Posts filed under ‘Counter Terrorism’

CYBER SECURITY: Coast Guard Commandant Discusses Cyber Strategy

Cyber Hygiene.

U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command Seal

U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command Seal

In a world where North Korea can hack a movie production company’s internal communication and employee data as an act of revenge and diplomatic pique and U.S. authorities are looking into cyber spying on a Major League Baseball team — possibly by another team — it should come as no surprise that another U.S. government agency is upping its cyber defense game.

The U.S. Coast Guard has developed a cyber strategy to guide its priorities over the next 10 years. Those priorities include: defending U.S. cyberspace and the Coast Guard’s network; recognizing cyberspace as an operational domain and defend the Coast Guard’s information and communication networks while developing capabilities to detect, deter and defeat malicious activity in cyberspace; protecting the information system infrastructure that the national Maritime Transportation System relies on, which has economic and national security implications.

Admiral Paul Zukunft, the Coast Guard’s commandant, outlined the strategy this week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank. He noted that all aspects of modern life have been enhanced – but often made dependent — on information technology from mobile phones to data storage facilities. And that has made numerous entities, including the nation’s Maritime Transportation System vulnerable to a wide range of cyber attacks by adversaries ranging from terrorists and hostile nation states to transnational organized crime cartels and disaffected or sloppy IT workers.

A key defense, Zukunft said several times  was “cyber hygiene,” following safety practices when using government, corporate or personal computer systems. That includes not sharing passwords or using easily corruptible devices like thumb drives.

Zukunft noted that the nation’s security and prosperity is critically reliant on a safe and secure maritime domain, which, in turn is dependent on safe and reliable communications and digital networks. But the Coast Guard faces a daunting task. The two-year-old Coast Guard Cyber Command has just 70 members compared to the thousands at the Defense Department’s cyber unit. The cyber strategy notes that a recent report to Congress indicates an 1,121-percent rise in cybersecurity incidents reported to government agencies from 2006 to 2014. The report, by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) cites a significant rise in the compromise of sensitive information which could adversely affect national security, public health and safety.

June 18, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Chad bombings; Nigeria booby-trap bomb

27 Dead in Chad Suicide Bombings.

Chad's location in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Chad’s location in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

Suicide bombers killed more than 20 people in the capital city of Chad, N’Djamena, on Monday (June 15) and authorities say it appeared to be retaliation for Chad’s leading role in the campaign against the violent extremist Islamic group Boko Haram, Reuters reports.

At least 100 people were injured in two simultaneous attacks on a police headquarters and a police cadet training school. The government, which said that four Boko Haram fighters were among the 27 dead, announced a number of measures to tighten security in the capital which serves as the headquarters for a 3,000-strong French military mission fighting militant extremists in he region.

Among the security measures being imposed: a ban from wearing a full-face veil, the BBC reported Wednesday (June 17). Chad’s prime minister said the veil was used as “camouflage” by militants, adding that security forces will burn all full-face veils (that cover everything but the eyes) sold in markets.

Boko Haram has not commented on the attack but has previously threatened to attack Chad, after its forces started to help Nigeria. N’Djamena is headquarters for a regional taskforce tofight Boko Haram with troops from Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin.

*** *** ***

Boko Haram Explosion.

At least 23 people were killed in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Monguno after a Boko Haram bomb confiscated by vigilantes exploded, the BBC reports.

The vigilantes were celebrating a successful operation with the military against the Islamist militants when the improvised explosive device (IED) went off killing and injuring people gathered around the celebrations.

The BBC reports the blast was believed to be an accidental explosion. But Al Jazeera reports that the Nigerian military believe it was some sort of booby trap set by Boko Haram before they were killed or fled.

Nigerian fighters routinely use improvised explosive devices in their attacks. Despite losing territory this year, Boko Haram still controls a few areas.

Nigeria (CIA World factbook)

(CIA World factbook)

Bombings and hit-and-run attacks continue. Suspected Boko Haram gunmen last week killed 37 people in raids on five villages around Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, a military source and a local village defense group told Al Jazeera.

June 18, 2015 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: Mastermind of Deadly Algerian Gas Plant Attack Reported Killed


Mokhtar Belmokhtar (State Dept. Wanted poster)

Mokhtar Belmokhtar
(State Dept. Wanted poster)

The one-eyed Islamist militant who ordered a deadly attack on an Algerian gas plant two years ago has been killed in a U.S. air strike, Libyan officials say, the BBC and other news outlets are reporting,

Mokhtar Belmokhtar and other fighters were killed in the operation in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, according to a statement from Libya’s government Sunday (June 14).

The BBC cautioned that there have been incorrect reports of his death in the past. If confirmed, however, Belmokhtar’s death “would be a major counterterrorism victory for the United States against one of the world’s most wanted militants,” according to the New York Times.

June 14, 2015 at 10:52 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Think Tank Raises the Security Issue of Worldwide Drone Proliferation

A “Drone-Saturated World”.

