastructure, supply chains, basic systems of food production, transportation, banking, energy and health care delivery.

It’s a bleak picture:

• Timed for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the supply chain ransomware attack by Russian hacker syndicate REvil disrupted operations at more than 200 U.S. companies.

• Computer manufacturer Acer’s recent $50 million data ransom demand from cybercriminals (one of the highest demands to date) will be one of many such high-dollar data hostage scenarios this year.

Combating Foreign Disinformation on Social Media

Raphael S. Cohen, Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga, Joe Cheravitch

How are state adversaries using disinformation on social media to advance their interests? What does the Joint Force—and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) in particular—need to be prepared to do in response? Drawing on a host of different primary and secondary sources and more than 150 original interviews from across the U.S. government, the joint force, industry, civil society, and subject-matter experts from nine countries around the world, researchers examined how China, Russia, and North Korea have used disinformation on social media and what the United States and its allies and partners are doing in response. The authors found that disinformation campaigns on social media may be more nuanced than they are commonly portrayed. Still, much of the response to disinformation remains ad hoc and uncoordinated. Disinformation campaigns on social media will likely increase over the coming decade, but it remains unclear who has the competitive edge in this race; disinformation techniques and countermeasures are evolving at the same time. This overview of a multi-volume series presents recommendations to better prepare for this new age of communications warfare.

The Fight to Define When AI Is ‘High Risk’

PEOPLE SHOULD NOT be slaves to machines, a coalition of evangelical church congregations from more than 30 countries preached to leaders of the European Union earlier this summer.

The European Evangelical Alliance believes all forms of AI with the potential to harm people should be evaluated, and AI with the power to harm the environment should be labeled high risk, as should AI for transhumanism, the alteration of people with tech like computers or machinery. It urged members of the European Commission for more discussion of what’s “considered safe and morally acceptable” when it comes to augmented humans and computer-brain interfaces.

The evangelical group is one of more than 300 organizations to weigh in on the EU’s Artificial Intelligence Act, which lawmakers and regulators introduced in April. The comment period on the proposal ended August 8, and it will now be considered by the European Parliament and European Council, made up of heads of state from EU member nations. The AI Act is one of the first major policy initiatives worldwide focused on protecting people from harmful AI. If enacted, it will classify AI systems according to risk, more strictly regulate AI that’s deemed high risk to humans, and ban some forms of AI entirely, including real-time facial recognition in some instances. In the meantime, corporations and interest groups are publicly lobbying lawmakers to amend the proposal according to their interests.

Countering ransomware: Lessons from aircraft hijacking

Simon Handler, Emma Schroeder, Frances Schroeder, and Trey Herr

Executive summary
Ransomware has plagued organizations for more than a decade, but the last three years have experienced a surge in both the number of incidents and the ransoms demanded. These events do not emerge in a vacuum, but are products of structural problems, some of which are similar to past surges in extortion crimes that the United States, along with its allies and partners, countered successfully. To more effectively counter ransomware, the US government should develop a strategy that draws on lessons learned from addressing a surge in aircraft hijackings through the late 1960s and early 1970s. Importantly, in most cases, ransomware and aircraft hijacking are both tactics of extortion. This extortion is utilized by organizations to both fund future operations and achieve a range of strategic objectives. Like the contagion effect of successful aircraft hijackings, ransomware successes beget imitation and evolution. Both activities pose challenges to defenders, which must defend all access points, while an attacker need only exploit one to be successful.

The Army wants you to get smart on China’s military structure and tactics

Davis Winkie

The Army released a brand-new comprehensive — and unclassified — assessment of China’s military strategy, structure, capabilities and tactics in early August.

“Chinese Tactics,” the new Army Techniques Publication 7-100.3, is part of a series of publications that aim to provide updated unclassified assessments of the tactics and capabilities utilized by potential U.S. adversaries in combat. The Army released a manual on North Korean tactics earlier last year, and Army officials have said there are similar guides forthcoming that analyze Russia and Iran’s tactics as well.

“While some of the material is also in other U.S. Government publications, these manuals are unique in the level of detail they provide,” explained Jennifer Dunn, a senior Army Training and Doctrine Command intelligence analyst, in an article discussing the publications. “These assessments are based on the most up-to-date information available. Subject matter experts within the Department of Defense and intelligence communities have vetted them, ensuring their veracity and applicability to the greater Army training and intelligence community.”