UN secretary-general wants global regulations to combat cyberwars

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday called for the creation of a regulatory body charged with fighting electronic warfare campaigns that target civilians

While speaking at his alma mater, the University of Lisbon, the UN chief said a global set of rules that would help protect civilians from disinformation campaigns – many of which have revolutionized the way interested parties weaponise information through the use of the internet and social media networks.

State-sponsored computer hackers, including “Fancy Bear” and “Cozy Bear” – both controlled by Russia’s intelligence services, have disrupted multinational firms and public services, as well as political campaigns, and most recently the opening ceremonies of the ongoing Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.

“Episodes of cyber warfare between states already exist. What is worse is that there is no regulatory scheme for that type of warfare. It is not clear how the Geneva Convention or international humanitarian law applies in these cases,” Guterres said while speaking at the University of Lisbon. “I am absolutely convinced that unlike the great battles of the past, which opened with a barrage of artillery or aerial bombardment, the next major war will begin with a massive cyber attack to destroy military capacity and to paralyse basic infrastructure, including electric networks.”

Cyber-warfare has moved to the forefront of military planning over the last decade. Russia’s GRU military intelligence unit successfully tested its ability to disrupt public services in Estonia and Georgia more than a decade ago, Western military planners have scrambled to counter the advances that Moscow has made in developing advanced cyber-warfare strategies.

NATO is in the process of cyberwar principles that will act as a strategic framework for guiding the alliance’s force reaction in the event of a crippling cyber attack to its command structure or the deployment of cyberweapons against one of the alliance allies. NATO command hopes to have a broad plan in place by 2019, but questions remain as the US administration under Donald Trump had continued with its lukewarm embrace of the 68-year-old North Atlantic Alliance.

During his speech in Lisbon, Gutteres offered to use the UN as a platform for scientists, programmers, and government representatives to develop rules that would help minimise the amount of access certain agents of war would have when trying to make contact with unwitting civilians.

Guterres said he believed it possible for leading computer specialists and like-minded lawmakers to created a set of rules that would “guarantee the more humane character” of a conflict involving information technology and help preserve cyberspace as “an instrument in the service of good”, but warned that time was not on their side as technological advances far outpace the traditional methods of working out universally accepted rules that include the Geneva Conventions of 1864-1949.

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Air Force officer discusses report on Russian meddling at MU

Rudi Keller @CDTCivilWar

During the Soviet era, Air Force Lt. Col. Jarred Prier wrote in his journal article “Commanding the Trend: Social Media as Information Warfare,” Russia used its propaganda tools to plant believable lies in foreign media, intending to sow discord among allies of the United States or weaken it in the eyes of other nations.

Now, as the indictments handed down Friday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller show, Russian disinformation campaigns manipulate opinion here. They have been so successful, Prier said in an interview, that his findings that the Russian cyber warfare team targeted the 2015 turmoil at the University of Missouri will not be believed by a large segment of the public.


“There are people who at face value don’t believe what you said because you said Russia did something,” Prier said. “On the opposite side, political left is so willing to believe anything that has to do with Russia right now.”

Prier is currently serving as director of operations for the 20th Bomb Squadron. He has studied the social media propaganda techniques of the Islamic State and Russia and found similar tactics used to serve different strategic goals. He spoke to the Tribune by telephone Wednesday.

Adopting the #PrayForMizzou hashtag in the hours after former UM System President Tim Wolfe resigned, Russian cyber trolls and their robotic repeaters stoked fear of a violent white backlash, Prier found in his peer-reviewed research, published in November 2017 in Strategic Studies Quarterly.

Some of the fear was well-grounded. A threat from inside Missouri posted on Yik Yak led to the arrest of Hunter Park in Rolla. But much of it was baseless, fed by Russian Twitter accounts including one with the handle @FanFan1911 and a user name of “Jermaine,” whose avatar was a photo of a black man. @FanFan1911 tweeted falsely that the Ku Klux Klan was marching on the campus backed by police.

Prier, a 2003 MU graduate, traced the activities of @FanFan1911 and other Russian troll actors while doing master’s degree research at the Air University for the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies. He remembered @FanFan1911 specifically because he called the Twitter user a liar on Nov. 11, 2015.

