Tag Archives: security

February 24, 2017

Jordanian F-16 crashes in Saudi Near Yemen Border, pilot survives

NAJRAN – A Jordanian F-16 warplane crashed in Saudi Arabia on Friday but its pilot survived, the Saudi-led military coalition fighting Shiite Huthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen said.

“Technical reasons” caused the crash of the US-built aircraft in the Najran district on the Saudi side of the border with Yemen, the coalition said.It added that the pilot was in good condition.

The rebels’ Al-Masirah television website claimed that the fighter-bomber had been shot down by “anti-aircraft defences.”

Separately, the United Arab Emirates army command announced the death of one of its soldiers fighting in Yemen as part of the coalition.He was the second Emirati soldier in a week to die in Yemen, raising to around 80 the number of troops from the UAE killed in coalition operations against the Huthis and their allies.

The coalition launched air strikes, training and other military assistance nearly two years ago to support Yemen’s President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

The rebels are allied with former members of the security forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In March last year, two Emirati pilots were killed when their Mirage warplane crashed in Yemen because of what the coalition called a “technical fault”.Three months earlier, a Bahraini pilot survived when his F-16 crashed in Saudi Arabia, reportedly also for technical reasons.A Moroccan air force pilot died in May 2015 when his F-16 went down in Yemen, with the coalition blaming human error or a technical fault.Two Saudi F-15 pilots were rescued when they ejected from their jet off Yemen’s coast shortly after coalition air strikes began.Rights groups have repeatedly criticised the coalition bombing campaign over high civilian casualties.


ISIS attack kills 15 Iraqi guards near Jordan border

Iraqi Federal Police members stand guard as the operation to retake Iraq's Mosul from Daesh terrorists continues on January 14 2017 [Yunus Keleş/Anadolu]

Iraqi Federal Police members stand guard as the operation to retake Iraq’s Mosul from ISIS terrorists continues [Yunus Keleş/Anadolu]

At least 15 Iraqi border guards, including two officers, were killed Friday morning in an attack by ISIS  in Iraq’s western Anbar province, according to a military source.

ISIS gunmen and suicide bombers targeted a border guards headquarters near Anbar’s Trebil border crossing with Jordan, Army Colonel Walid al-Deleimi told Anadolu Agency.

Al-Deleimi said that reinforcements, including army troops and border guards, had since been dispatched to the area to help repel the attack.


Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children are nearing starvation

The United Nations and other humanitarian groups are describing alarming scenes in the Middle East’s poorest country as a humanitarian crisis and conflict deepen after nearly two years of war.

In recent weeks, clashes between rebels known as Houthis and forces loyal to the U.S.-backed government have intensified, especially along the western coast of the country. Airstrikes near a major port in the city of Hodeida – the main entry point for food, medicine and humanitarian aid into northern Yemen – have slowed the delivery of supplies and exacerbated the misery.

Almost a half million children are severely acutely malnourished, a nearly 200 percent increase since 2014, the United Nations Children’s Fund said this week. The United Nations described Yemen, along with Somalia and northern Nigeria, as “on the brink of famine,” and declared that famine has already gripped parts of South Sudan. In Yemen, more than 7.3 million are in need of urgent food assistance.


Kim Jong-nam killed by VX nerve agent, say Malaysian police

Kuala Lumpur airport terminal to be decontaminated after deadly attack on North Korean leader’s half-brother

Kim Jong-nam, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong-nam, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Photograph: Shizuo Kambayashi, Wong Maye-E/AP

The substance used in the killing of Kim Jong-nam was a “VX nerve agent”, a highly toxic liquid used only in chemical warfare, Malaysian police have said.

The findings follow a preliminary analysis of swabs taken from the face and eyes of the victim, who is the half-brother of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. More items linked to the attack at Kuala Lumpur airport were still being analysed and the terminal would be decontaminated, police said.

VX – also known as ethyl N-2-Diisopropylaminoethyl Methylphosphonothiolate – is classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.


Trump Administration Poised to Collide With Russia Over Syrian Chemical Weapons

Trump Administration Poised to Collide With Russia Over Syrian Chemical Weapons


The Trump administration is headed towards a diplomatic confrontation with Moscow at the United Nations, as the United States, Britain and France pressed for the passage of a resolution sanctioning Syria’s use of chemical weapons in the face of a certain Russian veto.

U.S. and European diplomats in New York reached agreement Wednesday to press for the passage of a resolution, possibly as early as next week, that would impose an asset freeze and travel ban on 21 Syrian entities and military and intelligence chiefs linked to its use of chlorine and other deadlier chemical weapons. It would also sharply restrict Syria’s import of military helicopters, which have been used to drop chlorine-filled barrel bombs on opposition-controlled Syrian towns

Trump Administration Poised to Collide With Russia Over Syrian Chemical Weapons


Geert Wilders suspends election campaign over alleged security leak

Dutch far-right leader stops campaigning in public for March polls after a member of his security team is arrested

Wilders, current frontrunner for the Netherlands’ general elections, to be held on 15 March, said on Twitter: “Very alarming news. The PVV is suspending its public activities until all facts in connection with the corruption investigation are known.”

Dutch media reported this week that a member of the far-right politician’s police security team had been arrested on suspicion of leaking details of his whereabouts to a Dutch-Moroccan criminal gang.

The Algemeen Dagblad newspaper reported on Thursday that the officer and his brother, both previously members of the Utrecht police force, had also been investigated in the past in connection with suspected leaks of confidential information.


Carnage as suicide bomber kills 42 people in Syrian town just hours after it was taken from ISIS by Turkish-backed rebels

  • A suspected ISIS jihadi detonated a car bomb inside a Free Syrian Army position
  • The attack took place in the village of Susian, five miles from the town of Al-Bab
  • Turkish-backed forces seized the village overnight which is close to the frontier
  • Human rights observers said the attack was probably conducted by ISIS  

A suicide bomber attacked Turkish-backed rebels just outside the Syrian town of Al-Bab Friday, killing 42 people in a major blow just hours after they hailed its capture from ISIS.

The bomber blew up a vehicle packed with explosives outside a rebel command centre in the village of Susian, five miles northeast of Al-Bab, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The blast devastated the twin command posts and also seriously wounded a large number of fighters, the Britain-based monitoring group said.


German secret service spied on journalists at the BBC, The New York Times and Reuters for more than a DECADE

  • BND listed at least 50 phone and fax numbers and emails for journalists and newsrooms ‘selector’ keywords for surveillance since 1999
  • These included several dozen numbers of the British Broadcasting Corporation 
  • A number for The New York Times in Afghanistan was also on the list 
  • News of the surveillance is a culmination of the three year inquiry that resulted in German Chancellor Angela Merkel giving evidence last week 

Germany’s foreign intelligence service BND long spied on journalists of the BBC, The New York Times, Reuters and other media, news weekly Der Spiegel reported Friday.

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders labelled the alleged surveillance ‘a monstrous attack on press freedom’, voiced fears the eavesdropping was ongoing and said it was planning legal action, according to Der Spiegel.

The magazine, which has extensively worked with US fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and reported on US and German espionage scandals, only cited documents it had seen.

While it is unknown exactly who the BND spied on, news of the surveillance is a culmination of the three year inquiry that resulted in German Chancellor Angela Merkel giving evidence last week.


German entrepreneurs see pickup in Russia business

Following two years of recession, the Russian economy is slowly gaining momentum again. German businesses operating in the country are confident a rebound in bilateral trade activities is just around the corner.

German companies operating in Russia expect their business activities in the country to expand considerably in the course of 2017, a fresh poll by the Committee on Eastern European Relations and the German-Russian Chamber of Trade and Commerce (AHK) has shown.

Two-thirds of the German firms polled predicted mounting revenues, exports and investments in Russia, with the poll taking into account the views of companies with a total of 122,000 employers and combined annual revenue of 29 billion euros ($30.7 billion) in Russia.

AHK chief Matthias Schepp told reporters that after years of recession, Russia was finally “leaving behind a valley of tears.”


US-led coalition is ‘killing more civilians than Russia’


The US-led coalition against the Islamic State (Isil) is for the first time killing more civilians with its airstrikes than Russia is with its own bombing campaign, according to a new analysis.

Coalition warplanes have dramatically stepped up their strikes against Isil in both Mosul and Raqqa, while Russia has scaled back its campaign in Syria after a patchy ceasefire went into effect in December.

While Russia has killed far more civilians in total than the coalition, it is currently killing fewer civilians than the allies, research by the Airwars monitoring group found.

Airwars estimated that between 254 and 369 civilians were killed by the coalition in Iraq and Syria in January. That is almost twice the number estimated killed in December, when 134 to 187 civilians were found to have died.


Syria talks hit snag before opening ceremony in Geneva

Negotiations off to rocky start after opposition threatens to skip opening ceremony over disagreements.


Geneva, Switzerland – UN-led negotiations on the war in Syria got off to a delayed start following disputes over the participation of the Syrian opposition delegation.

Opposition representatives nearly missed the opening ceremony of the talks on Thursday after threatening not to attend over disagreements on the make up and format of the session. But in a last-minute turnaround, they arrived late and as one large delegation.


‘Al-Qaeda is eating us’: Syrian rebels are losing out to extremists

The biggest surviving rebel stronghold in northern Syria is falling under the control of al-Qaeda-linked extremists amid a surge of rebel infighting that threatens to vanquish what is left of the moderate rebellion.The ascent of the extremists in the northwestern province of Idlib coincides with a suspension of aid to moderate rebel groups by their international allies.

The commanders of five of the groups say they were told earlier this month by representatives of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey that they would receive no further arms or ammunition until they unite to form a coherent front against the jihadists, a goal that has eluded the fractious rebels throughout the six years of fighting.

