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Update July 2017

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Update July 29, 2017

US to create independent military cyber command

U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Lolita C. Baldor

Washington (AP) - After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation’s military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America’s ability to wage cyber war against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to U.S. officials.

Under the plans, U.S. Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency.

Details are still being worked out, but officials say they expect a decision and announcement in the coming weeks. The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter so requested anonymity.

This file photo shows the National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md., where the US Cyber Command is located. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The goal, they said, is to give U.S. Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet and other intelligence data from around the world - a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces.

Making cyber an independent military command will put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea and in space. The move reflects the escalating threat of cyber attacks and intrusions from other nation states, terrorist groups and hackers, and comes as the U.S. faces ever-widening fears about Russian hacking following Moscow’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 American election.

The U.S. has long operated quietly in cyberspace, using it to collect information, disrupt enemy networks and aid conventional military missions. But as other nations and foes expand their use of cyber-spying and attacks, the U.S. is determined to improve its ability to incorporate cyber operations into its everyday war fighting.

Experts said the command will need time to find its footing.

“Right now I think it’s inevitable, but it’s on a very slow glide path,” said Jim Lewis, a cybersecurity expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But, he added, “A new entity is not going to be able to duplicate NSA’s capabilities.”

The NSA, for examples, has 300 of the country’s leading mathematicians “and a gigantic super computer,” Lewis said. “Things like this are hard to duplicate.”

He added, however, that over time, the U.S. has increasingly used cyber as a tactical weapon, bolstering the argument for separating it from the NSA.

The two highly secretive organizations, based at Fort Meade, Maryland, have been under the same four-star commander since Cyber Command’s creation in 2009.

But the Defense Department has been agitating for a separation, perceiving the NSA and intelligence community as resistant to more aggressive cyber warfare, particularly after the Islamic State’s transformation in recent years from an obscure insurgent force into an organization holding significant territory across Iraq and Syria and with a worldwide recruiting network.

While the military wanted to attack IS networks, intelligence objectives prioritized gathering information from them, according to U.S. officials familiar with the debate. They weren’t authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly and requested anonymity.

Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter sent a plan to President Barack Obama last year to make Cyber Command an independent military headquarters and break it away from the NSA, believing that the agency’s desire to collect intelligence was at times preventing the military from eliminating IS’ ability to raise money, inspire attacks and command its widely dispersed network of fighters.

Carter, at the time, also pushed for the ouster of Adm. Mike Rogers, who still heads both bodies. The Pentagon, he warned, was losing the war in the cyber domain, focusing on cyber threats from nations such as Iran, Russia and China, rather than on countering the communications and propaganda campaigns of internet-savvy insurgents.

Officials also grew alarmed by the growing number of cyber attacks against the U.S. government, including several serious, high-level Defense Department breaches that occurred under Rogers’ watch.

“NSA is truly an intelligence-collection organization,” said Lauren Fish, a research associate with the Center for a New American Security. “It should be collecting information, writing reports on it. Cyber Command is meant to be an organization that uses tools to have military operational effect.”

After President Donald Trump’s inauguration, officials said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis endorsed much of the plan. But debate over details has dragged on for months.

It’s unclear how fast the Cyber Command will break off on its own. Some officials believe the new command isn’t battle-ready, given its current reliance on the NSA’s expertise, staff and equipment. That effort will require the department to continue to attract and retain cyber experts.

Cyber Command was created in 2009 by the Obama administration to address threats of cyber espionage and other attacks. It was set up as a sub-unit under U.S. Strategic Command to coordinate the Pentagon’s ability to conduct cyber warfare and to defend its own networks, including those that are used by combat forces in battle.

Officials originally said the new cyber effort would likely involve hundreds, rather than thousands, of new employees.

Since then, the command has grown to more than 700 military and civilian employees. The military services also have their own cyber units, with a goal of having 133 fully operational teams with as many as 6,200 personnel.

Its proposed budget for next year is $647 million. Rogers told Congress in May that represents a 16 percent increase over this year’s budget to cover costs associated with building the cyber force, fighting IS and becoming an independent command.

Under the new plan being forwarded by the Pentagon to the White House, officials said Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville would be nominated to lead Cyber Command. Leadership of the NSA could be turned over to a civilian.

Mayville is currently the director of the military’s joint staff and has extensive experience as a combat-hardened commander. He deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, leading the 173rd Airborne Brigade when it made its assault into Iraq in March 2003 and later heading coalition operations in eastern Afghanistan.