He’s not 100 percent certain that @FanFan1911 was a Russian, he said. But the way the user’s targets changed – from Europe to the United States, back to Europe again during the Syrian refugee crisis and again to target the U.S. during the election – and the way robots were set up to retweet him, the account fits every measure he has available.

“The final discriminator was after Hillary Clinton used basket of deplorables in a speech, all the accounts I had been monitoring changed their names to deplorables-something or other,” Prier said. “It was bizarro world.”

Prier’s findings about how Russians inserted themselves into MU’s problems make up only a small portion of his article, which is a broader look at the social media tactics employed by the Islamic State and Russia to achieve their strategic goals and how U.S. policy makers should consider it a new field of competition.

The title of Prier’s article is an allusion to Giulio Duohet’s seminal 1921 work on air power, “Command of the Air.” After World War I, Duohet imagined massive fleets of bombers that would reduce cities to rubble, demoralizing inhabitants and forcing their leaders to surrender.

Duohet correctly imagined the extent of future air power but not the result. In his concluding paragraph, Prier puts defense in the social media field on par with protecting infrastructure and information subject to hacking.

“This was not the cyber war we were promised,” Prier wrote. “Predictions of a catastrophic cyberattack dominated policy discussion, but few realized that social media could be used as a weapon against the minds of the population.”

Prier’s work is now being read at the National Intelligence University, where agents are trained.


On May 21, 2016, about a dozen white supremacists gathered outside the Houston Da’wah Islamic Center, attracted by a Facebook post by a group calling itself Heart of Texas for a protest event to “Stop the Islamization of Texas.” A counter-demonstration, also organized via Facebook by a group calling itself United Muslims of America, drew about 50 counterprotesters for an event to “Save Islamic Knowledge.”

Both events were organized by Russian agents who spent $200 to manipulate behavior on a local level in the United States, the Senate Intelligence Committee revealed Nov. 1, 2017.

“It is an interesting notion to have forces from outside come in and try to manipulate attitudes and public behaviors by inciting different groups to take action,” said Peverill Squire, professor of political science at MU. “It casts modern day politics in a different light.”

In the indictment, Mueller charged that Russia spent $1.25 million per month to influence the 2016 election. The activity began in 2014 and the indictment names the Internet Research Agency, identified by Prier as the likely home of the Twitter trolls he researched, first among 16 defendants.

The short-term result of the Russian’s focus on MU was to sow fear. The long-term damage to MU’s reputation was a false impression that the 2015 protests were violent. The episode served Russia’s strategic goal of reducing the U.S. presence on the world stage by focusing public attention on internal divisions, Prier said.

“They want to force the American public to go over into a corner and argue amongst themselves,” Prier said.

Prier’s analysis is “spot on,” said Cooper Drury, an MU professor of political science who researches foreign policy issues. The Russian long-term goal is not the victory of any political party but a weaker U.S., he said.

“If that is what your goal is, disruption, then the greater polarization you can get inside a democracy the more successful you will be,” Drury said.

The indictment states that Russia used its social media campaigns for the benefit of Donald Trump in the Republican Party and Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party. The propaganda worked especially well because it created a false impression that there were vast numbers of people agitating a particular view, Prier said.

“At that time there was a kind of symbiotic relationship between legitimate American conservative thought and these Russian trolls,” he said. “These Russian trolls were driving clicks. Clicks are what keeps the business moving.”

It is the persuasion effect, said Mitchell McKinney, professor of communication at MU. Propaganda easily identified is likely to be discounted as false by most people, he said. Social media helps mask the source and volume creates believability, he said.

“So bombarded at every turn, they insert messages that may seem plausible or in the environment of uncertainty or environment of fear, insert message that might be accepted,” McKinney said.

The most successful are validated when they are reported by trusted news organizations, he said.

Prier’s findings that show the Russians used a network of human and robotic accounts to spread their messages fit what Mike Kearney, an assistant professor of journalism, found as he wrote his doctoral thesis on Twitter use in the 2016 election. He found hundreds of accounts that stopped tweeting as soon as the election was over, Kearney said.

“What doesn’t surprise me is that there is a lot of activity on Twitter that I don’t think is authentic in the way that we would think of it,” Kearney said.


In the fall of 2015, Prier was a major on a fellowship at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, where he studied Islamic State social media. Part of his time was spent working at the State Department, he said.

The protests at MU exploded from a local news story to a major national and international story and a top topic for days on social media sites.