Within a few years, military drones like this Air National Guard MQ1 Predator are expected to have plenty of company in the skies around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Paul Duquette)

Within a few years, military drones like this Air National Guard MQ1 Predator are expected to have plenty of company in the skies around the world.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Paul Duquette)

Industry is looking to use unmanned aircraft for a variety of commercial purposes — from monitoring crops and livestock to inspecting oil rigs and pipelines  — but a Washington think tank warns that the proliferation of drones poses a national security risk that government leaders must consider before the technology’s rapid development leaves them behind.

The Center for a New American Security this past week issued the first in a series of reports from its World of Proliferated Drones project, which recommends the U.S. government consider foreign policy and national security issues arising from “a drone saturated world” in the future.

The project, which plans a number of reports and war games “engaging international audiences” isn’t anti-drone. And it doesn’t raise the usual privacy or public safety arguments espoused by civil libertarians or pilots groups. Instead, it notes that thousands of drones are here now — mostly used by militaries around the world. But those numbers are going to skyrocket as the technology becomes available for more individuals, companies and industries.

“Over 90 countries and non-state actors operate drones today, including at least 30 that operate or are developing armed drones,” notes the 40-page report, A Technology Primer, adding” This global proliferation raises a number of challenging security issues.” For example: “Are states more willing to shoot down a spy drone since there is no one on board — and if they do, does that constitute an act of war?

"DJI Phantom 1 1530564a" by © Nevit Dilmen. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“DJI Phantom 1 1530564a” by © Nevit Dilmen. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Small “hobbyist” drones, which can be purchased by anyone and flown without a license or formal training pose a small risk because of their limited payload and range capabilities although the recent incident of a small drone crash-landing on the White House grounds shows they are ubiquitous and hard to detect near even the most heavily-guarded site.

Of more concern are midsize military and commercial drones, which can fly farther, stay aloft longer and carry larger payloads. They are too complicated to operate and too expensive to acquire by most individuals or small groups but the report notes 87 countries from — military powers like the United States and China to small countries like Cyprus and Trinidad and Tobago — are operating  such systems — “and this number is likely to grow in the years to come.” And non-state entities like the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah have obtained midsize military-grade systems  already.

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed Falco Selex ES2 drones along the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed European-made Falco Selex ES2 drones in the Democratic Republic of Congo
(Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

Larger military drones that can carry bombs and missiles or highly sophisticated surveillance payloads are also proliferating but until they acquire stealth technology or electronic attack capabilities, the report says, they are vulnerable to advanced air defenses and manned fighter aircraft. So far, only U.S. drones have those capabilities but a number of countries including Russia, Israel, China, India, France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Switzerland and Britain are working on their own stealth combat drones.

“Preventing the proliferation of armed drones is impossible — drones are hear to stay,” the CNAS report concludes. What that means for international security “is an open question,” it adds noting that the United States, which is the industry leader, “can help influence how drones are used and perceived by others.”

June 13, 2015 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 29. 2015)

Keep it Simple … etc.

 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal. Paul S. Martinez)

Sometimes, even in this digital world we live in, it’s easier to use some old fashioned tools like this rope line.

This week’s FRIFO shows Marine Corps Lance Corporal Maximilian Roth crossing a gorge on a rope during his final Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity assessment at the Marines’ Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California. Roth is a rifleman assigned to Alpha Company, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force.

May 29, 2015 at 3:02 am Leave a comment

CYBERSECURITY: Pentagon Looks to Private Sector for Cyber Security Partnerships

[Digital] Help Wanted.

Cyber operations at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas (U.S. Air Force photo by William Belcher)

Cyber operations at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas (U.S. Air Force photo by
William Belcher)


With every passing week, the necessity – and vulnerability — of cyberspace becomes more apparent.

Hardware and software failures on the Bloomberg LP network forced its iconic trading terminals to go dark for several hours on April 17 and financial markets across much of the globe ground to a halt.

The private correspondence of top executives and personal data of thousands of employees at Sony Pictures were revealed to the world last year by North Korean hackers after the movie company released a comedy about a plot to assassinate the dictatorship’s leader. The data was published again by WikiLeaks in mid-April.

And in the most recent incident, hackers, traced to Russia, penetrated an unclassified Pentagon network earlier this year before they were detected, identified and expelled. “They discovered an old vulnerability in one of our legacy networks that hadn’t been patched,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told an audience at Stanford University April 23.

The revelation came as Carter unveiled an updated version of the Defense Department security strategy for cyberspace. While the technology advances developed in Silicon Valley and elsewhere have made many things in modern life “easier, cheaper and safer,” Carter noted that “it’s become clear that these same advances and technologies also present a degree of risk to the businesses, governments, militaries, and individual people who rely on them every day … making it easier, cheaper, and safer to threaten them. The same Internet that enables Wikipedia also allows terrorists to learn how to build a bomb.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter meets with Admiral Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and his senior staff at the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. on March 13.  (Defense Department photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter meets with Admiral Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and his senior staff at the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. on March 13.
(Defense Department photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt)

To read more of this article by your 4GWAR editor, click here. To learn more about this important topic, visit

May 28, 2015 at 12:52 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Nigerian Army; Boko Haram Update;

Army Purge Planned.

