14 December 2021


Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Microsoft released its second annual Digital Defense Report, covering July 2020 to June 2021. This year s 134 pages report is quite detailed, with sections on cybercrime, nationstate threats, supply-chain attacks and Internet of Things attacks. The report includes security suggestions for organizations with remote workforces. It has a section describing the use of social media to spread disinformation. The report is a compilation of integrated data and actionable insights from across 

India in Space Domain - Pathbreaking Developments

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


India is now a major spacefaring nation. Initially, the Indian space programme was focused primarily on societal and developmental utilities. Today, like many other countries, India is compelled to use space for several military requirements like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Hence, India is looking to space to gain operational and informational advantages.

India has had its fair share of achievements in the space domain. It includes the launch of the country’s heaviest satellite, the GSAT-11 which will boost India’s broadband services by enabling 16 Gbps data links across the country, GSAT-7A, the military communication satellite and the launch of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk III-D2, the GSAT 29. The Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test is an intrinsic part of today’s geopolitics and the national security context.

The Secret History of the U.S. Diplomatic Failure in Afghanistan

Steve Coll and Adam Entous

On April 14th, President Joe Biden ended the longest war in United States history, announcing that the last remaining American troops in Afghanistan would leave by September 11th. In the following weeks, the Taliban conquered dozens of rural districts and closed in on major cities. By mid-June, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan—the brittle democratic state built by Afghan modernizers, nato soldiers, and American taxpayers after the 9/11 attacks—appeared to be in a death spiral. Yet its President, Ashraf Ghani, insisted to his cabinet that the Republic would endure. In every meeting, “he assured us, and encouraged us,” Rangina Hamidi, the acting minister of education, said. Ghani reminded them, “America didn’t make a promise that they would be here forever.”

On June 23rd, Ghani and his advisers boarded a chartered Kam Air jet that would take them from Kabul to Washington, D.C., to meet with Biden. As the plane flew above the Atlantic, they sat on the cabin floor reviewing talking points for the meeting. The Afghan officials knew that Biden regarded their government as hopelessly fractious and ineffective. Still, Ghani recommended that they present “one message to the Americans” of resilient unity, which might persuade the U.S. to give them more support in their ongoing war with the Taliban. Amrullah Saleh, the First Vice-President, who said that he felt “backstabbed” by Biden’s decision to withdraw, reluctantly agreed to “stick to a rosy narrative.”

US commander: Al-Qaida numbers in Afghanistan up ‘slightly’


WASHINGTON (AP) — The al-Qaida extremist group has grown slightly inside Afghanistan since U.S. forces left in late August, and the country’s new Taliban leaders are divided over whether to fulfill their 2020 pledge to break ties with the group, the top U.S. commander in the region said Thursday.

Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the departure of U.S. military and intelligence assets from Afghanistan has made it much harder to track al-Qaida and other extremist groups inside Afghanistan.

“We’re probably at about 1 or 2% of the capabilities we once had to look into Afghanistan,” he said, adding that this makes it “very hard, not impossible” to ensure that neither al-Qaida nor the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate can pose a threat to the United States.

How Islamist Fundamentalists Get Away With Murder in Pakistan

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

Priyantha Kumara, the Sri Lankan general manager of a garment factory in Pakistan’s eastern city of Sialkot, was bludgeoned to death by an Islamist mob on Friday. The crowds that gathered to carry out the murder then burned Kumara’s corpse on a main road, with graphic videos going viral on the same day. The police personnel were either bystanders, or arrived too late, before eventually arresting members of the mob, who proudly owned their act, which they claimed was a tribute to the Prophet Muhammad.

Kumara was lynched over allegations of blasphemy, after reportedly removing posters that had sections from the Quran written on them. Many people, including the president of the local chamber of commerce, maintain that Kumara was targeted by his factory’s workers over a personal vendetta and hadn’t actually done anything blasphemous. However, legal requirements notwithstanding, probing whether a victim of murder committed an intangible, victimless crime, inevitably bolsters the barbaric idea that sacrilege merits death.

