Archive for March, 2013

Cyber-attacks: Statistics and Implications

Cyber-security and cyber-attacks have become more and more prevalent the past few years. Despite the split between those who see cyber-security as a growing issue and those who do not, the statistics on cyber-attacks prove to be quite staggering. According to the U.S. Cyber Command, there are approximately 250,000 cyber-attacks/probes on U.S. government networks every hour. To extrapolate those numbers, that means that every week there are about 42,000,000 attempted breaches on our networks and network systems.

Many of these attacks are successfully thwarted but there are some that get through and cause minor (or major) disruptions. The rhetoric that exists amongst cyber-security analysts is that there is a major issue at hand. Cyber-attacks are relatively inexpensive and do not necessarily have costs associated with a failed attack, outside of the failure itself. In most instances an attacker fails, and the target continues its operations without disruption. That said, it doesn’t matter if they fail 50 times so long as they succeed once because of the potential costs associated with a successful attack. On the other hand, those responsible for defending networks and network systems have to be successful 100% of the time, because even the slightest disruption in services could have widespread consequences depending on the type of attack and the target.

The statistics on cyber-attacks today give merit to the importance of cyber-security. With the number of attacks increasing the U.S needs to continue to place emphasis on its own cyber-security. As more areas become susceptible to attacks, so will the number of both state and non state actors participating in such attacks. The costs associated with these problems are too high to ignore.




Israel Taps an Offshore Natural Gas Field

Today Israel began tapping a natural gas field offshore called the Tamar Resevoir. The resevoir was discovered in the Mediterranean Sea in 2009. The gas field is expected to provide 50-80 percent of Israel’s natural gas needs for the next 10 years. Israel also found another gas field in 2010 that is said to be one of the largest gas fields discovered in the last decade. This new gas field called Leviathan will also help Israel maintain its growing gas needs for years to come. Energy independence is a huge step in the right direction for Israel. Forty percent of its natural gas is imported from Egypt, who Israel has several problems with. Because Israel may be capable of energy independence for years to come, it will no longer nee to rely on foreign exports. Israel is hated by the majority of its neighbors so when they become self-reliant, they won’t have to keep relations with the oil-rich countries that hate them. Oil independence is also good for Israel because it may be able to use surplus to generate revenue. By exporting oil, Israel has another source of income, which it has previously said will be given to education and security programs.

With all of Israel’s new-found independence, tensions could heighten in the region. Other countries will undoubtedly want to get in on the action and start competing for new oil discoveries with Israel, which could further de-stabilize the region. Also, because oil independence creates the option of cutting ties with former suppliers, there is no longer a string that holds together regional stability. Israel no longer has to play nice because it doesn’t need its enemies as much as it used to, which could be the source of new conflict.


Another Kabila Assassination Attempt

African leaders traditionally have a short life span so news of a military coup or attempt are not uncommon. Military Coups are commonplace on a continent where decades of fighting has produced a black market for cheap weapons and ammunition. However, what is not common, is to have a coup attempt where a parliament member of another country is accused of being actively involved in the forced ouster of an elected government.

This is exactly what has happen in the DRC over the weekend, where two Congolese were arrested and charged with plotting the overthrow of the Kabila government by force.

Laurent Louis, a member of the Belgium parliament is accused of helping to facilitate the meetings involving Congolese compatriots and supporting the removal of Kabila.  Is this a sign of the intentions of the former colonial power?  So far Brussels has not commented on the possible link or it’s involvement.

This link, if true, has the potential to undermine the efforts by African leaders and the U.N. to stabilize the DRC and promote peace.


North Korea’s public relations man is a Spaniard with a tough job

Meet Alejandro Cao de Benós is an employee of North Korea’s foreign ministry. The Spaniard is taking the PR message of North Korea’s greatness across Europe.
While news reports, defectors, and human rights organizations are in close agreement on the harsh evidence of poverty, famine, and torture in secretive North Korea, Alejandro Cao de Benós paints a very different picture.
The representative from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry describes a country devoid of hunger, poverty, and political repression. Every citizen receives their housing, salary, and plentiful sacks of rice directly from the government, he says, pointing to photos of smiling children and sharply-dressed adults – ice skating, on smartphones, and enjoying rides at amusement parks as proof of prosperity.

This article is slightly different than the ones I usually post, but i found this intriguing in numerous ways. First that this man named Alejandro Cao de Benós is the only non korean to do this job. Second he later talk about how he(being DPRK) are in a propoganda battle. Claiming that roughly 95 percent of the news is false propaganda about North Korea. Ironically enough he talks about how the painting of oppression and forced labor, starving people is only but a fairly tale. Yet right after “freely talks about the use of multiple years’ forced labor as a punishment for certain crimes.” Ending his interview when asked about human right violation of the work camps, ” We don’t dance to the international community’s song,” says Cao de Benós. “We dance to our own.”



Israel Vows “Immediate” Answer to Syria Fire

Yesterday, March 24, it was reported that the Syrian military fired upon Israeli forces in Golan Heights. Israel has occupied Golan Heights since the Six-Day War in 1981. For the last three months there have been no attacks on the Golan Heights until now. Israel has vowed to answer the attacks immediately and punish those responsible. They have already fired an anti-tank missile at the Syrian army post. The Israeli government claims that this is a direct threat to their sovereignty. A top official in the Israeli Defense Ministry says that that future is unclear after this attack.

