Bottom line: Terrorists are turning to the dark web’s crypto-bazaars, social media channels and e-commerce sites to buy more coveted military equipment than the usual rocket launchers and AK-47s in the traditional black market. These digital black markets are also allowing terrorist organizations from Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, as ...

Bottom Line: Cyber vigilantes and “hacktivists” increasingly fill the void left by governments in combating terrorist activity online. While such politically motivated non-state hackers are relatively effective at removing the presence of terrorist content, their continued operations could damage overall counterterrorism efforts by undermining intelligence operations –  say by taking ...

Bottom Line: The U.S. and its NATO allies have warned that an uptick in Russian submarine activity near undersea fiber optic cables means Moscow may be plotting to disrupt or intercept sensitive or other critical internet communications in the event of a confrontation with the West. Their warning serves as ...

Cybersecurity researchers have discovered two major software vulnerabilities in the Intel microprocessors inside the vast majority of all computers. Dubbed “Meltdown” and “Spectre,” the vulnerabilities could allow hackers to siphon off the entire memory contents of computers, mobile phones and servers that run on cloud networks. Two Cipher Brief experts ...

Bottom Line: U.S. cyber defenders know how to take down botnets – networks of computers that have been hacked to act as one – but not how to keep them from coming back, nor necessarily how to determine who is behind them and hold them accountable. These networks under the ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look ahead at key national security issues. NSA veteran Rick Ledgett offers some cybersecurity lessons learned, and a warning of what's to come. On Iranian and North Korean cyber activity: Those two actors are very different in their motivations and ...

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 on Thursday to dismantle their authorities to enforce net neutrality rules that prohibit internet service providers, such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast, from interfering in the traffic streams that take place over their infrastructure. The reversal of the FCC’s 2015 decision means the ...

The introduction of armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) permanently altered the modern battlefield. New technological advances in drone technology could do it again: from advanced materials that allow drones to fly, roll, run or swim in less forgiving environments, to thinking software than makes them more independent, to stealth technology ...

Revealing the identities of intelligence officials – a practice known as doxing – could become more common among nation-states, directed in particular at the clandestine cyber-spies who operate overseas. Doing so undermines an unspoken norm of confidentiality among even adversarial intelligence services – where they allow each other to operate ...

Terrorist groups are expanding their use of the internet beyond mere messaging and disseminating operational know-how, slowly adding a cyber-hacking toolset that could one day rival that of criminal or state-sponsored hacking. To date attacks have included website defacement, doxing of personally identifiable information, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) ...

In one month, the authorities provided under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) are due to expire unless reauthorized by Congress. Lawmakers are expected to renew FISA, but may put another expiration deadline on the bill, and also may add limitations on how the government is ...

For this year’s Thanksgiving Day feature, The Cipher Brief revisits its coverage of the Kremlin’s strategic use of blackmail to silence dissent at home and undermine opposition abroad. Known in Russian intelligence lexicon as kompromat, or compromising material, blackmail has long played the role of leveraging personal information for political ...

The UN’s Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) met last week to discuss lethal autonomous weapons systems. But while most member states called for a legally-binding process to ensure that some form of meaningful human control be maintained over these prospective weapons systems, there is a ...

The Cipher Brief Cyber Advisory Board’s Bob Gourley commented on the Trump administration’s new process for disclosing software vulnerabilities it has detected – the first time a U.S. administration has revealed its internal rules, aka the Vulnerability Equities Process. This is a significant improvement and clarification of the existing process ...

The intelligence community has been taking body blows lately – with Friday’s WikiLeaks dump of CIA hacking tools and a report in The New York Times discusses just how damaging the August 2016 Shadow Brokers thefts from NSA have turned out to be.  While there has been no acknowledgment by ...

The key question as representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google testify Tuesday and Wednesday before Congress is not how Russia used social media to interfere in last year’s presidential election, but rather what role U.S. voters, the federal government and social media companies should play in building resiliency against such ...

One of the fundamental issues for geopolitical leaders is to determine when existing international institutions no longer meet present needs and new institutions and methods of operation are required. Such an issue now faces the cyber realm. The internet is structurally and operationally international, and as the internet, the cloud, ...