This homicidal idea, which is at the core of Kumara’s ghastly murder, is codified in Pakistan’s penal code, which punishes blasphemy against Islam by death. Therefore, this law, that is often accused of being “misused” when mobs take it upon themselves to enforce it, is in fact regularly used to send individuals to the gallows for ideas that some people deem offensive, and to silence free thinkers and skeptics of Islam through murderous intimidation.

China Wants to Join Southeast Asia’s Nuclear-Free Zone. Why Now?

Ryan A. Musto 

China is ready to rock with the Treaty of Bangkok.

In a rare appearance at the special online summit for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Nov. 22, China’s President Xi Jinping announced that China is prepared to sign the protocol of a 1995 agreement that establishes Southeast Asia as a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Under the agreement, known as the Bangkok Treaty, 10 regional states renounce the right to nuclear weapons in any form within the ASEAN zone. If it joins the treaty, China would agree not to use or threaten the use of nuclear weapons within the zone or against its members. It would make China the first nuclear-weapon state to adhere.

China’s support for the treaty is no surprise. To strengthen its enduring “no-first-use” policy to never initiate nuclear conflict, China routinely has asserted (most recently in a 2019 white paper) that it “is always committed to … not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon-states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.” For the Bangkok Treaty, ASEAN and China agreed in 2011 to a secret memorandum of understanding that preserves China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, removing the greatest hurdle to Beijing’s commitment. China was ready to sign the protocol and memorandum in 2012 but deferred once the other eligible “P-5” nuclear-weapon states under the Non-Proliferation Treaty—France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.—refused to join. Now, Xi wants to legally bind China to the treaty “as early as possible.” But what’s the rush?

China’s global hybrid war

Brahma Chellaney

As the world’s largest, strongest and longest-surviving dictatorship, contemporary China lacks the rule of law. Yet it is increasingly using its rubber-stamp parliament to enact domestic legislation asserting territorial claims and rights in international law. In fact, China has become quite adept at waging ‘lawfare’—the misuse and abuse of law for political and strategic ends.

Under ‘commander-in-chief’ Xi Jinping’s bullying leadership, lawfare has developed into a critical component of China’s broader approach to asymmetrical or hybrid warfare. The blurring of the line between war and peace is enshrined in the regime’s official strategy as the ‘three warfares’ (san zhong zhanfa) doctrine. Just as the pen can be mightier than the sword, so too can lawfare, psychological warfare and public-opinion warfare.

Through these methods, Xi is advancing expansionism without firing a shot. Already, China’s bulletless aggression is proving to be a game-changer in Asia. Waging the three warfares in conjunction with military operations has yielded China significant territorial gains.

What both US and China get wrong on economic policy and trade negotiations

Yukon Huangand Jacob Feldgoise

Most observers welcomed the recent virtual meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, even as some politically sensitive issues remain unresolved. On the trade war, not much has changed under Biden.

Biden’s Buy America initiatives, his commitment to “invest in middle class competitiveness”, and an updated trade strategy highlighting unfair trade practices that hurt US manufacturing firms reinforce the sentiments inherent in former US president Donald Trump’s phase one agreement.

Even as the US and China differ on many economic policies, both sides share the misleading perception that promoting manufacturing is key to job creation, innovation and security. Their respective leaders have not recognised that the path to more constructive reengagement on trade lies in knowledge-intensive services.

China’s approach to global economic governance

Dr Jue Wang

China’s trade and development finance objectives and Western concerns about these have remained relatively consistent over the last two decades. However, as China’s economy and influence have expanded, the response of the international community has become more robust and less flexible.

To achieve its goals, particularly when facing opposition within multilateral institutions, China has adopted a multifaceted approach to global economic governance. This strategy is driven by domestic needs, strategic concerns and the country’s development experience. In particular, Beijing has sought to use multilateral and bilateral mechanisms to stimulate internal reforms in global institutions, and to increase China’s influence in developing rules and norms.

