Six Important Take-Aways from the Intelligence Committee Threat Hearings

Senate+Intelligence+Committee+Holds+Hearing+Ag147Lpr-malBy Fred Fleitz:

Over the last week, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees held their annual unclassified hearings on worldwide threats facing the United States.  Testifying to the hearings were Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director James Comey, and DIA Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

The news media’s treatment of the hearings was predictably poor and superficial.  Here is what the Center believes are the top six take-aways that you need to know from these hearings.

1. A Growing Worldwide Terrorist Threat

All five witnesses stressed the increasing threat from a reconstituted and decentralized al-Qaeda organization which is expanding its influence, especially in Syria and North Africa.  CIA Director Brennan warned about al-Qaeda activity in Iraq and Syria, telling the House Intelligence Committee: “We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the Al Qaeda organization to recruit individuals and develop the capability to be able not just to carry out attacks inside of Syria, but also to use Syria as a launching pad.  There are camps inside of both Iraq and Syria that are used by Al Qaeda to develop capabilities that are applicable, both in the theater, as well as beyond.”

2. Sharply Increased Risk of Cyber Attacks by State and Non-State Actors

The U.S. intelligence community sees growing risks from cyberwarfare because government and personal functions are increasingly tied to the Internet and potential offensive cyber operations by Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, terrorist organizations, and cyber criminal organizations.  U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia continues to target U.S. and allied personnel with access to sensitive computer network information.  China is trying to weaken U.S. dominance of Internet governance while continuing an expansive worldwide program of network exploitation and intellectual property theft.

3. The Snowden Leaks Will Result in the Loss of American Lives

In response to questions by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI), DIA Director Flynn discussed a recent damage assessment by his agency on the leaks of classified information by former NSA technician Edward Snowden.  According to Flynn, the Snowden leaks will make it harder to detect IEDs threatening U.S. troops in Afghanistan, will put all U.S. servicemen at risk, and provided America’s adversaries important insights into U.S. military vulnerabilities.   Director Clapper added that the vast majority of Snowden’s leaks probably had nothing to do with NSA programs.

These findings are important because they put the lie to claims by Snowden and his supporters that he only leaked information about NSA programs and was careful not to release information that would cost lives or endanger U.S. security.

Read more at Center For Security Policy

The Real American Blackout: Will the electric industry really examine the grid’s vulnerability?

680178235Center For Security Policy:

Washington, DC:  On Sunday night, National Geographic aired an alarming, and most timely, new docu-drama entitled, “American Blackout.”  It explores the trauma that would be experienced by the United States and its people should there be a prolonged nationwide blackout caused by a major disruption to the nation’s power grid.

In mid-November, the real test of the grid will take place when 100 electric utilities and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) participate in a nationwide exercise dubbed GridEx II that is supposed to demonstrate how well the grid can cope with significant disruptions.

A new video produced by the EMP Coalition, however, raises questions about whether GridEx II will actually test the nation’s bulk power distribution system – or be conducted in a manner calculated to obscurethe grid’s actual vulnerabilities.

The electric utilities and their trade association/regulatory organization –NERC – have, to date, proven resistant to examining rigorously, let alone remediating, the grid’s vulnerabilities to various threats (including physical attack, cyberwarfare and electromagnetic pulse (EMP)).

The National Geographic film describes how a cyber attack could leave the nation without the critical infrastructures that provide everything necessary to life in 21st Century America, including: food, water, fuel, transportation, medicine, communications and finance.
The horrific consequences of such privation – even for the ten-day period explored in the film, let alone a much more protracted period – are such that, if the grid is vulnerable in the way shown in “American Blackout.” everything possible must be done to eliminate such weaknesses.
The EMP Coalition (an ad hoc group made up of many of the nation’s leading experts and organizations committed to preventing the grid and critical infrastructures from the terrible consequences of a long-duration loss of power) encourages every American to view the video “The Real American Blackout” and join in insisting that Grid Ex II be an honest examination of the state of the nation’s electric infrastructure, and a catalyst to the corrective actions needed to protect it against all threats – man-caused and naturally occurring.
Real American Blackout: Will GridEx II Protect Against It or Ensure It Happens?:
For more information about the video and the work of the EMP Coalition, visit www.StopEMP.org.
Also see The Blaze TV  For The Record episode called Blackout

Iran’s Cyber Warfare Program Targeted by Covert Operations?

