miércoles, 11 de enero de 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Today's Insight

South Korea's Foreign Policy: Leaderless, but Not Rudderless | Will Edwards, The Cipher Brief
The impeachment of President Park Geun Hye has suspended her powers as president and calls into question how effective Seoul will be in managing its foreign policy until either Park is cleared of charges and returns to office or a new president is elected.

Expert Commentary

U.S.-ROK Alliance: Enduring through the Leadership Transition | 
J. James Kim, Director, Washington D.C. Office, Asan Institute for Policy Studies
State visits are difficult since any agreements with the caretaker government can be overturned by the next administration. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is reportedly keeping the first six months of the 2017 calendar year entirely blank. The previously scheduled trilateral South Korea-China-Japan summit in Tokyo has been postponed.

South Korea's Political Vacuum and the Trump Administration |
 Scott Snyder, Senior Fellow for Korea Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
The December 9th impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye has created a vacuum of political leadership in South Korea. Normally, the South Korean president would lead a full court press to confirm President-elect Donald Trump’s commitment to the U.S.-ROK security alliance and coordinate a consistent approach to the growing North Korean nuclear threat.

Today's Column: Fine Print

Deterring Moscow's Cyber Threat | Walter Pincus, The Cipher Brief
Let’s agree on one thing, when it comes to Russia’s recent interference with the U.S. presidential election, no one yet has found a way to deter President Vladimir Putin from doing it again – here in this country or elsewhere.

Don't Miss On The Cipher Brief

The Evolving Role of the National Security Agency |
Corin Stone, Executive Director, National Security Agency
We have two sides to the NSA. We have the foreign intelligence side, which is critical to understanding what the threats are facing this country. Then we have the information assurance side – our experts who help in cyber defense and know how to secure networks and make sure that people can actually defend themselves.

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The Cipher Take

North Korea Dials Up ICBM Rhetoric
On Sunday, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman announced that Pyongyang could launch an ICBM “anytime and anywhere determined by the supreme headquarters…” This comes a week after Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Day speech in which he said North Korea was close to testing an ICBM. Also on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stated the U.S. was prepared to shoot down an ICBM if it appeared to be headed towards the territory of the United States or one of its allies. On Monday, a spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of Defense stated that any such provocative act would be met with additional sanctions on North Korea.

The Cipher Take:
This latest announcement could add some clarification as to which type of ICBM North Korea might test. The mention of “anywhere” suggests this refers to the road-mobile KN-08 which has been seen in parades through Pyongyang, but is unclear if the KN-08 has ever actually been tested – open sources do not reveal if the most recent tests were the KN-08 or the intermediate range Musudan. If this indeed refers to the KN-08, then the Kim Jong Un regime may be itching for the opportunity to test it, even without the added provocative value of timing a missile test to align with a presidential transition in the United States and a presidential impeachment trial in South Korea.

Indonesian President Reins In Military Chief
Last week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo reprimanded Indonesia’s Military Chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo over his decision to suspend defense cooperation with Australia without consulting the civilian government. Nurmantyo made the unilateral decision after an Indonesian officer studying English in Australia found teaching materials with content critical of the Indonesian government. Nurmantyo has a history of paranoia over foreign influence in Indonesia, but it appears this was one step too far. Though the general was not formally reprimanded, Widodo rebuked him in private, according to multiple sources.

The Cipher Take:
Widodo is Indonesia’s first civilian president and therefore takes the balance of power between civilian and military leadership very seriously. Widodo may fear that Nurmantyo is trying to restore more of the military’s authority over civilian affairs. The Military Chief has openly spoken of various ‘plots’ by foreign governments to wage proxy wars within Indonesia, Australia among them. But by unilaterally suspending ties with such an important regional ally, Nurmantyo appears to have crossed a line. But while Widodo may have proven he is the commander-in-chief this time, the road to steady civil-military relations in Indonesia is likely to be a bumpy one.

Iranian Vessels Harass U.S. Destroyer
The U.S. naval destroyer USS Mahan fired three warning shots at four Iranian fast attack vessels after they approached the destroyer at high speeds on Sunday. The Iranian vessels reportedly ignored radio requests from the Mahan to slow down, warning flares, and helicopter-dropped smoke grenades before warning shots were fired at a distance of roughly 900 yards. This incident is another in a string of naval confrontations between U.S. and Iranian forces near the Persian Gulf. Roughly 35 similar “unsafe and unprofessional” incidents were reported in 2016.

The Cipher Take:
Although this type of confrontation is relatively common, Sunday’s incident is the first significant encounter in several months. For the most part, this kind of naval harassment from Iran has been led by the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as an effort to assert a military zone of influence in the Persian Gulf. The resumption of this kind of behavior just before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration may represent an effort to signal Iranian intentions to the incoming President. In the past, Trump has said that he would order the Navy to shoot offending Iranian craft “out of the water.” Tehran will likely test that promise after January 20.