Takshashila Discussion Document – Civilian and Military Developments in Tibet


Executive Summary

This paper traces China’s Tibet-specific civilian and military developments under General Secretary Xi Jinping. It details the changes in the civilian leadership and the construction of dual-use infrastructure and border development villages across Tibet. It also documents changes in the military leadership and key military installations while discussing patterns in PLA’s exercises in the region. It concludes with a brief assessment that these developments have made Tibet more stable internally than it was in the previous decade. There are ongoing issues on the border with India, but the recent military modernisation, the dual-use civilian infrastructure developments, and the ongoing PLA reforms aim to address the Indian threat – China’s secondary strategic direction.

Understanding Turkey’s Direction: Three Scenarios


Foreign analysts and the media have long asked “Where is Turkey going?” Now, as the country reaches nineteen years of uninterrupted rule by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the rhetorical question has morphed into a vivid domestic debate on Turkey’s future.

Turkey’s direction depends on the votes of its citizens, not on what foreign observers think or desire. However, having engaged in unprecedented military and diplomatic initiatives in 2019–2021, the country’s leadership is subject to strong reactions and condemnations from its partners. Such responses in turn elicit nationalist statements across the political spectrum, making any speculation about Turkey’s political future somewhat hazardous.

After reviewing recent developments and assessing the main drivers of Turkey’s current policies, this article will present three scenarios that European and Western leaders can theoretically expect from Ankara in the short and medium terms, scenarios they should prepare for.

The Truth of Biden’s Fraudulent Democracy Summit

Ted Galen Carpenter

Washington’s much-ballyhooed virtual democracy summit on December 9 and 10 is already generating justifiable criticism. Centering U.S. foreign policy on democracy promotion —rhetorically, if not substantively—brings back memories of George W. Bush’s ill-fated effort. Playing the democracy card has also exacerbated already serious tensions between the Biden administration and Russia and China. Both powers interpret the summit as an effort to enlist other nations in a hostile, containment policy directed against them.

The worst feature of the summit, though, is the brazen hypocrisy of U.S. policy on democracy. True, this has been a long-standing, embarrassing characteristic of Washington’s foreign policy. Many of the “Free World” allies that U.S. leaders embraced, funded, and armed throughout the Cold War were actually brutal and corrupt tyrants. What mattered to U.S. officials was that those regimes were reliably anti-communist and especially anti-Soviet. The nature of their domestic rule could be—and usually was—overlooked. The invitation list to Biden’s summit underscores that the U.S. double standard on democracy is alive and well.

The Combat Mission in Iraq Has Ended. But Troops Aren’t Coming Home


The Iraqi government announced Thursday that U.S. forces had officially ended their combat mission in Iraq, a formality that is not expected to shrink the U.S. presence there nor much change what the troops do.

“There's no significant posture change in Iraq right now. The numbers are still where they were, which is about 2,500. Remember, this is a change in the mission, right? Not necessarily a changing physical posture,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Thursday.

U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003, withdrew in 2011, and returned in 2014 to help rebuild the Iraqi Army and fight the Islamic State. For a number of years now, Kirby said, they have been in an advise-and-assist role, helping Iraqi forces to clear out remaining pockets of ISIS.

New FDD Study Identifies 28 American Universities and Schools That Maintain Research Partnerships with Chinese Institutions That Power Beijing’s Defense Establishment

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 9, 2021 – America’s top research universities –including Stanford, Tufts, and Texas A&M – have entered into academic and research relationships with Chinese universities that directly support China’s military-industrial complex, including its intelligence apparatus, nuclear weapons sector, and cyberespionage platforms, according to a new report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

The report, “The Middle Kingdom Meets Higher Education: How U.S. Universities Support China’s Military-Industrial Complex” identifies 28 American universities and schools in 19 states that maintain academic and research partnerships with Chinese institutions that power Beijing’s defense establishment. China is seeking to leverage these U.S. university relationships to acquire the technology and talent Beijing needs to win its strategic competition with the United States.

Other U.S. universities identified in the report include the University of Washington, Arizona State University, the University of Utah, Rutgers University, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the College of William and Mary, and Emory University. The lone school district mentioned in the report is the Chicago Public School District.

