viernes, 9 de diciembre de 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

Today's Insight

Dialing Up Controversy with China | Will Edwards, The Cipher Brief
With a single congratulatory phone call, President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen have set off a wave of controversy over the future of cross-strait relations among Beijing, Taipei, and Washington.

Expert Commentary

Catching China Off Guard |
 Dennis Wilder, Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for East Asian Affairs
China was caught off-guard by the phone call and has sent many diplomats and academics to New York and Washington in the past few days trying to understand the implications.  Beijing probably has concluded that this is an opening salvo by those advisers around Trump who are advocating a ”get tougher” policy with China.

Playing the Taiwan Card | 
Gordon Chang, Author, The Coming Collapse of China
On November 25th, six Chinese aircraft—two nuclear-capable H-6K bombers, two Su-30 fighters, and two surveillance planes—participated in an exercise near Taiwan’s airspace. Four of the craft, in an especially provocative move, circled the island. This was the first time China’s planes had done so.


The Cipher Brief Daily Podcast
Get a daily rundown of the top security stories and previews of the exclusive content available on The Cipher Brief. Listen now

15 Minutes
15 Minutes is a weekly interview podcast with the biggest names in the global security space.

Steve Murphy
The Cipher Brief's Executive Producer and Reporter Leone sat down with Steve Murphy, one of the DEA agents who was instrumental in bringing down Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Murphy and his partner Javier Pena were depicted in the Netflix series Narcos, during their hunt for Escobar. Leone asks Murphy how much of the series was accurate, how much was pure Hollywood, and what really happened the day the “King of Cocaine” was killed.
[A word of warning, if you’re still watching Narcos, here’s your spoiler alert!]

The Cipher Take

South Korean President Impeached
234 of the 300 members of the South Korean National Assembly - including members of her own party - voted Friday to impeach President Park Guen-Hye for a number of constitutional violations, including dereliction of duty and abuse of power. Ms. Park's ruling authority now passes to the Prime Minister, while her case will be turned over to the constitutional court to make a final determination on the impeachment. Ms. Park apologized for negligence over her alleged misdeeds but, as she has in the past, refused to admit any wrongdoing.

The Cipher Take:
Though it has six months to rule, the constitutional court is likely to approve the impeachment swiftly - Ms. Park is deeply unpopular and the scandal has struck a nerve with the South Korean populace. The controversy revolves around Park's relationship with Choi Soon-sil, a friend and confidante recently arrested for allegedly defrauding Korean companies for as much as $70 million. President Park has previously admitted that she showed classified documents to Choi, who was not allowed to see or give advice about such information, and it has inflamed a citizenry that has never shied away from protesting government scandal. 

North Korean Official: No Provocations Until We Know More About Trump Policy
On Wednesday, North Korea’s foreign ministry director of North American affairs said that North Korea does not intend to engage in any nuclear or ballistic missile tests that would be construed as provocations until it learns more about President-elect Trump’s intended policy toward Pyongyang. The ministry director, who was also at a meeting in Geneva with U.S. experts and officials in November, had previously remarked that North Korea was surprised that Trump won the election. The U.S. experts at that meeting report that the North Korean delegation was curious to know how long it would take the Trump transition team to review its initial North Korea policy.

The Cipher Take:
While this sounds like encouraging news out of North Korea, the director’s statements give no indication as to what North Korea would consider satisfactory or objectionable U.S. policy. Historically, we know that North Korea has demanded the removal of U.S. forces from South Korea and the removal of nuclear weapons within range of North Korea in exchange for its own denuclearization. These are demands that the U.S. will not meet. While North Korea has voiced its willingness to engage with the new administration, and this is welcome news after a lackluster track record with the Obama administration, policy makers are sure to be wary of the price of North Korean compliance with international norms.

Crowds Threaten to Overrun First UN Aid Station in Mosul
On Thursday, residents mobbed the first UN aid distribution center in Mosul. The center had been designed to serve some 45,000 residents in and around Mosul’s Zuhour neighborhood; the disturbance today suggests that demand for aid may far outstrip supply. After crowds broke through the line of aid workers and entered the distribution center, police were forced to fire shots in the air to restore order. Mosul, a city of 2 million, currently faces dire food, water, and fuel shortages as the month-long campaign against ISIS in the city continues.

The Cipher Take:
The UN and other aid agencies have long warned of the massive humanitarian crisis that could follow the battle for Mosul. Despite preparing for such a crisis for nearly a year, funding has consistently fallen short of targets. Now, these dire predictions appear to be materializing - first in the flood of displaced people seeking aid and refuge from the towns and suburbs outside of Mosul, and now from within the city itself. As Iraqi forces open a second front in the southwest – to join counterterrorism forces that have liberated a large swathe of territory in the eastern neighborhoods – and winter approaches, the stress on aid resources will only increase.

