Archive for the ‘Culture & Society’ Category

1
Feb

China’s campaign of cyber attacks has reached epidemic proportions. Can anything be done to stop it?

By Adam Segal

In an extraordinary story that has become depressingly ordinary, the New York Times reports that Chinese hackers “persistently” attacked the newspaper, “infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees.” The attacks began around the time journalists were preparing a story on the massive wealth the family of China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has allegedly accumulated, but the methods, identification, and apparent objectives of the hackers have been seen before in previous attacks on defense contractors, technology companies, journalists, academics, think tanks, and NGOs. Bloomberg, which published a story on the wealth of the family of Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, has also been reportedly attacked.  While just one case in a sweeping cyber espionage campaign that appears endemic, the attack on the Times does highlight both the willingness of Beijing lean out and shape the narrative about China as well as the vulnerability the top leadership feels about how they are portrayed.

As with many cases of cyber espionage, the break-in is assumed to have started with a spear-phishing email, a socially engineered message containing malware attachments or links to hostile websites. In the case of the attack on the security firm RSA in 2011, for example, an email with the subject line “2011 Recruitment Plan” was sent with an attached Excel file. Opening the file downloaded software that allowed attackers to gain control of the user’s computers. They then gradually expanded their access and moved into different computers and networks.

Once in, the hackers are pervasive and fairly intractable. The hackers involved in the attacks on the British defense contractor BAE Systems, for example, were reportedly on its networks for 18 months before they were discovered; during that time they monitored online meetings and technical discussions through the use of web cameras and computer microphones. According to Jill Abramson, executive editor of the Times, there was no evidence that sensitive information related to the reporting on Wen’s family was stolen, but in previous cases hackers encrypted data so that investigators had a difficult time seeing what was actually taken.

Evidence that the hackers are China-based in all of these cases is suggestive, but not conclusive. Some of the code used in the attacks was developed by Chinese hacker groups and the command and control nodes have been traced back to Chinese IP addresses. Hackers are said to clock in in the morning Beijing time, clock out in the afternoon, and often take vacation on Chinese New Year and other national holidays. But attacks can be routed through many computers, malware is bought and sold on the black market, groups share techniques, and one of the cherished clichés of hackers is that they work weird hours. Read more…

Adam Segal is the Maurice R. Greenberg senior fellow in China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on January 31, 2013.

31
Jan

By Fareed Zakaria

Egyptian protesters use camera phones on Monday to capture a burning state security armored vehicle that demonstrators commandeered during clashes with security forces nearby and brought to Tahrir Square and set it alight, in Cairo, Egypt. (Mostafa El Shemy/AP)

The chaos at the second anniversary of the Tahrir Square uprising is only the latest and most vivid illustration that Egypt’s revolution is going off the rails. It has revived talk about the failure of the Arab Spring and even some nostalgia for the old order. But Arab dictators such as Hosni Mubarak could not have held onto power without even greater troubles; look at Syria. Events in the Middle East the past two years underscore that constitutions are as vital as elections and that good leadership is crucial in these transitions.

Compare the differences between Egypt and Jordan. At the start of the Arab Spring, it appeared that Egypt had responded to the will of its people, had made a clean break with its tyrannical past and was ushering in a new birth of freedom. Jordan, by contrast, responded with a few personnel changes, some promises to study the situation and talk of reform.

But then Egypt started going down the wrong path, and Jordan made a set of wise choices.

Put simply, Egypt chose democratization before liberalization. Elections became the most important element of the new order, used in legitimizing the new government, electing a president and ratifying the new constitution. As a result, the best organized force in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, swept into power, even though, on the first ballot, only 25 percent of voters chose its presidential nominee, Mohamed Morsi. The Brotherhood was also able to dominate the drafting of the constitution. The document had many defects, including its failure to explicitly protect women’s rights — only four of the constitutional assembly’s 85 members were women — and language that seems to enshrine the traditional “character” of the Egyptian family. It also weakens protections for religious minorities such as the Bahais, who already face persecution. Read more…

Fareed Zakaria writes a foreign affairs column for The Post. He is also the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and editor at large of Time magazine.

As published in www.washingtonpost.com on January 31, 2013.

30
Jan

Mali’s 2.5 Percent Problem: The real reason the Sahel is awash with terrorists? Rapid population growth.

By Roger Howard

As they debate how to tackle the threat of insurgency and unrest in Africa, Western leaders could do worse than to consider one of the most important, yet curiously underplayed, aspects of that troubled region — the dangers of rapid, unchecked population growth.

It is no coincidence that in recent decades Mali’s population has been growing at an unsustainable annual rate of around 3 percent. In other words, the average Malian woman has six children, while the country’s population has tripled over the past 50 years and, according to the latest U.N. estimates, is set to triple again over the next half century.