Top general: US mulling ‘long-term commitment’ in Iraq

  • Trump directed the Pentagon to draw up a plan on fighting ISIS

Washington (CNN)The US military is contemplating a long-term presence in Iraq to stabilize the country after the anticipated defeat ISIS, America’s top military officer said Thursday.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford said that both the US and NATO have begun discussions with Iraq about the possibility.

“We have, as has NATO, begun a dialogue about a long term commitment to grow the capacity, maintain the capacity of Iraqi Security Forces, but no decisions have been made yet,” Dunford told an audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington, his first time fielding questions since the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Iran Military Students Sent to Train in Syria

Iran claims that its presence in Syria is to protect a Shi’ite holy site – the Zeinab Shrine in Damascus. However, since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Iran has been there as a backbone for the Syrian regime. It has provided Assad with all sorts of support.

It is believed that a minimum of 100 students from the university have gone to Syria to train for combat situations.


Why does Iran neglect Arabs in oil-rich Ahvaz?

People in the city of Ahvaz — the capital of Khuzestan, which is one of Iran’s wealthiest provinces when it comes to oil and natural gas — have been protesting for days over unbearable pollution and power failures. People can be heard chanting “unemployment, unemployment, unemployment… Iranian fellowmen assist us, assist us.”

Last year, Ahvaz was ranked the most polluted city in the world by the World Health Organization. It is ironic that Ahvaz residents are facing such difficulties while they are living in one of the most oil-rich cities of the Islamic republic.

In addition, although Ahvaz is rich in natural resources, the indigenous Arab residents of Khuzestan are plagued with severe socio-economic deprivation, suffer from one of the highest rates of poverty of the entire population of Iran, and have a high level of water and air pollution. The oil facilities surround and suffocate the city by releasing toxic materials and pollutants in the air.



Turkey coup: 136 diplomats and relatives seek Germany asylum

Germany says it has received 136 asylum requests from Turks holding diplomatic passports since the July coup attempt against the Turkish president.

The figure is a total for the period August 2016 to January 2017, German media report.

Turkey has urged Germany not to grant asylum to any military officers. Some posted to Nato bases in Germany are thought to be among the group.

In Greece, two more Turkish soldiers have requested asylum.

The pair – reported to be commandos – are believed to have taken part in the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

They are in Greek police custody, having applied for asylum last week in Orestiada, a small border town near Turkey.


Iran’s president tries to defuse anger in an oil-rich province hit by dust storms, blackouts and protests

Bidding to ease public anger over a mounting environmental crisis, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday visited an oil-rich southwestern province that has been crippled by sandstorms and power blackouts.

Residents of Khuzestan province have long struggled with high levels of dust because of desertification, but the problems worsened this month when severe rains washed the fine particles into power transmission equipment. That caused several days of electricity blackouts last week in Ahvaz, the provincial capital and home to more than 1 million people.

Schools and government agencies in much of the province were closed temporarily, and water supplies were disrupted, forcing residents to buy jerrycans of water to drink. Many residents took to the streets of Ahvaz to protest until police issued a warning that anyone participating in “illegal gatherings” would be punished.



Did Turkey order spying in German classrooms?

Turkish consulates in Germany may have urged teachers and parents to inform on instruction critical of the government. The state of NRW is looking into the allegations.

Authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) have asked prosecutors to assess whether there is enough evidence to open an investigation into allegations Turkish consulates urged parents and teachers to inform on any content in school lessons that is critical of the Turkish government, a spokesperson from the NRW interior minister told DW on Thursday.

The Education and Science Labor Union (GEW), which represents educators, said on Thursday that it had received reports from some members that Turkish consulates in Germany’s most populous state instructed Turkish teachers and parents to spy on other teachers and inform on the content of instruction.


Enigma’s ‘forgotten genius’: Story of Alan Turing’s spymaster boss who led the team that cracked Hitler’s WWII codes then was persecuted for speaking out is told in a new book

  • Mathematician Gordon Welchman was selected as a potential codebreaker before the outbreak of war
  • A lecturer at University of Cambridge, he turned Alan Turing’s codebreaking Bombe into a workable machine 
  • Persecuted by UK and US intelligence agencies after revealing how he hacked into secret German messages
  • Post war helped develop air traffic control, digital computers and taught one of the first computing courses

He is described as codebreaker’s ‘forgotten genius’ and Bletchley Park’s ‘Architect of Ultra Intelligence’ – but despite his contribution to the war effort, Gordon Welchman was persecuted by the British government UK.

The brilliant mathematician and University of Cambridge lecturer was selected as a codebreaker before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Welchman adapted Alan Turing’s design for the codebreaking Bombe machine, transforming it into a workable device and established Hut 6, leading the team who decrypted more than 1 million German air force and army codes.

One of his colleagues at the time described him as ‘one of the most original minds I have ever known’.

However, the Government Communications Headquarters described him as ‘a disastrous example to others’ in 1982 after he published details of WW2 codebreaking in his book, The Hut Six Story – and he was subsequently persecuted by US intelligence agencies.


China steams past U.S., France to be Germany’s biggest trading partner

 By Rene Wagner and Michael Nienaber | BERLIN

China for the first time became Germany’s most important trading partner in 2016, overtaking the United States, which fell back to third place behind France, data showed on Friday.

German imports from and exports to China rose to 170 billion euros ($180 billion) last year, Federal Statistics Office figures reviewed by Reuters showed.

The development is good news for the German government, which has made it a goal to safeguard global free trade after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on imports and his top adviser on trade accused Germany of exploiting a weak euro to boost exports.


France’s Le Pen refused a police summons for questioning: her lawyer

French far-right-leader Marine Le Pen refused to attend a summons for questioning by police last Wednesday over allegations that she made illegal EU payments to her staff, her lawyer said on Friday.

Le Pen, who heads the anti-immigrant and anti-European Union National Front and is a leading candidate in presidential elections in April and May, would comply with any summons after elections this year, the lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselut, told Reuters.

Le Pen’s chief of staff was put under formal investigation on Feb 22 after a day of questioning over the alleged misuse of EU funds to pay parliamentary assistants.

Her bodyguard was also questioned but was later released without being placed under investigation.

Le Pen, 48, who has denied any wrongdoing and says she is the victim of “political dirty tricks”, is set to come first in the first round of an election for president on April 23 but lose in the May 7 runoff to either independent Emmanuel Macron or conservative Francois Fillon, according to opinion polls.


Brutal Anti-Semitic Attack in France

Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 7:20 pm | כ”ז שבט תשע”ז
A French police officer on patrol. (Reuters/Eric Gaillard, File)

NEW YORK – Two Jewish brothers were beaten, and one’s finger was sawed off, in a horrific anti-Semitic attack near Paris this week, JTA reported, based on a French case report published Thursday by the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA. The case report was based on a police complaint filed by the victims, and published on French site JSSNews.

According to the report, the brothers – who wear yarmulkes, and whose father is a Jewish communal leader in Bondy, France – were driving near Bondy on Tuesday night, when their car was forced off the road by another vehicle, whose occupants were shouting anti-Semitic slogans including, “Dirty Jews, You’re going to die!”

Then, a group of Middle Eastern-looking men came out of a hookah café nearby and surrounded their car. The men punched and kicked the brothers, threatening to kill them if they moved. Shockingly, one of the men sawed off one of the brothers’ fingers.


French minister expresses ‘indignation’ over latest anti-Semitic attack

Jewish lawmaker says anti-Semitism ‘alive and kicking’ after group of Muslims, one with a saw, allegedly beat, cut Jewish brothers

French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux on Friday expressed “indignation” over an attack on two Jewish brothers earlier this week, and said all means will be used to find the perpetrators.According to French paper Le Parisien, the brothers, 29 and 17 years old, were wearing a kippa “visibly” when they were attacked in Bondy, a northeastern suburb of Paris.

They were driving in a car when they were drawn into an argument with the travelers of another car — reportedly a father and son — at a red light.

One of the occupants of the other vehicle yelled at them “I will kill you, you dirty Jew,” the victims said, according to French media reports.

They were forced to a stop outside a bar, where five or six others came to help their assailants, one of the brothers told Israel’s Channel 2 news.

Interviewed on Israel’s Channel 2 on Friday, the elder of the brothers said one of the attackers “emerged with a saw” and “cut me in the hand with the saw.” He said he tried to get up to protect his younger, but that another of the attackers “held me to the floor.”

The attackers then surrounded the brothers, kicked and punched them repeatedly, and threatened them.

Several of the attackers “hit me in the face and the ribs,” the older brother said. “The man holding the saw intended to cut me in the head,” he added.

“Fortunately, my younger brother quickly jumped on him and got the weapon away from him.” But the attacker got the saw back, “and cut my brother’s hand. He simply wanted to murder us.”


Navies from US, UK, Oman and France begin Khunjar Haad exercise

Naval personnel from the US, UK, Oman and France have commenced the 22nd iteration of the annual multilateral mine countermeasures (MCM) exercise Khunjar Haad in the Gulf of Oman.

The Khunjar Haad exercise will see the participation of about 150 US sailors and will enable participating nations to share more knowledge and experiences with each other, as well as enhance tactical efficiencies and strengthen their partnerships.

Drills will involve evolutions such as gunnery exercises (GUNEXs) to maintain their readiness with on-board weapon systems, and air defence exercises (ADEXs) to help enhance skill in the air and missile defence.


Russian military admits significant cyber-war effort

Russia’s military has admitted for the first time the scale of its information warfare effort, saying it was significantly expanded post-Cold War.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Russian “information troops” were involved in “intelligent, effective propaganda”, but he did not reveal details about the team or its targets.

The admission follows repeated allegations of cyberattacks against Western nations by the Russian state.

Nato is reported to be a top target.


