• TerrorismMilitant attacks caused fewer fatalities in 2017

    In 2017, militants conducted 22,487 attacks worldwide, down 7.1 percent from 24,202 in 2016, according to the annual Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center (JTIC) Global Attack Index released Thursday. The 2017 attack figure decreased only slightly compared to 2016, but the resultant 18,475 non-militant fatalities represented a much more significant 33 percent decrease year on year, and an even larger 45 percent decrease from the average fatality total over the preceding five years. More than 700 suicide attacks were conducted in 2017, causing almost 4,000 fatalities – a slight increase in attacks from 2016 but a more than one-third decline in fatalities. The upcoming World Cup in Russia in June likely presents a particularly attractive target for the Islamic State, given Russia’s role in the group’s territorial defeat in addition to the participation of the Saudi and Iranian national teams.

  • Emergency alertsHawaii’s missile alert gaffe: why good human-machine design is critical

    By Siraj Ahmed Shaikh

    It’s an unfortunate reality that we need to prepare for national emergencies due to war or natural disasters. Civil defense organizations, set up to coordinate and respond to such emergencies, are an important part of any modern state. Such entities play a critical role in terms of triggering alerts, coordinating response across law enforcement and emergency services, disseminating information and aiding response efforts to minimize impact and restore order. Clearly, they are important systems for alerting nations to risks when disaster strikes. But such systems can go wrong. Our interaction with technology is becoming more and more complex. Early warning systems are very welcome, but the Hawaii mishap serves as an opportunity for a radical redesign, with a better understanding of their impact on the population. At a time when the world is increasingly uncertain and our dependence on technology is so high, a redesign of poor warning systems is critical.

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  • The Russia connectionRubio, Van Hollen introduce legislation to deter foreign interference in American elections

    U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) on Tuesday introduced the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act. The senators said it sends a powerful message to any foreign actor seeking to disrupt our elections: if you attack American candidates, campaigns, or voting infrastructure, you will face severe consequences. “We cannot be a country where foreign intelligence agencies attempt to influence our political process without consequences,” said Senator Rubio. “This bill will help to ensure the integrity of our electoral process by using key national security tools to dissuade foreign powers from meddling in our elections.”

     

  • The Russia connectionEU issues call to action to combat Russian “propaganda”

    The European Commission and lawmakers have accused Russia of orchestrating a “disinformation campaign” aimed at destabilizing the bloc and called for increased measures to combat the threat. “There seems frankly little doubt that the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign is an orchestrated strategy, delivering the same disinformation stories in as many languages as possible, through as many channels as possible, as often as possible,” EU Security Commissioner Julian King told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 17 January.

  • Truth decayDeclining trust in facts, institutions imposes real costs on U.S. society

    Americans’ reliance on facts to discuss public issues has declined significantly in the past two decades, leading to political paralysis and collapse of civil discourse, according to a RAND report. This phenomenon, referred to as “Truth Decay,” is defined by increasing disagreement about facts, a blurring between opinion and fact, an increase in the relative volume of opinion and personal experience over fact, and declining trust in formerly respected sources of factual information.

  • Truth decayResponding to Truth Decay: Q&A with RAND’s Michael Rich and Jennifer Kavanagh

    Winston Churchill is reported to have said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on.” Experts say it is worse now. With social media, false or misleading information is disseminated all over the world nearly instantaneously. Another thing that’s new about Truth Decay is the confluence of factors that are interacting in ways we do not fully understand yet. It is not clear that key drivers like our cognitive biases, polarization, changes in the information space, and the education system’s struggle to respond to this sort of challenge have ever coincided at such intensive and extreme levels as they do now. Russian disinformation and hacking campaigns against the United States and other Western democracies are the most obvious examples of the amplification – and exploitation – of Truth Decay. Garry Kasparov, the chess master and Russian dissident, said about Russian disinformation efforts: “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking … to annihilate truth.”

  • Chemical detectionChecking chemical detectors’ sensitivity to chemicals

    The Joint Chemical Agent Detector (JCAD) has become an important defense tool on battlefields and in war-torn cities over the last few years. About the size and shape of a VHS tape or a hardcover bestselling novel, JCADs sound an alarm and begin to light up if nerve agents such as sarin or blister agents such as mustard gas are present. The detectors are already designed to withstand intense environments and repeated use. But when the Department of Defense wanted a way to check the devices’ sensitivity to chemicals over time, a measurement team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was called in to provide a cost-effective solution.

