Attorney General Jeff Sessions launches cyber force to review election interference, infrastructure …

WASHINGTON — Less than a week after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three related firms in a broad conspiracy to undermine the U.S. political system, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a cyber task force to review election interference efforts and threats to critical U.S. infrastructure.

The action, outlined in a one-page memorandum, does not mention Russia by name or refer to the special counsel’s case. Instead, it establishes an internal unit with a broad mandate to combat myriad threats, including the use of the Internet to recruit and radicalize vulnerable U.S. followers.

“The Internet has given us amazing new tools that help us work, communicate and participate in our economy, but these tools can also be exploited by criminals, terrorists and enemy governments,” Sessions said Tuesday.

Much of the work Sessions described Tuesday is being done in other parts of the government and within the Justice Department, but the attorney general said the task force would “canvass” those efforts and identify “how federal law enforcement can more effectively” combat the threats.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to appoint a Justice official to oversee the work and prepare a report to the attorney general by the end of June.

Mueller’s inquiry into Russia’s interference, meanwhile, is continuing. The indictment made public Friday offered an extraordinary view into Russia efforts, coordinated by a firm tied to the Kremlin, to wage “information warfare against the United States” with the goal of “spreading distrust toward the candidates and the political system.”

That operation, prosecutors said, extended from social media posts meant to pick at Americans’ political divisions to staging rallies to support then-candidate Donald Trump and to disparage his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

More: Takeaways from Robert Mueller’s indictment of Russian nationals who meddled in presidential election

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Feds: Cyberattacks Cost US Up to $109 Billion, UN Seeks Cyber Warfare Rules

by DH Kass • Feb 20, 2018

Cyberattacks launched by China, Iran, North Korea and Russia cost the U.S. upwards of $109 billion in 2016, according to a new Trump administration report. The White House Council of Economic Advisers figured the attacks, which aren’t limited only to foreign bad actors but also include organized crime, corporate competitors, company insiders and hacktivists, cost the U.S. at least $57 billion, the report said.

The Council, which advises the president on economic policy, said “common vulnerabilities” among organizations that make cyber attacks “difficult to anticipate.” In addition, the Council suggested that the private sector may be under-investing in cyber security. Viewed through a wide lens, it’s cyber attacks on companies in critical infrastructure sectors that could have the largest negative impact on the overall economy, according to the report.

Here are some of the report’s highlights (the full report is here):

  • Malicious cyber activity directed at private and public entities manifests as denial of service attacks, data and property destruction, business disruption (sometimes for the purpose of collecting ransoms) and theft of proprietary data, intellectual property, and sensitive financial and strategic information.
  • Damages from cyber attacks and cyber theft may spill over from the initial target to economically linked firms, thereby magnifying the damage to the economy.
  • Firms share common cyber vulnerabilities, causing cyber threats to be correlated across firms. The limited understanding of these common vulnerabilities impedes the development of the cyber insurance market.
  • Scarce data and insufficient information sharing impede cyber security efforts and slow down the development of the cyber insurance market.
  • Cyber security is a common good; lax cyber security imposes negative externalities on other economic entities and on private citizens. Failure to account for these negative externalities results in under-investment in cyber security by the private sector relative to the socially optimal level of investment.
  • Cyber attacks against critical infrastructure sectors could be highly damaging to the U.S. economy.

The Council concluded that effective measures to combat cyber attacks by the public and private sectors would boost domestic GDP growth. “However, the ever-evolving nature and scope of cyber threats suggest that additional and continued efforts are critical, and the cooperation between public and private sectors is key,” the report said.

U.N. Seeks Cyber Warfare Rules

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for global regulations to reel in the damage to civilians from cyber attacks, Reuters reported. In remarks delivered Monday at his alma mater Lisbon University, Guterres reportedly said that no “regulatory scheme,” such as the Geneva Convention or international law, yet applies to cyber warfare.

“Episodes of cyber warfare between states already exist,” he said. “I am absolutely convinced that, differently from the great battles of the past, which opened with a barrage of artillery or aerial bombardment, the next war will begin with a massive cyber attack to destroy military capacity… and paralyze basic infrastructure such as the electric networks.”

Guterres said the United Nations could serve as a platform for governments to frame rules that keep the internet “an instrument in the service of good.” His words were well timed. Last week, U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians on charges of meddling in the 2016 presidential election by planting bogus information on social media.

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In Estonia, US Fighter Pilots Train for Next War With ‘One Hand Tied Behind Their Backs’

TALLINN, Estonia—At a bombing range in Estonia, U.S. fighter pilots are training to fight a far more technologically sophisticated adversary than they’ve faced in war zones like Afghanistan, Syria, or Iraq since 2001. And they’re training to do so without relying on America’s vaunted technological dominance in air power.

“We’re dropping just old-school, dumb bombs,” said Garrick, an Ohio Air National Guard major and F-16 pilot currently deployed to Estonia with the 112th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. Due to security concerns, the pilot asked that only his first name be published.

“We’re like the old-school Vietnam guys rolling in, putting the thing on the thing,” Garrick told The Daily Signal in an interview.

Training with “degraded” technology is nothing new for U.S. military pilots.

Yet, in light of the increasing potency of electronic warfare and cyberwarfare such as Russia and China, the ability to fight an air war with limited technology has become more urgent.

