Will our future Internet be paradise or dystopia?

What we learned from an Atlantic Council event discussing digital trends and possible scenarios for the world’s online future.

What does the perfect Internet look like?

The paradisiacal vision of its future – a scenario Atlantic Council senior fellow Jason Healey calls “Cyber Shangri La” – is one in which the dreams of Silicon Valley come true: New technologies are born and implemented quickly; secure online access is a human right.

There’s also what Mr. Healey, a Passcode columnist, dubs “Clockwork Orange Internet.” In this dystopian future, criminals and nation-states knock down attempts to secure networks and devices; people are afraid of shopping online or communicating freely with friends.

Passcode was the exclusive media partner for an event hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative on Wednesday focusing on alternate realities for the future of the Digital Age. Here are three things we learned from some of the country’s leading thinkers. Continue reading

The Case Against Qatar

Report

The tiny, gas-rich emirate has pumped tens of millions of dollars through obscure funding networks to hard-line Syrian rebels and extremist Salafists, building a foreign policy that punches above its weight. After years of acquiescing — even taking advantage of its ally’s meddling — Washington may finally be punching back.

BY Elizabeth Dickinson SEPTEMBER 30, 2014

ABU DHABI and DOHA — Behind a glittering mall near Doha’s city center sits the quiet restaurant where Hossam used to run his Syrian rebel brigade. At the battalion’s peak in 2012 and 2013, he had 13,000 men under his control near the eastern city of Deir Ezzor. “Part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), they are loyal to me,” he said over sweet tea and sugary pastries this spring. “I had a good team to fight.”

Hossam, a middle-aged Syrian expat, owns several restaurants throughout Doha, Qatar, catering mostly to the country’s upper crust. The food is excellent, and at night the tables are packed with well-dressed Qataris, Westerners, and Arabs. Some of his revenue still goes toward supporting brigades and civilians with humanitarian goods — blankets, food, even cigarettes.

He insists that he has stopped sending money to the battle, for now. His brigade’s funds came, at least in part, from Qatar, he says, under the discretion of then Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah. But the injection of cash was ad hoc: Dozens of other brigades like his received initial start-up funding, and only some continued to receive Qatari support as the months wore on. When the funds ran out in mid-2013, his fighters sought support elsewhere. “Money plays a big role in the FSA, and on that front, we didn’t have,” he explained. Continue reading

Ansar-ut Tawhid and the Transnational Jihadist Threat to India

English: The buildings at the main courtyard, ...

English: The buildings at the main courtyard, Red Fort, New Delhi, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 12

June 13, 2014 03:21 PM Age: 8 days By: Animesh Roul

Transnational Islamist terrorist groups have recently made sporadic attempts to lure India’s Muslim population towards global jihad, frequently urging them to fight the democratically elected secular government. India-specific incitements have issued from al-Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri and al-Qaeda ideologue Maulana Asim Umar through audio-visual messages that directly target Indian Muslims. A similar anti-India campaign was unleashed by a hitherto unknown group calling itself Ansar-ut Tawhid fi Bilad al-Hind (AuT – Supporters of Monotheism in the Land of India) through its media arm, al-Isabah Media. Its messages highlight the issue of government atrocities against Muslims in India and encourage Indian Muslims to join the ongoing Afghan or Syrian jihads and to carry out attacks inside India.

The AuT has issued at least four videotapes since October 2013, the most recent of them surfaced on May 17, when the group called for attacks against Indian targets worldwide. The ten-minute video featuring AuT leader Maulana Abdur Rahman al-Hindi urges other prominent jihadi leaders such as the Taliban’s Mullah Omar, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Nasir Abd al-Wuhayshi of al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabaab’s Abdi Godane and Abd al-Malik Droukdel of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to come forward to attack Indian Government interests and its economic centers in India and elsewhere as a means of “protecting the Muslims of India.” [1] Continue reading

Russia’s Counterinsurgency in North Caucasus: Performance and Consequences

Authored by Dr. Ariel Cohen.

Russia's Counterinsurgency in ... Cover Image

 

Brief Synopsis

 

View the Executive Summary

The North Caucasus region has been a source of instability for the past several centuries. Most recently, Chechen aspirations to achieve full independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union led to two disastrous wars. While the active phase of the Chechen conflict ended in 2000 – more than a decade ago—the underlying social, economic, and political issues of the region remain. A low-level insurgency continues to persist in the North Caucasus region, with occasional terrorist attacks in the Russian heartland. There are few reasons to expect any substantial improvement in the situation for years to come. Chechnya functions as a de facto independent entity; Islamist influence in Dagestan is growing, terror attacks continue, and the rest of the North Caucasus requires massive presence of Russian security services to keep the situation under control. Continue reading

Was the Malaysian Plane Hacked? Probably Not

2672775_ml featureThe mysterious vanishing of the Malaysian flight raised a startling amount of rumors and theories of all kinds. While most are at least somewhat feasible, the recent cyber attack theory is closer to science fiction

By Maty Kishinevsky and Natalie Novitski

Over the last few days a new thoery concerning the disappearance of the Malaysian flight popped up: Hostile elements managed to take over a cellular phone on the plane, using it to connect to the plane’s avionics and bring the aircraft down. This feat is almost impossible even when the target is a ground vehicle, and when the target is airborne things get even more complicated.The plane itself uses radio to communicate with ground stations, but mobile devices use other means of communications. “There’s a way to control a phone remotely, but the device has to be connected to a network – cellular or internet.” This according to Avi Rosen, CEO and co-founder of cellular security developer Kaymera. “If you’re outside cellular reception range, or if you don’t have a stable internet connection on the plane, there’s no way to infiltrate the phone and remotely control it.” Continue reading

Islamist North Caucasus Rebels Training a New Generation of Fighters in Syria

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 3

February 7, 2014 09:43 AM  By: Murad Batal al- Shishani

Chechen (Ichkerian) seal bearing a wolf, the n...