  • CybersecurityNew malware espionage campaign compromises mobile devices around the world

    Cybersecurity experts have uncovered a new malware espionage campaign infecting thousands of people in more than twenty countries. Hundreds of gigabytes of data have been stolen, primarily through mobile devices compromised by fake secure messaging clients. The Trojanized apps, including Signal and WhatsApp, function like the legitimate apps and send and receive messages normally. However, the fake apps also allow the attackers to take photos, retrieve location information, capture audio, and more. The threat, called Dark Caracal, may be a nation-state actor and appears to employ shared infrastructure which has been linked to other nation-state actors.

  • CybersecurityInterconnected technological risks: Responding to disruptions of cyber-physical systems

    When infectious diseases strike, the World Health Organization acts swiftly, coordinating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its foreign counterparts to contain the threat. But there is no equivalent international organization similarly dedicated to identifying and mitigating a cyberattack. The World Economic Forum (WEF), however, is bringing together infrastructure and technology developers, insurers and government officials from across the globe to develop strategies for responding to interconnected technological risks, including those that can cascade when hackers disrupt cyber-physical systems.

  • Climate threats Long-term warming trend continued in 2017: NASA, NOAA

    Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2017 ranked as the second warmest since reliable instrumental records began in 1880, according to an analysis by NASA. Continuing the planet’s long-term warming trend, globally averaged temperatures in 2017 were 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.90 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean. The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (a little more than 1 degree Celsius) during the last century or so, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere. Last year was the third consecutive year in which global temperatures were more than 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) above late nineteenth-century levels.

  • The Russia watchRussia’s new cyber targets; 2016: Kremlin’s beta attack; meddling beyond elections, and more

    · A look inside Russia’s disinformation campaign

    · Russian cyber meddling extends well beyond elections

    · Russian hackers move to new political targets

    · American democracy is an easy target

    · Prepping for what comes after the Kremlin’s beta attack on our elections

    · Contrasting China’s and Russia’s influence operations

    · Russian disinformation campaign has been ‘extremely successful’ in Europe, warns EU

    · EU names China and Russia as top hackers

    · Sweden raises alarm on election meddling

    · Facebook to continue its probe into Russian meddling on Brexit

    · Russia closing gap with NATO, top U.S. general in Europe warns

    · France’s attempt to outlaw fake news raises controversy

    · DHS giving ‘active defense’ cyber tools to private sector, secretary says

    · Twitter to alert users who saw Russian propaganda during election

    · FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump

    · Rubio’s push for swift Russia sanctions is latest quiet break from Trump

    · Google and Twitter face more questions in Washington over Russian interference

  • Our picksInvestigating Hawaii scare; AI & counterterrorism; PC security flaws hidden in your devices, and more

    · Russia 2018 World Cup is “likely target for ISIS

    · Investigations into Hawaii missile scare intensify

    · Who should be responsible for cybersecurity?

    · Meltdown and Spectre, the big PC security flaws hidden in your devices, explained

    · Fusion GPS: Kremlin “purged” suspected spies after Trump dossier release

    · Kaspersky seeks immediate halt to federal government ban

    · Global warming predictions may now be a lot less uncertain

    · Florida county officials take heat over Irma response

    · IARPA wants to use machine learning to help prevent terrorist attacks

  • Risk assessment2018: Critical period of intensified risks

    The Global Risks Report 2018, published this week by the World Economic Forum cautions that we are struggling to keep up with the accelerating pace of change. It highlights numerous areas in which we are pushing systems to the brink, from extinction-level rates of biodiversity loss to mounting concerns about the possibility of new wars. The reports says that the structural and interconnected nature of risks in 2018 threatens the very system on which societies, economies, and international relations are based – but that the positive economic outlook gives leaders the opportunity to tackle systemic fragility.

  • Homegrown terrorismWhite supremacist murders more than doubled in 2017: ADL

    The number of white supremacist murders in the United States more than doubled in 2017 compared to the previous year, far surpassing murders committed by domestic Islamic extremists and making 2017 the fifth deadliest year on record for extremist violence since 1970. In its annual assessment of extremist-related killings, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism found white supremacists and other far-right extremists were responsible for 59 percent of all extremist-related fatalities in the United States in 2017, up dramatically from 20 percent in 2016.

  • TerrorismNew government terrorism report provides little useful information

    By Alex Nowrasteh

    The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice (DHS/DOJ) on Tuesday released a report on the threat of international terrorism. The new DHS/DOJ report produces little new information on immigration and terrorism and portrays some misleading and meaningless statistics as important findings. For example, since the beginning of 2002 through 2017, native-born Americans were responsible for 78 percent of all murders in terrorist attacks committed on U.S. soil while foreign-born terrorists only committed 22 percent. Including the actual number of deaths caused by terrorists flips the DHS/DOJ statistics on its head. Also: During 2002-2017, the chance of being murdered in a terrorist attack committed by a native-born American on U.S. soil was about one in 40.6 million per year. During the same period, the chance of being murdered by a foreign-born terrorist was about 145 million per year. The annual chance of being murdered in a non-terrorist homicide was about one in 19,325 per year, or about 1,641 times as great as being killed in any terrorist attack since 9/11.