Exit by Polish Top Brass Guts Command on NATO Front Line

February 23, 2017, 10:40 AM EST February 24, 2017, 7:56 AM EST
  • Dozens of generals, hundreds of colonels depart armed forces
  • Overhaul takes place as Poland asks for help from U.S.

Poland’s conservative government has replaced almost all of its military leadership after hundreds of officers left, an exit that coincides with a call from Warsaw to its NATO allies to help boost its defense.

With the government moving to rid institutions of officials appointed by the former ruling Civic Platform party, which it defeated in 2015 elections, 90 percent of the General Staff leadership and more than 80 percent of the army’s top brass have gone, according to the Defense Ministry. They include Chief of Staff General Miroslaw Gocul, who stepped down last month, and Army Commander General Miroslaw Rozanski.

The ruling Law & Justice Party has pledged to purge government of what its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski has called the “worst type of Poles” — people with ties to Civic Platform or the communists who ruled the country last century. It’s also thinning out experienced soldiers who have served in wars alongside their allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which Poland joined with other former eastern bloc states in 1999.


US warship plunges towards Russia as Putin fumes over NATO

A US warship has plunged towards Russia as NATO forces continue to flood into Eastern Europe.

USS Hue City and Vladimir PutinGETTYNATO: Russia and the US continue to sit at loggerheads over troop build-up in Eastern Europe

USS Hue City is the latest vessel to move into the Baltic Sea as weapons and soldiers from the western alliance mass close to Russia.Vladimir Putin has fumed over the build-up as the Kremlin condemns the continuous deployments as a “threat” to Russia.

The missile cruiser has now entered the Estonian port city of Tallinn, around 150 miles from the coast of Russia.


Seoul: North Korea has large chemical weapons stockpile

SEOUL: North Korea has up to 5,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, South Korean experts said Friday, including the toxin used to assassinate its leader’s half-brother.

Traces of VX — a nerve agent listed as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations — were detected on swabs from the face and eyes of Kim Jong-Nam, who was poisoned at a Kuala Lumpur airport last week, Malaysian police said Friday.

Malaysian detectives are holding three people — women from Indonesia and Vietnam, and a North Korean man — but want to speak to seven others, four of whom are believed to have fled to Pyongyang.

South Korea’s defence ministry said in its 2014 Defence White Paper that the North began producing chemical weapons in the 1980s and estimated that it has about 2,500 to 5,000 tonnes in stock.





Report: U.S. military upgrading Patriot missile system in Korea

The U.S. military in South Korea has begun work on a Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) interceptor upgrade. File Photo courtesy of U.S. Missile Defense Agency
Feb. 23 (UPI) — The United States military in South Korea has begun to upgrade the Patriot missile system currently deployed on the peninsula.

According to U.S. Forces Korea on Thursday, Patriot Advanced Capability-2, a solid-fuel, ground-launched interceptor designed to destroy tactical ballistic and cruise missiles will receive the latest PAC-3 modifications, South Korean newspaper Seoul Shinmun reported.


India approves $2.5 billion missile deal with Israel

India has signed a $2.5 billion missile deal with Israel wherein both nations will jointly develop a medium range surface-to-air missile system for Indian military.

The contract between the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) was approved by India’s Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ahead of his visit to Israel, according to The Hindu.

The MR-SAM with a range of 50km-70km is the latest in a series of other variants of surface-to-air missile systems for the Indian Navy and Air Force being jointly built by both countries.


FREMM Carabiniere: the new cop in town

Patrick Durrant | ITS Carabiniere

On Tuesday the Italian Militare Marina’s FREMM frigate Carabiniere departed Sydney for Melbourne on another leg of her busy Australian PR tour.

The Italian FREMM (Frigate European Multi-Mission) has of course been down selected for Australia’s future frigate program and her builder Fincantieri, along with Italian defence primes Leonardo, MBDA, and Telespazio Elettronica have been keen to show her off capabilities. ADM was fortunate to be invited aboard for the leg and was joined by a team from the Navy’s STRATFORCOM and also DST Group.

Having exited the heads following an aerial photo shoot within the surrounds of Sydney Harbour, the ship wasted no time bringing its gas turbine online and proceeding at speed towards Melbourne. With 24 knots rung on she proceeded comfortably at 27 knots thanks to the following East Australian Current. The ship has a CODLAG (COmbined Diesel Electric And Gas) propulsion configuration giving her a great deal of flexibility and engine efficiency.


Boeing Fighter Jet, Feared Dead, Gets New Life From Trump Tweets

Boeing’s Super Hornet is poised for a surprising comeback thanks to President Donald Trump‘s Twitter broadsides and a strike-fighter shortage caused by delays to Lockheed Martin Corp.‘s F-35 program.

Until recently, Boeing’s combat jet was on life support, with work at its St. Louis factory slowing to a crawl as orders dwindled. But that was before Congress approved a $10.1 billion sale to Kuwait, Canada said it would take 18 of the twin-engine fighter and Trump said the Pentagon is “looking seriously at a big order.”

Now Dan Gillian, who heads the Boeing fighter-jet program, is plotting upgrades to keep the F/A-18 flying through the 2040s – and even looking at increasing the production rate. The U.S. Navy may need at least 100 of the Super Hornets over the next five years while it waits for Lockheed’s next version of the F-35. Boeing also sees opportunities for additional sales from India, Finland and Switzerland.



Everything You Need to Know About Cloudbleed, the Latest Internet Security Disaster

Have you heard? A tiny bug in Cloudflare’s code has led an unknown quantity of data—including passwords, personal information, messages, cookies, and more—to leak all over the internet. If you haven’t heard of the so-called Cloudbleed vulnerability, keep reading. This is a scary big deal.

Let’s start with the good news. Cloudflare, one of the world’s largest internet security companies, acted fast when security researcher Tavis Ormandy of Google’s Project Zero identified the vulnerability.

The bad news is that the Cloudflare-backed websites had been leaking data for months before Ormandy noticed the bug. Cloudflare says the earliest data leak dates back to September 2016. It’s so far unclear if blackhat hackers had already found the vulnerability and exploited it secretly before Cloudflare fixed its code. Cloudflare’s clients include huge companies like Uber, OKCupid, 1Password, and FitBit. That means a holy fuck ton of sensitive data has potentially been compromised.


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February 20, 2017

Trump names McMaster new national security adviser

President Trump has picked Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to be his new national security adviser, filling a key vacancy left by the ouster of former top security aide Michael Flynn.

The president called McMaster, a career Army officer, “a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.”

Trump made the announcement Monday at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., where he had been interviewing a number of candidates for the job.

His decision comes one week after he dismissed Flynn for misleading Vice President Mike Pence and others about whether he discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia’s ambassador during the transition.



Pence says NATO defense costs must be ‘shared fairly’ by Europe – and warns that America’s patience ‘will not endure forever’

  • Said European nations need to speed up plans to contribute two percent of their gross national income to NATO
  • With NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Pence reiterated the Trump administration’s position that NATO costs are not shared fairly
  • The U.S. leader declined to make new threats to nations that don’t pay up, but he warned, ‘The patience of the American people will not endure’
  • Capping the European trip aimed at allaying fears, Pence said Washington’s backing for the EU remained ‘steadfast and enduring
  • Pence said the United States would remain ‘full partners’ with the EU in fighting terrorism – a Trump priority 

Vice President Mike Pence says European nations need to speed up plans to contribute two percent of their gross national income to NATO and encourage other member nations to do the same.

At a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday in Brussels, Pence reiterated the Trump administration’s position ‘that for too long, for too many’ the burden of paying for NATO has ‘not been shared fairly among our NATO allies.

‘That must come to an end,’ the vice president said.

The U.S. leader declined to make new threats to nations that don’t pay up, but he warned, ‘The patience of the American people will not endure.’


Gallup poll: Greece would choose Russia as ally over NATO

A divide between Orthodox and Catholic west appears, according to poll

According to a multi-nation Gallup poll published, Greece and three other NATO member-states would prefer Russia fighting on their side! By far the largest number of countries polled by WIN/Gallup International chose the U.S. for their go-to defense partner, suggesting that it remains the world’s only military power with truly global reach and alliances, but Greece, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Turkey, all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation chose Russia as their fighting partner. Another interesting finding showed that Russia and China would pick each other as allies in the event of military conflict.

The findings revealed how the geopolitical security concerns had shifted, with Greece and Bulgaria seeing Turkey, a partner of both in NATO, as the number one threat for their security. Although Turkey is also a NATO member and so theoretically an ally, its invasion and occupation of Northern Cyprus in 1974 showed that these countries cannot rely on NATO to protect them, so they look to Russia. The Gallup poll also broadly reflects a divide between the Orthodox Christian world and Western Christianity, with Orthodox Greece and Bulgaria opting for Russia, while Ukraine and Bosnia Herzegovina — which are also religiously divided — split down the middle.



TSA allows JFK passengers to walk through security checkpoint without being screened

Eleven passengers. some of whom set off metal detectors, were never checked by TSA agents at JFK airport, according to sources.

Eleven unidentified passengers walked through a security lane without being screened at Kennedy Airport early Monday because the TSA left the area open and unattended, law enforcement sources said.A security camera captured a metal detector going off three times as the travelers walked through the screening lane, the sources said.There was no one present to operate the magnetometer, the x-ray machine and do the pat downs and secondary screening, the sources said.



U.S. Air Force deploys WC-135 nuclear sniffer aircraft to UK as spike of radioactive Iodine levels is detected in Europe

Feb 19 20173 Comments

The USAF WC-135C Constant Phoenix might be investigating a spike in radioactive levels in Norway. Someone speculates the release of this radionuclide could be the effect of a Russian nuclear test.

