22 December 2021

Social Media in Violent Conflicts – Recent Examples

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


Alan Rusbridger, the then editor-in-chief of the Guardian in his 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture, stated, “News organisations still break lots of news. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter. If you’re a regular Twitter user, even if you’re in the news business and have access to wires, the chances are that you’ll check out many rumours of breaking news on Twitter first. There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things and who have the same instincts as the agencies—to be the first with the news. As more people join, the better it will get. ”

The most important and unique feature of social media and its role in future conflicts is the speed at which it can disseminate information to audiences and the audiences to provide feedback.

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 Army conducts nuclear, chemical, biological warfare drills in Tibet

Nikhil Pandey

In the Tibet Military Region, China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) recently conducted a "actual battle drill" comprising anti-nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare.

The drill was carried out in late November by a joint military brigade of the PLA, which included commandos, armoured assault groups, and soldiers trained in chemical warfare, according to a story published on the Chinese version of an official PLA news portal on Tuesday.

The Western Theatre Command (WTC), China's largest of five commands, is in charge of the Sino-India disputed boundary from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

The news comes as India and China are locked in a long-running border standoff in eastern Ladakh.

According to the story, "an actual combat drill of a synthetic brigade of the Tibet Military Region took place on the snow-covered plateau in late November,' according to the story.

In Software-obsessed India, Hardware Finally Gets a Place in the Sun

Pranay Kotasthane and Arjun Gargeyas

The Union Cabinet, on December 15, approved a much-awaited ‘comprehensive programme for the development of a sustainable semiconductor and display ecosystem’. Holding up a silicon wafer and a semiconductor chip, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Minister of Communications and Electronics & Information Technology, outlined the focus areas in a press briefing that’s sure to garner attention from major global semiconductor firms. The programme will cost the government Rs 76,000 crore over six years. The government expects an overall investment of Rs 170,000 crore in return.

There are five reasons to like the programme announced by the minister.

Reason 1: A focus on the entire ecosystem, not merely on one fabrication unit.

The programme envisages building the entire semiconductor ecosystem—from design to manufacturing to assembly and packaging—instead of just focusing on one semiconductor fabrication to start operations in India. This articulation is significant because India’s comparative advantage has long been in semiconductor design; nearly every major global firm in the sector has its design house here. The Rs 76,000 crore package will support 100 domestic semiconductor design companies, 15 compound semiconductors and semiconductor packaging units, two fabrication units, and two display fabs.

Qatar, Turkey and Pakistan: A Strategic Triad in the Making

Umer Karim

In the span of last ten years, the greater Middle East and South Asia has seen a plethora of geo-political shifts that have altered the traditional alignment patterns between the states in the two regions. If these changes have weakened the existing historical alliances, they have also given birth to new partnerships between regional stakeholders. The relationships between Turkey, Qatar and Pakistan fit into the ambit of such a new engagement that has attained significance owing to the strong bilateral ties between the three sides and their political, diplomatic and security cooperation on multiple regional issues. An aspect that furthers this collaboration is the unique strategic compatibility between the three sides as they do not really differ on key issues of geopolitical importance both regionally and globally. However, it will still be premature and inaccurate to classify this trilateral relationship as an alliance of sorts as the three sides do diverge in terms of their broader strategic objectives.
Political ties between the three states

Within the Middle East, the Arab Spring protests had been considered a watershed moment shifting geo-political fault lines. This civic mobilisation had its impact beyond the Middle East and created structural incentives for new political players across the region to increment their political capital often at the expense of others. The political field witnessed a rather forceful entry of actors such as Turkey and Qatar widening the contours of this leadership contest beyond the sectarian, ideological and ethnic divides running across the Muslim frontiers, and posed a serious challenge to the established power hegemons, namely Saudi Arabia and Iran. The 2017 rupture between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the subsequent dispatch of Turkish troops to Qatar to ward off any possible military assault on the Gulf emirate cemented the alliance between the two states from a political and military perspective. As all other major political players in the greater middle east were arrayed against Ankara and Doha, the bilateral relationship only grew stronger, and both sides backed each other on almost all regional issues.