Prier didn’t take a screen grab of @FanFan1911’s tweet about the KKK, which included a picture of a black child with a bruised face and the fake accusation that he had been beaten on campus. He can’t be sure exactly when it was inserted into the stream but he remembers calling @FanFan1911 a liar and tweeting back the source of the photo, a story about a child beaten by police in 2013 in Ohio.

“I was livid because these were people saying things about my university and they were making me mad,” Prier said.

In 2015, the problem posed by ISIS social media was their successful recruiting, Prier said.

The accounts that targeted MU also sent messages amplifying ISIS propaganda, which seemed strange at the time. That is why he returned to them for study at the Air University. He spent hours researching accounts, creating spreadsheets where he identified accounts he believed live humans were generating the messages and those which were automatic repeater accounts.

“FanFan and about a dozen accounts I saw, they were mostly attack dogs, attacking journalists and trying to build a narrative,” he said.

Prier and the MU faculty interviewed for this article agreed that the best defense for individuals is a healthy skepticism of ideas spread on social media. Prier’s findings about how MU became enmeshed in the Russian social media were surprising but show how important it is to be careful of ideas from unknown sources, McKinney said.

“I was surprised just on the level of, this was such an immediate or personal issue for all of us at the university,” McKinney said. “Then to see what we had learned or were reading in terms of Russian involvement through social media in our national elections and at the national level, that that sort of targeting events in our country would even be down at the local level.”

The polarization of political life in the U.S. wasn’t created by Russian social media, Drury said. The traditional media, once trusted as a neutral provider of information, now has outlets that openly take sides, he said.

“Democrats don’t like to watch Fox news and Republicans don’t watch MSNBC, unless they want to get their blood pressure up,” Drury said.

Prier’s article seems pessimistic, Kearney said, as though there was no defense against being manipulated.

“But the corollary is that it makes it more easy to share and find information by ourselves,” Kearney said. “It is certainly direction in the progress of free information. It is easy for us to point to the bad, especially when it takes form or takes shape in ways that we didn’t expect.”

That was what he did when he called @FanFan1911 a liar, Prier said. But it was like spitting into a hurricane – it did not calm the tempest.

It is up to all providers of information – platforms like Twitter, outlets such as the Tribune and especially politicians – to be careful, Prier wrote. The platforms could ban robot accounts, which would eliminate trend creation but would hurt advertisers, he wrote.

“Journalists should do a better job of vetting sources rather than just retweeting something,” Prier said. “And the last piece of advice I give is that politicians got to quit using it.”




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Data analytics could put a stop to fake news, says IBM

IBM Ireland analytics architect Jason Burns has said that data analytics could be used to combat fake news, election interference and fraud, while warning that they are growing rapidly.

Burns was speaking on the topic of big data at the monthly Cork Chamber business breakfast, as reported by the Irish Examiner.

He said that data analysis relies on automation; humans are not equipped to deal with the massive amounts of information being generated today.

“It’s an impossible task for someone at a manual level – instead, you take the knowledge gained from such people and build it into the data-analytics model. There is no other way to do it.”

He added, “You need automation just to be able to process it, to be able to work out where the information is coming from, and to segment the people disseminating that.

“That is just one aspect — who is spreading this information, what is the origination of it and how do we stop the proliferation of it.”

There are ethical and even bias issues facing analysts who want to use data in this way, however. “We cannot stop people expressing themselves freely,” said Burns. “While it may be fake to you, it’s not to some. How do we agree what is fake?”

Burns was optimistic about the near future, however. He was especially positive about moves by Facebook and Twitter to fight the fake news phenomenon:

“Facebook, Twitter — the amount of posts and tweets per day is growing exponentially. Facebook has set up giant teams to combat election interference by rogue nations.

“But it is all about setting up the teams to build the models, and informing those models of what is going on. You see it with it with tax authorities like Revenue, trying to build analysis models of who is likely to defraud,” he said.

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Out of prison, does China’s former video-streaming king Wang Xin have a second act?

Wang Xin, one of the pioneers of China’s online video-streaming market, looks to be in search of a second act as he shared his views on artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and other topics in technology following his release from prison on Wednesday.

The controversial Chinese internet entrepreneur was handed a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence and fined 1 million yuan (US$159 million) in 2016 by the Beijing Haidian District People’s Court, which found him guilty of “distributing obscene materials for personal gain” as his online business provided easy access to pornography and various pirated content.

