February 9, 2017

Hamas upgrades cyber espionage capability — report

Internal Security Minister and sports broadcaster feature in fake news items designed to persuade email users to open rogue spyware file


Washington, Seoul Believe Pyongyang May Have 60 Nuke Warheads, Secret Facilities


South Korean and US intelligence agencies are reporting that North Korea has the ability to build up to 60 nuclear warheads, as the country has been secretly producing highly-enriched uranium (HEU) at higher levels than previously thought.

Figures for 2016 show that the DPRK has an estimated 54 kilograms of plutonium and 758 kilograms (.83 tons) of highly-enriched uranium, according to South Korean news outlet JoongAng Ilbo.

Previously, defense experts estimated that Pyongyang possessed around 40-50 kilograms of plutonium, and 300-400 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium.

Producing a nuclear warhead requires 16-20 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium, and between four to six kilograms of plutonium, according to estimations from US and South Korean military experts. Around six kilograms of plutonium were used to make the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki during World War II.


Trump Admin Eyes Opportunity to Squash Iran, China, N. Korea Missile Threats

Congressional allies want wholesale revamp of U.S. missile defense systems

February 8, 2017 5:00 am

The newly installed Trump administration is eyeing an opportunity to revamp the U.S. domestic missile defense system to combat evolving threats posed by Iran, China, North Korea, and other rogue regimes, according to senior White House officials and new congressional communication disclosing how nations across the globe are “working diligently to exploit the many gaps and seams” in America’s current defenses.

Congressional allies of the Trump administration’s national security vision recently petitioned the White House to allocate funds needed to rebuild and update the country’s missile defense systems, which have been beset by problems and can no longer defend against the latest missile technology.

Iran’s latest test of ballistic missile technology has only reinforced the belief in Congress that something must be done to secure the American homeland, according to a team of nearly 30 leading lawmakers led by Rep. Trent Franks (R., Ariz.), co-chair of the House’s missile defense caucus.


RAF heroes ward off two Russian bombers flying near UK airspace just one DAY after Vladimir Putin told pilots to ‘prepare for war’

Russian premier has ordered his armed forces to prepare for a ‘time of war’ after tensions with the West

RAF top guns scrambled to intercept two nuclear-capable Russian bombers as they flew menacingly towards Britain this morning.

Vladimir Putin’s Blackjack bombers flew within Britain’s “area of interest” but did not enter UK airspace.

The show of sabre-rattling comes just one day after Vlad ordered his air force to be ready for a “time of war”.

The planes are believed to have flown down the coast of Norway before passing the west coast of Ireland




Highly-trained Hamas commandos head to Egypt to team-up with terror group ISIS

Bomb makers are among those said to have joined Islamic State jihadis

INCREASING numbers of elite Hamas commandos are leaving the Gaza Strip to join forces with ISIS in Egypt.

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and the Hamas commando wing (Nukhba) have teamed-up with the terror group.

Many have travelled to the war-torn Sinai peninsula which already has a heavy ISIS presence, reports the Times of Israel.

Highly-trained bomb makers are among those said to have joined up with Islamis State jihadis.


5 lightly wounded in Petah Tikva shooting, stabbing attack

Palestinian suspect arrested, still in possession of the gun used, after opening fire near a market in central Israel

IS claims rocket fire at Israel resort from Egypt

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) – The Islamic State group said Thursday that it fired rockets at the Israeli resort of Eilat from the Sinai Peninsula in a rare attack on the Jewish state from Egyptian territory.

The Israeli army said there were no casualties from Wednesday evening’s rocket fire — three of the rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system and a fourth fell short of the town.

A few hours later, two Palestinians were killed elsewhere in the Sinai. The Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza said it was an Israeli air strike. The Israeli army denied carrying out any such action.


Paris to erect bulletproof wall around Eiffel Tower

In the face of the ongoing terrorism threat in France, Paris’s iconic monument, the Eiffel Tower, will undergo a massive facelift to tighten security by next autumn.