The awkward guests: Parsing the Summit for Democracy invitation list

Ted Piccone

President Joe Biden has set the table for the world’s first-ever summit devoted to building both national and international political will for democratic renewal. Given backsliding in democratic governance, human rights, and rule of law around the world, and the rising threat posed by authoritarian leaders in China and Russia, the timing is propitious, if not overdue.

But like any good dinner party, who gets invited usually determines the quality of the evening and the mood for future such gatherings. In the case of the Summit for Democracy, if the heads of state and government of some 112 countries (including the United States) bring to the meal some honest recognition of their shortcomings (humble pie), along with concrete pledges for reform and cooperation (the main course), the convening would have been worth the effort.

Foreign policy visionaries have long held loftier ambitions of a grand alliance of democracies that would rebalance the international order to favor liberal democratic governance over autocracy. The more urgent task, however — and indispensable to such a project — is building healthy and strong democracies characterized by accountable and open governance, respect for fundamental rights in law and practice, and impartial and accessible dispute resolution mechanisms — in short, the rule of law rather than the rule of a single party or strongman. Only with functioning democratic systems that deliver on the basic needs and promise of human dignity at the national level can we hope to build a structure for collective action by like-minded actors on the global stage, and offer the world a compelling alternative to China’s authoritarian model.

Why Congress Should Regulate Cryptocurrency Now

Gahyun Helen You
Source Link

When Bitcoin was first introduced in 2008, few lawmakers could have predicted that cryptocurrencies would grow into a $2.5 trillion asset class. The potential of cryptocurrencies to create a more efficient and inclusive financial system has captured investors’ attention. But the rise of stablecoins, which are largely backed by fiat currencies, poses regulatory hurdles and could destabilize the global monetary system.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services hosts a hearing on cryptocurrencies and financial technology, on the heels of a Treasury Department report on stablecoins published last month. Executives at key industry players—Bitfury, Circle,

Coinbase, FTX, Paxos, and Stellar—will address the risks that stablecoins and other cryptocurrency technologies pose, and they will identify opportunities to improve consumer protection and prevent illicit activity, such as ransomware targeting, money laundering, and terrorism financing.

Global Views of Biden’s Democracy Summit


Later this week, U.S. President Joe Biden will convene leaders from over one hundred countries spanning the world’s regions to discuss the decline of global democracy—and announce commitments for renewing democracy domestically and internationally. But each participant faces its own democratic challenges, including, as Biden notes, the United States. What do different countries and regions make of the summit? And what would it take for the summit to succeed?


Zainab Usman: The Summit for Democracy comes at a crucial moment for Africa. The continent is reeling from the socioeconomic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and has limited access to vaccines—less than 8 percent of the continent is fully vaccinated—undermining efforts to kick-start its post-pandemic economic recovery. This immediate challenge is compounded by long-running issues around conflict in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa amid rising geopolitical tensions among rival global powers. Seventeen African countries out of fifty-four—just under one-third—have been invited to the summit.

Among those seventeen countries invited, the success of this summit may be defined by at least two metrics. First, the stated broad objectives of the summit—defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting human rights—must address the pressing socioeconomic needs of these seventeen African participants. Take the Sahel, for example, where existential governance challenges confronting countries like Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali are compounded by violent extremism, the flow of weapons from an unstable Libya, and the absence of public services in remote villages. Or take South Africa, one of Africa’s most-industrialized countries, which is undergoing persistent political and economic decline and risks becoming a lower-middle-income economy by 2028, according to forecasts. Will the summit be contextualized to these everyday realities of African countries?

The Middle Kingdom Meets Higher Education

Craig Singleton 


Confucius Institutes (CIs) are Chinese government-sponsored organizations offering Chinese-language, cultural, and historical programming at the primary, secondary, and university levels worldwide. CIs are also a key element in China’s “united front,” a network of groups and key individuals that seek to co-opt and neutralize sources of potential opposition to the policies and legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).1 CIs further serve as platforms that advance facets of China’s military-civil fusion (MCF), a national strategy aimed at acquiring the world’s cutting-edge technologies — including through theft — to achieve Chinese military dominance.2 China’s CI-enabled initiatives include the establishment of academic and research partnerships between top-tier American institutions and Chinese universities supporting Beijing’s military-industrial complex.

