Posts tagged ‘cyberwarfare’

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The National Security Threat in the Digital Revolution

NSA official says technology could upend U.S. national security infrastructure


170719-N-YG104-022An opinion piece on the New York Times website this week (September 10, 2019) sounds an alarm over the cyber threats posed by the digital revolution sweeping through all aspects of U.S. society.

Glenn S. Gerstell, general counsel of the National Security Agency (NSA), says it is “almost impossible to overstate the challenges” and “profound implications for our federal security agencies” that the general onrush of technology presents. The NSA leads the U.S. Government in cryptology, the study of codes — both creating and breaking them — which encompasses both signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance (or cybersecurity) products and services. The agency also enables computer network operations for the United States and its allies.

Unlike previous transformational technologies like railroads, electricity, radio and airplanes — which took decades to reach widespread use — cell phones, the Internet and social media have spread and shaped society in a time frame without precedent, Gerstell writes in his lengthy article.

Air Traffic Control for Food for Thought

(U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Crysta Gonzalez)

One example of the many challenges he cites is understanding how adversaries might use artificial intelligence (AI) in the future, including data poisoning — feeding misinformation to AI systems to corrupt or defeat them, such as causing a driverless vehicle to ignore a stop sign.  What are the implications for future autonomous weapons such as drones or armed robots? What are the protocols by which they will be controlled?

The sheer amount of data generated by individual and commercial activities will require enormous investments by the United States and its allies to upgrade national security and surveillance systems — perhaps much more than the roughly $60 billion the United States already spends annually on the intelligence community, which includes the FBI, CIA and a dozen other civilian and military agencies.

But it will take more than money to cope with unprecedented technological change, adapt to a world of continuous cyber conflict, navigate concepts of privacy and power that comes with access to big data, and to counter the effects of malign use of the Internet, according to Gerstell.

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Top photo: Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Sarah Villegas, U.S. Navy.






September 13, 2019 at 1:03 am Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Fallout from NSA Intel Revelations, Brazil-Argentina Cyber Pact, Colombian Drug Ring Busted

Brazil’s Steamed

Brazil (CIA World Fact book)

Brazil (CIA World Fact book)

Relations have been strained between the United States and Brazil since disclosures by a rogue contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA) revealed widespread spying by the U.S. on Brazil.

Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, was said to be furious over the revelations that the NSA had been conducting widespread spying on her, her top advisers and Brazil’s largest oil company — Petrobras. . Brasilia has demanded a full explanation from Washington and Rousseff has postponed her planned state visit to Washington, scheduled for late October, according to the New York Times, which called the decision a “sharp rebuke to the Obama administration.

Rousseff’s move was seen as a stunning diplomatic setback for the United States which has been trying to improve relations with South America’s largest country and biggest economy after a shaky relationship with her predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, according to AFP. The Brazilian president has called the spying “an illegal act” and a violation of Brazilian sovereignty.

Brazil-Argentina Cyber Defense Pact

How bad are relations between Brazil and the United States over disclosures that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has collected data on billions of phone and email conversations in Brazil — including President Dilma Rousseff’s personal communications? Pretty bad.

Not only has Rousseff postponed a long-planned state visit to Washington, but Brazil has agreed to a cyber defense pact with Argentina, according to Press TV reports.

The agreement was reached following Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim’s recent meeting with his Argentine counterpart, Agustin Rossi in Buenos as Aires. The military agreement commits Brazil to train Argentina’s military in cyber defense starting in 2014.

Colombia Drugs

Police in Colombia have captured 16 drug dealers that were paert of a ring that grows and distributes marijuana through small convenience in the country’s major cities, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

Colombia and Venezuela: Wikipedia image

Colombia and Venezuela: Wikipedia image

Four of the suspects were caught ransporting 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of marijuana by truck” in  Bogota,” according to the national police.

The police said the drug ring paid a “gram tax” on marijuana to the country’s largest armed rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The Colombian government has accused the FASRC of involvement in drug trafficking  — as has the United States. The rebels deny the charge. The FARC and the government are currently holding peace talks in Havana, Cuba, to put an end to five decades of fighting.

Both sides ended their 14th round of negotiations Thursday (September 19), issuing a joint statement saying they had made progress, according to Reuters.

The statement said the parties “continue advancing in developing and writing up accords … around the second point of the agenda on political participation,” including rights and guarantees for the exercise of political opposition, Reuters said. But the FARC accused the government of trying to impose unilaterally the conditions on any future peace agreement.

The government in Bogota wants a peace accord by November when the national electoral cycle starts. But both sides say that deadline won’t be met and may complicate the presidential vote in May 2014.

September 19, 2013 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

TECHNOLOGY: Pentagon’s Cyber Warriors

More Than 40

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander at Aspen Security Forum (Photo courtesy Aspen Institute)

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander at Aspen Security Forum (Photo courtesy Aspen Institute)

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency — and the Pentagon’s Cyber Command — made headlines back in March when he told Congress that the Defense Department was readying 13 teams to go on the offensive against enemies in cyberspace.

Another 27 teams will be created to support the needs of the military’s regional combatant commands in the cyber world, he said.

But that’s not all.

Many more teams are planned to safeguard the Defense Department’s information networks. Your 4GWAR editor writes about them and the manpower needs they will require in the Aug. 19 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscription only).

Defending cyberspace and acquiring the tools and talent was a hot topic at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado and we wrote about that July 19 on 4GWAR. We got additional information and details about planning for the cyber teams from some top officials, like the commander of the Navy’s Fleet Cyber Command, at the Global Intelligence Forum, sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) in Washington.