Heightened security measures around the capital’s “iron lady” were put in place as early as 2012 during the European football championships. Temporary fences were installed last June, but these rather unattractive barriers will now become permanent with the placement of a 2.5 meter-high bulletproof glass wall, according to French daily Le Parisien.


Russia calls Romania ‘a clear threat’ and NATO outpost: Ifax

Russia views Romania as a NATO outpost and as a threat due to it hosting elements of a U.S. anti-missile shield, the Interfax news agency reported on Thursday, citing a Russian foreign ministry official.

The U.S. military, which says the shield is needed to protect from Iran, not threaten Russia, switched on the $800 million Romanian part of the shield in May last year. Another part of the shield is due to be built in Poland.

“Romania’s stance and the stance of its leadership, who have turned the country into an outpost, is a clear threat for us,” Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, a senior Russian foreign ministry official, told Interfax in an interview.


Energy facilities may become main target of cyber-attacks in Russia

It’s estimated that power companies in Russia suffered more than 350 serious cyber-attacks in 2016, a 50 percent increase on the previous year.

The precise extent of attacks on power plants in Russia is difficult to assess
The precise extent of attacks on power plants in Russia is difficult to assess

Large energy facilities and nuclear power plants may become a main target of cyber-attacks in Russia and Western countries in the coming year, according to a recent report, issued by the experts of Kiberbezopasnost, one of Russia’s leading analysts in the field of cyber-security and IT.


Obama appointees flee Pentagon; Trump left with scores of vacancies to fill

– The Washington Times – Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Pentagon has been stripped of almost all of its political appointees from the Obama administration, but an uncertain Senate future awaits the candidates whom President Trump will nominate to remake the armed forces in his image.

Of Mr. Obama’s 163 political appointees at election time, who included Senate-confirmed service secretaries, undersecretaries and assistant secretaries, only 16 remain at the Defense Department, according to a Pentagon statement to The Washington Times.

The exodus might be considered normal in the transfer of power: Political appointees are required to turn in their resignations in December.

But Washington’s bitter political climate is far different today from the last transfer of power in 2009. Senate Democrats are resisting Mr. Trump and his agenda via the confirmation process. There is a chance that some of the Defense Department’s 53 appointed positions requiring Senate confirmation will be vacant for a long time.


Cables reveal Chinese connection to Iran’s ballistic missiles

The Trump administration recently imposed sanctions on Iran for its missile test, and the sanctions reveal that Tehran’s missile program is backed by covert assistance from China.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces U.S. sanctions, said last week that a “Chinese-based network” was helping procure goods for Iran’s ballistic missile program.

The sanctions designated 13 people and 12 companies who were placed under the Treasury restrictions that prohibit any U.S. companies from doing financial transactions with them. The action followed a flight test Jan. 29 of an Iranian medium-range missile that failed a short time after launch.


Is Europe Caving to Russia on Pipeline Politics?

The European Union appears to be softening its stance on a controversial Russian pipeline project, even as it seeks to wean itself off dependence on Russian gas. And it’s unlikely to find much pushback from Washington.

The Nord Stream 2 project, meant to pipe natural gas from Russia across the Baltic Sea into Germany, unleashed a blizzard of opposition, particularly from Eastern European countries and even former President Barack Obama’s administration, after it was announced in 2015. Some critics say the pipeline doesn’t make economic sense and isn’t needed; the original Nord Stream pipe is only about half used. And many worry it would redouble Europe’s reliance on Russian energy imports and make it easier for Moscow to use energy as a blunt political tool to strongarm neighbors.

Is Europe Caving to Russia on Pipeline Politics?

Russian Police Arrest 9 Hacking Suspects


Police spokeswoman Irina Volk said in a statement on Wednesday that the nine people were arrested last month in Moscow, St. Petersburg and three other regions as part of an investigation into a group believed to stolen more than 1 billion rubles ($17 million) from Russian bank accounts since 2013.


NATO-affiliated group releases new guide for international cyber laws

The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence on Wednesday released its first major revision to its influential Tallinn Manual, the closest thing there is to a rulebook for nation-led cyber operations.