Taliban recruits flood into Afghanistan from neighboring Pakistan as the group works to consolidate control

Susannah George and Haq Nawaz Khan 

KABUL — Thousands of Taliban fighters and supporters have poured into Afghanistan from Pakistan over the past four months, answering the calls of influential clerics and commanders eager to consolidate control of the country, according to interviews with half a dozen current and former Taliban members in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Senior Taliban leadership urged fighters, Afghan refugees and madrassa students in Pakistan to come to Afghanistan to help the group maintain security as it made a string of sudden territorial advances this summer that created an urgent need for reinforcements, the current and former Taliban members said.

“Many of our mujahideen were offered permanent residences in Afghanistan if they wish to move here,” said one Pakistani Taliban fighter who aided in the recruitment effort from a madrassa in northwest Pakistan. He, like others in this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The End of the Afghanistan War Was Even Worse Than Anyone Realized


It is now widely conceded that America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan, the longest in our history, was a tragic bungle of monumental proportions. However, we are just beginning to learn that the final phase of the war—not so much the frantic evacuation but the entire last three years, as we tiptoed toward the exits—was disgraceful in its own appalling way.

The unsettling details are documented by Steve Coll and Adam Entous, whose long article, “The Secret History of the U.S. Diplomatic Failure in Afghanistan,” appears in the most recent New Yorker. Coll is the author of Ghost Wars, not just the best book on the run-up to the Sept. 11 attacks, but one of the best books on U.S. foreign policy ever. The New Yorker article, he notes, is based on hundreds of pages of mostly classified meeting notes, transcripts, memoranda, and emails, as well as interviews with U.S. and Afghan officials.

This vast pile of evidence, Coll and Entous write, amounts to “a dispiriting record of misjudgment, hubris, and delusion.” They could have added to that list of adjectives: self-delusion, incompetence, and sheer mendacity. Not that getting out of Afghanistan was a bad idea. But the way our leaders got out should shock even a jaded observer of shady politics.

China Is Ramping Up Its Electronic Warfare and Communications Capabilities near the South China Sea

Matthew P. Funaiole, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.

The Chinese military is taking major steps toward improving its electronic warfare (EW), communications, and intelligence-gathering capabilities near the South China Sea. Recent satellite imagery reveals that China has rapidly expanded facilities near Mumian, on Hainan Island, providing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with greater ability to track and counter foreign military forces operating in the region and in outer space. While significant in their own right, the upgrades at Mumian are part of a broader effort by the PLA to shore up its defensive and offensive electronic capabilities.

A Squabble About History Almost Killed Xi Jinping’s Father

Joseph Torigian

Chinese President Xi Jinping is the son of a revolutionary whose life was more shaped by the danger of competing narratives about party history than perhaps anyone else in his generation. Xi’s father, Xi Zhongxun, was persecuted for 16 years because of his support for a novel about party history. Now, his son has led the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to a new “historical decision”—only the third in its hundred-year history—and one in which Xi junior is an extraordinarily prominent figure.

A new history resolution allows Xi to implicitly compare himself to illustrious predecessors such as Mao and Deng Xiaoping and present the CCP as a historic force uniquely capable of modernizing China. But the actual content of the document prioritizes continuity, treats several controversial subjects vaguely, and avoids assigning blame. Although the resolution acknowledges an accumulation of problems during his predecessors’ eras that only Xi is allegedly capable of solving, the Cultural Revolution is still characterized as a mistake and Reform and Opening Up a triumph. Xi uniquely understands why historical grudges and differing views about the past are so potentially explosive.

Chinese Spies Accused of Using Huawei in Secret Australia Telecom Hack

Jordan Robertson and Jamie Tarabay

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government has warned for years that products from China’s Huawei Technologies Co., the world’s biggest maker of telecommunications equipment, pose a national security risk for any countries that use them. As Washington has waged a global campaign to block the company from supplying state-of-the-art 5G wireless networks, Huawei and its supporters have dismissed the claims as lacking evidence.

