16 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 

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.

The Third Revolution in Warfare First there was gunpowder. Then nuclear weapons. Next: artificially intelligent weapons.

Kai-Fu Lee

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, against the backdrop of the rushed U.S.-allied Afghanistan withdrawal, the grisly reality of armed combat and the challenge posed by asymmetric suicide terror attacks grow harder to ignore.

But weapons technology has changed substantially over the past two decades. And thinking ahead to the not-so-distant future, we must ask: What if these assailants were able to remove human suicide bombers or attackers from the equation altogether? As someone who has studied and worked in artificial intelligence for the better part of four decades, I worry about such a technology threat, born from artificial intelligence and robotics.

Autonomous weaponry is the third revolution in warfare, following gunpowder and nuclear arms. The evolution from land mines to guided missiles was just a prelude to true AI-enabled autonomy—the full engagement of killing: searching for, deciding to engage, and obliterating another human life, completely without human involvement.

Playing cat and mouse: UAE energy company agrees to build power plants in Iran

James M. Dorsey

Increasingly, compliance with US sanctions against Iran could emerge as a litmus test of the United Arab Emirates’ close ties to the United States.

At the sharp edge of a potential rift between the allies is a reportedly recently concluded agreement by a private UAE company to build gas-fired thermal, solar, and wind power plants with a total capacity of 300 megawatts in Iran’s hydrocarbon-rich province of Khuzestan.

Established in 2020, AJ Holding, the Dubai and Fujairah-based company, could not be reached for comment. The company website claims, without further detail, that its portfolio includes some 600MW of wind and solar power projects in Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and the Far East.

A picture attributed to Iranian energy news agency Bargh News appeared to show the company’s Danish CEO, Allan Jespersen, exchanging documents with an Iranian official.

The deal was signed as the United States warned that it would toughen enforcement of sanctions if multilateral talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear programme failed.

China’s ‘Unhackable’ Satellite Quantum System Promises To Defend World’s Largest Power Grid Against Cyber Attacks

Sakshi Tiwari

China has developed what it calls a Satellite Quantum System in a bid to combat any adversary intrusion into its power infrastructure. The country boasts the world’s largest national power grid.

As critical infrastructure gets increasingly integrated with data and network systems, there remains an enhanced risk of these systems being compromised in the case of a confrontation.

China seems to have gauged the threat and has now devised a network against it, being a power-dependent developing economy. It has reportedly developed the world’s first quantum satellite, integrating its ground-based critical infrastructure with space-based quantum technology.

“China has built a quantum communication network in space to secure its electric power grid from cyber-attacks,” said the scientists involved in the project, as reported by SCMP.

How To Ensure China Doesn’t Try To Invade Taiwan

James Holmes

The debate whether Washington should preserve its policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan or shift to “strategic clarity” lurched onward this week when Ely Ratner, the Pentagon assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, went before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Ratner called for bolstering Taiwan’s defenses, pronouncing it an “urgent task.” According to Reuters, however, he also opined that explicitly committing the United States to defend the island wouldn’t meaningfully strengthen deterrence.

That is passing strange. Deterrence involves issuing a threat. If I want to deter a hostile actor from taking some action its leadership might like to take, I issue a threat while exhibiting the capability and resolve to make good on my threat. If successful I make the hostile leadership a believer in my national power and my resolve to use it. My prospective antagonist refrains from the action I’ve proscribed. By contrast, strategic ambiguity leaves everyone wondering. I have neither issued a clear threat nor yoked power and purpose to it. I have consciously created a gray zone—and recent years have shown that gray zones are playgrounds where the Chinas and Russias of the world romp.

Why China Is Freaking Out Over Biden’s Democracy Summit

Mareike Ohlberg and Bonnie S. Glaser

The Chinese government is furious about U.S. President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy, and it wants the world to know.

A week before the summit was to take place, the Chinese government hastily convened its own democracy forum and published a white paper called “China: Democracy That Works,” as well as a report titled “The State of Democracy in the United States,” in which it claims to “expose the deficiencies and abuse of democracy” in the United States. These actions have been accompanied by countless articles, press conferences, and, of course, tweets about China’sdemocracy” and its alleged superiority to U.S. democracy.

