• Insider threat problem topic of a GovSec panel

    A recent batch of leaked cables from the State Department reveals concerted efforts by terrorist organizations to obtain WMDs and the danger that “insider threats” pose at facilities that house radioactive materials; in September 2009 two employees at the Rossing Uranium Mine in Namibia smuggled nearly half a ton of yellowcake out of the facility; the pair was eventually caught, but 550 pounds were not intercepted and have gone missing; another cable expressed fears that an employee working in one of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities could “gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon”; these incidents are but two examples of the growing danger insiders, motivated by money or ideology, pose

  • The past as prologue: The Galant affair

    On Monday, General Benny Ganz replaced General Gabi Ashkenazi as the IDF chief of staff; in the four months leading to Ganz’s appointment Israel witnessed a bitter fight over the government’s preferred candidate, General Yoav Galant; pragmatists in the higher echelons of Israel national security establishment resolved to do all they can to prevent Galant, a hawk’s hawk, from becoming chief of staff; the pragmatists’ main worry: the moderate Ashkenazi served as a break on the government’s more hawkish tendencies, and they were afraid that Galant would only reinforce these tendencies, leading to an unnecessary attack on Iran; the pragmatists succeeded, and Galant’s nomination was killed, but it now appears that the more moderate elements in Israel’s defense establishment took extreme measures — including forging documents — to achieve their goal

  • Iraqi defector admits he duped U.S. about Saddam's WMD

    On 5 February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke before the UN Security Council, making the case for tough measures against Saddam Hussein — including a U.S. invasion to topple him; one of the key revelations in Powell’s speech was that in order to evade detection of its WMD program, Iraq had constructed mobile biowarfare labs; as was the case with many other assertions in Powell’s speech, this assertion, too, was false; the CIA analysts who wrote Powell’s speech relied on an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, who was considered unreliable by German and Israeli intelligence; the man who pulled off one of the greatest confidence tricks in the history of modern intelligence now admits that everything he had said about the inner workings of Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons program was a flight of fantasy

  • Top Gun footage used in Chinese news broadcast

    A Chinese news agency appears to have aired a segment using footage from the popular Hollywood action film “Top Gun”; the news segment was on Chinese air force training exercises and showed a jet destroying a J-10 fighter; Chinese bloggers immediately noticed the similarities between the news footage and a scene from “Top Gun”; side by side comparison of the footage show that the two appear identical; the news agency promptly removed the video from its website and provided no comment on the similarity

  • Estonia considers draft for newly created cyber army in emergency

    Estonia just announced the creation of an all-volunteer cyber army; the Cyber Defense League unites computer experts from the private sector and the government; the League conducts regular drills and operates under a unified military command; Estonian defense officials are contemplating instituting a cyber expert draft in the event of a serious national crisis; Estonia is the first country to experience a cyber war — in 2007 Russian hackers, suspected of having been directed by the Russian military, systematically shut down major government, financial, political and news Web sites

  • Groundbreaking for $1.2 billion NSA Utah center

    Today is groundbreaking day for the Utah Data Center, a $1.2 billion project which will employ more than 10,000 people for its construction, and is thus seen as the salvation for the state’s beleaguered construction industry; the National Security Agency (NSA) will use the climate-controlled environment of its computerized core as a repository for information gathered by different branches of the country’s intelligence apparatus, hence the facility’s nickname, “The Spy Center.”

  • Pentagon revamps security in wake of Wikileaks

    There are 2.2 million people in the United States with access to one or more levels (confidential, secret, and top secret) of classified information; there are 854,000 people with top secret clearances — of which 265,000 are contractors; the 9/11 Commission recommended more sharing of information among agencies — but critics say that too much sharing is as risky as too little sharing

  • Government secrecy harder to maintain in the Internet age

    Among the likely consequences of WikiLeaks: threats of prosecution under the Espionage Act; proposed legislation that would make it illegal to publish the names of military or intelligence community informants; increased use of subpoena power to compel journalists to disclose confidential sources; the mainstream media, already experiencing an ongoing financial crisis, may be dissuaded from starting and continuing the long and expensive battle to obtain information that officials want to keep secret

  • Germany reports "sharp rise" in China-originated cyberattacks

    Germany detected a sharp rise in serious cyberattacks in 2010; in the first nine months of 2010 there were some 1,600 such attacks recorded, compared to around 900 for the whole of 2009, plus most likely a considerable number that went undetected; Interior Ministry spokesman: “Germany is a very high-tech country with considerable experience and know-how, so of course others will naturally try to get hold of this knowledge—- China is playing a large role in this”

  • U.K. prepares for pro-WikiLeaks attacks on government Web sites

    Britain’s national security adviser has warned that government Web sites are at risk of cyber attack from pro-WikiLeaks hackers; the office of Prime Minister David Cameron said security adviser Peter Ricketts has raised his concerns before an extradition hearing scheduled for today (Tuesday), when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to appear at a London court; Cameron’s spokesman Steve Field said the government’s priority is Web sites dealing with information that belongs to members of the public; he said the government has particular concerns about Web sites used to file tax returns or to claim benefits, which store sensitive personal information

  • WikiLeaks's Assange to be indicted for spying "soon"

    If charges against Assange are brought, it would reflect a watershed event in the United States, which has never successfully prosecuted a news organization for publishing classified information; a report released last week by the Congressional Research Service acknowledged that federal prosecutors would have a hard time making charges stick against the whistle-blower Web site, which operates almost entirely abroad; “There may be First Amendment implications that would make such a prosecution difficult, not to mention political ramifications based on concerns about government censorship,” the report states, adding that additional difficulties would arise from the fact “that the investigation implicates —- foreign nationals whose conduct occurred entirely overseas”

  • Microsoft partner in China trains hackers, steals 50 MB of U.S. gov't e-mail

    A Chinese security firm called Topsec got access to the Windows source under a 2003 agreement designed to help companies improve the security of the Microsoft operating system; the company, rather than help Microsoft make Windows more secure, worked closely with Chinese intelligence to exploit Windows weaknesses: they helped the Chinese government train hackers — and steal more than 50 MB of secret U.S. government e-mails; Topsec started out in 1995 with funding of just $4,400, and by 2002 had earnings about $440 million; it is now China’s largest provider of information security products and services

  • Chinese cyber spies target British defense official

    A high official in the British Ministry of Defense was targeted by a sophisticated Chinese spear phishing operation that aimed to steal military secrets; the plan was foiled last year when the official became suspicious of an e-mail she received from a contact she had met at a conference

  • China "hijacked" sensitive U.S. Internet traffic to Chinese servers

    Highly sensitive Internet traffic on U.S. government and military Web sites was briefly “hijacked” and routed through Chinese servers earlier this year; for eighteen minutes on 8 April, a Chinese state-owned telecommunications firm rerouted e-mail traffic to and from Web sites of the U.S. Senate, the Department of Defense, along with “many others” including NASA and Department of Commerce

  • Chinese hackers steal South Korean defense secrets

    Chinese hackers have stolen secrets on South Korea’s defense and foreign affairs by using bogus e-mails claiming to come from Seoul officials and diplomats; similar attacks originating in China-based servers briefly crippled U.S. and South Korean government and commercial Web sites in July 2009