Consequently, as the Pentagon prepares for a new era of conventional military threats, there’s a growing chorus among the U.S. military’s rank and file, as well as outside experts, to adopt a “back to the basics” training focus.

“GPS-guided munitions are incredibly easy to use, and our reliance on them has all but killed units from training for ‘dumb bomb’ employment,” said John Venable, senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.

A former F-16 pilot with 3,000 hours of fighter time, Venable told The Daily Signal: “Giving a pilot the ability to put bombs on target in a degraded environment is really important, and it requires a lot of initial training and a significant number of recurring reps to maintain that currency.”

Lt. Col. Greg Barasch, commander of the 112th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, puts it plainly during an interview with The Daily Signal in Tallinn.

“You have all this Gucci stuff that you want to be able to use,” Barasch said, “but then you tie one arm behind your back and say, ‘Now go do it.’”

For U.S. pilots, that “one arm behind your back” scenario means, among other things, carrying out airstrikes with unguided, free-fall “dumb bombs” that depend on a pilot’s touch to ballistically lob onto a target.

That kind of skill set, which dates back to the earliest air combat sorties of World War I, is one that some experts say has atrophied among U.S. combat pilots after decades of relying on advanced, guided munitions.

“It is my humble opinion that, in a high-end fight, [U.S. pilots] will be dropping more dumb bombs than they ever imagine,” The Heritage Foundation’s Venable said. “Fixing that gap in capability will take a bunch more flying hours than pilots are currently getting, and will take years to manifest.”

Opposing Aggression

As part of a “theater security package” mission, on Jan. 14 the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing deployed 12 F-16 fighter jets and nearly 300 personnel as the 112th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron to Ämari Air Base, Estonia.

Approximately 75 Air Force personnel from the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, are supporting the Ohio Air National Guard unit, which will remain in Estonia until March 7.

The U.S. fighter jets and pilots deployed to this NATO country—a former Soviet state that shares a land border with Russia—are part of an ongoing initiative meant to bolster the U.S. military’s ability to “oppose aggression by a regional adversary against NATO sovereign territory.”

U.S. F-16s from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, park on the ramp at Amari Air Base, Estonia, after arriving Jan. 14, 2018.

(Photos: MC3 Cody Hendrix/Defense Department)

Russia’s 2014 invasion and seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and subsequent, ongoing proxy war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region has countries throughout Eastern Europe on edge.

In particular, the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—all NATO members—take the threat of Russian military aggression with deadly earnestness.

“There’s a strategic side to us being here,” Barasch said. “It sends a message, and it shows our support to our friends in this area. That’s kind of the mission in itself. And then on top of that, we truly are coming here to keep our fairly robust training plan going.”

Perishable Skills

In Estonia, the U.S. pilots are not focusing on any one particular skill set or threat.

Their daily training missions span the gamut of the F-16’s diverse combat mission portfolio, including close air support and air-to-air combat.

One skill the F-16 pilots said they have not let atrophy—even if it hasn’t been a key piece of the counterinsurgency fight since 2001—is air-to-air combat.

The F-16 pilots say that air combat proficiency develops airmanship skills that are useful across the board for all types of missions. Consequently, even in the “spin-up” period before a deployment to a counterinsurgency combat theater such as Afghanistan, the pilots’ training always includes air-to-air scenarios.

“We put a lot of effort into air-to-air because it makes you better at everything else,” said Barasch, who has been on combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

For that reason, the U.S. F-16 pilots in Estonia said they don’t have any ground to make up when it comes to air combat skills, even as America’s armed forces pivot from a counterinsurgency focus to preparing for conventional conflicts against near-peer adversaries such as China and Russia, in which air-to-air combat is a possibility.

“While we’re not fighting that war, we’re always training to that,” Barasch said, adding that air-to-air combat is a perishable skill.

“You don’t do it well by doing it a couple weeks a year,” the F-16 squadron commander said.

In Estonia, the daily routine of the F-16 pilots from the Ohio Air National Guard typically comprises air-to-air combat training in the morning followed by air-to-ground missions in the afternoons.

The pilots said they get enough flying hours, at home and while deployed, to be proficient in the myriad mission sets with which they are tasked.

“If I want sorties, I get them,” Garrick said.

The Heritage Foundation’s Venable said he was encouraged to hear that the U.S. F-16 pilots deployed to Estonia were training on degraded operations—specifically on the use of unguided “dumb bombs.”

In a report for Heritage in April 2017, the former F-16 pilot warned that after years of a counterinsurgency operation focus, and an institutionally ingrained reliance on precision munitions, the Air Force has ground to make up when it comes to training its pilots to operate in a degraded environment.

“If a near-peer competitor were able to degrade regional GPS signals to the point of neutralizing the reliant munitions, the U.S. would need a backup method of putting ordnance on target,” Venable wrote. “Since the first days of World War I, airmen within the United States air forces have had that capability, but that is no longer the case today.”

Venable described delivering unguided munitions as an “art form,” which requires hundreds of repetitions to be mastered.

For his part, Barasch said “degraded environment” training has ramped up during the past decade:

Legitimately, for the past eight years, the Air Force has made a pretty big push in what they call contested, degraded operations … to build that into your plan of training of whether you’re comm jammed, or you have some other kind of jamming going on, if data links don’t work, GPS is denied all those sorts of things—it’s pretty standard now throughout the fighter community.