Update July 22, 2017

Global tech leaders to gather in Bangkok for “Techsauce Global Summit 2017”

Techsauce Media Co. Ltd., Thailand’s leading technology-oriented content provider, predicts 2017 is likely to be the golden year for Thai startups thanks to the growing trend of corporate venture capital (CVC).

The company is also set to organise Techsauce Global Summit 2017, one of the biggest startup and tech conferences in Southeast Asia, with the aim of strengthening the country’s technology ecosystem as well as pushing Thailand forward to become one of ASEAN’S technological hubs.

Chief executive officer and co-founder Oranuch Lerdsuwankij said technology and startups are playing a key role in ways of doing business. Big corporates across the globe in many industries have tremendously changed their business practices by setting up accelerator programmes and venture capital arms to foster strategic investment, making direct investments themselves and investing in funds that support startups.

“The vital factor helping to grow the number of CVCs is that the companies and startups’ respective strengths and weaknesses help to fulfill each other, which creates massive business opportunities,” Ms. Oranuch said.

Giant companies hold expertise in their respective business areas and access to funding, as well as large customer bases, but they have little to no flexibility to create innovation. On the other hand, startups are able to take advantage of their company’s small size to invent solutions to solve problems in those industries, but lack funding support.

In Thailand, companies in several new industries such as the property and energy industries have jumped on the bandwagon to set up their venture capital arms, which is a step forward from what in we previously saw the past few years which was only companies in the telecom and finance industries getting involved. In the first four months of this year, there already have been 6 companies launching their venture capital arms. According to Ms. Oranuch, she expects there will continue to be a number of venture capital firms introduced by big corporates throughout the rest of the year.

Thailand’s venture capital value has risen to $261.28 million since 2012. In late 2016 alone, Thai startups raised funds worth more than $86.02 million.

Ms. Oranuch added that the company will organize Techsauce Global Summit 2017 on July 28-29 at Bangkok’s Centara Grand Convention Centre at Central World. The venue is able to support more than 6,000 participants, doubling the amount of conference participants from last year.

Techsauce is also hosting roadshows across more than 10 countries in the region. The conference hopes to expand and fortify Thailand’s technology ecosystem, bringing big corporates and startups to connect with foreign investors and technology experts around the world, including those from the US, China and Japan.

Previously, Thailand was a production hub for many industries, but it still lacks value-added services that would make it more attractive to investors such as bringing in digital technology support. However, at this critical juncture there have been signs of substantial backing from the private and public sectors to provide funding to develop innovative products that serve market needs and champion further growth.

“Techsauce Global Summit 2017 intends to resolve what Thailand lacks, including know-how and business networks. Famous startup founders, investors and accelerators around the globe will join the event. We hope that the conference will create an international platform for the Thai startup ecosystem, enabling Thailand to literally become an investment hub as well as a technology development base for ASEAN,” Ms. Oranuch said.

More than 250 key speakers from around the world ranging from CEOs and investors to technology specialists will join the event to share their knowledge, experiences and thinking methods. For instance, Dave McClure of 500 Startups, Vitaly M. Golomb from HP Tech Ventures, Mike Peng from IDEO Tokyo, Kei Shimada -the Global Director of Innovation and Business Development from Dentsu Inc., Japan, Hiroshi Saijo from Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley, Fintech expert Roy Teo from the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Alvin Ng from GE Capital.

Co-founder Amarit Charoenphan said 8 stages will be provided at the Summit, focusing on global trends, what happens in Asia across industries and how to deal with these trends. The broad content of the Summit will also cover digital manufacturing, UrbanTech, FinTech, InsurTech, EnergyTech, EdTech, Automotive, FoodTech, BioTech, how to run startups and more than 100 other topics. Additionally, not to be missed are the cutting edge innovations like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, IoT and Biometrics which will be showcased through tangible, hands-on illustrations that make them simple to understand.

“The main concepts of all 8 stages and more than 100 featured seminar topics will derive from upcoming technology trends. Participants will receive up-to-date know-how on a variety of topics; they can select from keynotes which suit their needs for generating their own business innovation and startup growth,” said Amarit.

The event is also supported by Thailand’s giant corporates who are paying closer attention to technology development and investment through startups, such as AddVentures – Corporate Venture Capital of SCG, Ananda Development, dtac accelerate, Digital Ventures – a subsidiary of Siam Commercial Bank and many more.

Techsauce Global Summit 2017 is suited to companies and entrepreneurs who are looking for technology and innovation, brands in the processes of preparing themselves for digital transformation, as well as startups and those who are interested in technology.