U.S. Estimates 50,000 Islamic State Fighters Have Been Killed
The U.S. military estimated that more than 50,000 ISIS fighters have been killed since the U.S. started battling the group more than two years ago, with officials calling the number a “conservative estimate.” The number is an uptick from the 45,000 figure provided in August by Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, commander of the task force overseeing the war against ISIS.

The Cipher Take:
In the last two years, the U.S. has conducted more than 16,000 airstrikes against ISIS targets and has worked with allies and partners in the region to root ISIS out from its bases in Syria and Iraq. The U.S. has also played a role in eliminating several top ISIS officials including propaganda chief Mohammad al-Adnani, minister of war Omar al-Shishani, and finance minister Haji Iman. As ISIS is pushed out of its stronghold in Mosul and eventually its de facto capital in Raqqa, it is possible the organization could double down on its external operations’ capabilities and focus its efforts on both coordinated and lone-wolf inspired terrorist attacks.

UniCredit Rumored to Announce Major Cash Call
According to sources from Reuters, UniCredit, Italy’s largest lender, will announce a giant cash call early next week. The share issuance will reportedly look to raise 13 billion Euros to shore up confidence in both UniCredit and the Italian banking system at large, which has suffered after the crushing “No” vote against constitutional reform on Sunday as well as Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s imminent resignation. UniCredit runs operations in 17 countries and is the only Italian bank that is considered systemically vital to the health of the global financial system.

The Cipher Take:
If successful, this cash call will go a long way toward soothing fears that the Italian banking system might fall into crisis following the No vote. That vote quashed any hope for significant economic reform in the near future and most analysts believe that it will hinder the ability of the distressed Tuscan bank, Monte dei Paschi (MPS) – Italy’s 3rd largest lender – to raise the 5 billion Euro it needs to survive. If MPS falls, other Italian banks will likely follow and EU rules may prevent the government from bailing them out, which will transfer the losses onto common depositors. However, UniCredit is the only bank that could spread financial contagion from Italy to the rest of the EU – or possibly further. This cash call could head off that threat, but MPS and Italy’s numerous regional and local banks may not be so lucky.

Russia Proposes Prison for Authors of Malware Used in Hacks
The Russian government introduced a draft bill this week proposing prison sentences for hackers and criminals who design or disseminate malicious software or know-how that is used to target critical Russian infrastructure - even if the authors do not deploy the malware themselves. Those found to have participated—including simply writing or disseminating the exploits used—could face fines and up to five years in prison, or ten if the attack leads to serious outcomes like physical destruction or major financial loss. Hackers helping others obtain unauthorized access to protected data could also face fines, five years forced labor, and six years in prison.

The Cipher Take:
The proposed bill comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an updated doctrine on Russia’s information security, which aims to reinforce the country’s sovereignty, maintain political and social stability, and protect critical infrastructure. The doctrine seeks to rein in the cross-border circulation of data, which puts Russian citizens' data on servers abroad—something that many countries such as China and even the U.S. are worried about as well, as it makes it difficult for national courts to issue search warrants for data hosted in other national jurisdictions. 

Turkish Group Crowdsourcing Disruptive Cyber Attacks
A Turkish hacking group has turned distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks into a competition, offering prizes for the execution of disruptive attacks against a list of predetermined targets. This DDoS-for-Points platform, dubbed Sath-I Mudaffa, which means Surface Defense, has been advertised on local discussion forums like Turkhackteam and Root Developer, urging visitors to download the DDoS tool Balyoz, translated as Sledgehammer, and deploy it against the designated targets. In return, the group promises the attackers a series of hacking tools as prizes. For every 10 minutes of continuous attack on the targeted website, the participant receives a point, which can then be exchanged for the hacking tools.

The Cipher Take:
The language of the hacking group in the forums resembles that of your average hacktivist, condemning authority and Internet censorship. But the list of predetermined targets as well as hidden backdoors attached to the Balyoz DDoS tool—essentially allowing the hacking group to hack the crowdsourced hackers—raises questions over the group's actual motives. The list of predetermined targets includes Kurdish websites like the PKK, as well as organizations affiliated with NATO, Kurdish radio and TV stations, the Armenian Genocide website, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party’s website, as well as a number of Israeli sites. While it is still unknown who is behind the DDoS-for-Points ploy, it should be noted that governments have in the past have imitated hackivists groups to conceal their own involvement.