So why is the Chinese government reacting so strongly to Biden’s virtual summit?

Some China watchers have pointed to Taiwan’s participation as the main reason China is agitated. Having Taiwan join a forum from which China is excluded is an unacceptable offense to the Chinese party-state. Beijing claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and has gone to great lengths to try to isolate Taiwan internationally, including blocking it from attending World Health Organization meetings. The Biden administration has made headway mobilizing allies around the world to support Taiwan, which is undermining China’s goal of sowing doubts in Taiwan that the United States and its allies will remain committed to the island’s prosperity and security.

China Again Uses Force to Bully Its Neighbors

Raul "Pete" Pedrozo

On Nov. 16, three China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels blocked and used water cannons to prevent two Philippine vessels from delivering food supplies to the Philippine marine contingent on board the BRP Sierra Madre at Second Thomas Shoal. Although this is not the first time China has illegally interfered with the resupply of the Second Thomas Shoal outpost, China’s new Maritime Police Law empowers the CCG to stop (or demolish) the construction of foreign structures or other installations on land features within China’s claimed sea areas. The Nov. 16 incident is the latest example demonstrating China’s unwillingness to conform to the rules-based international order that ensures activities at sea are conducted safely and professionally.

The Philippine Navy intentionally grounded Sierra Madre on Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 and has maintained a small detachment of marines on board the ship, which is resupplied at regular intervals. China regards the shoal as Chinese territory, as it falls within the infamous “nine-dash line,” and has repeatedly complained about the presence of the ship and interfered with the resupply of the outpost on several occasions. The United States backed its treaty ally in 2014, condemning China’s provocative interference with the Philippine logistics vessels.

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?

A Trial in Burkina Faso Puts Sankara’s Legacy Back in the Spotlight

Clair MacDougall

OUAGADOUDOU, Burkina Faso—Dressed in green leopard-patterned fatigues, Gen. Gilbert Diendere was ready for battle in early November as he stood in the witness dock of a converted court room in Ouagadougou. Lawyers fired questions from all directions about his involvement in the assassination of Burkina Faso’s revolutionary president, Capt. Thomas Sankara, as well as eight of his bodyguards and four civilians on Oct. 15, 1987.

Diendere, who has been accused of complicity in the killings, seemed to have an answer for all of them. He heard gunshots and saw Sankara’s dead body, he claimed, but didn’t see the shooter, echoing similar testimony from those among the 14 other men who now stand accused of participating in the assassination.

Last week, Diendere also denied the testimony of a retired soldier named Abdrahamane Zetiyenga, who claims Diendere told him of plans to arrest Sankara on the day of his assassination and sent one of the other soldiers who has been charged with witness tampering to convince Zetiyenga to recant his testimony prior to the trial.

Saudi Arabia targets banned ultra-conservative proselytisers

James M. Dorsey

Mr. Al-Sheikh’s offensive against Tablighi Jamaat or Society for Preaching, a secretive transnational ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim missionary movement of South Asian origin long banned in the kingdom, came in response to members of the group celebrating the Taliban victory in Afghanistan and openly criticizing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s social reforms.

The Twitter account of Mr. Al-Sheikh’s ministry instructed imams to point to the group's "most prominent mistakes…mention their danger to society" and emphasize that Saudia Arabia forbids any "affiliation" with the group.

To be fair, the ministry last month waged a similar campaign against the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and the late scholar Muhammad Surur whose fusion of the Brotherhood’s political ideology with Saudi Wahhabism’s theological purity influenced prominent reformist clerics in the kingdom.

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.”

The Inheritance America's Military After Two Decades of War

Mara E. Karlin

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, the U.S. military has been fighting incessantly in conflicts around the globe, often with inconclusive results. The legacies of these conflicts have serious implications for how the United States will wage war in the future. Yet there is a stunning lack of introspection about these conflicts.