  • The Russia connectionTracking and reacting to Russian attacks on democracy

    Last week, a U.S. government report outlined attacks made by Russian President Vladimir Putin on democratic institutions over nearly two decades. The report details the many ways in which the Russian government has combined Soviet-era approaches with today’s technological tools. Princeton’s Jacob Shapiro says: “While not a revelation to people who have been following the issue, the depth and intensity of Russian efforts against America’s allies in Europe are striking and well-documented in the report. While some may argue that turnabout is fair play insofar as the United States and its European allies have been aggressively pushing their vision of governance inside Russia and its allies for decades, those efforts have taken place in the context of institutions that abide by widely accepted legal norms. What is striking about the Russian effort is the extent to which it employed actors and approaches that clearly and routinely transgress Russian, international, and domestic laws in the places they operate. To me, the extralegal nature of Russian influence efforts was just striking.”

  • Distant scanningDistant-scanning crowds for potential threats

    Everyone wants to be safe and secure, but can you imagine if you had to go through a security screening at the metro station like there is at the airport? What if there were a way to safely scan crowds for potential threat items in places like metro and train stations without security officials coming into direct contact with the public and while maintaining individual privacy?

  • CybersecurityThreat identification tool addresses cybersecurity in self-driving cars

    Instead of taking you home from work, your self-driving car delivers you to a desolate road, where it pulls off on the shoulder and stops. You call your vehicle to pick you up from a store and instead you get a text message: Send $100 worth of Bitcoin to this account and it’ll be right over. You buckle your seatbelt and set your destination to a doctor’s appointment, but your car won’t leave your driveway because it senses it’s been hacked. These three hypothetical scenarios illustrate the breadth of the cybersecurity challenges that must be overcome before autonomous and connected vehicles can be widely adopted. While every new generation of auto tech brings new security risks, the vulnerabilities that come along with advanced mobility are both unprecedented and under-studied, the paper states.

  • First responseCall for proposals on advanced first responder technologies

    Applications are now being accepted for the NextGen First Responder Technologies solicitation, an opportunity for a maximum conditional grant of up to $1 million, jointly funded by the DHS S&T and the Israel Ministry of Public Security (MOPS). the NextGen First Responder Technologies program is looking for innovations in fields such as protective clothing, wearable technology and situational awareness.

  • The Africa watchISIS & Niger October attack; Shabaab’s children fighters; Cameroon’s language refugees, and more

    · ISIS affiliate claims October attack on U.S. troops in Niger

    · Egypt raises “extreme concern” about Nile Dam with Ethiopia

    · In Central African Republic, militia violence leaves villages devastated

    · Italian lawmakers pass anti-terror military mission to Niger

    · Cape Town could become first major city in world to run out of water after 90-day warning

    · Britain prepares to send military helicopters for French campaign against Islamists in Sahel

    · Tunisia’s rulers fail to live up to Arab Spring promise

    · Shabaab forcing civilians to hand over children: HRW

    · Zambia: Edgar Lungu’s heavy hand shows in response to cholera outbreak

    · At least 15,000 Cameroonian refugees flee to Nigeria amid crackdown

    · Tension keeps rising in Cairo over Turkey-Sudan island pact

    · Genocide negotiations between Germany and Namibia hit stumbling blocks

  • Our picksFlaws in U.S. emergency alert system; U.S. democracy an easy target; Russian money & NRA, and more

    · Hawaii’s false alarm revealed the stunning flaws in our emergency alert system

    · As America’s nukes and sensors get more connected, the risk of cyberattack is growing

    · American democracy is an easy target

    · Russian cyber meddling extends well beyond elections

    · FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump

    · Terrorists stalk Dark Web for deadlier weaponry

  • Airport securityU.K. gov. launches £3M competition for innovative airport bomb-detection tech

    Two U.K. government ministries — the Home Office and Department for Transport—have launched a Dragons’ Den-style investment prize, hoping to find innovative ways to detect bombs in laptops, phones, and cameras carried by passengers on board. The government has announced a £3 million competition in an effort to attract scientists and inventors to help the security services and the airline industry keep up with the nefarious ingenuity of terrorists.