It’s to the point now that in almost all our training missions we have something like that going on, because if you have the technology, it’s going to be easy.

Keep It Simple

Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine has provided the U.S. Army with a case study in Russian hybrid warfare as well as a blueprint for revamping U.S. training to counter this burgeoning threat.

In 2017, the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group released the “Russian New Generation Warfare Handbook,” which analyzed Russia’s hybrid warfare playbook in Ukraine and Syria, and outlined a litany of resultant recommendations for U.S. forces.

The report warned of an over-reliance among U.S. units on technology that Russia could knock out through electronic warfare and other means. Consequently, the report said, U.S. military training should “bring back the basic skills our Army focused on for years.”

“Our focus at the operational and tactical levels should not be on the ‘newest kit,’ but what we have to do in order to achieve success without it,” the Army handbook said.

Russian military forces operating in Ukraine wielded myriad electronic warfare systems to jam or spy upon the Ukrainians’ front-line communication systems—including radio, cellular, satellite, and GPS.

Thus, Russian electronic warfare operations created a command and control nightmare for Ukrainian forces, leading to battlefield confusion and heavy losses in instances when front-line soldiers were cut off from their leaders, and thus effectively frozen.

The effect was compounded by the lingering, pervasive “Soviet mindset” among Ukraine’s armed forces, in which front-line soldiers were not empowered to act independently in the absence of clear-cut orders from commanders.

A U.S. C-5 Galaxy cargo plane delivers supplies to support the 112th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed to Amari Air Base, Estonia.

Using lessons learned from roughly four years of combat experience against Russian forces, Ukraine’s military has prioritized making its command and control process less rigid, as well as empowering front-line enlisted combat personnel and noncommissioned officer corps to be more autonomous.

Similarly, the U.S. Army’s “Russian New Generation Warfare Handbook” suggests the U.S. military should “require less stringent communication requirements,” and “plan for less communication and see what happens in a training environment when it does not exist at all.”

That includes training ground troops and pilots to be proficient in multiple methods of communicating target locations and identifying friendly units, in the event an adversary knocks out communication systems. The use of flashing strobes was one recommendation.

“The older techniques of nonverbal communication providing redundancy to standard communications will be essential to operating in a degraded environment,” the report said.

Autonomy

The ability to wage war in a degraded environment is not just about a pilot’s skills—it’s also about attitude. To that end, U.S. fighter pilots train to operate independently and are empowered to use their own judgment in the heat of battle.

Prior to a mission, U.S. pilots are given a commander’s intent—basically a general concept of what a particular mission is meant to accomplish. Yet, the individual flight leads and pilots have the autonomy and leeway to make decisions on the fly to execute their mission, as long as they stay within the bounds of pre-established rules of engagement.

That kind of independent mindset is a unique attribute among American combat pilots. And it’s a behavioral trait—one ingrained in training—that could serve them particularly well in a conflict against an adversary such as Russia, in which communication with command and control units could be cut off.

In that way, the quick-thinking, independent, flexible, and aggressive behavioral traits of America’s combat pilots may be among their most effective air combat tools—and their most reliable in a near-peer, conventional conflict against a technologically sophisticated adversary.

Barasch called the autonomous mindset of U.S. combat pilots a definite advantage over potential adversaries.

Along that line of thinking, Pentagon officials have pushed to make the U.S. military’s unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, more autonomous through the use of burgeoning technologies such as artificial intelligence.

Autonomy reduces a drone’s vulnerability to electronic warfare countermeasures, which could disrupt data links, spoof GPS signals, or even implant viruses in its onboard software.

According to the Department of Defense’s “FY 2013–2038 Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap” report:DOD envisions unmanned systems seamlessly operating with manned systems while gradually reducing the degree of human control and decision-making required for the unmanned portion of the force structure.”

“As we develop systems that include things like artificial intelligence and autonomy, we have to be very careful that we don’t design them in a way where those systems actually absolve humans of that decision,” Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies in August 2016.

Yet, for the time being, American air power still depends on manned combat aircraft to fight a conflict against a near-peer adversary.

And, so long as that remains the case, the greatest hedge against an adversary’s technological countermeasures may be the ability of a human pilot to hand-fly his or her aircraft, make snap decisions in high-stress situations, and, in the end, find a way to put a weapon on target to kill the enemy—even if that means lobbing an unguided dumb bomb.

Despite all the technology at their disposal, modern U.S. military pilots still need to have the “right stuff” to win an air war—perhaps more than ever before, considering the unprecedented combination of so-called “old school” air combat skills and high-tech weapons systems they must simultaneously master.

Outlining what he considered to be the essential personality traits of the U.S. fighter pilot, Barasch said, “I want aggressiveness, I want dynamic thinkers, I want intelligent people who can think outside the box.”

“We’ve always trained in an air-to-air war to be very autonomous,” Barasch added. “We’re good at that. And from what I understand, that’s pretty unique, even from other partner countries we fly with.”