Between 2018 and 2021, the number of CIs operating in the United States fell from 113 to 34. Only four of these 79 closures were attributed to national security concerns, despite ample evidence that China leverages relationships with U.S. universities to acquire the technology and talent Beijing needs to win its strategic competition with the United States.3 CI closures began in earnest only after Congress passed legislation that bars universities hosting CIs from receiving certain types of funding from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The universities that have resisted shuttering their CIs are ones that do not receive federal funding jeopardized by this new legislation.

Kamikaze drones: A new weapon brings power and peril to the U.S. military

Ken Dilanian

DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah — The killer drone whooshed out of its launch tube, spreading its carbon wings and shooting into the sky.

Flying too fast for the naked eye to track, the battery-powered robot circled the Utah desert, hunting for the target it had been programmed to strike. Moments later, it sailed through the driver’s side window of an empty pickup truck and exploded in a fireball.

“Good hit,” exclaimed an operator from AeroVironment, the company that produces the drone and sells it to the U.S. military.

NBC News traveled to a military testing center for exclusive access to the first public demonstration of the Switchblade 300, a small, low-cost “kamikaze” drone made by AeroVironment, which sources said the U.S. military has used quietly for years in targeted killing operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Why Russia won’t likely invade Ukraine


Russia and the United States are making deals about Ukraine behind Kiev’s back.

The two rival powers see the Eastern European country merely as a political object, and in the near future they could strike a wider arrangement about eastern Ukraine’s coal-rich Donbass region. The contours of a potential agreement are slowly coming into view.

After this week’s “virtual summit” between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden, the Kremlin signaled that it could welcome the involvement of the United States in the Normandy Format – a platform for negotiations on a peaceful settlement of the Donbass conflict.

The Normandy Format talks involve representatives of four countries: Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France. Indeed, the potential involvement of the US – Ukraine’s top backer – could boost chances for the implementation of the Minsk Agreement, signed in the Belarusian capital in 2015.

The deal effectively ended offensive military operations in the Donbass but positional warfare is still ongoing.

A huge study of 20 years of global wealth demolishes the myth of 'trickle-down' and shows the rich are taking most of the gains for themselves


Inequality has remained persistently high for decades, and a new report shows just how stark the divide is between the richest and poorest people on the planet.

The 2022 World Inequality Report, a huge undertaking coordinated by economic and inequality experts Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman, was the product of four years of research and produced an unprecedented data set on just how wealth is distributed.

"The world is marked by a very high level of income inequality and an extreme level of wealth inequality," the authors wrote.

The data serves as a complete rebuke of the trickle-down economic theory, which posits that cutting taxes on the rich will "trickle down" to those below, with the cuts eventually benefiting everyone. In America, trickle-down was exemplified by President Ronald Reagan's tax slashes. It's a theory that persists today, even though most research has shown that 50 years of tax cuts benefits the wealthy and worsens inequality.

The U.S. Faces Hard Choices on Strategic Ambiguity in Europe and Asia

Jeffrey Mankoff

Russia’s ongoing military buildup along its border with Ukraine has cast into sharp relief the debate about how the United States, and its allies, can most effectively ensure security in the no man’s land lying beyond NATO’s eastern perimeter. Meanwhile, China’s mounting campaign of military pressure and intimidation against Taiwan is leading some observers to question the strength of U.S. commitments to the island. Though coordination between Russia and China on these efforts is likely limited at best, their attempts to bully Ukraine and Taiwan raise a common dilemma for Washington, one liable to become more pronounced and widespread in the new era of strategic competition among rival powers.

Neither Ukraine nor Taiwan is a formal U.S. ally, though Washington has committed itself in various ways to help secure them against their larger neighbors. The Taiwan Relations Act requires the White House and Congress to undertake “appropriate action” in the event of a threat to Taiwan’s security, while a recently signed U.S.-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership commits Washington to “maintaining sanctions … and applying other relevant measures [emphasis added]” until Russia restores Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Stop Treating Vaccine Hesitancy Like an Afterthought

David Adler

The risks posed by the new COVID-19 omicron variant and even the story of its origins are up for debate, but vaccines and boosters appear to offer some protection against severe disease. When news emerged that omicron was found spreading across southern Africa, U.S. President Joe Biden’s initial response was fast, firm, and ultimately ineffective at actually getting shots into arms globally.