For further information and ticket reservations, please browse to https://summit.

Update July 15, 2017

Microsoft, Trump administration clash over email searches

(AP Photo Ted S. Warren, File)

Mark Sherman

Washington (AP) - On the surface, the investigation was routine.

Federal agents persuaded a judge to issue a warrant for a Microsoft email account they suspected was used for drug trafficking.

But U.S.-based Microsoft kept the emails on a server in Ireland. Microsoft said that meant the emails were beyond the warrant’s reach. A federal appeals court agreed.

Late last month, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

The case is among several legal clashes that Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft and other technology companies have had with the government over questions of digital privacy and authorities’ need for information to combat crime and extremism. Privacy law experts say the companies have been more willing to push back against the government since the leak of classified information detailing America’s surveillance programs.

Another issue highlighted in the appeal is the difficulty that judges face in trying to square decades-old laws with new technological developments.

In the latest case, a suspected drug trafficker used Microsoft’s email service. In 2013, federal investigators obtained a warrant under a 1986 law for the emails themselves as well as identifying information about the user of the email account.

Microsoft turned over the information, but went to court to defend its decision not to hand over the emails from Ireland.

The federal appeals court in New York agreed with the company that the 1986 Stored Communications Act does not apply outside the United States.

The administration’s Supreme Court appeal said the decision is damaging “hundreds if not thousands of investigations of crimes - ranging from terrorism, to child pornography, to fraud.”

The emails, the administration noted, may reside on a server somewhere, but said Microsoft can retrieve them “domestically with the click of a computer mouse.”

Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, said in a blog post following the high court appeal that the administration’s position “would put businesses in impossible conflict-of-law situations and hurt the security, jobs, and personal rights of Americans.”

Technology companies and privacy experts are among those watching the case closely.

“This is a big deal in an era of a global internet. Servers are not just in the United States. They’re all over the world, and figuring out the rules for foreign-stored data is really important, not just for us, but for foreign governments,” said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor whose work is cited in the appellate ruling.

One problem identified by Kerr and other privacy scholars is that courts might not be the best place to resolve these issues.

Should the same rules apply to the emails of an American citizen and a foreigner? Does it matter where the person is living?

“The Supreme Court can’t answer these questions in the nuanced way that’s needed,” said Jennifer Daskal, an American University law professor.

Even Judge Gerard Lynch on the New York panel that sided with Microsoft called for “congressional action to revise a badly outdated statute.”

The Stored Communications Act became law long before the advent of cloud computing. To the extent personal information was kept online, it was mainly on personal computers.

Today, companies build data centers around the world to keep up with their customers’ demands for speed and access.

Members of Congress have introduced legislation to update the law, but nothing has been enacted.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, opposes the administration’s appeal, but said in a statement that “Congress can and should modernize data privacy laws to ensure that law enforcement can access evidence in a timely manner.”

Microsoft also supports revising the law. The company also is among those challenging “gag orders” that prevent service providers from notifying customers that their data have been turned over to the government under court order.

Companies have been more willing to assert their customers’ and their own privacy interests since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s leak of classified U.S. material about America’s surveillance programs, Kerr said.

The technology companies wield enormous power, perhaps more than governments do, in shaping the scope of digital age privacy rights, Daskal said.

The companies decide “what to retain, where to keep it, for how long, and whether to encrypt it,” she said. And when governments produce court orders for customers’ information, it’s the companies’ call about “when to comply and when to resist,” Daskal said.

The justices won’t decide whether to hear U.S. v. Microsoft, 17-2, before the fall. If they do, argument wouldn’t occur until next year.

Founder of Russian messaging app defies official ultimatum

Moscow (AP) - The founder of a Russian encrypted messaging app is defying the government’s request to provide information about his company.

The head of the Russian communications regulator on Friday in an open letter to Telegram founder Pavel Durov threatened to block Telegram unless Durov hands over details about the app. The move would require Telegram, which prides itself on privacy, to keep and share users’ chat histories and encryption keys with the government.

Durov said in a post on his social media page Friday that the threat to block Telegram was “sabotage of state interests.”

He says that if Telegram is banned in Russia, the private chats that Russian officials and their friends currently conduct via his messaging app will be conducted through apps that store their data abroad.

Update July 8, 2017

UK Parliament investigates cyberattack on user accounts

According to a statement released from the House of Commons Saturday June 24, British officials are investigating an alleged cyberattack on the country’s Parliament after discovering “unauthorized attempts to access parliamentary user accounts.” (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, FILE)

London (AP) - British officials were investigating a cyberattack Saturday, June 24, on the country’s Parliament after discovering “unauthorized attempts to access parliamentary user accounts.”