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Lawmakers are failing in duty to respond to the American people

Too many House and Senate members have an official policy not to respond to correspondence from those who are not “constituents.” This is an outrage. Recently, I was watching a Senate Intelligence Committee public hearing on the subject of Russian interference in elections and I was taken by the questions by Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingSen. King: Releasing memo would be ’reckless,’ ‘could expose sources’The Hill’s 12:30 ReportAzar sworn in as HHS chiefMORE (I-Maine) that exposed our vulnerabilities with regard to cyberattacks.

In 2016, I wrote a article for The Hill titled “Cyber warfare more dire and likely than nuclear” in which I detail the threats from cyber attacks from foreign states and entities and the lack of U.S. protocols of command and control to deal with it. So after the hearing, I attempted to communicate directly with King’s office through email to let him and his staff now about my article and concerns. I was absolutely flabbergasted by the response from his office that he only responds to people from Maine.

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Here is the email response I received from his office: “Thank you for contacting me, I really appreciate the opportunity to hear what’s on your mind. I would like to share with you that it is a longstanding courtesy between members of Congress that each elected official be allowed to exclusively address his or her own constituents’ questions, concerns and requests.”

It continued, “When you sent me your message, you indicated an address outside of Maine. If you are not a resident of Maine, I encourage you contact your own United States Senators. They are in a much better position to assist you. As I do for Maine, your own Senators better know the resources, issues and data that are pertinent to your message and home state. Given the volume of correspondence that I receive, I am only able to respond to Mainers.”

While technically of course the citizens of Maine elect their own U.S. senators, in fact they represent all Americans and have influence and consequence to citizens in every corner of America. To have a blanket policy to only respond to people who can vote for them is an outrage and an affront to all Americans including those from Maine.

I find it quite hypocritical that senators like King will travel to other states to pick up campaign cash from non-constituents but will not lift a finger for those seeking contact with them that does not involve a donation. In his office, a computer program, not a person determines what “mail” will be seen and responded to regardless of content. That is unacceptable and a dereliction of the duty owed to citizens.

The practice of insulation from the public is systemic and technology has become the perfect dodge. The sole purpose of Congress is to serve the people, and yet their main emphasis has been to avoid us, using the very technology they claim makes them more efficient to thwart any attempts to contact them in real time.

The dodging of citizens is not by accident. It is by design by members of Congress and their staff. Their complicity in insulating their employees from the people they are sworn to serve has created a culture of contempt and unaccountability.

Every American should demand their government change the way they do business and use technology to make government more accessible rather than less. The culture must also change within government to ensure employees that serve the public make themselves apparent, reachable and accountable to the citizenry.

There is no doubt in my mind that a government more responsive to the people is one that is more efficient, transparent and effective. I have news for King: If you want to represent just the people of Maine perhaps you’re more suited to be a state senator than a U.S. senator. By the way, the best ideas sometimes cannot be found in Maine.

Bradley A. Blakeman is a political consultant who served as a member of President George W. Bush’s senior White House staff from 2001 to 2004. He is a frequent contributor to Fox News and Fox Business.

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Why Is Our Commander-in-Chief AWOL On Russia? (Message to Trump Supporters)

On Saturday, I posted here a piece titled Trump is Showing He’s Putin’s Man: A Real-World Version of “The Manchurian Candidate.” That piece was written at a white heat, in the way the ideas spontaneously came to me.

But as I indicated in the introductory remarks, I planned to recraft those ideas into a form suitable for sending the message to Trump supporters that their man has been betraying the nation right before their eyes.

Here is that newly crafted message, which will be appearing this week in newspapers in my very red congressional district (VA-06).

As I said on Saturday, this new version represents my own effort to do what I call for at the end of that piece: i.e., to use the opportune moment created by Mueller’s indictment of the 13 Russians “to rouse Americans against this President who, James Risen has just suggested, is looking like a traitor.”

**********************************

Why Is Our Commander-in-Chief AWOL On Russia?

Last week, the United States Department of Justice announced the indictments of 13 Russians who were part of the Russian attack on our American elections. So rich and full was the picture painted in the 37-page indictments of these Russians – and their attempts to sow discord and to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton — that whatever room there ever may have been to deny Russian meddling is gone forever.

Soon thereafter, President Trump tweeted: “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election … The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia…”

Trump seems unaware how thoroughly –in that very tweet — he is damning himself.

If Trump really has recognized that Putin’s regime has been engaging cyber-war against the heart of our constitutional order,why has this President done absolutely nothing to protect the United States from an attack?

(An attack that American intelligence tells us is continuing unchecked, as our next elections approach?)

Trump has been President for more than a year. But Trump has said nothing, and done nothing, to respond to these attacks by Putin’s regime.

Being President means being America’s commander-in-chief. Throughout our history, Americans have always been able to look to our commander-in-chief to lead us when a hostile power (like Russia) commits a hostile act (like this cyber-warfare election meddling) against the United States.

But not this time. Not from Trump, who stands aside while Putin’s regime attacks our democracy.

“Trump’s Silence Leaves Struggle Against Russia Without Leader.” That was the main headline on the New York Times website at the same time as Trump was tweeting to defend himself against the charge of collusion with our Russian attackers—while still saying nothing whatever against the Russians.

Why is Trump – otherwise so combative – AWOL, leaving us leaderless, when it comes to defending the United States against Putin’s attack on the United States?

A few months back, Congress passed a law that required Trump to impose new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for their attack on this country. Not only did it pass, it passed nearly unanimously, with the support of nearly every member of both parties.