Separate posts by family and friends on Sina Weibo suggested that a comeback could be in store for the 38-year-old Wang, who discussed his views on the latest trends in China’s red-hot technology market at a dinner after his release.

“I firmly believe that in the near future there will be another legendary story of master Wang,” said He Xiaopeng, the co-founder and chairman of electric car start-up Xiaopeng Motors, in a Sina Weibo post on Wednesday.

Behind the great firewall, China’s internet is thriving

He described Wang as being “in good health and synchronised mind like us” as the newly freed entrepreneur discussed various hi-tech developments, such as AI, video streaming and blockchain.

In addition, He posted group photos with Wang alongside David Li Xueling, the co-founder and chairman of video-based social network YY, and Michael Yao Jinbo, the chairman and chief executive of Chinese online classifieds platform operator 58.com.

He subsequently deleted that post and photos from his Sina Weibo account. Neither Wang nor YY’s Li could be reached for comment on Thursday. Xiaopeng’s He did not reply to an inquiry made via WeChat, while calls made to 58.com’s Yao were not answered.

While Wang’s business reputation will need rehabilitation after his conviction and stint in prison, he will find a market that is fostering the development of a growing number of technology start-ups.

China’s hi-tech boom has minted a new generation of billionaires who are involved in fields like online shopping, mobile gaming or AI rather than property development or traditional financial services.

Unicorn fever seizes China as start-ups and investors seek the next big thing

The government has also encouraged increased entrepreneurship to ensure enough jobs for the world’s most populous nation, while steering the economy away from the old, foreign investment-led manufacturing model to one that is grounded in innovative, internet-related technologies.

It is a trend that supports advanced automation through such hi-tech developments as the internet of things, big data analytics, cloud computing and AI.

China’s vast population of internet users have also helped to foster a unique environment where start-ups can enjoy huge success in an unusually short period of time, according to a joint study published in September last year by Boston Consulting Group, Baidu, Didi Chuxing and Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the South China Morning Post.

Wang, a graduate of the Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications, founded Shenzhen-based online video service Qvod Technology Co in 2007 after working at Shanda Interactive Entertainment.

Qvod gained notoriety for peer-to-peer video-streaming platform called Kuaibo, which allowed users to watch mostly pirated video and pornography, as well as a popular desktop video-editing software.

By 2011, Qvod had a reported 80 per cent share of the video-streaming market in China and about 500 million users.

In November 2013, a coalition of the country’s biggest online video providers – including Tencent Holdings, Youku Tudou and Sohu – sued Qvod for unauthorised video sharing.

Tencent Video, iQiyi in race to lead China’s online video market

When police started investigating Wang later that year for repeated violations of copyright law and for spreading pornography online, he fled overseas and was on the run for about 110 days.

He was apprehended by Interpol in August 2014 at an unspecified country and repatriated back to the mainland, according to a Xinhua report at that time.

After Wang was charged in 2015, the police reported that most of the videos found in Qvod’s servers were pornographic content.

Three other Qvod executives were each handed prison sentences of up to three years and three months, and fined 500,000 yuan each by the Beijing court in 2016. Qvod was fined 10 million yuan.

How ‘China’s Steve Jobs’ bit off more than he could chew and saw his tech empire collapse

A report by Global Times, a government-backed newspaper, said Wang showed remorse for his actions during the trial. It quoted him as saying that “faced with the choice between social responsibility and company interests, I chose the latter”.

Qvod’s official website remains live. A post dated January 2017 on its homepage said the company has not released any new video-streaming players.

In a post dated January 27 this year, the Sina Weibo account owned by Wang’s wife, who has more than 160,000 followers, thanked Wang’s supporters ahead of his release.

It received almost 2,400 comments, with the top-voted commenter stating his belief that Wang “will stage a comeback in business”. Wang’s wife did not respond to inquiries made via Weibo.

Additional reporting by Sarah Dai


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The Era of Big Data

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – THE most valuable resource around now is actually no longer oil or any other natural sources, but rather data. Indonesian companies, the government, and the public ought to realize that.

In the midst of this digital-based industrial revolution, every business opportunity can now be detected and predicted through processing information on trends, consumer behavior and profiles, as well as from a range of other data, often referred to as ¡®big data¡¯. The availability of, and opportunities to make, profits can even be created through its accurate analysis.