A statement from the House of Commons said that as a precaution, remote email access for members was disabled in order to protect the network from hackers.

“As a result, some Members of Parliament (lawmakers) and staff cannot access their email accounts outside of Westminster,” it said, adding that IT services at Parliament itself are working normally.

It was not immediately clear how many people were affected or what the extent of the damage was.

An email sent all those affected described a “sustained and determined attack on all parliamentary user accounts in an attempt to identify weak passwords,” according to The Guardian newspaper. “These attempts specifically were trying to gain access to our emails.”

Liberal Democrat Chris Rennard said on Twitter that urgent messages should be sent by text message because parliamentary emails may not work remotely.

The National Cyber Security Center and the National Crime Agency are looking into the incident.

Liam Fox, Britain’s International Trade Secretary, told ITV News that the attack was “a warning to everyone: We need more security and better passwords. You wouldn’t leave your door open at night.”

Google to stop reading your Gmail to help sell ads

Google is going to stop reading your Gmail in search of opportunities to sell ads. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

San Francisco (AP) - Google is going to stop reading your Gmail in search of opportunities to sell ads.

The change announced Friday will end a practice that Google has embraced since the company introduced Gmail in 2004. The practice has raised concerns among privacy watchdogs and creeped out some users.

To help finance the free service, Google has been scanning through what Gmail users were discussing and then showing ads connected to some of the topics. Someone writing about running, for instance, might see ads for Nike or Asics shoes.

Google still plans to show ads within Gmail. But instead of scanning through email content, the company’s software will rely on other signals to determine which ads are most likely to appeal to each of its 1.2 billion Gmail users.

The Mountain View, California, company said it would stop the ad-driven scanning of Gmail later this year.

Google says it’s changing course so its free Gmail service operates more like the subscription version that it has sold to more than 3 million companies. The paid Gmail doesn’t include ads, so the company has never tried to scan the content of those users’ emails for marketing purposes.

Despite that, Google said some of its business customers incorrectly assumed the company was scanning those accounts as well. By ending all scanning, Google hopes to end the confusion and sell Gmail to even more businesses.

Gmail now ranks as the world’s largest email service, an indication that most people didn’t care about Google’s scanning methods. Both Microsoft and Apple have publicly skewered Google for having the audacity to mine users’ emails for ad sales, but those attacks didn’t undercut Gmail’s popularity.

Government websites hacked with pro-Islamic State rant

Columbus, Ohio (AP) - United States Government websites, many of them in Ohio, were hacked Sunday, June 25, with a message that purports to be supportive of the Islamic State terrorist group.

A message posted on the website of Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich said, “You will be held accountable Trump, you and all your people for every drop of blood flowing in Muslim countries.”

The message, left by “Team System Dz,” also ended, “I love the Islamic state.”

The same message also infiltrated government websites in the town of Brookhaven, New York, according to news reports in that state, as well as the website for Howard County, Maryland. In the past, the group also claimed responsibility for similar hacks in the past in Richland County, Wisconsin, and in places such as Aberdeen, Scotland, and Sweden.

Several other government websites were hacked in Ohio, including that of first lady Karen Kasich, Medicaid, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and the Casino Control Commission.

Tom Hoyt, chief communications officer for Ohio’s Department of Administrative Services, was among Ohio officials who confirmed the hack.

“All affected servers have been taken offline and we are investigating how these hackers were able to deface these websites,” he said. “We also are working with law enforcement to better understand what happened.”

The websites in Brookhaven and Howard County also remained down on Sunday. When asked about the outage on the Brookhaven site, a spokeswoman who answered the phone at the New York town’s police department simply offered a “no comment.”

The hack is part of ongoing cyberterrorism that has impacted governments and corporations across the globe.

Some see these types of hacks - sometimes called “defacement” - as simply a nuisance, though in some instances, they have been disruptive to work and government life.

But others see cause for alarm. “Wake up freedom-loving Americans. Radical Islam infiltrating the heartland,” Josh Mandel, the Ohio treasurer and a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, said in a tweet Sunday.

Authors of the website “Cryptosphere,” which tracks hackers worldwide, have detailed dozens, if not hundreds, of similar hacks in recent years by the so-called Team System DZ, which they called a “pro-ISIS hacker crew” and claim are based in Algeria.

Impacted websites, they said, have included those for a synagogue in Florida, the student union at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, for UK Rugby and a number of websites on Wordpress.

