GDI Risk Advisory Group

Electronic Jihad – The New Terrorism?

In cyber security, cyber terrorism, cyber threats, Defense, Global Economy, Intelligence, Iran, Israel, Libya, multinational corporations, North Korea, Syria, Terrorism on May 24, 2014 at 6:55 am

cyber hoodie pic

March 2014 marked the hacking of 12 Indonesian Government websites by unknown hackers made up of both adventure enthusiasts and radicals. Apart from giving the hackers visibility, the episode crippled critical components of Indonesian government’s daily functioning where e-Governance is depended upon so much. This does not appear to be an isolated episode but enumerates scores of other recent transnational cyber attacks performed by non-state actors for a larger ideological goal.  This new era of ‘Cyber Jihad’ has far reaching implication, and if fully realized, would further underscore the magnitude of threats that it presents to practically every industry and government sector around the world.

The Edge will be presenting a three part series on what some cyber officials are calling the ‘Electronic Jihad’, and how it is shaping the landscape for this new battleground of international terrorism.

PART I – The New Cyber Warriors and their Tactics

Although the traditional purveyors of cyber attacks – states like China, Iran and their supporters continue to dominate state sponsored activities across the global cyber sphere, the existences groups of irregulars and non state actors – script kiddies, anarchists, hacktivists, hostile insiders, criminal elements and independent enthusiasts have added additional challenges, more lethal and ominous for legitimate Governments and multinational corporations to combat than could have been imagined.  The current state of cyberspace warfare will move to control every spectrum of a conventional battlefield – space, energy & power, economic and finance. This lays out an eerie scenario when a state or multinational is presented with evidence that weapons of cyber warfare are available to any warrior in the cyber world and they are available in the public domain.

In the field of intelligence and counter terrorism, capability assessments form an essential part of gaging the threat. Such assessments provide astonishing outcomes, especially when presented with inputs about a power system being attacked such as the case in the US by a cyber jihadist group.  This input was as early as January 2014, at a time when government agencies and regulators around the world have worked tirelessly to institute stringent control measures, cyber security monitoring and information security audits to defend against these very attacks.  Infiltrating these perimeters and conducting attacks on a critical infrastructure demonstrates the extent and capability being harnessed by cyber jihadists.

Counter terror operations are now challenged with the concept of identifying ‘cyber trade craft’, cyber radicalization, and recruitment.  The entire cycle of Spotting, Recruiting and Developing an agent for these activities can be comfortably performed from the confines of one’s home.  Blogs like Jhuf.net (Jamia Hafsa Urdu Forum) and Al Ansar.info have been critically tracking developments in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and using these issues to motivate members to fight against intruding western government and corporations.  Membership in the cyber realm is usually a virtual walk-in or referral, in which case both can be entertained using pseudonyms.  As a result, we have a potential candidates in the terror recruitment cycle being indoctrinated to fight in the cyber space, and have his/her identity concealed which keeps the original identity intact.  Ironically, these very recruits are corporate employees, information technology experts, businessmen, educated youths in the real-world.  We thus have the creation of an educated breed fighting a radical cause in an open world notoriously shrouded by fake IP addresses.  Through the creation of fake social media profiles, recruiters are able to conduct targeting, spotting and assessing operations for indoctrination.  Through the use of such tactics as  cyber ‘Dead drops’ – where confidential messages are passed in the cyber world and the use of image and text files, they are able to communicate without the possibility of it being detected.  A bomb attack in Tel Aviv back in January 2013 had traces of planning activities left in the cyber world when jhuf.net members posted a message in .jpg format highlighting the plans to attack Tel Aviv.  This was made more scrupulous by the use of codes in the image or text files.  Agencies tracking keywords to identify a possible attack would have missed the inconspicuous text hiding superficially in an image format.  In the real world, recruitments for these causes is prone to being intercepted by security agencies.  However, cyber ‘handling’ accomplishes not just recruitment but also indoctrination, financing and tasking for a potential acts without ever having a handler and agent come in contact. 

How big is the challenge to secure global cyber infrastructure?  It’s huge and growing by the second.  As new users and new technologies take hold, the scale of the battlefield expands exponentially.  Join us next month for Part II as we examine other players, threats and the tactics being employed by this new breed of terrorists.

Lebanon: The Syria Playbook

In Defense, FYI - For Your Intelligence, Intelligence, International, International Trade, Israel, Libya, Terrorism, Uncategorized on December 29, 2013 at 4:37 am

LebSyrFlagWith Assad continuing to make his stand against Western backed forces and various jihad extremist groups in Syria, he has pulled an old play out of the go-to playbook for his regime. He has elected to use his faithful ally Hezbollah to open a new front. As Syria continues to sink into its current battlefield quagmire at home, taking out another high level politician in Beirut expands the scope of his operations, and provides relief through distraction. And with the assassination of the Hezbollah leader earlier this month, it all comes across as a justification on the part of Hezbollah. But make no mistake, this is the same MO as with previous assassinations and it will have Syria’s prints all over it.

The real issue is how US foreign policy is allowing for the war to spread, the empowerment of extremist groups to grow and for old and new terrorism breeding grounds to flourish. Libya and Syria are key examples, and indicators are that Iraq is beginning to follow suit. Here’s what the international media is reporting to support this.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/mohamad-chatah-lebanese-ex-minister-killed-in-beirut-bombing-1.2476861

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303799404579283692798835878

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/175614#.Ur6ZlrRfu_g

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304451904579237323053994120

A Killing in North Korea: Father’s Legacy

In China, Intelligence, North Korea on December 27, 2013 at 3:45 am

Korea is Best KoreaWhile many stories are coming out of the Korea’s regarding the recent execution of Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the real reason has yet to come to light.  With a stories that contain womanizing, greed and internal struggles, it is easy to overlook a significant point. Uncle Jang had power and was attempting to grow it.  Kim Jong Un was tired of having to deal with this threat that his father left him by keeping the uncle in this most powerful position.  So Kim had Jang removed.  With this in mind, the big issue  lies with the Chinese connection, and the strong relationship Uncle Jang had with Beijing.  By executing Jang and his closest associates, Kim Jong Un destroyed a critical conduit with Pyongyang’s closest ally.  So to take such a drastic measure as to remove the 2nd most powerful man in North Korea, Kim had to believe Uncle Jang was doing something worse than drinking and fooling around on his wife.  Indications are that Jang and his closest advisors were most likely conducting coup like activities…and that is most likely ‘why’ he was killed.  So what does this mean to regional and global security?  Does China still have the ability to control North Korea the next time they threaten the South or Japan with missiles?  Even more important, do we have a dictator going off the rails with little or no control?  If this was the coup it appears to have been, what opportunity was missed that might have changed the direction of North Korea’s leadership?  One can only speculate.

Here is some media looking at the incident from various angles to add color to the picture.

http://news.yahoo.com/leader-39-uncle-rose-no-2-north-korea-155313036.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/24/jang-song-thaek-execution-kim-jong-un-north-korea-_n_4498996.html

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/12/24/north-korea-kim-jong-un-reportedly-very-drunk-when-ordering-executions/

http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2013/12/26/2013122601647.html