On Feb. 17, 2017, U.S. Air Force WC-135C Constant Phoenix Nuclear explosion “sniffer,” serial number 62-3582, using radio callsign “Cobra 55” deployed to RAF Mildenhall, UK.

As we have already reported the WC-135 is a derivative of the Boeing C-135 transport and support plane. Two of these aircraft are in service today out of the ten examples operated since 1963. The aircraft are flown by flight crews from the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron from Offutt Air Force Base while mission crews are staffed by Detachment 1 from the Air Force Technical Applications Center.

The WC-135, known as the “sniffer” or “weather bird” by its crews, can carry up to 33 personnel. However, crew compliments are kept to a minimum during mission flights in order to lessen levels of radioactive exposure.

Effluent gasses are gathered by two scoops on the sides of the fuselage, which in turn trap fallout particles on filters. The mission crews have the ability to analyze the fallout residue in real-time, helping to confirm the presence of nuclear fallout and possibly determine the characteristics of the warhead involved: that’s why the aircraft is important to confirm the type of explosion of today’s test.



Russian MIG corporation plans to sell MIG-35 fighter jets to Middle East

Russian MiG-35 fighter
Russia’s MiG corporation, incorporated into United Aircraft Corporation, or UAC, plans to sell its new-generation MiG-35 fighter jets on the Middle Eastern markets, MiG’s Director General Ilya Tarasenko said on Feb. 19.”MiG plans to promote its MiG-35 fighter jets in the Middle East. These aircraft may satisfy the region’s demand in terms of both the flying range and other characteristics. We plan to market the Mig-35 in the Middle East,” he told TASS on the sidelines of the IDEX 2017 international defense exhibition.http://rbth.com/news/2017/02/19/mig_705443


Armata T-15 and Kurganets-25 IFVs Will Get ‘Smart Ammunition’ Starting Next Year

On Monday, Tekhmash, the company developing shells for the Armata T-15 and Kurganets-25 infantry fighting vehicles, announced that all-new smart munitions will be delivered by next year.

Speaking to RIA Novosti on the sidelines of the IDEX-2017 defense exhibition in the UAE on Monday, Tekhmash director Sergei Rusakov said that smart ammunition for the T-15 heavy IFV, and the Armata platform-based Kurganets-25 IFV, will be delivered in 2018, the same year that mass production of the T-14 main battle tank is expected to begin.

Tekhmash is now engaged in preparatory work on the integration of the smart munitions technology into heavy armored vehicles, Rusakov explained, and is doing so with the help of JSC Pribor, a Moscow-headquartered defense concern engaged in the production of automatic guns, ammunition and other military products. “Given the significant amount of work involved in the preparation and carrying out of state tests, adopting these munitions may not occur before 2018,” the official said.



Global arms trade reaches highest point since cold war era

Middle East almost doubles weapons imports, as US and Europe remain the main suppliers and China joins top-tier exporters

Iran correspondent

The global transfer of major weapons systems rose over the past five years to the highest volume since the end of the cold war as the Middle East nearly doubled its imports, according to an annual report on arms sales.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said on Monday that more weapons were delivered between 2012 and 2016 than any other five-year period since 1990. Saudi Arabia, which leads a military intervention in Yementhat has cost hundreds of civilian lives, was the world’s second largest importer after India, increasing its intake by 212%, mainly from the US and the UK.

Asia was the main recipient region in the world as India dwarfed regional rivals, China and Pakistan, by accounting for 13% of the global imports. While India received most of its arms from Russia, the Saudis relied heavily on US arms. US and Russia together supplied more than half of all exports. China, France and Germany were also among the top five exporters.


Rockets fired into southern Israel from Egypt’s Sinai

No casualties as two handmade rockets land in Eshkol region day after Isis claims four members were killed by Israeli drone

in Jerusalem

Two rockets, apparently fired by Islamic militants in Egypt’s northern Sinai, have landed in southern Israel. The attack came a day after an Isis affiliate claimed that several of its members had been killed by an Israeli drone.

The incident is the second within the space of a month after four missiles were fired towards the Israeli Red Sea city of Eilat, suggesting an increase in tensions on Israel’s southern border.


Israel boosts missile defenses against Hezbollah

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Israel’s midlevel anti-missile system known as David’s Sling is close to becoming operation­al just as tensions are building once more between the United States and Iran.

The system passed its final tests in January amid expectations that it could soon be deployed to de­fend sensitive sites in Israel against Hezbollah’s arsenal of missiles and rockets, estimated by Israel at about 140,000 of all types.


Arab Israeli charged with planning TA bus bombing, teaching IS how to make nerve gas

Anas Haj Yihya allegedly intended to blow up bus full of soldiers on Dizengoff Street on behalf of Islamic State

Anas Haj Yihya, a 35-year-old Arab Israeli man accused of planning to carry out terror attacks in Israel on behalf of the Islamic State. (Shin Bet)

Anas Haj Yihya, a 35-year-old Arab Israeli man accused of planning to carry out terror attacks in Israel on behalf of the Islamic State. (Shin Bet)

An Arab Israeli man was charged with planning terror attacks on behalf of the Islamic State group, including bus bombings directed against IDF soldiers, according to an indictment filed against him on Monday. He also allegedly distribute information to IS members on how to create a deadly nerve gas.

The suspect, Anas Haj Yihya, was charged in a Tel Aviv court with belonging to a terrorist organization and with multiple counts of contact with a foreign agent.

In May, one of Yihya’s Islamic State contacts, Muhammad Abdel Rawi, told him to carry out attacks against soldiers, including blowing up a bus filled with soldiers on central Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, which he agreed to, according to the charge sheet.

Three months later, Yihya apparently attempted to create an explosive device, asking a gardener to get him fertilizer, but his request was denied, according to the indictment.

Yihya also allegedly used the Telegram messaging application to distribute information to IS members on how to create sarin gas, a deadly nerve agent, how to manufacture explosive belts and bombs with cellphone triggers, and which poisons can be added to explosives in order to make them more lethal.


UAE Buys New Ship Saving Missiles

 UAE Navy buys Raytheon-made RAM Block 2s

The UAE Navy has signed a multi-million dollar direct commercial sale for an undisclosed amount of American defence giant Raytheon’s highly sophisticated Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAMs), which are amongst the most advanced ship-defence weapons in existence.

The supersonic, lightweight, quick reaction missiles will be used to protect the UAE’s Baynunah-class corvettes – which are used for surveillance, interception and coastal patrol missions – from anti-ship missiles, helicopters, aircraft and enemy surface vessels.


In an interview with Khaleej Times, Alan Davis, Raytheon’s Program Director for Short Range Defence Systems, Naval and Area Mission Defense, noted that versions of the RAMs systems are currently already being used by eight navies, including America’s.



French music festival is cancelled at the last minute after a ‘credible’ tip-off that a ‘bloodbath’ was about to take place

  • The Lignerock Festival, in west-central France, was cancelled on Saturday night
  • The show was called off just minutes before doors were opening for the show
  • It came after a caller told the local police station in an anonymous call: ‘There will be a bloodbath in Saint-Christophe-du-Ligneron tonight’ 
  • Festival organisers received two similar phone calls before the start of the show
  • Four bands were expected to perform at the show: Apes O’Clock, Les Bidons De L’An Fer, Les Cameleons and Eugene De Rastignac

A music festival in France was cancelled at the last minute this weekend over fears of a terror attack after organisers received a series of phone calls threatening a ‘bloodbath’.

The Lignerock Festival, which was scheduled to take place in the Vendée department of Pays-de-la-Loire region in west-central France, was cancelled just minutes before showtime on Saturday night.

It came after a caller told the local police station in an anonymous call: ‘There will be a bloodbath in Saint-Christophe-du-Ligneron tonight.’


Four million people could flee to Europe if Britain pulls out of Afghanistan, warns defence minister

  • Sir Michael Fallon admitted Britain and Nato cannot pull troops from Afghanistan
  • Migrants could travel to the UK if the war-ravaged country is left abandoned
  • If Afghanistan collapses Europe would feel the consequences directly, he said 
  • Troops must remain there because terror groups from 2001 still pose a threat 

Sir Michael Fallon admitted the UK and Nato cannot pull troops out of Afghanistan because the terrorist groups that existed there when soldiers deployed in 2001 remain and ‘still pose a threat’.

As the Ministry of Defence considers sending more troops to the country, Sir Michael warned that if Afghanistan collapses, Europe ‘will feel the consequences, very directly’.


White House Fires Senior NSC Aide for Harsh Trump Criticism

February 18, 2017 9:05 pm

The White House on Friday fired a senior National Security Council aide after learning that he severely criticized President Donald Trump and his top aides, including daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, at an event in Washington, D.C.

The aide, Craig Deare, was dismissed by the Trump administration after he castigated the administration’s senior officials at an off-the-record roundtable hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center, a think tank based in the nation’s capital, Politico reported Saturday.

Deare served as the NSC’s senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs and was previously the dean of administration at National Defense University.


‘We see a president who’s pragmatic and practical, a businessman, problem-solver’

Praising Trump, Saudi FM urges progress toward peace with Israel

Days after Trump and Netanyahu talk of regional deal, Adel al-Jubeir says his country ready to stand with others in Arab world ‘to promote’ a deal

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said he is optimistic that Arabs and Israelis can reach a peace deal in 2017.

Speaking four days after US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a White House press conference about the possibilities of a regional peace agreement, Adel al-Jubeir told delegates at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday that the contours of an Israeli-Palestinian accord were clear, and that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states would work to bring it to fruition.

“I believe progress can be made in the Arab-Israel conflict, if there is a will to do so,” he said. “We know what the settlement looks like, if there is just the political will to do so. And my country stands ready with other Arab countries to work to see how we can promote that.”