Now a Bloomberg News investigation has found a key piece of evidence underpinning the U.S. efforts — a previously unreported breach that occurred halfway around the world nearly a decade ago.

In 2012, Australian intelligence officials informed their U.S. counterparts that they had detected a sophisticated intrusion into the country's telecommunications systems. It began, they said, with a software update from Huawei that was loaded with malicious code.

Qatar World Cup sparks culture controversies

James M. Dorsey

Footballers with diametrically opposed views on homosexuality and alcohol consumption have sparked heated controversy about Islamic mores and human and workers’ rights in Qatar's final stretch in the run-up for next year’s FIFA World Cup.

Two things stand out in the controversy beyond the specific arguments put forward by opposing camps.

First, some fault lines cut across community lines rather than pit one community (Muslims) against another (non-Muslims).

This is true for fans in autocracies like Qatar and Saudi Arabia who are less concerned about workers’ rights and supporters of European clubs acquired by Gulf buyers with deep pockets and a willingness to spend.

That is not to deny that some in the Gulf states do care about rights just like numbers of Western fans remain critical of Qatar despite reforms of its labour system and Saudi Arabia following the 2018 killing in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Iranian Ransomware Is Coming for the United States

Jennifer Shore

Hackers sponsored by the Iranian government were inside the networks of a U.S. children’s hospital earlier this year, poised to launch a ransomware attack at any moment. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. On Nov. 17, the United States, Britain, and Australia issued a joint warning that Iranian actors have conducted ransomware attacks against U.S. targets and gained access to a wide range of critical infrastructure networks, including the children’s hospital, that would enable more attacks.

With much attention this year on Russian ransomware attacks against the United States, the Iranian threat may come as a surprise. Yet as Russian cybercriminal groups carried out ransomware attacks against a meat-processing company and a major U.S. oil pipeline, causing widespread gas shortages, Iranian ransomware groups were quietly emerging as a global force to be reckoned with elsewhere in the world.

Ransomware encrypts files on a victim’s computer. The perpetrator then demands ransom payments in exchange for decrypting the files and sometimes also threatens to leak the victim’s data. Ransomware is typically used by cybercriminals looking to make money off ransom payments—and thus is also a good way for governments to obfuscate their roles in cyberattacks. Attacks can be blamed on criminals, or governments can provide criminal groups with a safe haven to strike foreign targets that serve the government’s interests.

Autonomous Weapons Are Here, but the World Isn’t Ready for Them

THIS MAY BE remembered as the year when the world learned that lethal autonomous weapons had moved from a futuristic worry to a battlefield reality. It’s also the year when policymakers failed to agree on what to do about it.

On Friday, 120 countries participating in the United Nations’ Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons could not agree on whether to limit the development or use of lethal autonomous weapons. Instead, they pledged to continue and “intensify” discussions.

“It's very disappointing, and a real missed opportunity,” says Neil Davison, senior scientific and policy adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross, a humanitarian organization based in Geneva.

The failure to reach agreement came roughly nine months after the UN reported that a lethal autonomous weapon had been used for the first time in armed conflict, in the Libyan civil war.

The U.S. government has a massive, secret stockpile of bitcoin — Here’s what happens to it

MacKenzie Sigalos

For years, the U.S. government has maintained a side hustle auctioning off bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Historically, Uncle Sam has done a pretty lousy job of timing the market.

The 500 bitcoin it sold to Riot Blockchain in 2018 for around $5 million? That’s now worth north of $23 million. Or the 30,000 bitcoin that went to billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper for $19 million in 2014? That would be more than $1.3 billion today.

The government has obtained all that bitcoin by seizing it, alongside the usual assets one would expect from high-profile criminal sting operations. It all gets sold off in a similar fashion.

“It could be 10 boats, 12 cars, and then one of the lots is X number of bitcoin being auctioned,” said Jarod Koopman, director of the Internal Revenue Service’s cybercrime unit.