But the deadline for Trump to impose those sanctions came and went, but Trump did nothing. With that failure to act, Trump not only violated that law, but he also violated his oath of office in which the President swears he “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfullyexecuted.”

Congress wanted to punish Russia for its cyber-war attack on America, using the sanctions to punish the hostile power attacking us. Why doesn’t Trump share that desire? Why has Trump chosen to protect Putin and his gang from Congress, rather than protect the United States from Putin’s gangster regime?

Isn’t Trump’s refusal –since he became President — to defend America against Putin’s regime in itself a form of collusion— not hidden, but in plain sight?

What explains Trump’s acting more like an agent of Putin’s than like the commander-in-chief of the United States?

Does Trump’s failure to lead in that “Struggle Against Russia” have anything to do with the fact – long known, but also clearly documented in these indictments – that the Russian regime worked hard to help Trump win the presidency?

Which raises the question, Why were the Russians so interested in helping Trump?

It’s no longer possible to believe that it was just anti-Hillary, though we know that Putin hated her. We now know (also from these recent detailed indictments) that they picked Trump as their guy early on—at least early enough to help Trump defeat his Republican rivals. We know that the Russians used their propaganda tools against his main rivals for the nomination, Rubio and Cruz.

What did the Russians expect from a Trump presidency that motivated them to help him reach the White House? Were they in a position to blackmail Trump into doing their bidding? Or did Trump enter into some deal with Putin, a kind of deal with the devil where Trump got help in gaining the power he wanted in exchange for doing Putin’s bidding (in ways such as not interfering with the Russian attack on the United States)?

I’m sure that in most ways, Trump is not looking for direction from Putin. But it does seem that there are boundaries that Trump does not cross, and they are boundaries where Putin would have drawn them. (Boundaries like “Don’t get in the way of our attack on American democracy.”)

If there’s any benign explanation of Trump’s actions and inactions, I cannot imagine it.

Instead, this looks like a real-life version of the Cold War movie, The Manchurian Candidate—which focuses on the danger that an agent of a hostile power might become President of the United States.

In that film, made in the aftermath of the Korean War, the “foreign agent” is pitiable rather than evil: as a POW, he was brainwashed by the Red Chinese. What excuse can Trump have for serving our nation’s enemy?

Another major difference: in the movie, America was ultimately saved from having that brainwashed foreign agent actually succeed in gaining the power of the presidency. In this real-world scenario, our enemy’s choice has actually ascended to power.

America needs for it patriots to look closely at this picture of Trump acting like he’s Putin’s man. I’m sure that’s not what any patriotic Americans had in mind when they voted for the man who declared, “America First!”

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Dark future of data wars inevitable unless consumers push back, author warns

The online campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election is a prelude to a dark future where data will become weaponized by hostile states, unless regulators and consumers push back, says the author of a new book on how to fix the crisis of trust in Silicon Valley.

“There will be major international crises and probably wars built around data,” Andrew Keen says. “There will be a hot data war at some point in the future.”

An internet entrepreneur turned cultural commentator, Mr. Keen was considered a heretic in 2007 when he wrote The Cult of the Amateur, which skewered the unbridled optimism fuelling the early days of Web 2.0 – the shift from static websites to platforms focused on user-generated content.

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Far from democratizing the web, Mr. Keen warned a decade ago that sites such as Facebook and YouTube were undermining traditional media outlets, cannibalizing revenues from professional content creators, and allowing anonymous trolls to post content unconstrained by professional standards that could manipulate public opinion and “reinvent” the truth.

Now as tech giants including Facebook, Twitter and PayPal confront revelations contained in U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment that they were the platforms of choice for Russian agents using stolen data to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, those early warnings have become the consensus opinion.

Today there is so much agreement about the harmful effects of technology that Mr. Keen says he’s wants to stop writing about what’s wrong with the internet and start focusing on how to fix it.

The heart of the issue, he argues in his latest book How to Fix the Future, lies in today’s big data economy, where tech companies give away their products for free in exchange for consumer information that advertisers use to create highly targeted messages. It’s a business model built on mass surveillance, with personal data becoming the economy’s most valuable commodity.

And as that data become ever-more important to state-to-state relations, Mr. Keen says we’re only one major hacking event away from a digital world war.

“We still haven’t had an Exxon Valdez or a Chernobyl on data,” he said in an interview days before a U.S. federal grand jury indicted three Russian companies and 13 of their online operatives for a wide-ranging and well-funded online campaign to sow political discord during the 2016 election in support of Donald Trump. “I think there will be some major hacking event in the not-too-distant future which may involve a foreign power that will wake people up to this.”

Yet such a dystopian a future is far from inevitable, he says. The internet’s early optimism, the belief that technology would save the world, was misguided. But so is today’s digital determinism, which says that humans are powerless against algorithms, smart machines and cyberwarfare campaigns of hostile foreign governments.

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To fix the future, Mr. Keen argues, we should look to the past. The social and economic upheaval caused by Industrial Revolution was tamed through a combination of labour strikes, government regulations that improved working conditions, the advent of a social safety net and the adoption of public schools. Mr. Keen believes the most damaging effects of today’s digital revolution can be similarly managed through a combination of regulation, innovation, consumer and worker demands and education.

