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 ...

The reality of modern times is that nations are in a constant state of cyber engagement – either for espionage, influence, or disruption purposes. While there is a tacit acknowledgement that cyber espionage for political and military purposes is is fair game, some actions such as the disruption of critical ...

It’s likely only a matter of time before a major cyber attack hits U.S. civilian infrastructure, but the nature of that digital violation and the means to respond remain uncertain, as many of the most sensitive systems operate under private sector control. There is a “narrow and fleeting window of ...

The taxonomy of cybersecurity often includes alarming declarations on par with acts of war. But cyber campaigns outside of active conflict hardly meet such a coercive threshold. While there are major concerns over the cybersecurity of the nation’s critical infrastructure – the power grid, water treatment plants, transportation hubs, energy ...

Just as criminals conduct business in the dark allies of cities, they also trade in illicit products such as drugs, guns, and counterfeit documents through online bazaars hidden behind anonymizing technology in a place known as the darknet. Last month, law enforcement agencies led by U.S. and Dutch authorities took ...

On July 20, 2017, U.S. and European law enforcement authorities announced they had jointly taken down two major darknet marketplace sites: AlphaBay and Hansa. These sites, which aspire to operate in the shadows beyond the reach of national and international police forces and organizations, present a significant risk to national ...

On July 5, Thai police arrested a man in Bangkok named Alexandre Cazes, a 26-year-old Canadian, for running an expansive online criminal bazaar called AlphaBay. Previously only known to law enforcement by his online moniker DeSnake, Cazes reportedly made the mistake of using his personal Hotmail email address to communicate ...

Nearly everyone now accepts that Russia attempted to interfere with the U.S. electoral process with the aim of harming Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Even President Donald Trump has grudgingly admitted that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. But for a long, long time – far too ...

No consensus report resulted from the yearlong negotiations of the 5th United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on the Developments in the Field of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs). As the meeting drew to a close in June, the 25 government officials ended their work with a disappointing acknowledgement ...

The top U.S. cyber diplomat will no longer have the direct ear of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The impending closure of the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, established under President Barack Obama in 2011, has left some in dismay on how cybersecurity plays into ...

Unsurprisingly, the fifth UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) ran into difficulties that proved fatal. Previous GGEs operated in a more favorable international climate. The substance of the GGE’s work peaked with its 2013 Report and by the end of the 2015 session, it was clear that the GGE format ...

Beset by disruptive digital attacks, espionage, and cyber-enabled influence campaigns intended to sway public opinion, the United States and its allies are looking for ways to stop the onslaught of computer breaches into their systems. Many nations’ security services are bolstering their offensive military cyber capabilities and response frameworks to ...

Time and time again companies, organizations, and government agencies have proven that they can’t completely secure their computer networks from hackers – particularly nation-states with the resources to pursue access persistently. Instead of focusing solely on network defense, the United States can adopt a deterrence strategy that dissuades foreign governments ...

Disruptive and intrusive cyber activity pervades much of modern international relations. The trend towards the jockeying for global influence and geopolitical positioning through cyber means is only going to grow as more countries and non-state actors play out conflicts in the virtual domain. The responsibility for defending U.S. interests from ...

Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, told the Aspen Security Forum today that he believes the U.S. national security community lacks the capability to prevent a “cyber-9/11”—meaning a collapse of critical infrastructure caused by malware unleashed by a state or transnational organized crime group. “Imagine a shutdown of the electric ...

Tradecraft. A term popularized in the novels of John le Carré, but practiced by spies throughout history. Tradecraft includes a number of methodologies, ranging from chalk-marked dead drops, and honey traps, to wiretapping, losing a tail, and safe houses. Spies have to master their craft if they are to be ...

Intelligence officers must often use a false identity – a legend or cover. How has social media and digital technology changed how they create and preserve these cover identities, and what have counterintelligence units traditionally looked for when trying to identify foreign spies? The Cipher Brief’s Levi Maxey spoke with ...

Intelligence officers’ tradecraft is highly guarded for good reason. One of its most important aspects is establishing a cover identity so foreign governments and hostile groups are not aware who is spying on them. The Cipher Brief’s Levi Maxey spoke with Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA station chief, about what ...