Stratfor looks back at 2016, the breakout year for cybercrime

Summary:The media and military experts thrill to news about the A-10 and the latest nuclear submarine. Meanwhile new tools for cybercrime and cyberwar reshape the world. The FM website has covered these stories, puncturing the myths that fit them into a useful narrative for governments. Here Stratfor summarizes the events of 2016, the breakout year for cybercrime.

Stratfor

The Year in Cybercrime: Exploiting the Weakest Link.
By Threat Lens of Stratfor, 30 November 2016.

Forecast

  • Hackers will continue to rely on social engineering tactics to exploit their victims.
  • State and state-sponsored actors will turn increasingly to cybercrime to advance their national interests.
  • Technological improvements to counter cybercrime will not protect against human vulnerability.

Analysis

The rise of the internet and related technologies has transformed the world, revolutionizing nearly all aspects of everyday life, including crime. In September, the Global Cyber Security Leaders summit in Berlin highlighted the cyberattack tactics that pose the greatest concern to security professionals. Many of these coincide with the threats that we have covered over the past year on Threat Lens, Stratfor’s new security portal. Some transcend criminal activity and involve state or state-sponsored actors using tricks of the cybercriminal trade to advance their countries’ agendas.

Though the weapons used to conduct cyberattacks are relatively new — and rapidly evolving — the tactics have been around for centuries. Over the past year, several major crimes have combined the new platforms and greater access that the information age affords with the age-old art of social engineering. The tactics described below are by no means the most sophisticated of their kind, but they have proved to be some of the most successful and enduring.

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Slow Economic Growth

Three important things to see in today’s jobs report

The monthly jobs report creates a flood of exciting news stories.  Most of these discuss small fluctuations in its many numbers, most of which are just statistical noise. Here are three things you need to know about job and wage growth. They are the key trends seldom mentioned in the news.

See my full report at Seeking Alpha.

Free registration at Seeking Alpha requires only an email address.

 

What happens to the losers of the public debate about climate change?

Summary: Liberals believed that 2017 would mark a new start for US public policy to manage climate change. Now Conservatives agree, in a different sense. Both are wrong. The weather will determine who will win. The stakes for both sides are large (as are the possible effects on the world). The consequences for the losers will be severe. Just as we are unprepared for climate change (even repeat of past extreme weather), both sides are unprepared for defeat. This is an update and expansion of a post from March.

Cover of "Turning the Tide On Climate Change" by Robert Kandel

Cover of “Turning the Tide On Climate Change” by Robert Kandel (2009).

“The future is not what is coming at us, but what we are headed for.”
— Jean-Marie Guyau in Le Genèse de l’idée du temps, translated by Astragale.

The US public policy debate about climate has run for 28 years, from James Hansen’s famous Senate testimony to Trump’s threat to cut NASA’s climate research. This is one of the largest publicity campaigns in American history. Many people assume that US politics will determine the eventual winner, skeptics or alarmists. I disagree: the weather will determine who wins the public policy debate.

So far the weather has sided with the skeptics, with little of the extreme weather activists predicted. No surge of hurricanes after Katrina (despite the predictions). No sign of the methane monster; little evidence that we have passed the long-predicted tipping points. So, despite the efforts of government agencies, academia, and many ngo’s, the public’s policy priorities have been unaffected (see yesterday’s post). As a result, activists are going thru the 5 stages of grief for their campaign.

Global surface temperatures, flattish for 14 years (except for the 2015-16 El Nino).
October 2016 shows the El Nino spike, but exaggerates the recent flatness.
Warming is concentrated in months of May, June, & July.

NOAA Global temperature anomalies: October

From NOAA. Temperature in October of each year. Reference period is the 20th century.

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Can the Left adapt to the Trump era? Watch their climate activists for clues.

Summary: Much depends on the Left’s ability to resist Trump, making arguments that mobilize public opinion. Their actions since the election suggest that will not happen soon. Climate change is both the Left’s signature initiative and its greatest failure (failing to change the US public’s policy priorities). How (or if) the Left changes their climate advocacy will show if they can adapt to the Trump era.

Climate change activist

London, 6 December 2009. Photo by Franck Robichon/EPA.

Astronomer Phil Plait writes at Slate, one of the Left’s better-known climate propagandists. His recent columns at Slate show why the Left has failed to mobilize public opinion — and that they have learned nothing from the election.

There were no questions about climate change in the presidential debates. Clinton said little about climate change during the entire campaign. Accordingly, Gallup found that environmental issues were not in the top 12 issues people associate with Clinton. There are good reasons for this. Climate change has consistently ranked near the bottom of the US public’s major policy concerns. Gallup asks people “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” In October only 3% listed an environmental or pollution-related issues (including climate); economic issues were #1, totaling 17%.

His November 28 column at Slate, Plait discussed Trump’s plan to get NASA out of climate change research. He played the same song climate activists have sung for a decade. He began by invoking the consensus of climate scientists, which he should state (but doesn’t). As expressed by the IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I

“It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”

This is important. But the relevant public policy question concerns future warming: what are the odds of various amounts of warming during different time horizons of the 21st century? There is no easy answer to this, let alone a consensus of climate scientists about it. So climate activists either ignore the research (such as the 4 scenarios described in AR5) or focus on the worst of these (the truly horrific RCP8.5), ignoring its unlikely assumptions.

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The Left goes hysterical over Trump, giving him a free ride as President

Summary: The Left’s hysterical reaction to Trump’s win is good news for him, since doubling down on what failed in the election eliminates them as an effective opposition. It’s bad news for America, allowing Trump enact unpopular far-right policies and rolling back years or decades of hard won progress.