History lessons are particularly crucial for Silicon Valley’s forward-looking tech titans. Mr. Keen points to the U.S. automotive industry, whose global dominance was undermined by safety and reliability issues until it eventually lost ground to innovative companies in Europe and Asia.

“It’s very important for Silicon Valley to wake up and recognize that there’s no guarantee that they’ll be dominant in 10 or 20 years,” he said.

In Mr. Keen’s vision of the war for the future, the villains are China and Russia, which are using online platforms to create surveillance states that undermine trust between citizens and their government.

The heroes are countries such as Estonia, which is creating a digital ID system for its citizens – one that alerts them each time a government agency accesses their data. The country also launched an “e-residency” program that gives foreign entrepreneurs access to the country’s financial institutions. In the Estonian model, he says, building online trust means replacing anonymity and privacy with a system of open and transparent state surveillance.

Regulation will become increasingly important to reining in big tech, he says. But the U.S., with its chaotic political system and laws that shield social media companies from liability for content posted on their platforms, is ill-equipped to lead the push for reform.

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Canadian regulators have likewise taken a largely hands-off approach to social media companies, though earlier this month Bank of Canada deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins called for tougher regulation of tech firms, given their growing power and control over vast troves of personal data.

“Access to and control of user data could make some firms virtually unassailable,” she said.

Facebook also launched a “Canadian Election Integrity” project last year to head off concerns over how its platform could be used to undermine the 2019 Canadian federal election.

But Mr. Keen expects European regulators to carry the fight, particularly European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager. “She’s the only one willing to take on Apple and force them to pay their taxes,” he says. “She’s the only one who is really looking critically [at] Google.”

Just as the U.S. government’s antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s loosened the company’s stranglehold on desktop computing and paved the way for startups such as Google and Facebook, Mr. Keen believes the multibillion-dollar fines Ms. Vestager has slapped on Silicon Valley giants are intended to foster innovation by preventing the big tech companies from using their global dominance to squash smaller competitors.

The most significant reforms will come this May, when the European Union launches the General Data Protection Regulation. The aggressive internet-privacy reforms will, among other things, give users the “right to be forgotten” by allowing consumers to delete the personal data that private companies hold about them.

While critics, including Mr. Keen, say the rules unintentionally favour companies large enough to afford to comply, he still sees the regulations as a good start. “The important thing is that they are beginning to pass some laws around data and the protection of consumer data,” he said.

Mr. Keen won’t predict how long it will be before Silicon Valley is forced to make meaningful changes to adapt to consumer and government pressure. But just as technology changes quickly, so can society’s attitude toward it. Or as one venture capitalist in the book describes the process of social and economic disruption: “it’s nothing, nothing, nothing – and then something dramatic.”​

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US Plans To Use Cyber Warfare Against North Korea

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A new report suggests that the United States is “laying the groundwork” to unleash a brutal cyber-warfare campaign against North Korea in the first shot against the regime.

In a report from Foreign Policy, reporter Jenna McLaughlin said six U.S. intelligence officers told her that the U.S. military is currently preparing to use cyber attacks against Pyongyang and the regime’s missile programs.

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“The U.S. government for the past six months has covertly begun laying the groundwork for possible cyber attacks against North Korea in countries including South Korea and Japan,” McLaughlin wrote.

She added: “This process involves installing fiber cables as bridges into the region and setting up remote bases and listening posts, where hackers may attempt to gain access to a North Korean Internet that’s largely walled off from external connections.”

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U.S. officials revealed the intelligence community is advancing its capabilities to win the war outside of the battlefield, and that attacking North Korea’s technology sectors could send an undeniable message that the U.S. is the most powerful and capable nation on the planet.

With the growing threat of North Korea launching a missile, which could be armed with a nuclear weapon, it has forced the U.S. into neutralizing the regime now before it escalates even further.

National security officials are confident in the United States’ ability to wreak havoc on the rogue regime with a cyber warfare assault.

In doing so, the U.S. cannot only use our cyber capabilities to target their cryptocurrency reserves that fund their military projects, but also hack their missile technology systems and shut down missiles.

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While former President Barack Obama allowed North Korea to bolster its missile arsenal and nuclear capabilities for years, President Donald Trump’s administration is unrolling brutal measures to remind Kim Jong Un and his regime that the U.S. is done playing games.

Trump has made it very clear to North Korea that his administration will not allow the regime to threaten the U.S. or carry out actions aimed at harming the U.S.

Source: Foreign Policy

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A strong Taiwan and US-backed Asian democracies can counter China

Special to WorldTribune.com

By Parris H. Chang

For decades Taiwan has enjoyed the widespread bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, no matter what the stance of the executive branch.

When President Jimmy Carter established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), de-recognized Taiwan’s Republic of China(ROC) or KMT regime, and terminated the U.S.-ROC Mutual Defense Treaty in 1979, the Congress enacted the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) — a U.S. law, over President Carter’s objection and amidst the PRC’s protest.

President Jimmy Carter and China’s Deng Xiaoping on Jan. 1, 1979.