It will be interesting to see whether or not the Israeli government chooses to take further action and whether the Syrians will attack again. With Palestinian riots and settlement disputes, the last thing Israel needs is conflict with an unstable Syria. These attacks will test the Israeli government’s ability to handle more pressure.

It will also be interesting to see the United States’ take on the matter. The US has been very steadfast in their decision not to partake in Syrian affairs, but that was before Syria attacked an ally. Granted, this isn’t the first time Syria has attacked Israel, but in the wake of President Obama’s visit to the region, this could cast a reflection on how serious he really is about supporting Israel.


China seeks to improve Russian relations

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow as his first foreign capital visit. China and Russia have differing views on global issues such as North Korea, Iran and Syria. The two countries have also talked about increasing trade from $88.1 billion in 2012 to hopefully $100 billion in 2013. As China and Russia both have permanent seats on the UN Security council, Xi Jinping’s move to warm relations with Russia is seen as a step to counter the US in issues of global affairs. It is also thought that Putin and Jinping will discuss the Russia-China gas pipeline. The relationship between China and Russia has always been tense, but it seems apparent that their relationship might improve. It seems as though Xi Jinping is trying to improve China’s influence in world affairs by improving with relations with another state that is not exactly on good terms with the US. It seems obvious that Russia would be China’s choice, as the other members of the Security Council include Britain and France, two strong allies of the US.

I wonder how an improved relationship between Russia and China will affect the United States and their interests?

Arak’s Air Defenses Revealed

An article released in the UK Telegraph shows the purported locations of Iranian anti-aircraft guns and missiles around the Arak reactor and refinement facilities. The picture in the article shows a doughnut of upwards of 50 anit-aircraft guns and 3 missile batteries surrounding the reactor. Arak, which was built into a valley, is thus covered by a flak umbrella. The reason for the dedication of such a large amount of defensive assets is that Arak is the most vulnerable of Iran’s nuclear reactors and refinement facilities; Fordow is dug into the side of a mountain, and Natanz is largely underground. The one catch is that the anti-aircraft missiles are vintage 1960s refurbished American missiles, which are now obsolete. However, the anti-aircraft guns do pose a threat simply due to accuracy through volume of fire.

These defenses will complicate any non-cyber option, if we must forcibly disarm Iran. If force must be used, then the air defenses will require substantial softening by US and Israeli air craft and cruse missiles. Only after the AAA has been eliminated, will a surgical strike or, less likely, a direct insertion of US and Israeli ground forces, become doable. After such a bombardment we will have lost the element of surprise, and surely the opportunity to capture valuable intelligence that will be destroyed once an attack commences. These developments must be factored into any plan of attack regarding Iran’s nuclear facilities.


Possible Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria

It is alleged that chemical weapons were used on March 19 in Syria. However, there is so far nothing to corroborate this story other than witnesses. Rebels claim the weapons were used by the government, whereas the government of Syria alleges that the weapons were used by the rebels. How the rebels would have access to chemical weapons is unclear, unless Syria has lost control of its stockpile of chemical weapons or a third party is providing them.An international investigation is being called for. US President Barack Obama made it clear following the allegations that if chemical weapons were used, it would change the US involvement in Syria. Israel risks harm if rebels hold the chemical weapons because their border with Syria in the Golan Heights is no longer controlled by the Syrian Regime and they could be open to chemical attacks. Some have accused the opposition of faking an attack to have more western intervention. If chemical weapons are being used, it could drastically increase the brutality of war and the players involved.


Division Over How to Reach Peace

The United Nations Security Council is at odds with the Arab League and the African Union over what action should be taken towards Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir. The President has been accused of criminal acts against humanity, mainly the people of his own countries’ Darfur region and war crimes. The goal international goal however is not necessarily all the same. The United Nations and the International Criminal Courts want to not only stop the violence but punish Al-Bashir. The Arab League and the African Union are much more focused on stopping the violence regardless of what it means with regards to the Sudanese President.

Thus, the conflict of methodology has emerged again this week. The Arab League has invited President Al-Bashir to attend the organizations 24th regional summit this coming week in Qatar.  Al-Bashir accepted. He is supposed to be traveling to the capital of Qatar, Doha, very soon. The issue arises in the fact that the International Criminal Courts issued two arrest warrants in March 2009 for Al-Bashir. The Arab League refuses to not only cooperate but has invited the President to their summit to discuss ways to achieve peace.

There are two security concerns surrounding this news. The first is the ever present concern for the people of Sudan and in particular the Darfur region. The international community is for the most part in agreement that the violence must stop. However, the second concern is about the division of the international community at an organizational level. How effective is the ICC and the United Nations if they can simply be ignored? The question of efficiency is very important when it comes to the organizations that are supposed to be ensuring peace and security on the global level.


Islamists Attack Northern Mali Town of Gao

Over the weekend, Islamist fighters in northern Mali attacked the town of Gao, which is currently under French control. Before the French intervention in January, the Islamists controlled it for months. The Islamists did not gain back control as the French pushed them out.

Next month the French will leave and hand the reins over to West African countries and the AU. With an incident like this, it raises a few questions. How long will these incidents go on for? Will the African countries be able to push back Islamists who try and come back? And overall, will they be able to keep control of Mali? It is in all of their best interests to do so. If they can keep control and stabilize Mali, then the country and the people stand a chance against AQIM and other groups. However, Mali may turn into another haven for terrorist groups if not properly handled. This incident indicates that Mali is not quite ready for the French to leave, but if the AU can organize well, Mali has a shot.


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