The numbers are staggering, yet only the tip of the iceberg. More than 145 million American citizens are affected by the Equifax data breach disclosed last month; that’s more than half of the American adult population. At the same time, this is only the latest in a series of cyber ...

Urban environments pose special challenges for counterinsurgency efforts as well as for complex operations against criminal gangs and drug trafficking operations. In Brazil, for example, the counter-crime operations have come to resemble counterinsurgency operations. Efforts to oust insurgents from urban spaces come with particularly complex difficulties. The most obvious challenge ...

As ISIS’s hold of its capital of Raqqa disintegrates, and the rubble of a razed Aleppo settles, a trend is beginning to emerge – war is becoming increasingly urbanized. Conflict follows humanity wherever it goes, and the world’s population is increasingly living in cities. Waning are the days of the ...

In October 2017 – as Iraqi forces mop up in Mosul, fighting rages round Raqqa and Deir Ezzour in Syria, the United States resumes bombing ISIS strongholds near the Libyan city of Sirte, and combat continues in Avdiivka, a frontline town near the city of Donetsk in Ukraine – it’s ...

The field of quantum physics, a century-old science, which found that particles have unique and unexpected properties at the smallest scale, is now at the cutting edge of research into revolutionary new technologies that could dramatically impact U.S. defense and national security. From gravitational sensors that can detect submarines underwater ...

Quantum computing and other technologies, which seek to exploit the bizarre behaviors of particles at the microscopic quantum level, have the potential to revolutionize computing, sensor systems, and a wide array of other information systems. As this theoretical field nears practical implementation, The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge asked Dr. Brad ...

Imagine a sensor that could instantly detect nuclear submarines deep underwater, a supercomputer that can break the strongest encryption in the blink of an eye, or a worldwide satellite network of theoretically unbreakable communications. These are just a few of the capabilities promised by quantum physics, a century-old science, which ...

The United States has long been the dominant designer, user, and seller of military drone technology. But China has quickly grown into a developer and competitive proliferator of its own in drone technology, which could have strategic implications for U.S. foreign policy in the South China Sea, and even around ...

Since the time of the first kinetic attack by an unmanned aircraft in October of 2001, the United States has relied heavily on drone technology for its relatively inexpensive loitering capabilities and the geographical reach it enables. Persistent surveillance and targeted drone strikes have become a central tenet of the ...

From the time of the first kinetic strike by an unmanned aircraft in October of 2001, the United States has relied heavily on remote-controlled drone technology for its relatively inexpensive loitering capabilities and the geographic reach it enables in the global war on terror. Over the years the U.S. has ...

U.S. companies got a disturbing preview of just how Russia might be able to steal their secrets, with news that Kaspersky Lab anti-virus software was allegedly used to hack an unsuspecting NSA contractor. Russian state-sponsored hackers reportedly stole critical details on how the U.S. conducts cyber espionage and defends against ...

Following a U.S. government-wide ban last month and recent news reports alleging that Kaspersky Lab enabled Russian intelligence to swipe highly classified NSA material from an employee’s private computer, questions have begun to swirl regarding the Moscow-based company’s relationship with the Kremlin. The Cipher Brief’s Levi Maxey spoke with Chris ...

After reports that highly classified intelligence material was taken from a NSA contractor’s private computer through the individual’s use of Kaspersky Lab’s antivirus software, all eyes turned to the Moscow-based company’s relationship with Russian intelligence and the Kremlin. As private companies using the antivirus software scramble to assess their exposure, ...

Russian state-sponsored hackers reportedly stole details in 2015 on how the U.S. spies on foreign intelligence targets through cyber espionage, as well as how it defends against cyber operations directed at its classified networks. According to the Wall Street Journal, the material was taken from a NSA contractor’s private computer ...

How governments view powerful tools like the internet often determines how they treat them. In the West, governments have sought to let citizens freely and openly engage with cyberspace – for trade, culture, and civic discourse. Others, such as Russia and China, see the internet as a powerful tool to ...

It is a problem for the U.S. that many of the core concepts that guide internet policy date to the 1990s. One such concept is that the internet is a virtual alternative to the Westphalian state, without borders and where sovereignty does not apply. The problem with this concept is ...