He said the new US administration made him optimistic that this and other regional challenges could be resolved.


Hezbollah said to have obtained ‘game-changing’ anti-ship missiles

Russian-made Yakhont would give Lebanese terror group the ability to strike Israeli gas platforms and ships in the Mediterranean

A Yakhont missile at a Russian air show in 1997 (photo credit: CC BY-SA, JNO, Wikimedia Commons)

A Yakhont missile at a Russian air show in 1997 (photo credit: CC BY-SA, JNO, Wikimedia Commons)

The Lebanese terror group Hezbollah has obtained advanced Russian-made anti-ship missiles, potentially threatening Israeli gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea and the Israeli Navy’s ability to operate in the area, according to a report published Sunday.Hezbollah’s possession of the Yakhont missiles was revealed by unnamed Western intelligence officials over the weekend at the Munich Security Conference, where world leaders and defense ministers are meeting to discuss major security issues, according to a report in the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth. The report did not reveal in what forum the revelations were made.


Russia rejects claim of Montenegro plot

Russia has denounced as absurd and unsubstantiated allegations that “Russian state bodies” were involved in an attempted coup in the Balkan state of Montenegro.

The alleged plot dates back to a series of arrests hours before Montenegro’s elections in October 2016.

At the time, Serb paramilitaries and Russian nationalists were blamed.

But prosecutor Milivoje Katnic has now named a Russian military figure as behind the alleged mission.

He said a Serb nationalist figure had been invited to Moscow by Eduard Sismakov, a former deputy military attache to Poland, with the aim of preventing Montenegro from joining Nato.

The alleged plotters are said to have planned to assassinate Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.


Iran launches ‘advanced’ rockets during military exercises

An Iranian semi-official news agency is reporting that the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard has launched sophisticated rockets during military exercises.

The Monday report by Tasnim, an agency considered to be close to the Revolutionary Guard, said the launch of “smart and advanced” rockets came during an annual three-day maneuver which began on Monday in Iran’s central desert.

The report did not elaborate on the model of the rockets…


4 Russian servicemen killed in car blast in Syria – MoD

Four Russian servicemen were killed in Syria on February 16, when a radio controlled bomb targeting a Syrian military convoy exploded, the Russian Defense Ministry has said in a statement.

Two other Russian servicemen were injured in the blast, the Ministry added.

The vehicle had been part of a Syrian Army convoy traveling to the city of Homs from the Tiyas airfield in central Syria’s Homs Province.

Russian military advisers were in the car when it blew up, according to the ministry’s statement.



SAS troops to fight alongside Iraqi and Kurdish fighters to free Iraq’s second largest city from ISIS

British Special Forces lead fresh offensive to liberate 650,000 Iraqi civilians in Mosul

BRITISH Special Forces led a fresh offensive yesterday in a bid to liberate western Mosul, the second biggest city in Iraq.

SAS troops along with the U.S. Green Beret and Delta Force commandos are aiming to retake the area from Islamic State.


Battle for Mosul: Iraqi forces storm key village near airport

  • Iraqi forces storm village overlooking Mosul airport
  • Long-awaited operation to retake western part of city began Sunday

(CNN)US-backed Iraqi forces have stormed a key village overlooking Mosul’s airport “and are continuing to clear it” of ISIS fighters, the Iraqi army said Monday, less than 48 hours after an offensive was launched to retake control of the western part of the city.

Iraqi Commander of the Operation General Abdal Amir Yar Allah said in a statement that the federal police and the Interior Ministry’s Rapid Deployment Force were battling ISIS in Albu Saif village, less than 2 kilometers from the airport.

‘President Erdogan assassination plot’ trial opens in TurkeyText

by FRANCE 24

A trial of almost 50 suspects accused of plotting to assassinate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the botched July 15 coup opened Monday in southern Turkey.

Forty-four suspects — mainly soldiers — face possible life sentences on charges that include attempted assassination, overthrow of the constitutional order and other crimes against the state during the 2016 coup attempt.

“Most of them are soldiers up to the rank of brigadier general, three of them are still at large, including the number one accused, Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and who is alleged to be the mastermind of the July 15 coup attempt,” explained FRANCE 24’s Jasper Mortimer, reporting from the southwestern Turkish city of Mugla.


Turkey dismisses 227 more judges, prosecutors in post-coup probe: AA

Turkey dismissed 227 more judges and prosecutors on Monday as part of investigations into last July’s failed coup, the state-run Anadolu agency said, meaning close to 4,000 members of the judiciary have now been purged.

Turkish authorities have detained, sacked or dismissed more than 100,000 people from the police, military, public service, judiciary, and elsewhere since the abortive coup over suspected ties to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the putsch.



Terror fears in France after knifeman goes berserk in town where al-Qaeda killed two Muslim soldiers

The 32-year-old struck in the town of Montauban, north of Toulouse where a terror attack two years ago left France stunned


A knife-wielding attacker was shot by police in south west France today (sun) after wounding a woman in the shoulder.

The unnamed assailant, who is said to be 32 and from the French overseas territory of Reunion Island, struck in the town of Montauban, north of Toulouse.

It is where an al-Qaeda operative killed two Muslim French soldiers five years ago, prompting fears that today’s incident might be terrorist related.


Star of postwar German cinema was Soviet spy, declassified files show

Marika Rökk revealed as Soviet agent working from 1940s onwards for network passing Third Reich secrets to Moscow

Marika Rökk
Marika Rökk, whose career began during the Nazi era, went on to star in almost 40 films until her death at the age of 90 in 2004. Photograph: Ronald Grant
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Humiliation on the High Seas



By Stephen Bryen and Shoshana Bryen

Aug. 25, 2016, at 5:30 p.m.

The United States was humiliated this week when the USS Nitze came under simulated attack by four Iranian missile and torpedo-equipped speedboats in international waters. Despite American warnings, radio calls, flares and foghorns, two of the boats came within a few hundred yards of the Nitze. Iran is harassing American naval warships in the Persian Gulf while Washington refuses to acknowledge Iranian threats for reasons that are both political and practical.


The political reason is that Washington still entertains the idea that Iran can be a friend of America. This view, strongly held by the White House, State Department, Pentagon and CIA, is a true fantasy. No matter how many Iranian statements from top Iranian political and military leaders proclaim their total hatred of the United States, Washington persists in fostering the illusion. There is no immediate cure for a political disease: We have yet to invent an anti-regime-biotic that, when injected into the insane, returns them to normalcy.


As there is no solution, the Obama administration will explain the Persian Gulf incident as some sort of aberration or unauthorized action by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, or a mistake, but not an act of overt hostility.

Second is the practical reason. The attack on the Nitze, described by the Navy and Pentagon as “unprofessional” and “unsafe,” actually was a test of an Iranian tactic called the “swarming boat” to destroy U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf.

The swarming boat attack is just what it sounds like: a number of fast boats equipped with missiles and torpedoes attack enemy ships from multiple angles to damage or destroy them as quickly as possible. Recently the Iranians added another dimension to the swarming boats: a vessel known as the Ya Mahdi, a remotely piloted fast patrol boat that can fire rockets or be stuffed with explosives. It is a new version of the boat that attacked the USS Cole in Aden in 2000 at a cost of 17 lives, 39 injuries and severe damage to the ship.

Fast patrol boats are maneuverable and operate up to 75 knots, making them hard to hit, particularly as they are built mostly of fiberglass, so they are not so easy to locate with radar. In addition, the defensive weapons on board most U.S. naval ships are inadequate. The old Mark 45 five inch guns fire too slowly and are not optimized against this kind of threat. They also are linked to aged fire control and radars that probably won’t pick up the patrol boats until they are in range to fire their missiles. The rapid-fire Phalanx gun, the gun of last resort on ships like the Nitze, has the same sensor-shooter problem, although some improvements have been made. It is questionable whether the Phalanx can actually stop an intense and multi-vessel attack.


Most important, none of these weapons can shoot down unguided rockets and missiles. The Phalanx fails because its range is too short and its ability to stop a high-speed kinetic round is very poor. And there is no good defense against torpedoes except to try and evade them, which is hard to do in a complex attack.

The Pentagon has known about this threat for a long time, and has opted to do next to nothing about it. Focused on big blue water operations, the Navy is behind a curve 20 years in the making.

Meanwhile, the Iranians keep improving the firepower of their fast patrol boats and adapt Western technology to further raise the threat level. They now have a semi-submersible fast patrol boat they acquired from North Korea and improved. This carries significant firepower and is hard to find and hit. They have taken British technology from the superfast Bladerunner speedboat and turned it into the Seraj-1, which exceeds 55 knots on the surface. A newer version, thought to be the Seraj-2, may reach 80 to 85 knots, far faster than anything in the U.S. inventory. And the Iranians appear able to acquire diesel engines, surface drives and other sophisticated gear from Western sources without any practical interference.

The Pentagon needs to get its act together and come up with tactics and weapons systems to solve the problem of swarm boat attacks. So, too, must the administration stop pretending Iran is not a real threat. Above all, it is time to end America’s humiliation on the high seas.

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Why Cyber Security Fails

by Stephen Bryen


The Maginot Line approach to Cyber Security is a self-fulfilling prophecy of disaster.

Today there is a huge cyber security industry organized to try and stop cyber intrusions, information theft, and crippling attacks on the critical infrastructure including our defense systems.  The American government has spent hundreds of billions since the 1980’s to try and build defenses against cyber attacks.  But despite the effort, and the tens of thousands of experts who have worked hard to try and protect information systems, there is a record of failure for all to see.  If anything, Americans are less secure today than last year; and less secure last years then ten years ago.  When it comes to protecting cyber systems, we are in an exponential failure mode.  Why?