The TRA contains provisions committing the U.S. to Taiwan’s security and restoring a semblance of sovereignty to Taiwan’s status. Specifically, it defines future U.S. commitments to Taiwan’s defense, by mandating the U.S. to provide Taiwan with “such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary” for Taiwan’s defense, by openly declaring an intention to “resist any resort of force” against the people of Taiwan, and by putting Beijing on notice that any such use of coercion directed against Taiwan would be a matter of ” grave concern to the United

States.” Observers have pointed out that the TRA is the “functional substitute” of the terminated U.S.-ROC Mutual Defense Treaty.

After President Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981, Beijing mounted an intense campaign to press the U.S. to cut off arms sales to Taiwan.

Under the guidance of U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig, the U.S. accepted the PRC’s demands in a joint communiqué in August 1982 that aimed to (1) freeze the weaponry Taiwan may purchase in quality and quantity, and (2) gradually reduce U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

President Reagan was outraged, as the communiqué was in direct violation of the TRA and made huge concessions to the PRC, and thus dismissed Haig. Seeking to downplay the inconsistency between the communiqué and the TRA, Reagan conveyed to Taiwan’s government “six assurances,” including the pledges that the U.S. would not terminate the arms sales to Taiwan, would not change the TRA, and would not change its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan( i.e. the U.S. will not agree to China’s claim over Taiwan).

It is regrettable that during the past decades the U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have failed to fully and faithfully implement the provisions of the TRA and “six assurances” so as to appease Beijing.

It is in this context that, during May-June 2016, both chambers of the U.S. Congress passed a “Concurrent Resolution” to reaffirm the TRA and “six assurances” are the cornerstone of U.S.-Taiwan relations. The resolution conveys a strong “sense of the Congress” on support to Taiwan as well as a rebuke to the Obama administration.

On July 18, 2016, the Republican National Convention included, for the first time, the “six assurances” in its official platform.

Calling Taiwan “a loyal friend of America,” the Republican platform also expressed support for the timely sales of defensive arms and technology to build diesel submarines and Taiwan’s full participation in the WHO, the international Civil Aviation Organization and other international institutions.

In addition to Taiwan’s geopolitical importance, members of the U.S. Congress recognize and appreciate the democratic values and support for human rights that Taiwan shares with the U.S. Hence Congressional bills such as “Taiwan Travel Act,” “Taiwan Security Act” and the 2018 “National Defense Authorization Act” mandate (1) senior military and diplomatic exchanges with Taiwan, U.S. port visits to Taiwan and Taiwan port visits to the U.S., and Taiwan’s participation in U.S. naval and air force exercises, and (2) direct the Pentagon to help Taiwan develop an indigenous undersea warfare program and recommend strengthened strategic cooperation with Taiwan.

U.S. Response to Chinese hegemony

Critics have characterized President Obama’s policy toward Taiwan as “benign neglect.”

On the other hand, the Trump administration has placed strong emphasis on the commitment to Taiwan’s defense and security. In June 2017, the U.S. announced his first package of arms sales to Taiwan, at the cost of $ 1.4 billion. During his state visit to Beijing last November, Trump told PRC Chairman Xi Jinping that “the U.S. will not terminate arms sales to Taiwan and, in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. will continue to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons.”

Less than six weeks after his China trip, President Trump personally unveiled the U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) Report on Dec. 18, 2017. For the first time since the publication of the strategic document by the executive branch in 1990, the NSS mentioned Taiwan specifically by name and clearly reaffirmed U.S. defense commitment to Taiwan that the U.S. intends to “maintain our strong ties to Taiwan in accordance with our ‘one China’ policy, including our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide for Taiwan’s legitimate defense needs and deter coercion.”

It is rather significant that Taiwan was presented in the context of the “military and security” of the “Indo Pacific” and “priority actions” sections of the NSS. The document also states that “We will maintain a forward military presence capable of deterring and, if necessary, defeating any adversary. We will strengthen our long-standing military relationship and encourage the development of a strong defense network with our allies and partners.”

Equally important, the U.S. briefed Taiwan’s DPP government led by President Tsai Ing-wen on the NSS in advance before its public announcement, apparently because the U.S. considers Taiwan a partner. In fact, President Tsai has, on several occasions, pledged that Taiwan is a dependable U.S. regional security partner. In the wake of the U.S. briefing, a Taiwan foreign ministry official expressed hope to strengthen cooperation with the U.S. on various aspects of the new strategic framework.

It is no secret that the U.S. is wary of China’s rise and its challenge to the world order guided by the U.S. (Pax Americana). U.S. officials have closely monitored China’s military expansion in the Indo-Pacific region, especially militarization of the South China Sea, “One Belt One Road” initiative to enhance China’s global economic and political influence, and Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” to build the world-class military to defeat the U.S. and supplant the U.S. as the global superpower.

The NSS and the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy, made public in January 2018, enclose the Trump administration’s answer to China’s challenge.

The U.S. national security team has devised the Indo-Pacific regional strategy to forge a broad alliance to contain and counterbalance China — the rising hegemony. This will be a coalition of Asian democracies, which includes the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia at the outset, it will then enlist Taiwan and concerned members of the ASEAN.

What Taiwan can and must do

President Ma Ying-jeou, during his tenure from 2008-16, steadily decreased the defense budget, well below 2 percent of Taiwan’s GDP.

U.S. officials have warned that the rapid growth and modernization of China’s PLA is aimed at winning a high-intensity, short duration conflict on Taiwan and called for Taiwan to increase its defense budget to 3 percent of GDP to complement U.S. support. The Tsai government must heed the U.S. advice if Taiwan truly wants to be a dependable U.S. regional security partner.