August 19, 2013 at 2:37 pm 2 comments

LOOKING AHEAD: Obama’s Africa trip, Dempsey and Cyber security, Satellite ship-tracking

African Journey

President Barack Obama leaves Washington Wednesday (June 26) for an eight-day trip where he will visit South Africa — Africa’s largest economy — Senegal in West Africa and Tanzania in East Africa. Obama will not be visiting Tanzania’s neighbor, Kenya, his late-father’s birthplace. Details here.

Cyber Defense

090702-N-6932B-079The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) holds a three-day conference on cyber defense and network security beginning today (June 24) in Arlington, Virginia.

Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Cyber Command, the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps are slated speakers. Details here.

And on Thursday (June 27) Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at the Brookings Institution on the military’s role in cyberspace and the threat posed by cyber attacks. Details here.

Maritime Domain Awareness

C-SIGMA, a maritime domain awareness group, co-founded by the former science and technology adviser to the U.S. Coast Guard holds a two-day conference on monitoring ocean-going vessels from space via a global network of satellites starting Wednesday (June 26) in Cork, Ireland. Details here.

June 24, 2013 at 11:09 am Leave a comment

SHAKO-Drone/Cyber Security Medal Revisited

Medal Muddle

Distinguished Warfare Medal

Distinguished Warfare Medal

Last month we told you that then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had approved a new medal to cite the contributions of troops working behind the lines – like drone pilots and cyber warfare operators – to combat operations.

Now current Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, has asked the military’s top uniformed leader, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to head a review of the award..

The new Distinguished Warfare Medal (DWM) was intended to recognize members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps “whose extraordinary achievements, regardless of their distance to the traditional combat theater, deserve distinct department-wide recognition.”

In short, the award was to be given to uniformed personnel to recognize actions with direct effects on combat.

But in the hierarchy of military awards, the DWM was slated to rank just below the Distinguished Flying Cross and above the Bronze Star medal. But that decision sparked protests from veterans’ groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said the new medal’s status diminishes older military decorations like the Purple Heart which is awarded to those wounded in battle – including Hagel, who served as a combat infantryman in Vietnam.

“He’s heard the concerns of others, and he believes that it’s prudent to take into account those concerns and conduct this review,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said earlier in March.

Hagel asked Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs, to conduct the review and report back in 30 days. Meanwhile, Little said production of the medal has stopped and no one has been nominated for the award.

Several members of Congress, including the chairman and top Republican of the Senate Armed Services Committee have written Hagel expressing concern about the new medal’s precedence.



SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

March 27, 2013 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: New Medal for Drone Pilots and Cyber Warriors Sparks Controversy

Medal Mishigas *

The Defense Warfare Medal (Courtesy of the Defense Dept.)

The Defense Warfare Medal (Defense Dept. photo)

You’ve probably heard by now that the Defense Department has created a new commendation medal for  members of the military who do extraordinary things off the battlefield. The pilots of unmanned aircraft and cybersecurity/cyberwarfare operators come to mind.

At his last official press briefing at the Pentagon on Feb. 13, retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the creation of the new Defense Warfare Medal, saying it “recognizes the reality of the kind of technological warfare that we are engaged in, in the 21st century.”

“I’ve seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought.  And they’ve given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar,” Panetta said.

Now the DWM will provide “distinct department-wide recognition for the extraordinary achievements that directly impact on combat operations, but that do not involve acts of valor or physical risk that combat entails,” he added.

According to the Defense Department,  the Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps “whose extraordinary achievements, regardless of their distance to the traditional combat theater, deserve distinct department-wide recognition.”

In the hierarchy of military awards, the DWM is slated to rank just below the Distinguished Flying Cross and above the Bronze Star medal. Both of those medals may be awarded for acts of heroism or acts of merit. When awarded for heroism, the medal is awarded with a “V” for valor device.

But that hierarchical placement has veterans groups like the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars — up in arms. Many of their members feel the new medal’s standing diminishes older medals like the Purple Heart, the decoration given to those wounded in battle.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the criteria for the award “will be highly selective and reflect high standards.”

But critics say a medal for singular service far behind the lines should not take precedence over a valor medal like the Bronze Star.

But at a blogger’s roundtable this week (Feb. 20), a Pentagon official tried to set the record straight.

Juliet Beyler, acting director of Officer and Enlisted Personnel Management, noted that only about 2 percent of the Bronze Stars awarded since 9/11 came with the “V” device. “So by far the vast majority of Bronze Stars are not issued with the “V” device,” said Beyler, a retired Marine Corps combat engineer officer who served two tours in Iraq.  She added that there are have been several medals “far lower in precedence that are also eligible to have a ‘V’ device.”

There are only three medals awarded solely for valor: the Medal of Honor; the services crosses (Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross and Air Force Cross); and the Silver Star medal. There are other medals like the Legion of Merit which are higher in precedence than the Bronze Star but they are for meritorious service over a period of time like 24 months, she said.

A blogger from the American Legion wondered why the new medal was created instead of awarding non-combat zone troops an existing decoration like the Meritorius Service Medal.

Beyler said the Defense Department wanted to “recognize distinct impacts on combat operations.” She added that the Defense Warfare Medal concept was vetted and approved by Dempsey and the other members of the Joint Chiefs as well as by the secretaries of the Army, Navy (who also oversees the Marine Corps) and Air Force. Those service secretaries will determine who receives the new medal, which won’t be ready for distribution for several months. No one has been cited for the DWM yet.
*For the uninitiated, mishigas is a Yiddish word that can mean ‘craziness’ or ‘nonsense.’


SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

February 21, 2013 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment


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