Odd that these fears didn’t defeat Trump.

Donald Trump's nuclear threat

We face a new stresses as Trump moves into the White House, one of America’s least qualified Presidents. The Left has gone hysterical, which is bad news for America — guaranteeing that Trump will have little effective opposition.

For example, I respect the professors who write at Guns, Lawyers, and Money — but they’ve lost their minds. Erik Loomis (asst prof history, U RI) — whom I greatly respect — says he expects to be put in a concentration camp (e.g., here, here, and here). Meanwhile, the posts at LGM (and even more so the commenters) try to outdo themselves in predictions of the fascist era coming soon — despite the experts who say the comparison is weak or bogus. Trump’s statements in 2015-16 are not remotely equivalent to those of Hitler in 1930-31.

Professor Loomis also says “I don’t actually have confidence that we will have a functional democracy by 2020.” Ezra Klein gives us a similar, and equally unfounded, warning: “Imagine if he were to refuse to accept the outcome of the next election once he is the president, and after he has appointed loyalists to control America’s security apparatus.” Their usual evidence is that Trump wouldn’t accept the election outcome, much as many on the Left don’t accept Trump’s win.

For another example of the Left’s disinterest in analysis about the election, let alone learning from it, see this election “post-mortem” by artist Beth Spencer at LGM. My favorite part is her anger that “We live in a country awash in misogyny–even lots of women don’t give a shit about the kind of lechery and disrespect Trump exhibited.” Those darned women, not thinking like feminists want them to! (Even in the new order women are told how to think and behave.)

The rise of Trump and the Left’s reaction provides more evidence that there is as yet no “reality based community” in American. Until that changes, I doubt reform is possible. Even effective opposition to Trump might be impossible.

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Obama’s last gift to America: a global assassination program

Summary: One of Obama’s legacies is the normalization of assassination, despite its 8 years of failure. As a parting gift to America he expanded the powers and scope of our assassins. Bet on Trump to expand the program, both in the number of killings and the scale of its failure. We’re trying to set the world on fire. Perhaps we will succeed.

It’s America’s new logo!Team Assassin: the new American logo

The Left’s amnesia about their Nobel Peace Prize President

“The demagogue who promised to kill terrorists along with their families is moving his own family into the presidential palace.”

— David Runciman (Prof History, Cambridge) in “Is this how democracy ends?“, London Review of Books, 1 December 2016.

Professor Runciman’s amnesia is astonishing since as he write Obama was giving a last gift to America, expanding the power and scope of the assassination program. “Obama administration expands elite military unit’s powers to hunt foreign fighters globally“. “Obama Expands War With Al Qaeda to Include Shabab in Somalia“. After eight years of assassination the jihadist insurgency is stronger than when he was first elected. So the rules of our mad War on Terror require that America double down on failure.

How did we get here?

Following decades of direct and indirect assassinations programs by the US during the Cold War, political assassinations were banned by President Ford’s Executive Order 11905 on United States Foreign Intelligence Activities, 18 February 1976. Carter’s Executive Order 12036 forbids indirect U.S. involvement in assassinations. Reagan’s EO 12333 reiterated these prohibitions.

The “war on terror” slowly rolled these back. On 24 December 1998 President Clinton signed a Memorandum of Notification authorizing the CIA to assassinate Bin Laden (CIA officials lied to the 9/11 Commission about this). In the days after 9/11, President Bush Jr. signed a “Finding” authorizing the CIA to kill bin Laden.

Obama began authorizing assassinations soon after becoming President. These eventually became a formal kill list, known by the Orwellian term “disposition matrix.” The Most Transparent Administration Ever™ has kept the process shrouded in secrecy. We can guess at its logic by one detail they’ve revealed: all military-age males killed are considered combatants (the same logic that inflated “body counts” during the Vietnam War).

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The success of the NAZI atomic bomb program can inspire us today

Summary: Why did NAZI Germany not build an atomic bomb, despite their long head start? This is a powerful story of individuals under intense pressure, with conflicting moral obligations and facing great personal risk, deciding to do what’s bestt for America. It is one of the great success stories of WWII, and can inspire us today. Perhaps future historians will ask why America’s scientists built the bomb, unleashing the horrors of the atomic age (with its several close encounters with WWIII).

Atomic bomb explosion

One of the mysteries of WWII is why Germany did not build the atomic bomb. By summer 1939 they had two development programs running. In September they combined under the leadership of Werner Heisenberg, perhaps the world’s most qualified scientist to lead the program in terms of reputation, experience, and skill. Germany had the industrial resources, uranium ore (in Czechoslovakia), scientific talent, and financial resources (see the last section) to build the bomb. But they didn’t.

The US shifted the Manhattan Project into high gear two years after the German program began, on 9 October 1941 when FDR decided to build the bomb. We had an operational reactor in December 1942, which the NAZI’s never accomplished. We exploded the first bomb in July 1945, after three years and nine months of work.

Most of the senior scientists in the NAZI bomb program shared five goals, which produced this disparity of results between their results and ours. First, to not build a bomb. Second, to avoid questions from the Gestapo about treason. Third, to keep their younger scientists out of the army (their enlistment would follow the program’s end). Fourth, to continue their atomic research. Fifth, to avoid persecution by the German people after the war for failing to build the bomb. They accomplished all five goals, one of the rare moral successes of WWII. This demonstration of what individuals can do should inspire us today.

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