In addition to calling for Americans to get vaccinated or a booster, the president stated: “I call on the nations gathering next week for the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting to meet the U.S. challenge to waive intellectual property protections for COVID vaccines, so these vaccines can be manufactured globally. I endorsed this position in April; this news today reiterates the importance of moving on this quickly.”

The WTO is unlikely to move on this quickly. The 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, which would have addressed the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights waiver on vaccine patents, was itself postponed because of the omicron variant. This postponement is indefinite. Even if IP protections were somehow waived—which is unlikely given opposition from several governments—it would do little to ease the immediate situation in South Africa.

Bitcoin mining energy consumption

Lisa Iscrupe

These captions are meant to drive clicks and perhaps even plant a seed of doubt in the public’s mind about trending cryptocurrencies. But is crypto trading the energy vampire that the media has made it out to be?

We spoke with podcast producer and blockchain expert Matthew Diemer, a longtime player in the crypto industry, to get a more balanced view of this issue. Diemer manages The Decrypt Daily podcast, which discusses all aspects of crypto news and information.

Popular digital currencies

Before we dive into the conversation, let’s start with a quick rewind on some basic cryptocurrency facts. Currently, there are dozens of virtual currencies, also known as tokens, available to purchase and trade. However, the most well-known currency by far is Bitcoin, having been around now for over a decade.

Protect Ukraine Now! An unimpeded Russian invasion of Ukraine would fundamentally alter the geopolitical realities of the postwar era.

Francis Fukuyama

There is a real and immediate threat that Russia will invade Ukraine, in a brazen act of territorial aggrandizement whose aim is to snuff out that country’s effort to turn itself into a liberal democracy. For the second time in a year, the Kremlin has massed troops on Ukraine’s borders, this time at much higher levels than last spring. Earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin published a long piece entitled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” explaining how Ukraine in his opinion was not an independent country, but rather an integral part of Russia. He clearly sees the reincorporation of Ukraine (and Belarus as well) as part of the restoration of Russia to something approaching its former great-power status, and the legacy that he personally would like to leave to posterity. According to him, Russia represents an idea built around centralized power and traditional culture that is protecting the world from contamination by Western liberalism. Ukraine on two occasions, in the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the Revolution of Dignity in 2013–14, has sought to join Europe and the West, and its very existence as a Slavic liberal democracy undermines Putin’s narrative of history.

Tuning Out Putin on Ukraine is Easy – and Self-Defeating

Maxim Samorukov

Russia’s military buildup along the Ukrainian border is generating alarm in Washington, DC and other Western capitals. Fears that this time, the Kremlin’s actions will culminate in another war have prompted a hastily arranged video call on Ukraine between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, due to take place on December 7.

So far, all of the Western anxiety and hand-wringing about the crisis seems to be clouding people’s ability to listen to what the Kremlin is actually saying. Until now, there has been surprisingly little Western acknowledgement that Russian President Vladimir Putin is being much blunter about what he wants in Ukraine and the lengths to which he is prepared to go to obtain it. In just a few days, Putin has said that he wants a deal to prevent Ukraine from ever joining NATO. He also wants a Western promise never to deploy NATO military infrastructure in Ukraine. Putin cited U.S. MK-41 missile launchers now in Romania to illustrate what he’s worried about: “I will repeat once again that the issue concerns the possible deployment in the territory of Ukraine of strike systems with the flight time of 7–10 minutes to Moscow, or 5 minutes in the case of hypersonic systems. Just imagine that.”