The year was 1648. Europe had just negotiated the Peace of Westphalia, ending the 30 years of war that had ensnared the continent. The series of peace treaties that came out of the negotiations established the concept of sovereignty, a political order of co-existing states, establishing a norm against interference ...

In the nearly seven years since the U.S. Department of Defense declared cyberspace a “domain” of warfare – alongside land, air, sea, and space – the Pentagon has developed an overarching Cyber Strategy to guide their efforts in the new domain and raised a Cyber Command that has grown from ...

Military and intelligence professionals around the world view cyberspace differently. In the West, it is thought of as a facilitating factor that can be leverage for espionage, disruption, and sabotage. In China and Russia, where the priority is the ruling regimes continuing hold on power, cyberspace is thought of as ...

One of the opening rounds of an information war between the Kremlin and a democratic country came from Melvin Redick, a fake Facebook account designed to look like your average American – only he was believed to be the handiwork of Russian intelligence. “These guys show hidden truth about Hillary ...

The United States has no peer competitors in conventional military power. But its adversaries are increasingly turning to asymmetric methods for engaging in conflict. Cyber-enabled information warfare (CEIW) is a form of conflict to which the United States – and liberal democracies more generally – are particularly vulnerable. Information warfare involves the ...

Much of the discussion surrounding Russian cyber-enabled information operations against Western societies focuses on technology, such as bots amplifying messages on social media and the hacking of institutions of power to then leak emails with potentially salacious material. But in order to meet the level of success that Russian intelligence ...

While maritime accidents are bound to occur, the consistency and regional concentration of the U.S. Navy mishaps in the Asia-Pacific beg for explanation. Cyber vulnerabilities have long been acknowledged against commercial maritime vessels, but the targeting of new naval systems – whether for navigation, engine and steering control, or commanding ...

Recent fatal accidents involving two vessels in the U.S. Seventh Fleet led to a spate of speculation about whether somehow the navigation in these ships was compromised by a cyber intrusion. Global Positioning System (GPS) spoofing has been highlighted as a possible contributing factor. While investigations are still underway to ...

There has been a recent wave of high-sea collisions in the Asia-Pacific involving U.S. naval vessels – most notably the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain, which together have resulted in the loss of more U.S. military personnel then in Afghanistan so far this year. The incidents, both involving ...

Hunger and political instability go hand in hand. Fighting and droughts across Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, and parts of Nigeria have caused dire situations and have driven up food prices, placing over 20 million people under increased risk of food insecurity. Terrorist groups and criminals prey on such situations, exacerbating ...

This century will be defined by two trends: how we manage climate change and how we manage the rise of megacities. Over the next 20 years, the global urban population will grow from 3.5 to 5 billion people. The strain on resources and the environmental stresses that accompany the growth ...

The United States is confronted with security challenges on a daily basis, from unending terrorist attacks to adversaries positioning themselves on the geopolitical and global economic stages. But behind the curtain of all of these problems resides a potentially devastating, long-term issue that demands attention: global food insecurity as both ...

ISIS recruitment messaging online is a current threat and growing concern, and as the group continues to lose physical territory in Iraq and Syria, it is feared that they will seek to inspire individuals around the world to wage war on the West. To combat the anticipated increase in ISIS ...

ISIS propagates its ideology and promises of a jihadi utopia through slick social media campaigns, seeking to inspire a global audience to take up arms against its enemies and the societies they represent. Perhaps less visible has been ISIS’ operational use of digital communications as a command and control platform ...

No terrorist group has capitalized on networked technology more than ISIS, both for recruitment messaging and commanding their fighters on the ground. The internet is their response to asymmetric disadvantage. Where they lack in infrastructure and resources of a state, they use the web to plan attacks, solicit money and ...

Although cyberspace may have been declared the fifth domain of warfare by the U.S. Department of Defense, many wonder if the concepts of warfare applies to this domain. Is the domain somehow different from the others? Can states achieve new political outcomes by the clever use of cyberspace alone? Can ...

The past week has seen a flurry of news stories on “killer robots,” which wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory Terminator and Robocop images. Countries were supposed to meet this month at the United Nations to discuss lethal autonomous weapons (aka “killer robots”), but meetings have been delayed till November ...