Likewise, Taiwan’s decision to move to an all-volunteer personnel system for its armed forces is unwise and wrong, as it has weakened Taiwan’s military strength and capacity to mobilize.

Experts in Taiwan and the U.S. have pointed out an all-volunteer force is more, not less expensive.

President Tsai needs a seasoned national security team to guide and shape a sound defense strategy and arms procurement policy. Taiwan must fully utilize its potent, sophisticated information technology to develop and deploy advanced cyberwar capabilities and build a high-caliber Internet army to wage a cyber-warfare. If Taiwan develops the capabilities to cripple PLA’s C4ISR systems, then Beijing is less likely to contemplate a preemptive attack on Taiwan.

In the past decade, China’s espionage offensive has seriously compromised Taiwan’s national security agencies and stolen top military secrets, including information on advanced U.S. weapons sold to Taiwan.

As former AIT director William Stanton pointed out publicly, the loss of sensitive secrets serves to undermine U.S. confidence in security cooperation with Taiwan. An aggressive and intensive counter-espionage drive to catch spies and safeguard national secrets should be the top priority of Tsai’s government.

Finally, national security experts inside and outside the governments of Asian democracies should be bold and creative in devising “track two”, “track 1.5” and/or other channels for consultation and dialogue.

Intelligence-sharing is good, and can be elevated to exchange of sensitive information and a higher level of strategic dialogue, thereby they would “compare notes” on their respective threat perception and strategic assessment. These efforts will enhance mutual understanding, confidence-building, and facilitate security cooperation among Asian democracies.

Dr. Parris Chang has served on Taiwan’s National Security Council. He is professor emeritus of political science at Penn State University and President of the Taiwan Institute for Political, Economic and Strategic Studies.

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A strong Taiwan and U.S.-backed Asian democracies can counter China added by on February 20, 2018
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US firm warns North Korea cyber threat more aggressive than China

NORTH Korean hackers are becoming more aggressive than their Chinese counterparts, a leading US cybersecurity firm warned today, as it identified a Pyongyang-linked group as an “advanced persistent threat”.

It was the first time FireEye had used the designation for a North Korean-based group.

Analysts say the isolated and impoverished but nuclear-armed North has stepped up hacking operations partly to raise money for the cash-strapped regime, which is subject to multiple sanctions over its atomic weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

North Korea has previously been blamed for the WannaCry ransomware that briefly wreaked havoc around the world last year – an accusation it angrily denies.

FireEye said North Korean operatives had expanded their targets beyond South Korea and mounted increasingly sophisticated attacks, adding it had identified a suspected North Korean cyberespionage group it dubbed “APT37” – standing for “advanced persistent threat”.

APT37 was “primarily based in North Korea”, it said, and its choice of targets “aligns with North Korean state interests”.

“We assess with high confidence that this activity is carried out on behalf of the North Korean government,” it added.

APT37 has been active at least since 2012, it said, previously focused on “government, military, defence industrial base and media sector” in the rival South before widening its range to include Japan, Vietnam and the Middle East last year, and industries ranging from chemicals to telecommunications.

“This group should be taken seriously,” FireEye added.

FireEye’s first APT was identified in a 2013 report by company division Mandiant, which said that hackers penetrating US newspapers, government agencies and companies “are based primarily in China and that the Chinese government is aware of them”.

One group, it said then, was believed to be a branch of the People’s Liberation Army in Shanghai called Unit 61398. Five of its members were later indicted by US federal prosecutors on charges of stealing information from US firms, provoking a diplomatic row between Washington and Beijing.

The North is known to operate an army of thousands of well-trained hackers that have attacked South Korean firms, institutions and even rights groups helping North Korean refugees.

Its cyberwarfare abilities first came to prominence when it was accused of hacking into Sony Pictures Entertainment to take revenge for “The Interview,” a satirical film that mocked its leader Kim Jong-un. – AFP, February 20, 2018.

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US preparing ‘bloody nose’ cyber attacks on North Korea

The United States is drawing up plans for cyber attacks on North Korea in an effort to bring the regime of Kim Jong-Un to heel, according to intelligence sources, as Pyongyang says it is ready for “both dialogue and war” as the Winter Olympics draws to a close.

Washington’s potential plans for a series of “bloody nose” attacks on targets in North Korea, as revealed by The Telegraph, could focus on digital rather than conventional warfare, sources have suggested.

A cyber assault could cripple Pyongyang’s online communications and ability to control its military, causing huge disruption but avoiding the loss of life. It may also assuage concerns that a conventional attack against missile sites or nuclear facilities by the US could trigger a massive counter-strike by Kim Jong-Un.

Quoting senior US intelligence sources, Foreign Policy magazine said there has been a “nearly unprecedented scramble inside the agencies responsible for spying and cyber warfare” aimed at the Korean Peninsula.

In the last six months, the US has been covertly laying the groundwork for cyber attacks that would be routed through South Korea and Japan, where the US has extensive military facilities. The preparations include installing fibre cables into the region and setting up remote bases and listening posts from where hackers will attempt to gain access to North Korea’s version of the Internet, which is walled off from the rest of the world.

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