Egyptian Police Killed in Attack in Sinai
At least seven Egyptian policemen were killed in a car bomb attack at a checkpoint in the northern Sinai city of al-Arish. The attackers, a group numbering around 20 individuals, reportedly planted a bomb in a street cleaning vehicle they had stolen.

The Cipher Take:
Several militant groups roam the Sinai, most notably the ISIS affiliate Ansar Bait al-Maqdis. In November, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on a security checkpoint that killed 15 Egyptian soldiers. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has spearheaded an initiative to uproot militants from the area and has bolstered security cooperation with Israel in light of this endeavor.

Israeli Prime Minister Links Jerusalem Attack to ISIS
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an attack in which a Palestinian terrorist rammed a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, killing four, was likely inspired by ISIS. Police shot the truck driver dead and several others, including various Hamas members, have been arrested on suspicion of aiding the attacker.

The Cipher Take:
To date, attacks inspired by ISIS in Israel have been rare, but Israel does face threats from ISIS affiliates in the Sinai as well as on its northern border with Syria. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, praised the assault but stopped short of claiming responsibility.

Theresa May Softens Brexit Comments
On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May sought to clarify comments she made on Sunday that Britain might have to abandon “bits” of its membership in the European Union. These comments were widely interpreted to mean that the UK would pursue a “hard” exit from the Union – rather than attempt to salvage key trade provisions – leading the British pound to slide one percent against the dollar. May says that she does not “accept the terms hard and soft Brexit,” maintaining that she will only try to “get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom” after the government triggers Article 50 to begin the exit process.

The Cipher Take:
May’s frustration at the way her interview been interpreted is understandable, but the market’s reaction to her comments is hardly unexpected. From the beginning, May has insisted on keeping the details of her Brexit plan secret, saying only that her government plans to trigger Article 50 this March. The Prime Minister claims that this secrecy will bolster London’s negotiating position during exit talks. However, it also means that her every word has the potential to fuel speculation and even sway markets. Especially following the resignations of a series of perceived pro-European government officials, May is finding it increasingly difficult to convince Europe-watchers that a “hard” Brexit is not in the cards.

British Intelligence First Notified U.S. Officials of DNC Breach
The New York Times reported that, according to two individuals with access to the classified report that assesses Russian activity in the recent U.S. elections, British intelligence was the first to notify its U.S. counterparts of Russia’s breach of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The British, likely through signals intelligence obtained by the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), seemingly provided the initial tipoff regarding the Russian intrusion into the DNC’s networks, leading the FBI to notify the organization.

The Cipher Take:
The role of British intelligence in identifying and notifying the U.S. government of Russia’s breach of the DNC would suggest the attribution of the attack to Russia is not necessarily a partisan issue, as the incoming Trump administration has repeatedly hinted. For the GCHQ to be aware of such a breach, it would likely require the collection of signals intelligence, such as the interception of computer traffic like emails and other data traveling out of the U.S. to known Russian command and control infrastructure; this intelligence would then be given to the United States. While this report portrays the benefits of strong alliances and intelligence-sharing agreements, it also potentially demonstrates the ability of a foreign intelligence service to monitor the computer traffic of a U.S. political organization and then share that intelligence with U.S. officials—a technicality which raises concerns about protections against domestic surveillance.

UK's Domain Registrar Victim of DDoS Attack
Over the weekend, the UK’s largest domain registrar service, 123 Reg, fell victim to a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, flooding the organization’s servers with false Internet traffic so that users were unable to access their email accounts as well as a variety of websites. Last year, 123 Reg was also targeted on two separate occasions—in April and August—massively disrupting their operations. Similarly, the French-based OVH hosting service also suffered a DDoS attack, highlighting the use of the Mirai botnet malware.

The Cipher Take:
Domain registrars maintain records of domain names that are effectively IP addresses translated into natural language so that when you type in a site, it can connect you with the server where the website is hosted. Without a service to connect the domain name you type in with the IP address you wish to connect to, the website becomes inaccessible. Much like the Mirai-based DDoS attack on the domain hosting service Dyn—which temporarily halted access to websites like Twitter, CNN, Netflix, The New York Times, and others late last year—the DDoS attack on 123 Reg was an attack on the infrastructure of the Internet. While it is yet unconfirmed if the attack was facilitated by the Mirai malware, which turns everyday devices like routers and webcams into bots to amplify the attack, such a conclusion would be consistent with previous attacks of this kind.


Upcoming Cipher Brief Events

The President and Intelligence: Tension and Trust - An Exclusive Briefing and Book Signing with Former CIA Briefer and Author, David Priess | Wednesday, January 18, Washington, D.C.
Please join us for a conversation and book signing with David Priess, author of The President's Book of Secrets. Priess served as an award-winning intelligence officer, manager, and daily intelligence briefer at the CIA.
Limited space available.

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