Here are the reasons why cyber security fails:

1. Today’s systems are hugely complex and rapidly changing and adapting.  Such complexity means that even with the best of intentions it is extremely difficult to cover all, or even most, of the potential vulnerabilities in operating systems, software, communications and networks. Virtually every modern system has been hacked successfully and repeatedly.

2. Modern hardware and software evolves and as new features, capabilities and functions are added, the old features, capabilities and functions generally are dragged along and remain built into the newest products.  Thus old weaknesses persist and remain lurking even while new vulnerabilities are added to the risk equation.

3. Most software and firmware contains a certain amount of community-developed open source code.  This has led to some notable system disasters such as the Heartbleed bug.  Community developed code may be very good, and most of it is free thereby attracting companies to make use of it. Often it also forms the de facto standard for functions such as communications and security, making it hard to avoid because of the need for compatibility across different platforms including different vintages of applications.  There is no formal policing system for community developed code efforts.  While the people involved often are well meaning, their operations are an easy target for a professional intelligence organization to penetrate.

4. Most operating systems and computer software, even custom built, are commercial or contain commercial elements.  While all large computer software design teams take into account security, it is never their first priority because it is not their customer’s priority.  The customer wants the solution and wants to spend as little as possible in many cases.  The customer also wants ease of use and minimal restrictions placed on any application, network or operating system.  Plug and Play today has a much broader meaning than originally intended: it is the ability to load and use a program with minimal learning curve and maximum payback in terms of achieving functionality.  It is not surprising, therefore, that software companies often are providing patches and updates to try and fix a long list of vulnerabilities in the code they have sold commercially.  All updates and patches usually come well after the vulnerability has already been exploited by the bad guys.  Worse yet, not everyone implements the changes needed in a timely manner, or even at all.

5. Most software companies are globalized.  This means that maintaining anything resembling internal security is extremely difficult.  Only the biggest players can afford to put in place security mechanisms and background checks to try and prevent a hostile organization from penetrating their development centers.  Once you drop below the level of the big guys, personnel security, compartmentalization and other techniques (such as protecting operating code by encrypting core elements) are rarely implemented.  Thus hostile organizations, foreign intelligence services, even rogue hackers find it very easy to penetrate development centers.

6. The US government among others has requested firms specializing in software, web based applications, mobile systems and encryption to create so-called back doors and other weaknesses that are supposedly only known to the US government and the company. Unfortunately there are people such as Edward Snowden who expose these government efforts from time to time.  Even without a Snowden, it is reasonable to assume that well financed foreign intelligence services will figure out where these back doors and gaps exist, meaning that they can join outfits like the NSA in exploiting them.

7. Nation states are investing billions to harvest information from IT systems and use it for improving their own defense systems, finding ways to weaken their adversaries, or simply to get rich.  Banks have been ripped off to the tune of billions, and mostly don’t report it.  Patents and trademarks, legal processes, confidential documents all have been stolen and used either to generate cash, duplicate the effort of the victims, or to create secret funds that can be used for nefarious purposes.  There is a huge criminal enterprise underneath government-run programs in different parts of the world, creating a new class of cyber rich government officials and hackers in a perfect storm of criminal activity, profiteering and use of information to intimidate or destroy rivals or competitors.  It is virtually impossible to stop well financed cyber hacking because it is persistent, deniable and has no consequences to the perpetrator.  Almost no one goes to jail for cyber exploits except a few braggarts who get caught.  Then the government who arrests them makes deals so they can benefit from the know how in their knowledge base.

8. The response to most intrusions and hacking is passive defense.  Wars can never be won with passive defense.  The Maginot Line approach to Cyber Security is a self-fulfilling prophecy of disaster.  All the adversary has to do is to keep trying.  The costs are small, risks are few and mostly non-existent, and rewards are great.  While the Pentagon has put together what it calls Plan X to go after hackers, there is no evidence to suggest we are doing that, the rule of engagement are secret (and it isn’t sure the rules exist), and the idea itself is flawed because it is based on the notion that you can successfully reverse cyber attack the source,  Unfortunately the source of the attack is the foreign government or organized crime network.  It is not the individual hacker or even hacker organization.  These can be replaced, reconfigured, relaunched and they can do their damage from their home country or elsewhere almost as easily. Thus trying to smash them is a furtive game with few tangible rewards.  An attacking organization that can reconstitute itself on demand is not the right target.  The target must be the real source -namely the sponsors.  The sponsors can be got at in only one way– by causing damage to them. This means that if, for example, a cyber organization in China steals F-35 fighter jet information from Lockheed, the answer is not to hit back and attack the cyber organization.  The answer is to attack China’s aerospace industry and disrupt it severely.  Maybe this can be done through a cyber mechanism; but the mechanism is not so important as the deed.  Swift retribution is the only way to let the adversary know that he will pay  each and every time he causes harm. Indeed it is utterly galling and a mark of failure that China is showing off its stealth jet –the Chengdu J-20–which is clearly a rip off of the F-35, and we are sitting on our hands.  World leaders and politicians, as well as military people, understand immediately. Either China has bested America by stealing her secrets, or they suspect a conspiracy between the US and China since it is unbelievable that the US would permit China to steal our technology.  But there it is, staring us in the face, and eroding our national security and out prestige.  How much prestige can the US surrender and not be regarded as the global chump, instead of the global peace keeper?

These are the reasons cyber security fails.  It cannot work as it is done today.  No amount of political blarney can keep covering up the escalating failure and the harm it is causing to our security, eroding our global markets, and putting our businesses, government, infrastructure and personal privacy at great risk.  We have to shed the Maginot Line mentality and change the game if we want to win the war.

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No One is Safe in France

No one is safe in France.  The latest murders, including a Normandy priest of 86 years of age, celebrated by ISIS, demonstrates without any doubt the complete incompetence of the French authorities at all levels.  It illustrates either the total disdain for its own citizens, or its inability to understand and act on the threat that is destabilizing French society.  This time the attack was on Catholic churches; previously there were attacks on synagogues, Jewish Kosher stores, and people in night clubs, as well as attacks at sporting events and national celebrations including the mass killing in Nice during a Bastille Day parade.

Why incompetent?

The murder of Priest Father Jacques Hamel could easily have been prevented.   How do we know this?  The press in Europe is reporting today that computer files found in the apartment of a convicted terrorist had this church on the list to be attacked.  That was around a year ago.  So you may ask, what was done?  The answer is, worse than nothing.

When any public or private institution is threatened typically you take two basic steps. The first is to try and eliminate or neutralize the source of the threat.  The second, failing the first step, is to to put strong security in place to protect the threatened sites.

Regarding perimeter security, this church was left entirely unprotected.  There were no guards. The two terrorists (there could be more, this is what we know about now) entered the church through an unlocked back door.  Why was the door unlocked?  Why didn’t the church have any protection.  Responsibility for this falls on the shoulders of the French authorities and, perhaps, on the church if the warnings were passed to them, which is not known at present.  Clearly the congregants in the Church, and those taken hostage, including nuns, had no inkling they were on a  hit list.

Next we come to at least the main terrorist.  Not only was he known to the police, but he had been previously arrested for terrorism and convicted.  It was his apartment that had the computer files that put this church, and others, on the hit list.  He was out of jail under a form of house arrest.  He was wearing an electronic tag and paroled to his parents.  But, under the terms of his release, he was allowed to do anything he wanted during the morning hours, meaning that his electronic tag was not monitored from 0830 until 1230 every day,  The attack at the church in the center of Saint Etienne du Rouvray took place around 10 am.

Why would the French judicial system parole a known terrorist?  Why would they disregard extremely worrisome intelligence and not provide decent protection to their citizens?

The pattern of consistent security failures in France includes far more than what happened in Saint Etienne du Rouvray.  In Nice, despite for-warnings of terrorism, the French police removed guards on the streets allowing a terrorist driving a heavy truck full of weapons to mow down people trapped in the crowds on the main street. Sandra Bertin, a local police officer in Nice, complained that the police who were there were only permitted to carry light weapons, namely small pistols. “The truck dodged the municipal police barrier. The team couldn’t stop it. You can’t burst the tires of a 19-tonner with a revolver. Then other municipal police in plainclothes in the crowd were confronted with it,” she said.  When she came to turn in her report of what she saw happen in Nice, she was asked to change her report.  She refused. The resulting contretemps has resulted in France’s Interior Minister, who is in overall charge of security, to threaten to sue Bertin.

Perhaps France’s Interior Minister can do better.  He can resign.

The lack of security in France is nothing new to France’s Jews who until recently have borne the brunt of France’s poor security environment.  Synagogues and Jewish schools and community centers have been attacked; Jews have been beat up and in some cases murdered on buses and in the metro or walking on the street; Kosher supermarkets have been shot up and many people killed –the list is a long one.  It is one of the reasons why Jews, who have an alternative, can leave France.  But for the rest of the people, that options is really not available.

In Europe right now ISIS and its Jihadi affiliates are waging war.  The Europeans overall don’t know what to do, and have been making a mess by not acting on intelligence, not protecting their borders, and refusing to understand the source of their collective problem.  Whether it is Germany, Belgium France or the UK the coddling of potential terrorists, the lack of connecting intelligence to action, and the weakness of law enforcement including the court system, is making it a sure thing that many more decent people will suffer and die.

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by Stephen Bryen*

There is no reason to any longer trust Europe.  Europe is a collection of incompetent and dangerous nation-states with reduced sovereignty that are incapable of defending their borders and inept at ferreting out the terrorists in their midst.  Typically greedy and stupid, Europe’s police and military are all but emasculated, and Europe’s tolerance for domestic and imported terrorism is outright frightening.

With all the refugees pouring in, what are they doing to screen out terrorists?  Nothing.  They have failed to allocate money to buy minimal equipment.  Their security authorities are “detached” keeping their distance from densely populated Muslim communities and the refugees. Madness?  You bet.