Never in modern U.S. history has the military been at war for so long. And never in U.S. history have such long wars demanded so much of so few. The legacy of wars without end include a military that feels the painful effects of war but often feels alone. The public is less connected to the military now than at any point in modern U.S. history. The national security apparatus seeks to pivot away from these engagements and to move on to the next threats—notably those emanating from China and Russia. Many young Americans question whether it even makes sense to invest in the military. At best, there are ad hoc, unstructured debates about Iraq or Afghanistan. Simply put, there has been no serious, organized stock-taking by the public, politicians, opinion leaders, or the military itself of this inheritance.

Despite being at war for the longest continuous period in its history, the military is woefully unprepared for future wars. But the United States cannot simply hit the reset button. This book explores this inheritance by examining how nearly two decades of war have influenced civil-military relations, how the military goes to war, how the military wages war, who leads the military and who serves in it, how the military thinks about war, and above all, the enduring impact of these wars on those who waged them. If the U.S. military seeks to win in the future, it must acknowledge and reconcile with the inheritance of its long and inconclusive wars. This book seeks to help them do so.

Newly public Planet aims for NRO contract, software investments


WASHINGTON: On Wednesday, Earth observation startup Planet celebrated its debut on the New York Stock Exchange — a move that a company executive tells Breaking Defense has Planet awash with cash and looking for ways to invest in new capabilities.

The firm’s big financial shift came on the heels of another potentially significant move: its government arm, Planet Federal, on Dec. 6 submitted a proposal for a major National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) electro-optical imagery contract, Robbie Shingler, co-founder and chief strategy officer at the San Francisco-based firm, told Breaking Defense today.

NRO issued a request for proposals on Nov. 3 for its Electro-Optical Commercial Layer (EOCL) of remote sensing satellites and expects to contract with multiple awards in the spring.

“This is, as you know, a five year contract with five one year options thereafter. So, this is a big deal and we put our best foot forward,” Shingler said. “What is really neat about this procurement,” he added, is that under the EOCL contracting plan, NRO envisions bringing on board new capabilities from contractors as they come online.

The climate conundrum

Dennis J. Snower

The COP26 summit is now over and the question remains, where do we go from here?

Although progress has been made—a “big step forward” said U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and perhaps even “a historic achievement” touted COP26 President Alok Sharma—we can now see, with stark clarity, the long road that lies ahead in restoring the safety of our planet.

The fundamental challenge is not the failure of particular nations or institutions or businesses or civil organizations, but rather the interaction between our economic, political, and social systems, which generates environmental outcomes that are incompatible with the 1.5 degrees Celsius target. Economic prosperity and political success have become decoupled from social and environmental prosperity.

The systemic nature of the problem is also commonly overlooked. Policymakers often think in terms of their ministerial silos. Business leaders often believe that they can address the problem on their own by pursuing stakeholder value. The business literature is full of inspiring stories of green businesses that represent “a ray of hope.” Investors address the problem on their own by decarbonizing their portfolios. Consumers try to change the world through environmentally responsible habits. The underlying reasoning is that “every little bit counts,” “every journey is taken one step at a time,” and “the whole is the sum of the parts.” While there may be value in this, we need to understand that, given the scale of the problem at hand, the whole may be greater than the sum of the parts.


Frederick W. Kagan, Nataliya Bugayova, George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko

Executive Summary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is amassing a military force on and near Ukraine’s borders large enough to conduct a full-scale invasion. Western intelligence agencies have reportedly intercepted Russian military plans to do so by early February. Visible Russian military activities and these plans so clearly support preparations for an invasion that it seems obvious that Putin really might invade if his demands are not met.

Putin is rarely so obvious, however, and a massive Russian invasion of Ukraine would mark a fundamental transformation of the approach he has taken for two decades to advance his interests and respond to threats. We cannot dismiss the possibility that such a transformation has occurred. The United States, NATO, and Ukraine must seriously consider the risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine and prepare military, diplomatic, and economic measures to deter and respond to that threat.

But Putin may have no intention of invading Ukraine at all. Putin may be attempting a strategic misdirection that impales the West in a diplomatic process and military planning cycle that will keep it unprepared to meet his preferred, wily, and more subtle next move. Putin benefits greatly by focusing attention on the risk of war and prompting the current US scramble to defuse and de-escalate this crisis that he invented. If Putin is threatening military action to misdirect, then the West’s concessions will feed directly into his non-military efforts to achieve his objectives of changing the geopolitical orientation of Ukraine from west to east and weakening NATO.