Shortly before 3 a.m. on July 19, 2016, American Special Operations forces bombed what they believed were three ISIS “staging areas” on the outskirts of Tokhar, a riverside hamlet in northern Syria. They reported 85 fighters killed. In fact, they hit houses far from the front line, where farmers, their families and other local people sought nighttime sanctuary from bombing and gunfire. More than 120 villagers were killed.

In early 2017 in Iraq, an American war plane struck a dark-colored vehicle, believed to be a car bomb, stopped at an intersection in the Wadi Hajar neighborhood of West Mosul. Actually, the car had been bearing not a bomb but a man named Majid Mahmoud Ahmed, his wife and their two children, who were fleeing the fighting nearby. They and three other civilians were killed.

In November 2015, after observing a man dragging an “unknown heavy object” into an ISIS “defensive fighting position,” American forces struck a building in Ramadi, Iraq. A military review found that the object was actually “a person of small stature” — a child — who died in the strike.

The Cold War is over. Why do we still treat Russia like the Evil Empire?

Joseph Weisberg

As U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Russia was moving troops close to the Ukrainian border this fall, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Cold War had never ended. President Biden sternly told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a two-hour call that the United States wouldn’t tolerate an invasion, the White House reported. Debate broke out among Washington pundits over how much military equipment the United States could send to Kyiv. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) even suggested that the United States could use nuclear weapons preemptively to keep Russian soldiers from crossing the border.

It all feels depressingly, pointlessly familiar.

In 1990, during the brief window between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, I was a CIA trainee in the division responsible for espionage against the Soviets. One day, I heard a group of senior officers having a loud argument about the KGB in the hallway (they were talking outside the secure vault, which I was pretty sure you weren’t supposed to do). Several were making the case that the weakened state of the Soviet Union was the opportunity we’d all been waiting for: The CIA should deal a death blow to its rival intelligence agency, should unabashedly, perhaps even gleefully, kick the KGB while it was down. The goal, of course, was to win the Cold War at last. But the Eastern Bloc was crumbling, and Mikhail Gorbachev was desperately trying to reform the Soviet Union. There was no serious geostrategic thought given to whether we should still be fighting with the barest shadow of our enemy.

From Cybercrime To National Security Priority: Biden’s War On Ransomware – Analysis

Pieter-Jan Dockx

When President Biden took office in January 2021, the US was in the midst of one of the largest government breaches in its history. The Russian cyberespionage campaign, known as the SolarWinds hack, was expected to dominate the new president’s cyber policy. One year later, attention has shifted away from espionage to ransomware.

In the past year, ransomware attacks, in which hackers lock up victims’ data until ransom is paid, have skyrocketed and also started targeting critical infrastructure. In May, an attack against the operator of the US’ largest petroleum pipeline led to shortages and panic buying. Two months later, attackers compromised software provider Kaseya, holding over a thousand of its clients ransom, making it one of the world’s largest-ever ransomware incidents.

To tackle the issue, the Biden administration is working on improving the country’s cyber defences while going after perpetrators. Rather than approaching the topic through the prevailing cybercrime lens, the president has reframed ransomware as a top national and global security concern.

US accuses Chinese tech firms, research institutes of weaponizing biotechnology, creating 'brain-control weaponry'

Conor Finnegan and Luke Barr

The Biden administration has blacklisted and sanctioned dozens of Chinese government research institutes and private-sector tech firms, accusing them of weaponizing technology for use at home and abroad, the U.S. departments of Commerce and Treasury announced Thursday.

In particular, the U.S. warned that these entities were working as part of a broader Chinese government strategy to develop and deploy biotechnology, including "brain-control weaponry," for possible offensive use and as part of its crackdown on Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities -- a campaign that the U.S. has determined constitutes genocide.

The penalties seek to bar U.S. technology from being exported to these projects or block their access to the U.S. financial system.

Keeping the Wrong Secrets: How Washington Misses the Real Security Threat

Oona A. Hathaway

The United States keeps a lot of secrets. In 2017, the last year for which there are complete data, roughly four million Americans with security clearances classified around 50 million documents at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of around $18 billion.

