Command & Conquer: Cyber
July 8, 2019
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“Learning from experience is a faculty almost never practiced”
“When the gap between ideal and real becomes too wide, the system breaks down.”
– Barbara Tuchman, an awesome historian
Command & Conquer: The EU Is On Red Alert
In the spring of 2019 the EU launched its Rapid Alert System (RAS), an ambitious early-warning effort to send alerts about Russian propaganda, and ostensibly combat subsequent election interference. Unfortunately, the inside joke circulating in Brussels was that the RAS wasn’t rapid, there were no alerts, and there wasn’t a system.
Evidence is undeniable that the Kremlin has meddled in democratic elections and is continuing to do so. The EU has aggressively demanded changes from social media companies and pursued novel ways to fight disinformation. But its effort to identify and forestall misinformation has become entangled in a complicated confluence of free speech, propaganda and national politics.
Human perception, or perhaps individual agenda, is the problem. This spring, for example, EU analysts discovered suspicious Twitter accounts pushing disinformation about an Australian political scandal. For days leading up to the European Parliament elections, tweets showed the unmistakable footprint of Russian political interference. But rather than blasting an alarm on the RAS, a debate broke out over whether what analysts were seeing was serious enough to react. They wound up doing nothing. And although analysts now say they are spotting “continued and sustained disinformation activity from Russian sources,” no alerts have ever been issued.
- Report: U.S. is underestimating Putin’s “grand strategy” for Russian dominance (Axios)
- NATO Considers Missile Defense Upgrade, Risking Further Tensions With Russia (NYT, $)
The Hero Who Betrayed His Country: An ethnic Russian serving in Estonia’s military had something to hide. Now he’s in prison as a convicted traitor. (The Atlantic)
All Your Bitcoin Are Belong To Us
- We’ve now entered the second half of 2019, and if cybersecurity incidents occurring in the first half of the year are any indication, the second half of the year will surely see ransomware being an ever-growing threat, corporate and US government security continuing to lag, and geopolitical tensions continuing to rise worldwide.
- Some security-breach and other crises that already happened are: (1) the theft of travelers’ and license plates photos from Customs and Border Protection surveillance contractor Perceptics; (2) criminal groups ransomware attacks on businesses, healthcare providers and local governments; (3) supply chain attacks against legitimate software vendors delivering what appears to be trustworthy software updates; (4) the massive months-long data breach of the American Medical Collection Agency systems; (5) corporate failure to properly store sensitive customer data; (6) and escalating cyber-war campaigns from countries like Iran. (Wired)
Bitcoin Beaches and Dirty Money: The Virgin Islands
- The British Virgin Islands is home to more than 400,000 companies that hold $1.5 trillion in assets. Its deceptively bucolic atmosphere belies a dark offshore economy which it struggles to keep hidden in an era of transparency. (Bloomberg)
- How Britain can help you get away with stealing millions: a five-step guide: Dirty money needs laundering if it’s to be of any use – and the UK is the best place in the world to do it. (Guardian)
The President’s New Clothes
- The Sunday edition of London’s tabloid Daily Mail disclosed leaked contents of telegrams critical of the Trump administration sent from Washington by Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s ambassador to the US.
- The telegrams described the administration as “dysfunctional,” “unpredictable,” and “diplomatically clumsy.” Darroch, a top diplomat in former prime minister Theresa May’s government, labeled Trump “inept,” “insecure,” and “incompetent,” but warned nevertheless that Trump’s ability to fend off scandal could result in his reelection. May’s likely successor, Boris Johnson, prides himself on his proximity to the Trump family. (Guardian, Heavy.com)
- ‘Modern Slavery’ Ring in U.K. Ensnared up to 400 Polish People, Authorities Say (NYT, $)
The Subscription (Rental) Economy
- Canada’s real estate market is on fire, with investors clearly driving the market. Figures released this week by Statistics Canada show that almost 40 percent of Toronto condos are not owner-occupied, and fears are spreading that more cities across the country could be facing a growing struggle with housing affordability.