The global economy is increasingly out of sync

Julia Horowitz

London (CNN Business)The economic recovery from the coronavirus has always been uneven, with different parts of the world bouncing back at different speeds.
But this divergence could be about to get worse, creating headaches for the policymakers who have to manage what happens next.
What's happening: The biggest central banks in the world will all make highly-anticipated announcements on policy this week. But unlike at the beginning of the pandemic, when their action to avert a global depression was highly synchronized, the responses to inflation and the Omicron variant are expected to vary widely.

Economists now believe the Federal Reserve will announce a faster rollback of its pandemic bond-buying program to combat higher prices. Consumer prices in the United States increased in November at the fastest rate in nearly 40 years.

The Fed doesn't appear deterred by concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant, since the United States has so far avoided rolling out fresh restrictions. Consumer spending still looks strong, and unemployment claims recently fell to their lowest level in 52 years.

Virtue Signaling as Russia Threatens to Invade

Sam Buchan

In the face of Russian aggression, the U.S. Congress continues to pursue sanctions against Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden and Germany’s new Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, feign strength to salvage what remains of their foreign policies. In doing so, Biden asks us to believe he will work with allies to act if Russia invades Ukraine, but a leaked classified document exposes Germany’s floundering credibility.

Both leaders have summoned nothing more than virtue signals and a dependence on a failed Joint Statement signed between Biden and Merkel in July. However, in the months that followed, the leaders have done nothing. The alarming refusal to acknowledge recent developments undermines the supposed commitment to act should Russia continue its malign influence and its weaponization of energy exports.

What further evidence is needed? Putin continues his military build-up and his manipulation of both migrant and energy flows to create chaos and uncertainty in Europe. If that wasn’t enough, Putin is even alleged to be orchestrating a coup d’état in Ukraine. Thankfully, the U.S. coal sector has stepped up to supply Ukraine with critical energy supplies in the form of coal, as alternative sources have been completely cut off by Russia.

Memo to the international media: Putin has already invaded Ukraine

Peter Dickinson

One of the more depressing features of the latest Russian military build-up on the Ukrainian border has been the proliferation of international headlines posing numerous variations of the same seemingly straightforward question: will Putin invade Ukraine?

I very much doubt that any of these headline writers are secret Russian imperialists or in the pay of the Kremlin. Even so, the question they pose is profoundly misleading and serves to underline the deadly effectiveness of Moscow’s disinformation tactics.

In reality, of course, Russia has already invaded Ukraine.

Putin himself has openly admitted to ordering the February 2014 invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, while the Kremlin’s increasingly absurd denials have failed to prevent his subsequent invasion of eastern Ukraine from becoming the world’s worst-kept secret. Indeed, as the global media debates whether Putin may be poised to invade Ukraine, the war he launched in 2014 continues with around 7% of the country already under Russian occupation.

Broader Risk: Russian Control over Ukraine and Belarus

Anthony H. Cordesman

President Putin’s motives in deploying the equivalent of an invasion force on the border of the Ukraine may be limited to an effort to stop the expansion of NATO and U.S. military aid to the Ukraine. They also, however, may have a much broader set of long-term strategic goals. This commentary examines how the Russian effort to expand its influence in the Ukraine and to deny it membership in NATO or any added U.S. military support may be part of a broader effort that includes Belarus and presents a much more serious longer-term challenge to NATO.

The Strategic Impact of the Breakup of the Former Soviet Union (FSU)

A broader look at the map of Europe before and after the break-up of the FSU and the Warsaw Pact in 1991 makes it clear why Putin may see Russian efforts to gain influence or control over Belarus and much of the Ukraine as a major strategic objective.

Map One shows the level of de facto Russian control before the breakup of the FSU. Russia then dominated Eastern Europe in areas which allowed it to pose a major threat of invasion to all of Europe, including to the most developed states in the region. Moreover, even if one excludes key Warsaw Pact states like East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Bulgaria, Russia’s control over Belarus and the Ukraine gave it strategic access to the entire Central Front in Europe as well as control over the Baltic states.

