Tag: War

Cyber warfare – trust is good … “kontrolle noch besser”!

2aces_wlIf anyone still nurtured cozy illusions about friendship and fair play between nation states, then 2013 marks the year where these last politically challenged students, at the back of the class, finally got it. As was stressed in “Success 101”: In life you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. That goes for sovereign nation states, businesses and individuals all alike. But if you walk up to a negotiation table where the other party already knows what cards you’re holding, you’re not even going to get what you deserve – you’ll get trashed!

The only surprising thing about the revelations of the US spying on world leaders and very likely on as many corporate CEOs as they can, is that they got caught! Make no mistake: Barack Obama hasn’t yelled at K. B. Alexander – the head of NSA – for tapping into Angela Merkel’s phone but for being sloppy with data security!

The fact is: All the talk about global markets being good for everyone fail to mention that unless your leaders are apt at the negotiation tables, it might well be better for some and not-so-great for others. And you don’t want to be counted among the “others”! Politicians and business leaders involved have a crystal clear understanding of this. It therefore goes without saying that the old SAS “7 p’s” adage (Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance) is applied: Gather as much information about the other parties negotiation position, strategy and arguments as possible. Before going into the ring. And why not implement such best practices to their fullest? Read more

To negotiate or not to negotiate…


At least 185 people are currently held hostage by terrorists. Should we negotiate (and pay) or effectively condemn these people to years of captivity and possibly violent death?

If you are a brother, mother or otherwise related to a hostage your answer is likely to be “pay!”. If you’re wealthy you might embark on plans to bring the release about yourself.

If you are unrelated and learn about the terrible situation for a given hostage, you’re most likely to answer “no”. Of the many reasons given, these three takes the lions share:

  • extortion attempts by terrorists, or anyone really, should be met with a firm no and backed up by adequate force. Going into negotiations with criminals demanding ransom should be used as a stall tactic while “other plans” are drawn up and brought to execution.
  • paying is the worst that can be done since it provides resources to the enemy (sometimes considerable in size) that will then later be used in more crimes and eventually could end up killing or maiming many more than was freed be the ransom.
  • paying will be an incitement to repeat the fund-raising experience and – since it cannot be kept secret – invite other criminal groups to try their hand too.

If you are in government things are quite a bit more complicated. A catch-22 situation really. You must be seen to stand strong against extortions and any other form of coercion attempts (so no negotiations and certainly no payments) but at the same time take measures to right the wrong. The trouble with that part is that in spite of all the military gadgetry available and barracks full of units with “special” somewhere in their designation, no commander can be found who says “it can be done” (without the need for body bags for the hostages or expensive “special” grunts)….

The terrorists, on the other hand, do not hold all the cards either. A dead hostage is worth zero. Less even, since there is a real risk of repercussions later on (Governments in this sort of situations have a very good memory – unlike when their members need help recalling their campaign promises). And there is this dastard issue of all them satellites and drones whizzing past overhead day and night. You also have to keep your excited young rebels from gang-raping any of the female assets because that would seriously degrade the negotiation position in future repeat actions.

The ICC Commercial Crime Services reports on crimes world-wide affecting commerce. In relation to hostage taking, Read more

Cyber warfare – An introduction

There is a new global war raging and although it takes place in cyberspace there are casualties.cyber-tanks-small

Weapons made of steel are being replaced by software. Delivery systems are made of fiber optics, the payload is weightless software and the launch buttons are located on plastic mice. Oh, and the typical “Cyber Seal” special forces grunt often can’t run a mile downhill without having to puke. But I wouldn’t get in the (cyber-) ring to fight one, if I were you.

Who is fighting? What is being fought over and should you be concerned at all? The short answers are: everybody (even official allies), prosperity and commercial as well as strategic advantages and as to whether you should pay any attention at all – well if privacy, security, growth, prosperity and future outlook for you and your kids matter to you then you should.

This is the first article in a series where we’ll cover all the important angles, embark on a troop inspection tour across the planet, make bets on who will be on the winning team(s) and who wont and finally come to some rather disturbing conclusions.

If you think this is pure science fiction taken straight out of Hollywood then have a look at this (very incomplete) list:

  • In 2007 Estonia was hit by a massive attack that brought many critical IT systems down. Including banks, ministry systems, newspapers and other media. FYI: Estonia is member of the EU and NATO. This attack was for a large part influential in the decision of locating the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. It is speculated that Russia was behind the attacks.
  • In 2009/10, US and Israeli cyber warfare units successfully launched an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities with the aim of destroying centrifuges essential to the production of weapons grade plutonium. The software has since spread to Siemens process control computers in many countries – allegedly without causing any harm. The software was discovered by companies selling anti-virus software and baptized “Stuxnet”. Iran has since admitted that their centrifuges did indeed suffer irreparable damage.
  • Sony had data on several hundred thousand user accounts stolen over the course of several months in several separate attacks. Experts believe that given the sophistication and multiple-wave strategy, it is unlikely that private hackers could be behind.
  • The Wall Street Journal (among many others) report that Nortel Networks Ltd. computer systems had been penetrated back in 2000 and that for almost a decade the intruders enjoyed top management-level access to all the company’s data. Nortel is presently in bankruptcy and persistent allegations place the origins of the attack to be “from somewhere on mainland China”. The Chinese government has denied any implication. Are you thinking in the lines of “motive, means and opportunity”?
  • In 2010, Google was the victim of a series of attacks that – according to Google and others – were of such sophistication and operational excellence that only a government would have the resources to make it happen. In this attack as well, most fingers are pointed at China.

Or take this snippet – a quote attributed to an unidentified Chinese general by CIA Operations Manager John Serabian in his testimony before the Joint Economic committee:

We can make the enemy’s command centers not work by changing their data system. We can cause the enemy’s headquarters to make incorrect judgment(s) by sending disinformation. We can dominate the enemy’s banking system and even its entire social order.

… and that was back in 2000.

But perhaps the British have expressed what is at stake with most clarity in the mission statement for their cyberspace warfare – pardon, “security” – unit:

Our vision is for the UK in 2015 to derive huge economic and social value from a vibrant, resilient and secure cyberspace, where our actions, guided by our core values of liberty, fairness, transparency and the rule of law, enhance prosperity, national security and a strong society.

The Germans have gone one step further in being honest about this not being solely a defense and national security issue when, according to official Parliament proceeding records, they announced that they had “achieved operational offensive capabilities in 2008”.

This is not about having the latest anti-virus software fully updated on your system. It is about jobs, bidding wars and contracts. It is about who will enjoy growth and prosperity going forward.

Next installment: The attack on Estonia and its ramifications.