Such a drastic rate of population growth rate has profound implications. In particular it means that, in an undeveloped and largely barren land, too many people are competing for too few local resources and opportunities. Young men have limited hopes of finding employment or even sustenance and are therefore deeply susceptible to the temptation of armed criminality and insurgency, and to the lure of radical preachers who seem to offer them both a sense of purpose and scapegoats who they can blame for their woes.

It is of course an oversimplification to blame terrorism and insurgency on any single factor, but look around: The practitioners of these violent ways are also thriving in several other countries that are experiencing comparably high rates of population growth.

Pakistan, for example, is on course to become the world’s third most populous country by mid-century. It is a country in which poverty-stricken parents have been willing to surrender their children’s education to radical, Saudi-financed madrasas where they are inculcated with a radical anti-Western message. Likewise in Yemen, a major frontline in Washington’s ongoing war with al Qaeda, continues to experience one of the highest birth rates in the world, marginally higher than Mali’s. Read more…

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on January 28, 2013.

25
Jan

By Javier Solana and Ian Bremmer

In today’s world, identifying and managing hotspots is not simply a matter of pulling out a map, spotting the wildfires, and empowering diplomats to douse the flames. To understand today’s major conflicts and confrontations, we must recognize important ways in which global political conditions enable them.

Conflicts are much more likely to arise or persist when those with the means to prevent or end them cannot or will not do so. Unfortunately, this will be borne out in 2013.In the United States, barring a foreign-policy crisis that directly threatens national security, President Barack Obama’s administration will focus most of its time, energy, and political capital on debt reduction and other domestic priorities. In Europe, officials will continue their struggle to restore confidence in the eurozone. And, in China, though the demands of economic growth and job creation will force the country’s new leaders to develop new ties to other regions, they are far too preoccupied with the complexities of economic reform to assume unnecessary costs and risks outside Asia. That is why the world’s fires will burn longer and hotter this year.

This does not mean that the world’s powers will not inflict damage of their own. Today, these governments are more likely to use drones and special forces to strike at their perceived enemies. The world has grown used to US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, but recent news reports suggest that China and Japan are also investing in unmanned aircraft – in part to enhance their leverage in disputes over islands in the East China Sea. By lowering the costs and risks of attack, these technological innovations make military action more likely. Read more…

Javier Solana was Foreign Minister of Spain, Secretary-General of NATO, and EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. He is currently President of the ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics and Distinguished Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Ian Bremmer is President of Eurasia Group and the author of Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World.

As published in www.project-syndicate.org on January 22, 2013.

22
Jan

By Roger Cohen

DIPLOMACY is dead.

Effective diplomacy — the kind that produced Nixon’s breakthrough with China, an end to the Cold War on American terms, or the Dayton peace accord in Bosnia — requires patience, persistence, empathy, discretion, boldness and a willingness to talk to the enemy.

This is an age of impatience, changeableness, palaver, small-mindedness and an unwillingness to talk to bad guys. Human rights are in fashion, a good thing of course, but the space for realist statesmanship of the kind that produced the Bosnian peace in 1995 has diminished. The late Richard Holbrooke’s realpolitik was not for the squeamish.

There are other reasons for diplomacy’s demise. The United States has lost its dominant position without any other nation rising to take its place. The result is nobody’s world. It is a place where America acts as a cautious boss, alternately encouraging others to take the lead and worrying about loss of authority. Syria has been an unedifying lesson in the course of crisis when diplomacy is dead. Algeria shows how the dead pile up when talking is dismissed as a waste of time.

Violence, of the kind diplomacy once resolved, has shifted. As William Luers, a former ambassador to Venezuela and the director of The Iran Project, said in an e-mail, it occurs “less between states and more dealing with terrorists.” One result is that “the military and the C.I.A. have been in the driver’s seat in dealing with governments throughout the Middle East and in state to state (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq) relations.” The role of professional diplomats is squeezed.

Indeed the very word “diplomacy” has become unfashionable on Capitol Hill, where its wimpy associations — trade-offs, compromise, pliancy, concessions and the like — are shunned by representatives who these days prefer beating the post-9/11 drums of confrontation, toughness and inflexibility: All of which may sound good but often get you nowhere (or into long, intractable wars) at great cost.

Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, wrote in an e-mail that, “When domestic politics devolve into polarization and paralysis the impact on diplomatic possibility becomes inordinately constraining.” He cited Cuba and Iran as examples of this; I would add Israel-Palestine. These critical foreign policy issues are viewed less as diplomatic challenges than potential sources of domestic political capital. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on January 21, 2013 (a version of this op-ed appeared in print on January 22, 2013, in The International Herald Tribune).

1 7 8 9 10 11 36