While Europeans amuse themselves by beating up on Israel and practicing snarky antisemitism,  they have voluntarily surrendered their countries (such as they are) to domestic and imported Muslim terrorists who are steadily taking control of key neighborhoods, importing large quantities of weapons and explosives, and building close-knit, difficult to penetrate networks. The fact that most law-enforcement and security members speak no Arabic doesn’t help.

Had the terror cell responsible for the Paris and Brussels attacks delayed the attacks, they may have been able also to carry out their reported plan to attack a nuclear power station.

Most Euro-police forces lack the will and, therefore, the tools to go after suspected Muslim terrorists.  They show up after a terror event and parade around wearing body armor, protective helmets, and rapid fire guns. But they are poorly equipped, uncoordinated, and held in check by political leaders who don’t want to rock the boat of their illusions.

Consider the suicide bomber Ibrahim El Bakraoui.  He was deported twice by the Turks who warned the Belgian authorities he was a terrorist threat.  No matter.  The Belgians who promptly ignored the warnings are now responsible for the killing of at least 31 people, more than 330 wounded and for the short and long term enormous economic cost caused by the recent attacks.  But the Belgians insist it’s not their fault. They claim they are doing their best. The prevalent attitude is, “Once people get it into their minds that they’re going to kill people, you can’t stop them,”

No matter what European bigots say about Israel, and they are always screaming the Israelis are Nazis –  even worse, Jews – the fact remains that Israel has one of the best intelligence operations in the world.  Unlike their incompetent counterparts in Europe, they want and work hard to stop terrorism.  They would also like to protect Jews and Israelis who are all too often the target of terror attacks, as they were recently in Belgium.  One can rightfully ask: how come European intelligence, or the CIA, or Interpol didn’t issue proper warnings?

Europe, in its current condition, is not only living in a terrible threat environment largely of its own making. It also presents a major threat to the United States.

Why?  The lax security conditions and gross incompetence in Europe mean that terrorists can get on a plane and come to the United States.  The risk of hijackings, crashing planes or importing terrorists is very high.  Given the lack of effective European intelligence and monitoring, the U.S. should consider stopping all flights from Europe to the U.S. until the mess is cleaned up.

Many will say such measures are extremist and unjustified.  Really?  A flight from Brussels to Dulles Airport, with one or more ISIS terrorist on board could end up smashing into the White House or the CIA complex, or hitting NSA, south of Baltimore or a nuclear power station is frightfully real and immensely dangerous.  Such an event would make Fukushima look small by comparison.  Yet we already know that the same terrorists who blew up the Brussels airport and metro had also planned to blow up a nuclear plant there. Do we think through some heavenly miracle that won’t happen in future?

The European security situation is, at the moment, beyond hopeless.  It is a train wreck with existential implications for America.   Our President’s inability to grasp the danger makes matters that much worse.

America can’t trust Europe right now.  It is urgent that we take measures to protect our homeland.


The terror cell responsible for the Paris and Brussels attacks was planning to attack an unidentified nuclear power station, it has been reported. Pictured is the power plant in Doel, Belgium Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3507417/Brussels-bombers-DID-plan-attack-nuclear-power-station-police-uncover-12-hours-footage-jihadists-filmed-outside-plant-director-s-home.html#ixzz43pbfRWDU



*Dr. Stephen Bryen’s latest book is Technology Security and National Power: Winners and Losers (Transaction Publishers).

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Regulating Encryption: Can it be done? Yes.

by Stephen Bryen

NIST Scanner

The Director of the FBI in a warning to Congress points out that ISIS is now using encryption to mask messages it is sending to thousands of Americans favorable to the ISIS cause, exhorting them to kill military and police and other hated targets. He, along with others in the Obama administration are urging “Silicon Valley” to consider building backdoors into encryption products they sell so that law enforcement can tap encrypted phones or computers and properly “do its job.”

But the question is, is there a practical solution?

I have been in the encryption business, or more clearly I have built commercial products that use encryption. In the early 1990’s I founded a company called SECOM (for Secure Communications). We developed a computer chat program that provided a secure, encrypted chat. In those days the Internet was only just getting underway and everyone was using modems (there was no WIFI or data connections except for big business and banks). Nor were there smartphones. The PC, however, was very popular and we built our product to run on PC’s running MSDOS or Windows. And because computers were slow, we built a little plug in computer card which did the actual encryption and decryption work.

Then the fun began. NSA did not like our solution because it was too hard to crack, so they “recommended” reducing the key size. It got to the point where the key size was too small to assure security, and after thinking it over (and investing a lot of development money), we decided we could not sell a product that failed in its critical mission: to protect the users from intercepts. We closed the company.

It was a bad outcome for us. And, as we pointed out at the time, because we used hardware and software we could have controlled who the end users were and assured that only bona fide users, not criminals or terrorists, would have access to the product.

What we went through was nothing new. A few years before IBM had proposed building encryption into all PCs so that all the data stored by them would be secure. NSA again objected, and despite IBM bringing rather heavy guns to bear on the problem, in the person of a direct appeal from the chairman of IBM to the head of the NSA, IBM had to stand down. No encryption chips would live on the IBM circuit board.

NSA and its counterpart the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) wear two different hats: on the one hand NSA is charged with carrying out spying in support of its US government “customers”; on the other NSA and NIST produce guidelines for security and even sponsor encryption solutions such as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) which has replaced the old Data Encryption Standard (or DES). These sponsored products can be used without any licenses and can be exported abroad.

It may seem odd, therefore, that the government is worried about encryption if it is also facilitating its development and export.

We can add to that known efforts by NIST to actually publish a random number generator for so-called elliptical curve encryption was found to be buggered. The buggered product found its way into corporate security systems in the US and around the world.

The latest alarm in our government is more a consequence of the embarrassing and dangerous leaks by Edward Snowden then anything directly to do with ISIS. Terrorists have been using encryption for a number of years, and they easily get it on the open market. The Russians, Chinese, Europeans, Israelis as well as many companies in the United States develop and sell a wide range of security products that use encryption. And the “Dark Web” on the Internet is also a source of supply for covert type programs and applications.

My own thought is that the government is trying very hard to cut a deal with Snowden so that he will serve a little jail time and then shut up. It seems he still has a large bagful of information that exposes US spying activities. In fact that is the only logical way to interpret statements by our former attorney general Eric Holder who says a deal is possible with Snowden. He should know.

Whatever the case, the availability of encryption on a global scale seems to suggest that trying to control it is a furtive exercise. But that is what the government is saying. So the question is what can the government actually do to mitigate the situation?

Many in Silicon Valley (and here we are talking about most of the really big high tech computer and mobile players in the United States) worry that the government will insist on putting a back door into their encryption schemes, or some other way where the government can get into encrypted communications and data transfers. Clearly this is a scheme the government has pursued for a long time, but it brings with it two risks: either the “security” is so weak as to be meaningless, pushing users to outside solutions or the backdoor or hole in the system is uncovered, as Snowden has already proven. But there is even a third risk: that the backdoor or hole is uncovered by a professional adversary such as China or Russia, meaning that everything you thought was safe is out the window. Given the plethora of escalating exponential cyber attacks on our government and on corporate America, this “solution” is far more dangerous than abandoning encryption altogether, largely because it creates a false expectation of security.

An alternative solution the government could pursue is simply to make the use of encryption in the United States illegal. Such a thing would be very hard to enforce, but in the mobile world it can be done basically by shutting down any encrypted communication that is unauthorized. The technology for this certainly exists today in the form of network sniffers and scanners.

A modified form of the no encryption approach is to allow encryption only on authorized devices that US industry and licensed political and social organizations can use. To me this makes a lot of sense, and in fact I proposed an alternative idea back in the 1980’s when I dealt with export controls.

The idea propounded then was a sort of Gold Card for industry allowing them to get around the red tape and delays that hurt their business performance.

The idea has merit. We are using it today at American airports, either to have more rapid treatment in security processing (the so called “PRE” benefit) or as part of the Global Access Program to allow Americans who travel a lot to get past long lines at border crossings, especially airports.

Such a scheme would make sense in protecting America and allowing us to secure our communications and data. Naturally it would not stop terrorists from using encryption, but they would not be able to use it with their clients and wannabes in the United States. Such communications would be taken down by scanners.

I think this is an excellent solution for law enforcement because it forces the bad guys out into the open. Then it is law enforcement’s job to put them out of business here. And it is the job of the DOD and CIA to shut them down beyond our borders.

Above all else it is vastly important to make America safe, and it is vital that our communications can be secure and our data repositories free from exploitation. This the government itself should understand from its gross mishandling of sensitive but unclassified information, like the millions of non-encrypted records recently stolen by the Chinese.

Let’s hope we can arrive at a sensible solution to security for America.