For a short time, I was one of those four million. From 2014 to 2015, I worked for the general counsel of the Department of Defense, a position for which I received a security clearance at the “top secret” level. I came into the job thinking that all the classified documents I would see would include important national security secrets accessible only to those who had gone through an extensive background check and been placed in a position of trust. I was shocked to discover that much of what I read was in fact not all that different from what was available on the Internet. There were exceptions: events I learned about a few hours or even days before the rest of the world, for instance, and information that could be traced to intelligence sources. But the vast bulk of the classified material I saw was remarkable only for how unremarkable it was.

The U.S. system for classifying secrets is based on the idea that the government has access to significant information that is not available, or at least not widely available, to private citizens or organizations. Over time, however, government intelligence sources have lost their advantage over private sources of intelligence. Thanks to new surveillance and monitoring technologies, including geolocation trackers, the Internet of Things, and commercial satellites, private information is now often better—sometimes much better—than the information held by governments.

The Russian Treaty Proposal

George Friedman

We have been operating with a model of Russia. Having lost its non-Russian territories with the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia is missing the buffers that protected it. Its national imperative is to recover those border states, either formally or informally. They could be either occupied by Russian forces or, at the very least, governed by native governments that exclude the presence of Western powers and coordinate with Moscow. The Russians achieved this in the South Caucasus through diplomacy and the stationing of Russian peacekeepers in the region. They have been increasing their power in Central Asia. But the critical region for Russia is in the west, facing Western Europe, the United States and NATO. There, the loss of Belarus and Ukraine posed a critical problem. The eastern border of Ukraine is only about 300 miles (480 kilometers) from Moscow, and Ukraine is allied with the United States and European powers, informally if not as part of NATO.

Russia’s strategy to this point had been to avoid direct military intervention against hostile forces and use hybrid measures to build influence and gain control. This is what happened in the Caucasus. This is also what happened in Belarus, where a contested election left President Alexander Lukashenko in a weak position, and Moscow used its power to assure Lukashenko’s position and control events in Minsk. The surge of refugees toward the Polish border put Poland on the defensive and created a sense of crisis in Poland. As for Belarus, it was simply the arena chosen by Russia, a satellite taken softly.

Tactical cloud coming to Army’s Multi-Domain Task Forces in 2022


WASHINGTON: The US Army will deliver a tactical cloud capability to its two Multi-Domain Task Forces in 2022 as the service prepares its networks for multi-domain operations, according to a top Army official involved in the effort.

The cloud deployments are meant to provide service leaders data on how to best optimize their IT infrastructure as the service continues a vast overhaul of its network and how it provides soldiers and commanders with information — widely seen as the key to future conflict.

“As we go into our next fight, whatever it is, it will be against an adversary who can contest us and will cause periods of degraded communication,” Lt. Gen. John Morrison, deputy chief of staff for the G6, said. “And so it really comes down to where do you have to have the data? Where do you need to have compute and storage so that when you are operating in that degraded environment, you’re able to still conduct operations? If we just do everything in the cloud, if a unit was to get cut off and not have connectivity back to the cloud, wherever it is, then obviously, they become mission ineffective.

Wagner Group: Why the EU is alarmed by Russian mercenaries in Central Africa

This week the European Union imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organisation accused of committing human rights abuses in the Central African Republic and elsewhere.

The EU has said that it will no longer train CAR government soldiers because of their links to Wagner.

In Africa, its fighters are also involved in Libya, Sudan and Mozambique and look likely to play a role in Mali.

Why is the Wagner Group in CAR?

The mercenaries are there to support President Faustin-Archange Touadéra in the fight against rebels, who still control many parts of the country despite recent government advances.

The real trouble with Ukraine

Hew Strachan

Putin has been winning in Ukraine. The country is nowhere near joining NATO, a western goal only a few years ago, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea is a geopolitical fact. Putin is also a master in using military force in ways that don’t quite cross over to hot war. Western powers have been signalling that they won’t allow a new invasion of Ukraine to go unpunished. But judging when to act, and how, is crucial. The pompous, yet vacuous rhetoric used by the west risks pushing the conflict over the line into a military one, for which there is no strategy or exit plan, writes Hew Strachan.

