cyberarmscontrolblog

International Agreement for Control of Cyber Weapons

Tag: ISIS

2016 The Year of Cyber War 0.7

Is Interference in Campaigns “Cyber War”?

2016 was the year of cyber war, and we will call it “cyber war 0.7” because it not a complete cyber war in the proper sense of the word. The most incredible event was the role of WikiLeaks in the election for the president of the United States. WikiLeaks was able to publish a large number of emails from the Democratic National Committee. These emails indicated a certain level of untoward behavior on the part of the leadership of the Democratic committee. As a result of this, there were various personnel changes in the Democratic National Committee.

The emails seem to indicate a number of activities that were considered by the opposition to be improper. Although these activities or not reported upon widely in the mainstream media, nevertheless, they seemed to have a decisive effect on the election. The connection between the leak of these emails and the election found it’s nexus in the investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In particular, only about one week before the vote, the FBI announced that it was re-opening its investigation of the Clinton emails. According to most commentators on the Democratic side, this specific action by the FBI was responsible primarily for the loss of Hillary Clinton in the election. The opposition claimed however that the real reason why she lost the election had to do with her policies regarding industrialization and foreign trade policy for the United States. It is difficult to know what all of the reasons were, but this discussion regarding the role of WikiLeaks, and the role of cyber warfare in the election has continued.

US Retaliation Against Russian Diplomats

After the election for the president but before the inauguration of the new administration, President Obama announced that the United States would be taking retaliatory action against the Russian Federation. This retaliation involves the expiration of 35 diplomats and their families from the United States within 72 hours. That’s at the same time, the Russians or forced to abandon two facilities that they have been operating for more than a quarter of a century. And additional hardship imposed upon the Russians was that this expulsion came only a few days before the New Year’s celebration which in Russia, like in so many other countries, is a major celebration. The representative of the Russian Federation in San Francisco stated that the cook for the New Year’s festivities had been expelled from the United States. He lamented publicly on television that because of this it would not be possible for the consulate to invite the large number of American guest as was customary.

This time, it still is not clear exactly what role the Russian Federation had in the release of the Clinton emails. For example, Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, as stated on numerous occasions, including today in a live interview on the Fox news Channel, that the Russian Federation government had absolutely no connection to the release of the emails. In spite of these numerous denials, many still argue that it was the intervention of the Russian government in the presidential election that was responsible for the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

During this past week, there also was a report that malicious code from the Russian Federation had been injected into the electrical supply control mechanism for the state of New Hampshire. This news item turned out to be false.

The Chinese Office of Personnel Hack

There were many other significant events involving cyber warfare or cyber espionage during the year 2016. One of the most significant incidents was when a group operating from the People’s Republic of China managed to hack into the personnel records of more than 2 million employees of the federal government. They took a large amount of extremely confidential information including background investigation and security information regarding these government employees. What is peculiar about this incident is that the Obama administration did not take the type of harsh countermeasures that it has taken in the case of the legend Russian hacking of the US election.

Terrorists Use of Social Media

A third major theme of cyber warfare during the year 2016 involved the role of I S I S in it’s propaganda efforts to recruit terrorists around the world. These recruitment efforts have been very successful, particularly in Europe. During this year, Europe has seen a dramatic increase in terrorism and has lost a large number of people. In general, the situation seems to be getting much worse in Europe. In spite of this rise in the number of deaths originating in terrorism, Europe still seems to be refusing to place any controls on the propaganda coming from the Middle East. Placing controls on information is very difficult because it is a direct contravention of the international law regarding freedom of speech and freedom of communication. These principles were incorporated into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately, we can see that international declarations are not to the same as international law.

We can say confidently that the year 2016 was one in which all aspects of the cyber issue came to the forefront in the international news. We can also say that during the coming year we should continue to see an escalation of problems in the cyber domain.

This blog continues to maintain the position that until there is a very significant outage or Internet crisis which affects a number of countries at the same time there will not be any recognition of the need for an international agreement to limit the proliferation and development of cyber weapons.

 

 

Cyber Arms Control and the Middle East

The current situation in the Middle East is a disaster.  Yesterday, Turkey shot down a Russian SU-24M fighter aircraft flying over Northern Syria near the Turkish border.  Although the Turkish and Russian militaries had set up a “hot line” to handle any crisis or emergency, the Turkish side never bothered to contact the Russians.

Supposedly, the Russian aircraft flew into Turkish air space, but inspection of the radar outputs published by Turkey indicate that the amount of time flying inside Turkey could not have been more than a minute, possibly only half a minute or less.

When the aircraft was shot down, it was already back in Syrian air space, which means that the Turks shot their missiles from Turkey into Syria.

The Turks said that they had warned the Russian pilots for at least ten times over a period of 5 minutes.  At those speeds, this means that the Russian pilots were warned about Turkish air space when they were still in Syria, and heading towards Turkish territory.