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11 Cyber Security Suggestions for Political Campaigns

by Stephen Bryen
As we are now in the midst of a Presidential campaign I am offering some free advice on how to keep the playing field as level as possible.  
Today we are deeply immersed in social media, email, texting and the widespread use of all kinds of APPS either to share information or carry out tasks.  Every modern political campaign is going to use all these tools and many more.  So here are suggestions on how to protect yourself.
Suggestion #1.  Do not use web based email, even encrypted web based email.  All web based email passes through servers controlled by the companies who offer the service, sometimes for free (like Google and Yahoo) and sometimes for a fee.  What really matters is that anything that passes through a third party server is a big risk.  Given that folks get pretty spun up over ideological and political issues, even the most security conscious companies can’t really control their employees.  The insider threat is greatest where sensitive information is exposed.  Web based email lives off revenue that is generated by key words that are “read” by machines and the information passed to advertisers or anyone who wants to buy the information.  Thus if I plug in the word “Liberal” as a key word, I will automatically know who the “Liberal” folks are on the email system.  That’s for starters. Then you come to the problem that someone wants to know what a particular campaign is doing, or planning, and plugs in a key word such as a candidate’s name, and then harvests the information.  From this one can deduce who are the active supporters and what they are up to.  From there lots of trouble starts.
Instead of web based email set up your own server and make sure the server is well protected by a firewall and by some form of two step authentication for the users.  Every campaign should have its own server for email and should make sure it is under their full control and carefully monitored.
Suggestion #2.  Do not use Skype, Hangouts or any other “free” service for conferencing.  In fact, don’t use any web based conferencing, even if it is paid.  Set up your own conferencing and your own server.  Listening in on Skype, for example, has been a favorite past time for NSA, but it is also easily hacked by anyone with technological sophistication.  There is sure to be a big secondary market in intercepted Skype calls, with all kinds of juicy bits either offered up at no cost or bought by desperate candidates, probably using cutouts.  Avoid the problem.
Suggestion #3. Do not use any APP on your cellphone unless you are sure it is clean and safe, and above all don’t use any APPS you get from the Apple Store or Android Play Store. These APPS often steal your information such as your contacts lists or schedule, or report your location.  It is astonishing how many “permissions” APPS ask for that have nothing to do with their functionality.  This is a tip off that the APP comes with an ulterior motive.  To make matters worse, many of the APPS out there in the public are buggered and have malicious code attached to them in the form of malware and spyware. It is very hard to tell what APPS are clean and which are not. Avoid them all.  If you have designed a special APP for campaign use, it is very important to test its integrity and make sure it is not leaking vital information.  And the APP should not be distributed in a public way.
Suggestion #4.  Be careful about cell phone calls, especially if you are in a public area such as an airport, coffee shop, hotel or restaurant.  Today there are lots of cheap IMSI catchers around. An IMSI catcher is a tool that pretends to be a cell tower.  Your cell phone is built to look for the strongest cell phone signal and connect to it.  An IMSI catcher if it is nearby will appear to the phone like a strong signal and it will connect to that “tower.”  Then the IMSI acts as a man in the middle: it grabs your call and connects you to a legitimate cell tower and then to the person you are connected with through the phone company. Meanwhile the IMSI can record your entire phone conversation.
Suggestion #5.  Avoid public WIFi.  Public WiFi is very dangerous because it is not encrypted in any way.  Whatever you do across a public WIFI connection is easy to intercept. Like the IMSI catcher it is also common these days for snoops to set up what looks like a public WIFI to snare your connection, even on airplanes or trains.  This means that you are connected through a snooper to the external network and everything you do or say across the WIFI can be picked off. You are far better off using the data connection from the telephone company than using the data connection of a public WIFI.
Suggestion #6.  Consider secure smartphones for communications at the top levels of a campaign.  The best secure phones both encrypt the conversation so that if it is intercepted it can’t be listened to, and protect the phone from malware and spyware.  Be aware that most secure phones work through servers, and the people who run the servers, if they are third party, may or may not be reliable.  Be careful here and consider running your own secure phone server.
Suggestion #7. Train your staff to follow sound cyber security procedures in all their activities.  Training is very important for two reasons: it helps reduce the chance of human error which is one of the biggest sources of security compromise and it makes people alert to intrusions and threats.  Being ready for various threats is very important.  A denial of service attack could close down a campaign because all its messaging and communications could be blocked.  Knowing what to do when that happens and having alternatives in place means your campaign will not be shut down.
Suggestion #8. Vet companies you hire to provide cyber services checking carefully about who are their customers and whom they employ.  The first rule is to ask for a list of a cyber security company’s customers and their employees.  Then hire a private investigations firm to check them carefully.  Outsourcing cyber security support may be very necessary, but it is also risky. One ringer in the bunch and your campaign could be badly compromised.
Suggestion #9. Make sure that all campaign personnel who have social media accounts clean them before they come on board.  Set rules on what is allowed or not allowed during the campaign. People today are very careless on what they post on social media.  People “tweet” before they think, and Post before they consider the consequences.  They also give out too much personal information, location information, even family information that might be used by an adversary.  Rules are very important to help mitigate this risk, and monitoring is not only important but probably mandatory.  
Suggestion #10.  Keep your most strategic documents, membership lists, and other vital data off line on computers that are not connected to the Internet.  This is the best way to keep your campaign plans safe.  It is also a good idea to encrypt everything, even what is offline.  One of the cottage industries in Washington DC is for cleaning ladies to be accompanied on their late night work by intruders and poachers who download everything they can from office computers.  If the material is encrypted, then it has no value to any intruder.  Be safe; not sorry.
Suggestion #11.  Don’t allow cell phones or tablets in any meeting you have.  Cells phones and tablets are walking time bombs.  Their microphones and cameras can be switched on by spyware and can listen in and record your meetings and conversations.  And if there is a computer in the room, unplug it!  Even when not having a conversation make sure your webcam is unplugged (if you can) or covered if you can’t.
Above all remember that a political campaign is like any other business or organization in that it must be operated in a responsible way.  If your campaign lacks cyber security you are not only hurting your chances for election but you are hurting your cause and bringing potential harm to colleagues and friends.  Cyber security is not only very important in political campaigns -you can’t succeed without it.
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Technology and Security Podcast on Itunes

Washington DC, June 26, 2015
For Immediate Release

Technology and Security has launched a new podcast series by the same name.  Episodes will be available at


Users will need iTunes to download the new podcast series.

Look for this cover in Itunes

Look for this cover in Itunes

While having an audio version is somewhat of an experiment for us, there have been enough requests for a podcast series that we decided to go ahead and make the programs available.

Some of the podcasts will be based directly on our well-regarded blog, Technology and Security.  Others will be available only in podcast format.

Technology and Security aims to relate the importance of technology to national security and national power. The blog’s author, Dr. Stephen Bryen’s recent books include: Essays in Technology, Security and Strategy and the forthcoming Technology Security and National Power: Winners and Losers.

America has long enjoyed being the world’s technology leader.  But in some sectors that is starting to change as American technology increasingly has gone off shore, fueling China’s rapid growth and military expansion, and as other countries have closed the technology gap with the United States.  These changes and shifts represent a challenge for the future, and for the most part America’s guard still remains down.  Should this persist, America will find its ability to maintain its standard of living and safeguard its security increasingly difficult.

Technology and Security explores these issues and more.  Part of the blog’s focus is on cyber security, an area where adversaries are having their way harvesting American technological information and undermining governmental and infrastructural functions.  Technology and Security helps to explain why this is happening and proposes ways to cope with the situation or strengthen the protection of vital computer networks.

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The Real Cybercrime

by Stephen Bryen

[A version of this article appeared in the Huffington Post with Rebecca Abrahams]

It now seems that the Office of Personnel Management, which had outsourced its data storage to other Federal agencies, has lost an astonishing 18 million personnel records, including most of those involving security clearances.  The information is now in the hands of unknown hackers who almost certainly have bartered the stolen information to willing buyers.  Most experts think that the buyer is most likely China, with Russia running a close second.

When a prospective employee applies for a job that requires a security clearance he or she fills out a form called an SF-86 which is called a Questionnaire for National Security Positions. The Questionnaire is extensive and demanding and requires so much information to be handed over to the government that there is virtually nothing left one could dream of adding to it.  Your friends, colleagues, bosses, neighbors are all included along with all your personal information. In the wrong hands this document at minimum guarantees easy identity theft. Worse, in the hands of a determined adversary, a person’s vulnerabilities can be exploited including tracking the employee and making sophisticated “phishing” operations possible.  Phishing is a technique where a false email or message can be sent to an employee that, when opened, puts spyware on the employee’s computer.

You would think given the explosive importance of the SF-86 form that the government would take strong steps to protect the information.  Perish the thought.  Nothing like that has been done: in fact, the government passes around these forms to other agencies (such as the FBI) and gives them to contractors for “processing.”

Our government has consistently failed at computer security from the beginning. The first Computer Security Act was passed in 1988, and there have been many subsequent legislative initiatives since then along with Executive Orders and pronouncements from agencies including NSA and the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), the latest one just this week.

None of them understand the problem or demonstrate any real willingness to solve it.  All of them have the wrong cart in front of the wrong horse.

The truth is that unless special steps are taken to protect sensitive unclassified information the game is lost from the start.

What are those steps?  Most fundamentally there are two: compartmenting information and encrypting it.   For unclassified information which is what the SF-86 is considered to be, the government neither compartments nor encrypts. NSA won’t let them because the information is not classified: our government security experts keep thinking they can do it another way.  No they can’t.

NIST has just put out a new directive for contractors.  It is worthless.  Why?  Because it does not require either compartmentalization or encryption.

Compartmentalization means that not everyone can access everything.  It is as simple as that.  It can be made weightier by adding a “need to know” requirement, meaning that you are only entitled to look at what is absolutely necessary for your job.  Properly administered need to know and compartmentalization protects any major theft of information particularly if the data itself is stored in an encrypted format.

081203-N-2147L-390 NORFOLK, Va. (Dec. 3, 2008) Sailors on the watch-floor of the Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command monitor, analyze, detect and defensively respond to unauthorized activity within U.S. Navy information systems and computer networks. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Corey Lewis/Released)

NORFOLK, Va. (Dec. 3, 2008) Sailors on the watch-floor of the Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command monitor, analyze, detect and defensively respond to unauthorized activity within U.S. Navy information systems and computer networks. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Corey Lewis/Released)

The real crime is the failure of both the administration and the Congress to put in place a higher standard of information protection applying these known and effective tools.  While everyone is running around thinking about firing the head of the Office of Personnel Management, perhaps they should think about firing themselves for the crimes against privacy they have perpetrated.

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