Like the original 2013 manual, the new version is the result of a study by NATO to gauge consensus opinions from international law experts on what types of cyber statecraft are acceptable.



US says senior al Qaeda leader killed in Syria strike

The US military said Wednesday that it had killed eleven Al-Qaeda operatives, including a veteran leader and suicide-bombing pioneer, in a bombing raid in Syria.

The Pentagon said Abu Hani al-Masri, the Qaeda veteran, was one of those killed in the precision airstrikes near Idlib carried out on February 3-4.


Russia calls for ‘cultural autonomy’ for ethnic Kurds in postwar Syria

– The Washington Times – Thursday, February 2, 2017

Russian negotiators are calling for “cultural autonomy” for ethnic Syrian Kurds in a draft version of a new constitution for the war-torn country unveiled Thursday.

The language could put Russia’s tenuous alliance with Turkey in Syria in danger, since Ankara continues to identify factions of Kurdish paramilitary forces in the country as terrorist groups.

The draft document, published by Russian state-run media outlet Ria Novosti, also strengthens and centralizes “united, inviolable and indivisible” control of the state under President Bashar Assad’s regime while outlawing “the organization of military or paramilitary activities outside of state authority.”


Counter-terror chief: Extremist groups on the rise in east Germany

Democracy and open society ‘at serious risk.’

Islamic radicals and far-right terror groups are becoming an increasing problem in east German provinces, a senior counter-terrorism official told German media Thursday.

“We receive information on terror suspects every day,” said Stephan Kramer, the regional chief of state protection and counter-terrorism in Thuringia, a state in east-central Germany.

Many Islamic extremists came to the region during the summer of 2015, when Germany faced a wave of mass migration, Kramer said. At the time, a radical group had raised red flags in Saxony for building new prayer centers with the goal of instating Sharia law in Germany.


Army looking at direct commissions for civilian cybersecurity experts


WASHINGTON – Civilians with expertise in cybersecurity could be directly commissioned into the Army with a rank up to colonel to help the service improve its expanding cyber domain operations under a Pentagon pilot program authorized in recent weeks.

The program would be similar to the Army’s direct commissioning programs for medical doctors, lawyers and chaplains, which place experts in those fields into the Army at a rank that is commensurate with their experience in the civilian sector, said Army Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, the service’s cyber director for operations and planning. The Pentagon tasked the Army with the project on Jan. 30.


Iraqi Kurds to receive sniper rifles, anti-tank weapons, mortars from Canada

Canada will provide long-range sniper rifles and anti-tank weapons to the Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State (ISIL) in northern Iraq, the Department of National Defence said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a year ago that Canada would arm the Kurds, and DND said Wednesday the list included .50-calibre sniper rifles equipped with silencers, 60mm mortars, as well as Carl Gustav anti-tank systems. Details about the numbers of each type of equipment were withheld for security reasons.

Iraqi Kurds to receive sniper rifles, anti-tank weapons, mortars from Canada

‘What’s the big deal?’ Moscow says after UK scrambles jets over Russian bombers’ routine flight

‘What’s the big deal?’ Moscow says after UK scrambles jets over Russian bombers' routine flight
Two Tu-160 strategic bombers were monitored by British jets in neutral waters on Thursday, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman has confirmed, saying he was surprised that such attention was paid to a routine flight.

“We can confirm that quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby scrambled to monitor two Blackjack (Tu-160) bombers, while they were in the UK area of interest,” a Royal Air Force (RAF) spokesman said in a statement.

The strategic bombers were followed by RAF as they arrived from northeast of Britain and passed to the west of Ireland, over the Bay of Biscay and then turned back to Russian territory, Sky News reported.

Earlier, France said that two of its Mirage military aircraft escorted the two Russian bombers down the French coast before handing over to Spanish Air Force.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has confirmed Thursday’s event, stressing that the flight of its bomber violated no international rules.

“They flew over neutral waters in the Barents and the Norwegian seas, as well as in the Atlantic Ocean,” Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen Igor Konashenkov said.

At some stages of the flight, the two Tu-160s were closely followed by NATO combat aircraft, including the Royal Air Force, he added.


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