How Putin is using Biden to make Russia great again

Rebekah Koffler

The two-hour video tete-a-tete on Tuesday between President Biden and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has predictably not borne fruit for America. Biden issued stern warnings about sanctions that were widely celebrated in the American press. But Putin was already well aware of these warnings. The session was, in fact, a hollow exercise in showmanship. And Putin stole the show.

Instead of being a moment for projecting US resolve, the meeting was just another step in Biden’s ongoing, unintentional plan to help Putin make Russia great again by allowing the Russian president to reassert his influence over the nations of the former Soviet Union.

The mere act of Putin having a one-on-one meeting with the US president is a win for Moscow’s spymaster, who craves being perceived as a top dog in global geopolitics. It makes Russia seem on a par with the United States, which it certainly is not.

Finding The Recipe For A Larger, Greener Global Rice Bowl

Eurasia Review

Rice is the main food staple for more than half of the global population, and as the population grows, demand for rice is expected to grow, too.

But increasing global rice production is not a simple prospect.

“Global rice production is challenged now due to the negative environmental impact, water scarcity, labor shortage and slowing yield increases in many parts of the world,” said Shen Yuan, a postdoctoral research associate at Huazhong Agricultural University in China who spent two years as a visiting scholar at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

The challenge is producing more rice on existing cropland, and doing so while minimizing the environmental impact. New research led by Shaobing Peng, a professor of agronomy at Huazhong Agricultural University, and Patricio Grassini, associate professor of agronomy at Nebraska and co-leader of the Global Yield Gap Atlas, provides an analysis of roadmaps toward sustainable intensification for a larger global rice bowl. The research was published in Nature Communications.

‘Great Mining Migration’: Power-Hungry Bitcoin Leaves China

Joe Coroneo-Seaman

On 14 April this year, the price of a single Bitcoin reached a then all-time-high of around US$64,870. Just over a month later, the price of the world’s most popular digital currency had tumbled to $34,259.

A significant driver behind this sudden drop was the news that China had begun a sweeping crackdown on the cryptocurrency industry, driven by concerns about financial risk and excessive energy consumption. Bitcoin “mining” – the process by which transactions are verified and new coins are created – is highly energy intensive, leading to criticism of the currency’s oversized carbon footprint.

Before the clampdown, China accounted for two-thirds of Bitcoin mining worldwide. In the months since, mining companies have been quick to move their operations overseas. Recent data suggests that energy consumed by Bitcoin has increased in the US, Canada and Kazakhstan, and with it, pressure to address the currency’s soaring electricity appetite.
Power-hungry Bitcoin mining

Japan Needs an Energy Security Strategy for the Taiwan Strait

Dustin Hinkley

In a recent policy speech before Japan’s Diet, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio discussed his plans for Japan’s national security and meeting Japan’s energy goals, but it is important for his government to adopt an energy security strategy that reflects the security situation in the Taiwan Strait.

From the Strait of Hormuz to the Taiwan Strait, hydrocarbon imports from the Middle East travel through maritime chokepoints that can be closed during a crisis, jeopardizing Japan’s energy security and creating reasons for Japanese policymakers to be engaged in regional maritime security matters. The waters around Taiwan are of special concern to Japan’s energy security given the geopolitical tensions between Taiwan and China and Japan’s increasing ties with Taiwan. Japan needs an energy security strategy that prioritizes stability in the Taiwan Strait and energy self-sufficiency. This presents an opportunity for Kishida to address energy security, help meet Japan’s climate goals, and allow Japan to be more assertive in regional security matters.

Decrypting the Benefits of Encryption and MFA Tools


Imagine the chaos if a malicious actor leaked a list of all alleged U.S. police informants and government spies. A situation of this magnitude would decimate foreign service operations and jeopardize countless American lives. In Belarus, this nightmare scenario recently became reality when hackers stole sensitive information related to the Belarusian government, in an effort to overthrow the current regime.