Update July 1, 2017

Facebook deploys AI to fight terrorism on its network

On Thursday, June 15, 2017, Facebook said it’s using artificial intelligence to help it combat terrorists’ use of its platform. The company’s announcement comes as it faces growing pressure from government leaders to identify and prevent the spread of content from terrorist groups on its massive social network. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Barbara Ortutay

San Francisco (AP) - Facebook has started deploying its artificial intelligence capabilities to help combat terrorists’ use of its service.

Company officials said in a blog post Thursday that Facebook will use AI in conjunction with human reviewers to find and remove “terrorist content” immediately, before other users see it. Such technology is already used to block child pornography from Facebook and other services such as YouTube, but Facebook had been reluctant about applying it to other potentially less clear-cut uses.

In most cases, Facebook only removes objectionable material if users first report it.

Facebook and other internet companies face growing government pressure to identify and prevent the spread of terrorist propaganda and recruiting messages on their services. Earlier this month, British Prime Minister Theresa May called on governments to form international agreements to prevent the spread of extremism online. Some proposed measures would hold companies legally accountable for the material posted on their sites.

The Facebook post - by Monika Bickert, director of global policy management, and Brian Fishman, counterterrorism policy manager - did not specifically mention May’s calls. But it acknowledged that “in the wake of recent terror attacks, people have questioned the role of tech companies in fighting terrorism online.”

“We want to answer those questions head on. We agree with those who say that social media should not be a place where terrorists have a voice,” they wrote.

Among the AI techniques used in this effort are image matching, which compares photos and videos people upload to Facebook to “known” terrorism images or video. Matches generally mean that either Facebook had previously removed that material, or that it had ended up in a database of such images that Facebook shares with Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube.

Facebook is also developing “text-based signals” from previously removed posts that praised or supported terrorist organizations. It will feed those signals into a machine-learning system, over time, will learn how to detect similar posts.

Bickert and Fishman said that when Facebook receives reports of potential “terrorism posts,” it reviews those reports urgently. In addition, it says that in the rare cases when it uncovers evidence of imminent harm, it promptly informs authorities.

But AI is just part of the process. The technology is not yet at the point where it can understand nuances of language and context, so humans are still in the loop.

Facebook says it employs more than 150 people who are “exclusively or primarily focused on countering terrorism as their core responsibility.” This includes academic experts on counterterrorism, former prosecutors, former law enforcement agents and analysts and engineers, according to the blog post.

Google intensifies campaign against online extremism

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Newark, N.J. (AP) - Google is intensifying its campaign against online extremism, saying it will put more resources toward identifying and removing videos related to terrorism and hate groups.

The renewed efforts arrive in the wake of violent attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere. A van struck a crowd of people outside a London mosque Sunday, the second time an automobile was used as a weapon in that city this month, and less than a week after a gunman attacked GOP lawmakers on a baseball field.

“While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now,” Google said in a blog post.

Anti-hate groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center have been critical of Google and social media sites, saying that they have done little to curtail hate groups online.

Facebook and Google “have done little to counter the use of their platforms to spread hateful, false “information,” from conspiracy theories accusing various minority groups of plotting against America to websites promoting Holocaust denial and false “facts” about Islam, LGBT people, women, Mexicans and others, the organization said in a report earlier this year.

Google, along with other companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter, recently agreed to create an international forum to share and develop technology, support smaller businesses and speed up their joint efforts against online terrorism.

On the same day of the most recent attack in London, Google said it would escalate those efforts.

Google will nearly double the number of independent experts it uses to flag problematic content and expand its work with counter-extremist groups to help identify content that may be used to radicalize and recruit extremists.

It will also train more people to identify and remove extremist and terrorism-related content faster.

Google Inc. said it will also take a tougher stance on videos that don’t clearly violate its policies, like those that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content. That content may still appear, but with a warning.

It is also increasing resources for engineering to identify extremist videos and teaming with Jigsaw to use targeted online advertising to reach potential Isis recruits and shift them toward anti-terrorist videos.



Back to Main Page

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

US to create independent military cyber command

Global tech leaders to gather in Bangkok for “Techsauce Global Summit 2017”

Microsoft, Trump administration clash over email searches

Founder of Russian messaging app defies official ultimatum

UK Parliament investigates cyberattack on user accounts

Google to stop reading your Gmail to help sell ads

Government websites hacked with pro-Islamic State rant

Facebook deploys AI to fight terrorism on its network

Google intensifies campaign against online extremism


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