- In Vancouver currently, just 12 percent of families can afford to own a home. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- It Was a Robust Democracy. Then the New President Took Power. (NYT, $) and Democracy Is for the Gods: It should be no surprise that humans cannot sustain it. (NYT, $)
- A Day’s Work On Delhi’s Mountain Of Trash (NPR)
- A Power Plant Fiasco Highlights China’s Growing Clout in Central Asia (NYT, $)
- One climate crisis disaster happening every week, UN warns: Developing countries must prepare now for profound impact, disaster representative says (Guardian)
Christchurch mosque killer’s theories seeping into mainstream, report warns: Call to tackle extreme white nationalist ideas propagating hatred and violence gaining traction on social media (Guardian)
Opposites Attract, Somehow
- One of the most mind-blowing features of the Trump era is the enthusiastic, uncritical embrace of the president by white evangelical Christians. It is arguably undeniably hypocritical that a group, who insisted for decades that good moral character, personal integrity, and “family values” were essential components of presidential leadership, could turn a blind eye to Trump’s ethical and moral transgressions, constantly defend him, and eagerly grant him multiple “milligans” for his sordid personal and sexual history.
- How did it happen that for many evangelical Christians, there is no political figure whom they have loved more than Donald Trump? (Atlantic)
- The Mormon Church vs. the Internet (The Verge) and How the Catholic Church Lost Italy to the Far Right: Pope Francis’ retreat from culture-war politics has left a void that politicians have been all too eager to fill. (NYT, $)
Additional USA News
- Jeffrey Epstein charged with sex trafficking, reports say: US billionaire will reportedly appear before a federal magistrate on Monday (Guardian)
- Hungry, Scared and Sick: Inside the Migrant Detention Center in Clint, Tex.: An out-of-the-way border station in the desert outside of El Paso has become the epicenter of outrage over the Trump administration’s policies on the southwest border. (NYT, $), What a Pediatrician Saw Inside a Border Patrol Warehouse: Dolly Lucio Sevier evaluated dozens of sick children at a facility in South Texas. She found evidence of infection, malnutrition, and psychological trauma. (The Atlantic), Border Patrol Agents Tried to Delete Racist and Obscene Facebook Posts. We Archived Them (The Intercept)
LOOSE NUTS: FASCINATING NEWS
I Took The One Less Traveled By, And That Has Made All The…Wait I Change My Mind
- Robert Frost once told his friend, poet Edward Thomas, with whom he liked to take walks in the English countryside, that “No matter which road you take, you’ll always sigh and wish you’d taken another.” Frost was gently admonishing his friend for regretting not taking a road that might have offered the best opportunities, despite its being a complete unknown.
- Psychoanalyst David Morgan says it is not unusual for patients to seek therapy because they feel plagued by regret and unable to live full lives because of it, whether it is over affairs, career choices or relationships. Regret is an emotion that can be all-consuming and destructive. Not being able to move past regret — becoming trapped in a cycle of guilt — can seriously damage one’s mental health. The goal, according to Morgan, is to learn from past mistakes, and relegate remorse to one step on life’s path forward to a better future. (Owlcation, Guardian)
- Selling Your Private Information Is a Terrible Idea: We don’t allow people to sell their kidneys. We shouldn’t let them sell the details of their lives, either. (NYT, $)
- Opted Out of Facial Recognition at the Airport — It Wasn’t Easy (Wired) and Biased and wrong? Facial recognition tech in the dock (BBC)
- Amazon confirms it keeps your Alexa recordings basically forever: The recordings, and their transcripts, never expire automatically. (Ars Technica), Amazon at 25: The story of a giant (BBC), Inside an Amazon Warehouse, Robots’ Ways Rub Off on Humans (NYT, $)
Elon Musk Wanted the Onion; He Got Thud (The Verge) and Mad magazine’s demise is part of the ending of a world (WaPo, $)
“Theology being the work of males, original sin was traced to the female.”
“Chief among the forces affecting political folly is lust for power, named by Tacitus as “the most flagrant of all passions.”
– Barbara Tuchman
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