The cribbed information included names of alleged police informants and sensitive details about top officials and spies, as well as video footage from police drones and recordings from a government wiretapping system.

In addition to the pilfered information, hackers disabled security cameras and implanted malicious software onto government devices with the intent to take those devices offline.

This incident may illustrate a worst-case scenario of hackers gaining entry to a government’s most critical and valuable data and assets, but it’s something federal agencies must contend with, as hackers get more brazen every day.


Zachary Kallenborn

In May 2021, during its conflict with Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces became the first military to use a drone swarm in combat. Not much is known about the event, other than that Israel used the drone swarm to strike “dozens” of targets in concert with other missiles and munitions. Often media outlets use the phrase “drone swarm” to just mean many drones used at once. But this was a true drone swarm, meaning the drones communicated and collaborated in making collective decisions.

The event is just the beginning. Numerous states from South Africa to South Korea are developing or acquiring drone swarms intended to operate across land, sea, air, and potentially even space. Drone swarms may operate in multiple domains at once, incorporating different types of weapons payloads and sensors. To manage this complexity, militaries need a basic typology for sorting different types of drones.

The most intuitive—and useful—such typology would categorize drones within a drone swarm based on the role they play within the swarm. These categories would not necessarily be discrete, because a single drone could play multiple roles in theory. Likewise, drone swarms may have different combinations of drone types based on the mission. A swarm of undersea drones meant to create a distributed sensor network for submarine searches will look very different than an aerial swarm to suppress enemy air defenses. Ideally, a drone swarm should also be flexible to allow mission commanders to adjust the swarm composition based on mission parameters, perhaps incorporating different types of attack or sensor drones. With those facts in mind, a set of five categories takes shape: attack, sensor, communication, decoy, and mothership drones.

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.

Anticipating Future Directions of Tech-Enabled Terror

Don Rassler, Muhammad al-'Ubaydi

The use of explosive-laden quadcopter drones to try to assassinate the Iraqi prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, at his residence in November was yet another wake-up call about the utility of small drones to armed non-state groups and the dangers they pose when operated by people who embrace violence to effect change. Even though Kadhimi survived the assassination attempt, which Iraqi and U.S. authorities have tied to Iranian-backed proxies, the explosives used were powerful enough to injure seven of his bodyguards and inflict visible damage to his residence. According to press reports, the attack involved at least two, and potentially three, armed quadcopter drones. And as researchers at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy have pointed out, the attack was just the latest in a series of attacks and incidents involving similar quadcopter drones that have occurred in Iraq since July 2020.

China uses abandoned NASA design to develop 6,000-mph hypersonic nuclear missile engine: Report

Luke Gentile 

The Chinese military is apparently using an abandoned NASA design to develop a 6,000-mph hypersonic nuclear missile engine.

A prototype of the engine has been built and tested using a "radical" American design first proposed over 20 years ago as the country competes to outperform the West in a contemporary arms race, according to a report.

The design was presented by Ming Han Tang, a Chinese American and former chief engineer of NASA's hypersonic program.

Tang's Two-Stage Vehicle X-plane is driven by two different engines and can travel faster than five times the speed of sound.

It was initially set to be tested in the early 2000s by the United States, but the program was cut after it was deemed "too costly."

‘The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger And A Forgotten Genocide’ – Book Review

Irina Imamur Nadia

Gary J. Bass’s seminal work, The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide, is an indictment of the former President of United States of America Richard Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger for their complicity during the 1971 conflict in erstwhile East Pakistan that led to the sanguine birth of Bangladesh. Based on extensive research of the White House tapes, declassified American and Indian archival documents, and interviews with American and Indian eyewitnesses, Bass – a distinguished Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University – sketches a traumatic account of the brutal massacre of Bengalis and sheds light into the dark secrets of a flawed American Cold War diplomacy that exacerbated the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh. The author, aptly, depicts that the ‘pretense of non-interference’ of Nixon and Kissinger, who could have used their leverage over Pakistan to stop the disaster had they not been driven by ulterior motives, ‘stands as one of the worst moments of moral blindness in U.S. foreign policy’ (p. xiii-xiv).