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Archive for the ‘Intelligence’ Category

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 (Jamia Hafsa Urdu Forum) and Al 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 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.

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.

While U.S. lawmakers work the budget, Russia quietly resumes charging Iranian nuke site

In Intelligence, Iran, Israel, missile defense, nuclear, Russia, U.S. on April 10, 2011 at 1:34 am

Iran reloads fuel into Bushehr n-plant

As we watched the left hand move back and forth, the right hand took a swing.  Our friends the Russians in true fashion, used the cover of the U.S. budget debate to begin reloading nuclear fuel in Iran’s Bushehr reactor.  As you remember, last year we reported on the computer virus that shutdown the plant.  Well, the Russians are determined to make the Iranians a nuclear power in the Middle East, even though it will probably not serve them well.  And while our media and the administration were aware of this, it has been given the attention we would expect from this alliance of deceit.  This will come back to haunt us.

Austrian engineer spy: Germany continues policy of prosecution and indictment for economic espionage

In China, Defense, Intelligence, Russia on September 16, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Germany charges Austrian with spying for Russia

Russland-Aktuell – Deutschland erhebt Anklage gegen russischen Spion

Germany Charges Austrian With Spying for Russia

The Austrian engineer had gathered information on military helicopters for his control officer, a commercial attaché at the Russian embassy in Vienna. The intelligence officer / diplomat was briefly arrested in 2007 (in flagrante, as he was about to hand over a large sum of money to his agent at Salzburg railway station) but then released by Austrian authorities and withdrawn to Russia by GRU.

The Austrian Prosecutor´s Office decided not to prosecute the Austrian national, but the German Federal Prosecutor has now (Sep 2010) decided to indict and prosecute the Austrian. Grounds for the decision are the possible damage done to vital German industries and the violation of German secrecy laws. It remains unclear if the Austrian will have to stand trial in Germany.

Nevertheless, it shows the relentless effort by the German Bundes- and Landesämter für Verfassungsschutz, in the daily battle against economic and industrial espionage by countries such as Russia and China. It also shows how the German security services are able to work together with the prosecution services, something virtually impossible in Austria.

In the Austrian Republic, the awareness about espionage is close to nil and it is commonly regarded as a “Kavaliersdelikt” (trivial offense). This is of course not helped by Austria´s aspirations of becoming a “leading regional nation” in Central and Eastern Europe, a role it can only fulfill with tacit approval and support from the Russian Federation.

Contributor:  We want to thank Vincent Van Belle for bringing us another great entry.  Vince is a Risk Management Consultant with MacTierney SAC in Austria.

New data surfaces on bin Laden’s 9 year trail? Not really.

In Intelligence, Terrorism, U.S. on September 13, 2010 at 11:20 pm

New information emerges on hunt for bin Laden

A European official with ties to western intelligence has provided details about where the world’s most wanted fugitive has been over the past nine years.  The official discloses how intelligence services have had information on bin Laden’s whereabouts and have been able to track his route over a good portion of that 9 year period.   They even go as far as to claim that Khalid Sheihk Mohammed met with bin Laden before his capture in Pakistan back in 2003.  The real story here is nothing.  Most of this data came out as a result of KSM reporting or in the recent Wiki-leaks.  The situation has hardly changed.   UBL and Dr. Zawahiri are still believed to be in the tribal area of Pakistan and within communication.  This newest report is nothing new.

Russia and the Great Spy Game: Espionage Targeting New NATO Member

In FYI - For Your Intelligence, Intelligence, Russia, U.S. on September 10, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Russian Espionage Targeting New NATO Members

This article from last month does not contain much novel information but it´s comprehensive and to-the-point at the very least. It demonstrates the continuous need for determined counterintelligence work against the old “Primary Enemy”.  The Great Game continues.

Contributor:  We want to thank Vincent Van Belle for bringing us this entry.  Vince is a Risk Management Consultant with MacTierney SAC in Austria.  We appreciate his eye for a good report as well as his commentary.  We look forward to hearing from him more.  Thanks Vince.

Russia and its defense of Iran; taking on the IAEA

In Caucasion region, Defense, Georgia, Intelligence, Iran, Israel, Russia on September 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Iran nuclear report raises new fears

Russia S-300 air defense systems to Iran

Iran: P5+1 talks failure \’only natural\’

The Attack on Syria\’s al-Kibar Nuclear Facility

Georgia Says Russia Deployed S-300 Missiles In South Ossetia

The new IAEA report says it all.  Iran continues to thwart inspections, avoid disclosures, and basically puts its finger in the eye of the IAEA.  Anyone familiar with this issue could have seen this coming a mile away.  Now we are finding out that, there was a better chance to stop Iran in its tracks eight months to a year ago when Russia first began deploying the S-300 mobile air defense systems.  While outside of Iran, Russia has establish another line of defense to compliment the Tor-M1 air defense systems provided to the Iranians earlier this year (yes, this year) that are currently guarding the nuke sites inside Iran.   Engagement with Iran through the P5+1 talks which have been going on since 2008 has seen no results and has only provided the Iranians and Russians the time they needed to set up this defense systems.  In addition the U.S. government was aware of these weapons systems and Russia’s intentions to bring them into the Iran nuke situation since 2008.  The delivery of the Tor-M1s earlier this year and the S-300 deployments should have been the cut-off for action.  Up to that point, Russia had an out and Iran was on its own.  Now with the weapons systems embedded in Abkhazia and Georgian reports of them also being placed in S. Ossetia, the task for any country to stop this nuclear arms race in the Middle East being promulgated by Russia has become even greater.

Now, if it is any consolation the Israelis have already probed the Russian Tor-M1 systems in the attack on the al-Kibar Nuclear Facility in Syria back in 2007.  They have shown success in countering them.  That being the case, it was just Syria they were attacking.  An attack on Iran now becomes something much greater.  No wonder Iran takes no pause in undermining the IAEA.

China makes its North Korea Move

In China, Defense, Intelligence, military, U.S. on September 7, 2010 at 12:27 am

China makes its North Korea move

An excellent insight into the China / North Korea differences from the Asia Times

Wandering China brings us this blog contribution from the Asia Times that outlines China’s interpretation of events and response after last months US/S Korea joint naval exercise.  This is very insightful as it demonstrates the continued rigidness of the Chinese position to keep the US from gaining a foothold in the region and coming between China and its smaller neighbors.  This is a side of the China/North Korea relationship and diplomatic posturing not being covered in the U.S. media.  Thanks W.C.

China filling the Soviet void in Cuba

In China, Defense, Intelligence, Russia on September 2, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Cuba and China: A new face on an old relationship

The Chinese have been working diligently to fill the void the Soviet Union left behind with Cuba.  Taking a page straight from history, the Chinese have found favor in Latin America namely Mexico, Central America and Cuba through the use of money, goods and services.  In return, they are receiving training and support in the areas of security, defense and intelligence, much of this a legacy of the Soviets.  What China stands to gain from this is even more intelligence and defense access in the Western Hemisphere enabling them to target the U.S.  From the old Russian signal sites in Cuba to naval ports, the opportunities are endless for the Chinese.  There are even rumors of a Chinese submarine facility in Havana.  While this seems somewhat fantastic at this point in time, how long will that be the case?