On December 12 the foreign ministers of the G7 states met in Liverpool to avert the danger of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. They were a bit late. The war has been going on for well over seven years. In 2014 Russia annexed Crimea and occupied parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Donbass in Ukraine’s south-east. Sporadic fighting and a steady if sustainable flow of casualties have continued ever since.

The front line, with its trenches and no man’s land, is fixed, not fluid. The western powers can conveniently classify this as a ‘frozen conflict’, not a ‘hot’ war. That suits Russia. It serves geopolitical purposes which reach back to the reign of Catherine the Great. The question is now whether Russia’s escalation will make that fiction impossible to sustain for the west. Sometimes rhetoric binds you to unwise acts.

Why we need a new agency to regulate advanced artificial intelligence: Lessons on AI control from the Facebook Files

Anton Korinek

With the development of ever more advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems, some of the world’s leading scientists, AI engineers and businesspeople have expressed concerns that humanity may lose control over its creations, giving rise to what has come to be called the AI Control Problem. The underlying premise is that our human intelligence may be outmatched by artificial intelligence at some point and that we may not be able to maintain meaningful control over them. If we fail to do so, they may act contrary to human interests, with consequences that become increasingly severe as the sophistication of AI systems rises. Indeed, recent revelations in the so-called “Facebook Files” provide a range of examples of one of the most advanced AI systems on our planet acting in opposition to our society’s interests.

In this article, I lay out what we can learn about the AI Control Problem using the lessons learned from the Facebook Files. I observe that the challenges we are facing can be distinguished into two categories: the technical problem of direct control of AI, i.e. of ensuring that an advanced AI system does what the company operating it wants it to do, and the governance problem of social control of AI, i.e. of ensuring that the objectives that companies program into advanced AI systems are consistent with society’s objectives. I analyze the scope for our existing regulatory system to address the problem of social control in the context of Facebook but observe that it suffers from two shortcomings. First, it leaves regulatory gaps; second, it focuses excessively on after-the-fact solutions. To pursue a broader and more pre-emptive approach, I argue the case for a new regulatory body—an AI Control Council—that has the power to both dedicate resources to conduct research on the direct AI control problem and to address the social AI control problem by proactively overseeing, auditing, and regulating advanced AI systems.

The Next Wave of Log4J Attacks Will Be Brutal

Source Link

A WEEK AGO, the internet experienced a seismic event. Thanks to a vulnerability in Log4j, a popular open source library, multitudes of servers around the world were suddenly exposed to relatively simple attacks. The first wave of hacking is well underway. But it’s what comes next that should worry you.

So far, the vanguard of Log4j hacking has primarily comprised cryptominers, malware that leeches resources off of an affected system to mine cryptocurrency. (These were extremely popular a few years ago, before everyone realized that the real money’s in ransomware.) Some nation-state spies have dabbled as well, according to recent reports from Microsoft and others. What’s seemingly missing is the extortion, the ransomware, the disruptive attacks that have defined so much of the past two years or so. This won’t be the case for long.

“It is by far the single biggest, most critical vulnerability ever.”

We All Need to Stop Only Seeing the Dark Side of Crypto

IN 2021, BITCOIN went mainstream. Wall Street set its eyes on the world of crypto, with hotshot investors like hedge funder Paul Tudor Jones leading the pack; The Economist went from calling the cryptocurrency “useless” in 2018 to arguing that it belongs in most portfolios; tech CEOs Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk gamely crossed swords about Bitcoin’s merits at a conference run by an asset management firm. Popular opinion lags a bit: Many people still believe cryptocurrency is a giant, global get-rich-quick scheme. Others simply dismiss the entire thing as a speculation-driven fad in the best case, a criminal enterprise in the worst. But amid the noise, the enthusiasm, and the hype, we might be losing the most important story: the way cryptocurrency is changing lives in the developing world.