Big data is not just statistics. It is a range of data and behaviors collected from Internet users, accessed from computers or smartphones. Whenever someone accesses a Google or Waze map, Google’s smart machines will record that user’s habits: where they are going to, when they go, and other information. It is not surprising, then, that Google and Waze maps can estimate which roads have very heavy traffic or not. Whenever someone surfs in cyberspace, Facebook and Google’s big data engines record the sites they frequently visit, the news they like, and their favorite holiday destinations.

Whenever someone uses the Go-Jek application, for example, that company’s big data engine records information so it can then predict what snacks in a particular area-for instance South Jakarta-are most ordered at weekends, say martabak or fried bananas. If Go-Jek wants to, it could also estimate the increased demand for flour and margarine for martabaks every weekend.

Scary? Hold on: consider all the big data Facebook has. Facebook Indonesia, with its 115 million users in 2017, may well have more complete data about those users than the Ministry of Home Affairs. It knows where someone went to school, where they work, their mobile phone number, and even their political affiliations just from analyzing the news often shared on their Facebook pages.

We need not then be surprised if the expansion of industry titans like Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Facebook, Microsoft, and Alibaba appear to be unstoppable. They are able to read trends in consumers’ needs, then either form a new company or acquire one to meet those needs. This is what convinced Alibaba.com website founder Jack Ma that the data business will be the biggest one in future. His company expanded into Indonesia through the many businesses now utilizing big data here, such as Indonesia’s top online shopping sites Lazada and Tokopedia. Indonesian companies must not get left behind in adopting this technology. There are 132 million active Internet users in Indonesia.

It is very important that the government is not too hasty in regulating the use of big data. It should not just arbitrarily prohibit it, as it did with regulating online taxis. It is enough for the government to remain as a referee of the business players.

Companies’ use of big data must also be done with respect for the rights of their customers. Consumers’ privacy should not be abused. Apple Inc demonstrated its dedication to this: the US-based company refused requests from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2016 to access Apple’s data of users the Bureau considered had violated the law.

The public, too, must be aware that all their activities are recorded in big data. This is the price we must pay for convenience in this digital industrial revolution era. All our information and activities are recorded whenever we use Internet-based gadgets. Welcome to the big data era, and welcome to the information tsunami.

Read the full article in this week’s edition of Tempo EnglishMagazine


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Mavenir enhances machine learning security suite acquiring Argyle Data

Mavenir finalizes purchase of Argyle Data

Mavenir announced it completed its acquisition of computer security services company Argyle Data in a move to enhance its machine learning security suite. Financial details of the purchase were not disclosed.

Argyle Data is a provider of big data analytics applications, which takes a machine learning based approach to recognizing abnormalities in network traffic. With 5G wireless and the internet of things (IoT) reshaping network traffic, machine learning is being leveraged to uncover traffic patterns and discern fraud. According to a report published by Research and Markets, the global fraud detection and prevention (FDP) solutions market is expected to reach $42.6 billion by 2023, rising at a market growth of 19.6% CAGR during the forecast period.

Although machine learning algorithms have been around for a while, using them as a tool to learn from big data is a fairly recent development. Argyle Data said the company’s technology uses machine learning to analyze terabytes of various data streams and protocols per second in real time. What makes Argyle’s technology unique, according to the company, is it uses both supervised and unsupervised machine learning with features set to increase accuracy and decrease the likelihood of false positives.

“Unlike mobile devices like phones and tablets, IoT have little or no built in protection as security has not been a top priority in development, yet they are connected to mobile networks,” said Pardeep Kohli, president and CEO of Mavenir. “The addition of the Argyle team and its platform enhances Mavenir’s existing 5G, security and signaling machine learning suite to offer next generation revenue protection for mobile network operators and their subscribers.”

“Only machine learning algorithms built to enable artificial intelligence systems are capable with these growing numbers of devices, to detect zero-day vulnerabilities in mobile networks, preventing increased financial risks,” Kohli added.

Mavenir’s cloud-native security suite encompasses messaging spam and fraud control, equipment Identity register (EIR), signaling firewall, session border Controller (vSBC) and mobile edge gateway. The company said the security suite covers protection of the core mobile network, including communication services enabled by modern communication service providers (CSPs).

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