The Russian pilot who survived the attack reported that no communication from the Turks had been received.

Originally there were two pilots in the SU-24.  Shortly after the aircraft was hit, they pushed the emergency escape buttons, to eject in their seats and parachute to safety.  On their way down, at a time when they could not possibly do any harm to anyone, Turkomen persons started firing on them with machine guns, killing one of the Russian pilots.

To add insult to injury, when two rescue helicopters were dispatched from nearby Russian ships to rescue the pilots, one was shot down, and yet another soldier or more were killed.

After the incident, the Turks rather than contacting Russia, instead went directly to NATO with a complaint, demanding support as part of the mutual defense treaty.  Military analysts in the United States are saying that this was an ambush by Turkey against the Russians.

Some are worried that this may lead to a third world war.  It is a horrible situation.  Fascinating as it may be, this blog is no place to examine the complex realities of the Middle East, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Russia, the United States, and all the other players there.

Cyber War in the Middle East Now

The list of cyber weapons that are being used now in the Middle East and across the world is very large.  We can name only a few, and without doubt could not list them all, even if there were inclination or time.

Electronic Battlefield. The United States is operating a gigantic information battlefield in which soldiers or special forces on the ground in Syria and Iraq are receiving more or less real time information from a variety of intelligence sources, including real time information from drones and satellites.  For every American soldier in the battlefield hell of ISIS, there are satellites overhead looking out for them.  These in effect are teams of persons at various US dark sites around the world. Constantly on duty, they monitor US troop movements are look ahead so as to be able to warn of danger.

Social Media War. ISIS has mastered the use of social media to recruit “sleeper” agents inside Western countries.  The recruits go through three phases:  First, there is general curiosity about propaganda available online.  Second, they make an initial contact with a recruiter for the Islamic State.  Sometimes this recruitment period goes on for a long time.  Some persons in the United States have even received gifts of candy and books.  In the third phase, the recruited agent goes over to the dark web, which means that all of their communications are encrypted, and this makes it impossible for the intelligence communities around the world to read what they are doing.  It is during this phase that the sleeper agent is given specific instructions regarding what they are next to do.

Hacking War. Every day the United States receives more than 100,000 attacks from overseas.  These attacks are aimed at either destroying or stealing important information.  Most attacks come from Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.  These attacks are monitored by the NSA Cyber Command, but it is difficult to keep up with all of the attacks, as many of them are automated.

It often is noted that even now adversaries have the ability to shut down or disrupt the US transportation system, the electricity grid, and financial institutions.  This merely compliments the constant virus and denial-of-service attacks that constantly flood the Internet.

The Internet is one of the greatest advantages of the US economy, but also it is a great factor of weakness.

Prospects for Arms Control

For the time being, the prospects for cyber arms control are not good.  Countries are too busy engaging in the growing war against ISIS, and in defending their own national interests.  Second, the cyber arms race is a time in which countries are working very hard to develop their capabilities.  Countries would rather develop their capabilities, than cut these efforts short by working on a treaty.

For the time being, the US is a global intelligence and cyber superpower, but no one knows how long that situation can last.

 

 

 

Anonymous vs. Daesh

The reverberations of the Daesh attack on teenagers in Paris continue.  Daesh has released videos showing how it is training children to murder non-muslims.  It has threatened to attack the Vatican, and the White House.  At the same time, the cyber war continues.

The original fight between Daesh and Anonymous started when Daesh hijacked a single Anonymous Twitter feed.  After that, Anonymous has continued a regular series of attacks against Daesh, regularly releasing names, id’s, passwords, associated IP addresses and other information on thousands of Daesh internet accounts.  Anonymous released a series of videos in French promising to take further actions against Daesh, and soon.

On November 19th, 2015, Anonymous announced that it had taken down 5,500 Daesh accounts in response to being called “idiots”. This is called #OpParis.  “The Anonymous vs ISIS showdown is only the beginning, with Anonymous vowing to wipe the Internet stage of all ISIS activity, rendering ISIS impotent of their recruiting network online.”

At the same time, Daesh is sending out as many as 96,000 recruitment emails per day, all aimed at getting sympathizers in the West.

This conflict is an example of how cyber war will develop.  There are a number of basic functions in a cyber conflict:

  • Breaking and exposure of the security of enemy Internet accounts;
  • Use of the subculture of hackers instead of the type of organized response found in a military;
  • Sabotage of web servers, and attempts to interfere with Internet facilities of all types of the enemy;
  • Lack of transparency in what is happening, or even what has happened.

It is unlikely that a cyber arms control treaty will be able to identify all of the specific violations or attacks that may take place.  Any attempt to write out a treaty with complete rationalist comprehensiveness is futile.  Instead, the world will need to stick to generalist principles.