Global Cyber Warfare and the Possibility of a “New” World War

Tom Meehan

The idea of a third World War seems like something in the far distant future, to be explored in books and movies rather than in real life. However, with the growing prevalence of cyberattacks, many of which come from government bodies, the potential of cyber warfare might push us much closer to the brink of war than we realize.

If you’ve read any news about cyberattacks in the past five years, you’ve definitely heard about at least one ransomware attack. Hackers use ransomware to encrypt their victims’ data and lock them out of their networks. Then, the hackers offer victims a key in exchange for a ransom that can run into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, usually paid in cryptocurrency to make it near impossible to trace the ransom payment.

Sometimes victims regain access to their data without any issues after paying the ransom. However, the real concern is for organizations that pay the ransom, only for hackers to delete their data or leak sensitive data like customer information, credit card numbers, social security numbers, and classified corporate or government data to the dark web for other bad actors to exploit.


Leonard Casiple, Gary Harrington,  and Benjamin Gilad

The three tribes of US Army Special Operations (Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations) operate in ambiguous environments that escape the predictability of a fixed architecture. Although few in numbers, “advantages [,] … are not a numerical superiority, but include intangible factors such as morale, security, speed, surprise, and level of training” (Special Forces Detachment Mission Planning Guide, 2020). “As masters of Irregular Warfare … our role in competition will be crucial to set the conditions for success” (1st Special Forces Command – Airborne, 2021, italics added).

Viewing UW as competition rather than war changes the concept of “winning.” Placing competition as a central issue, SOF competes for the minds of the civilian population against a myriad of forces, including pro-government and anti-government groups (guerrilla, terrorist, militias, etc).

This view is radically different than a conventional perspective on low-intensity conflict via military lens only. It will force SOF to think “outside the box”. Being unconventional requires first and foremost thinking unconventionally.

In Today’s Wars, Everything Is a Weapon

Max Hastings

On Sept. 3, 1939, Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. On Dec. 11, 1941, Germany declared war on the U.S. On Aug. 8, 1945, Russia declared war on Japan. The point here is that for the best part of a thousand years, a convention prevailed that before one state waged war against another, it formally announced its intention to do so.

Belligerents’ diplomats were permitted to return unimpeded to their respective homelands — even the wartime Japanese and Germans went along with this, although they had launched surprise attacks such as that on the Day of Infamy.

The rights of prisoners under international law were sometimes respected, albeit sometimes not. Red Cross workers received at least intermittent protection. Combatants wore the uniforms of their respective nations, and it was tacitly if not always officially conceded that armies — yes, including that of Hitler — had a right to shoot prisoners who were captured using guns while wearing civilian clothes without identifying marks.

Remote Warfare: A Debate Worth the Buzz?

Rubrick Biegon, Vladimir Rauta and Tom F. A. Watts

New strategic contexts tend to drive the development of new concepts. Amidst an intellectual background that falsely tried to re-invent warfare as fundamentally ‘new’ (Kaldor 1999), the use of airpower to conduct humanitarian interventions in the Balkans prompted debates on ‘virtual’ (Ignatieff 2001) and ‘virtuous’ (Der Derian 2001) war. The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center shaped the Bush administration’s failure to think conceptually about political violence as it collapsed counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency under the guise of fighting a ‘war on terror’. The Obama administration’s turn toward ‘innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve [its] security objectives’ after the counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq (DOD 2012, 3) coincided with debates on ‘surrogate’ (Krieg & Rickli 2018), and ‘vicarious’ (Waldman 2021) warfare, amongst other concepts. Around the same time, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its interventions under the threshold of open hostilities elsewhere, and Chinese activities in the South China Sea underpinned debates on ‘hybrid’ (Renz 2016) and ‘grey/gray zone’ (Hughes 2020; Rauta & Monaghan 2021) warfare. Interest in the indirect intervention of outside powers in the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars (amongst other recent conflicts) has similarly renewed scholarly and practitioner interest in the study of conflict delegation and ‘proxy war’ (Rauta 2018, 2021a; Karlén et al 2021).