Nigerian troops as part of international peacekeeping mission in Mali 2013. (French Ministry of Defense photo)

Nigerian troops as part of international peacekeeping mission in Mali 2013.
(French Ministry of Defense photo)

Nigeria’s army, long criticized for being ineffectual against the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, while killing far too many civilians, is set to scrutinize itself and purge ineffectual or cowardly soldiers, several new organizations report.

The army intends to purge soldiers it determines to be unfit to carry out their constitutional mandate, a spokesman told Voice of America. Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman said the army will enforce discipline and professionalism among its ranks as the fight against Boko Haram continues. “Most of them were charged with offenses that border on cowardice, aiding the enemy, as well as desertion in the face of the enemy,” said Usman.

He said the process is detailed and unbiased — not an ethnic nor religious purge — and it will ensure soldiers uphold the agreement they signed before joining the army.

At least 200 soldiers have been dismissed for cowardice and failure to fight against Boko Haram militants, the BBC reported. Several soldiers told the British network that up to 4,500 other rank and file soldiers could be dismissed.

Usman, the army spokesman, told VoA there are three layers of the investigation: a board of inquiry, followed by a military police investigation. Then the directorate of army legal services reviews all the cases and advises what action to take, said Usman — including summary trial.

About 1.5 million people have been displaced and hundreds more abducted since Boko Haram launched its violent uprising in 2009, according to the BBC. More than 15,500 people have been killed in the fighting. Boko Haram is still holding many women, girls and children captives including more than 200 school girls kidnapped from a school in Chibok a year ago.

*** *** ***

Boko Haram Roundup.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports that Boko Haram fighters killed at least 37 people and destroyed more than 400 buildings in an assault on the town of Gubio in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

(CIA World Factbook map)

The latest attack — which a military source said involved about 50 Boko Haram members storming Gubio — lasted for around five hours on Saturday afternoon (May 23). Reuters news agency reported via Al Jazeera.  Details of such attacks often take a number of days to make their way from affected areas due to poor telecommunications in the remote northeastern region of Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and most populous nation.

The buildings burned by the fighters included eight mosques, four schools and a local government building.

Boko Haram, which captured large swathes of Northeast Nigeria in the past two years, has been driven out of nearly all the territory it captured by a series of offensives waged by Nigeria’s armed forces backed by troops from the neighboring states of Chad, Niger and Cameroon in the past few months.

*** *** ***

In Niger, authorities have detained and charged 643 people since February for their links to Boko Haram, according to Niger Security Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou.

Niger has deployed 3,000 soldiers to a joint regional force formed with Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria to quash the Boko Haram insurgency, Al Jazeera reports.

Several Boko Haram networks and sleeper cells have been dismantled in Niger’s southern Diffa region, which is on the border with Nigeria, since a state of emergency was declared there in February and troops deployed, Massaoudou told Niger’s parliament.  “If this measure [detaining suspects] had not been taken, we could have had an uprising in the very interior of Diffa,” the minister told parliament Tuesday (May 26).

Those arrested and detained have been charged with acts of terrorism and criminal conspiracy, he said. Diffa came under heavy attack in February when Boko Haram, which wants to establish an emirate in northern Nigeria, carried out attacks in neighboring countries.

*** *** ***

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict has condemned Boko Haram for “waging war on women” by repeatedly raping their female captives and treating them as vessels for producing children for fighters.

A group of Nigerian refugees rest in the Cameroon town of Mora after fleeing armed Boko Haram attacks.  (United Nations Photo by Mbaoirem)

A group of Nigerian refugees rest in the Cameroon town of Mora after fleeing armed Boko Haram attacks.
(United Nations Photo by Mbaoirem)

“In this context, sexual violence is not merely incidental, but integral, to their strategy of domination and self-perpetuation,” Zainab Hawa Bangura said in a statement issued Wednesday (May 27).

“In the stories of those recently released from Boko Haram captivity, I hear poignant echoes of the words of the women and girls I met last month in the Middle East, who had been freed from sexual slavery by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant),” she said. “In both cases, they describe being treated as chattels to be ‘owned’ and traded, and as vessels for producing children for fighters.”

Her statement was issued a little over a year after the extremist group Boko Haram abducted 276 teenage girls in Chibok, Borno State, in Nigeria. Many of them remain in captivity, along with hundreds of others who have been abducted both before and since.

Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon condemned what he called Boko Haram’s “continuing indiscriminate and horrific attacks” against the civilian populations of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, according to the United Nations.

In a statement released May 22, a UN spokesperson said Ban Ki-Moon is appalled by the continued abductions and use of children as so-called “human bombs,” as well as by testimony that many of the girls and women held by Boko Haram are repeatedly raped while in captivity and compelled to marry their captors as part of the group’s ongoing campaign of forced imprisonment and sexual violence.

“The perpetrators of these despicable acts must be brought to justice,” the Secretary-General declared.

May 27, 2015 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

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