Soon, the Hackers Won’t Be Human

John Bansemer

It has been a challenging year for U.S. cyberdefense operations. A dramatic surge in ransomware attacks has targeted such critical national infrastructure as the Colonial Pipeline—which was shut down for six days in May, disrupting fuel supplies to 17 states—and halted the operation of thousands of American schools, businesses, and hospitals. The hacking of SolarWinds Orion software, which compromised the data of hundreds of major companies and government agencies and went undiscovered for at least eight months, demonstrated that even the best-resourced organizations remain vulnerable to malign actors.

While the motley crew of cybercriminals and state-sponsored hackers who constitute the offense has not yet widely adopted artificial intelligence techniques, many AI capabilities are accessible with few restrictions. If traditional cyberattacks begin to lose their effectiveness, the offense won’t hesitate to reach for AI-enabled ones to restore its advantage—evoking worst-case future scenarios in which AI-enabled agents move autonomously through networks, finding and exploiting vulnerabilities at unprecedented speed. Indeed, some of the most damaging global cyberattacks, such as the 2017 NotPetya attack, incorporated automated techniques, just not AI ones. These approaches rely on prescriptive, rules-based techniques, and lack the ability to adjust tactics on the fly, but can be considered the precursors of fully automated, “intelligent” agent–led attacks.

Yet it is not just cyberattackers who stand to benefit from AI. Machine learning and other AI techniques are beginning to bolster cyberdefense efforts as well, although not yet at the scale necessary to alter the advantage the offense presently enjoys. There is reason to hope that AI will become a game-changer for the defense. As offense and defense both race to leverage AI techniques, the question is which side will manage to benefit most.

On the Report of the Aspen Commission on Information Disorder

Herb Lin

On Nov. 15, the Aspen Institute released a report underscoring the dangers of information disorder and making a number of recommendations to global leaders to address that issue. The report was authored by the three co-chairs of the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder (Katie Couric, Chris Krebs and Rashad Robinson). Commissioners, of which I was privileged to be one, contributed to and broadly aligned with the report, though they were not required to fully endorse every recommendation and insight contained in the final version. This post, which draws extensively on the text of the report and on my supplementary statement, offers some further personal reflections.

The report should be required reading for anyone concerned with the present state of societal discourse, especially in the United States. It uses the term “information disorder” to denote the broad societal challenges associated with misinformation and disinformation. In the report, disinformation is defined as false or misleading information, intentionally created or strategically amplified to mislead for a purpose (for example, political, financial or social gain), whereas misinformation is false or misleading information that is not necessarily spread with an awareness that it is false or misleading.

This chart shows how long it would take a computer to hack your exact password

Katharina Buchholz

This chart shows the time it would take for a computer to crack passwords.

A password of 8 standard letters contains 209 billion possible combinations, but a computer is able to calculate this instantly.

Adding one upper case letter to a password dramatically alters a computer's potential to crack a password, extending it to 22 minutes.

Having a long mix of upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers is the best way make your password more secure.
A 12-character password containing at least one upper case letter, one symbol and one number would take 34,000 years for a computer to crack.

Password, 123456, qwerty - while passwords which appear on the list of the most common passwords should definitely be retired from use, even a more unique password can be easy to crack if a computer program is tasked with systematically breaking it.

The Rise Of Voice Cloning And DeepFakes In The Disinformation Wars

Jennifer Kite-Powell

In 2020, it was estimated that disinformation in the form of fake news costs around $78 billion annually. But deepfakes, mainly in social media, have matured and are fueled by the sophistication of artificial intelligence are moving into the business sector.

In 2019, Deeptrace, a cybersecurity company reported that the number of online deepfake videos doubled, reaching close to 15,000 in under a year.

Several startups like Truepic, that’s raised $26 million from M12, Microsoft's venture arm, has taken a different approach to deepfakes. They focus on identifying not what is fake, tracking the authenticity of the content at the point it is captured.

Yanchev says that this is especially true if those images are distributed for commercial or ideological purposes.

"Consider unique nature of personal data such as voice image biometrics that are being processed by machine learning algorithms and the impact a deep fake may have on the real person if misused," said Yanchev. "Fake ID verification on primary IT services - phone, email, online rental, and money transfers - even if not strictly misused is challenging to justify under GDPR or CCPA without the approval of the subject of the deep fake."