Chechen (Ichkerian) seal bearing a wolf, the nation’s symbolic embodiment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Syria’s bloody conflict enters its fourth year in March, it continues to provide a battlefield that attracts jihadists from all over the world. North Caucasians, including Chechens, are no exception. Previously, many reports alleged that Chechens were present in jihadi battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places; however, these claims were never proved. Syria is the first place where Chechen jihadists are indisputably taking part in fighting outside the North Caucasus.

Chechens and other Caucasians in Syria operate in four major groups, each of which is commanded by one of four prominent Chechen leaders: Omar al-Shishani, Saifullah al-Shishani, Amir Muslim and Salahudeen al-Shishani (the mujahideen announced the death of the latter via Twitter on February 6). These commanders are not related but all use al-Shishani (Arabic – “the Chechen”) as a surname.

Divisions and Unifications

Omar al-Shishani, born Tarkhan Batirashvili, comes from the remote Pankisi Gorge in northeast Georgia, populated by ethnic Chechens who emigrated from their homeland in the 19th century. Before making his way to jihad, Omar served in the Georgian military in the disputed republic of Abkhazia between 2006 and 2007. He later signed a contract in 2008 to join the Georgian army as a rifleman, but this came to an end when he was dismissed due to tuberculosis. In September 2010, he was arrested for the illegal purchase and storage of arms. Continue reading

Watching the Watchers, 2013 Style

 

January 31st, 2013

img31187We’ve never really been adept at dealing with insider threats. Some organizations have internal detection and monitoring programs, usually aligned with anti-fraud efforts, and some also include more robust forensics programs to look for evidence after-the-fact, but we still have a problem with insiders. With the proliferation of virtualization and cloud computing, we have more trouble than ever. There are two trends I see that explain this.

First, let’s talk virtual environments. A number of things tend to happen in virtual infrastructure that can lead to poor privileged user management and monitoring practices. First, many shops hand virtualization over to an existing admin group, like say…the Windows team. Not a great move, for a lot of reasons. This team still has to manage their existing systems and infrastructure, like Active Directory, DNS, and other platforms and applications. This means they’re part-time virtualization admins, at least for a while. A lot of folks think virtualization is easy, and it is…to a point. But virt technologies can suffer from neglect just like any other systems and apps can, and missing patches and failing to implement configuration controls can have a devastating effect.

Continue reading

Pakistan’s New Most Wanted: A Short Sketch of Adnan Rasheed

Publication: Volume: 3 Issue: 5

May 31, 2012 06:17 PM Age: 24 min By: Syed Adnan Ali Shah Bukhari

clip_image001

In a pre-dawn attack on April 15, militants belonging to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) stormed the Bannu Central Jail in the district of Bannu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KP). In what is considered the largest prison break in Pakistan’s history, the Taliban successfully freed Adnan Rasheed along with 384 other inmates. According to the TTP’s spokesman, Ihsanullah Ihsan, “Our prime target was Adnan Rasheed, and we are so happy to secure his release” (The News, April 21). Another Taliban commander claimed that they spent 20 million rupees (roughly $220,000) on the Bannu prison break mission (The Express Tribune, April 16). A 34-minute video, released by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on May 15, further shows the meticulous planning undertaken by the TTP to free Rasheed from the death cell (Dawn, May 16).

Before the prison break, Adnan Rasheed was an obscure militant. He is an ethnic Pushtun belonging to the Chota Lahor area of Swabi district of KP (Roznama Jang, April 23). Since Swabi district is predominantly inhabited by the Yousafzai tribe, it is therefore safe to surmise that Rasheed belongs to the Yousafzai tribe. He is reportedly fluent in Pushto, Urdu and English. He joined the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in 1997 as a junior technician.

Continue reading

Fighting Terrorism, French-Style

News Analysis

clip_image001

Ian Langsdon/European Pressphoto Agency

French soldiers on patrol near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

By STEVEN ERLANGER
Published: March 30, 2012

FRANCE and the United States have different notions of liberty, equality and fraternity, though the words look roughly the same in both languages. Methods of combating homegrown terrorism — another French word dating from 1789 — are also quite different, stemming from different histories, legal systems and conceptions of the state.

The horrors in Toulouse — the murders of seven people in a bit more than a week by Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old French citizen of Algerian-born parents who claimed membership in Al Qaeda — created a fierce debate in France about whether the police and security services failed to identify him in time. The police also failed to take him alive, making it harder to discover the true breadth of his contacts and of his path to terrorism.

Mr. Merah clearly slipped through the French net, which relies heavily on human intelligence and judgment. The French are asking why, and whether he might have been more easily identified by the more automated — and expensive — American-style reliance on computerized monitoring of phone calls and the Internet. That question is unanswerable, of course. But the differences between the two countries and their methods are considerable.

“In the United States, it is the system that counts; in France, it is the men,” says Marc Trévidic, a senior investigating magistrate for terrorism in France.

Continue reading