Rouhani3

A senior Iranian cyber warfare official has been assassinated, raising legitimate suspicions that foreign intelligence services were involved.

BY RYAN MAURO:

A senior Iranian cyber warfare official has been assassinated, raising legitimate suspicions that foreign intelligence services were involved. Iran’s nuclear program has been repeatedly damaged by covert operations, but this would be the first known one to target against Iran’s cyber capabilities.

The commander of Iran’s cyber warfare headquarters, Mojtaba Ahmadi was shot twice in the heart at short range. His corpse was found in woods near Karaj. The Iranian regime quickly denied that it was an assassination, saying, “The main reason of the event and the motive of the attacker have not been specified.”

A local police commander initially said that Ahmadi was killed by two people riding a motorcycle. Iranian nuclear scientists have previously died at the hands of motorcycle-riding assassins.

The Iranian regime hacked U.S. Navy computers recently and penetrated an unclassified e-mail system.  Iran is also believed to be responsible for a series of attacks on the websites of U.S. banks, specifically Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase. Its hackers have also struck U.S. energy companies.

On August 15, 2012, the Aramco oil company of Saudi Arabia was the victim of a major cyber attack.  Aramco said the attackers failed to stop the flow of oil and gas, but damaged 30,000 computers, deleting the information stored on their hard drives.

“The virus erased data on three-quarters of Aramco’s corporate PCs — documents, spreadsheets, e-mails, files — replacing all of it with an image of a burning American flag,” the New York Times reported.

Aramco said the attack was launched from “several foreign countries.” The U.S. believes Iran is to blame.

A hacking group named “Cutting Sword of Justice” claimed it stole sensitive documents. The group referenced Iranian grievances,saying that it was retaliation for Saudi intervention in Bahrain and Syria.

Then, on August 27, the RasGas natural gas company based in Qatar was hit. The virus took down the company’s website and email servers for days.

The last apparent covert operation against Iran took place on May 7when explosions rocked a site linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program.

The Clarion Project is keeping track of the likely covert operations against Iran’s WMD programs.

Go to The Clarion Project to see the updated chronology.

 

Global Terrorist, Anti-U.S. Network Aiding Snowden

Edward Snowden (Photo: © Reuters)

Edward Snowden (Photo: © Reuters)

By Clare Lopez:

The global odyssey of former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and self-styled “whistleblower” Edward Snowden, now entering its second month, is tracing out a map of America’s adversaries like some kind of network analysis software program.

Whatever the arguments about alleged NSA abuses of U.S. citizen privacy rights or whether Snowden had any justification for revealing information he’d pledged a solemn oath to keep secret, his hop-scotch escape route and the motley crew of actors helping him stay out of reach of American justice already provide a graphic illustration of the loose-knit but powerful international network that is allied in hatred for the United States.

That network includes nation states, Islamic terrorists and the shadowy world of cyber warfare. The nexus of their collaboration converges on the U.S. and our friends and allies.

Snowden’s journey since he fled his home in Hawaii on May 20 so far includes stops in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong and Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, with assistance from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and possible onward travel stops scheduled for Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador.

Islamic terrorists already have begun to change communication behavior in the wake of Snowden’s revelations, according to U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials. Further complicating the threat matrix, cybersecurity experts have been warning for some time that there is evidence that adversarial nation states like China, Iran, and Russia as well as the jihadist al-Qaeda group are working with Anonymous hackers to mount cyber attacks against U.S. businesses, government and critical infrastructure.

Read more at The Clarion Project

 

Cyber Jihad

cyber jihadBy Bill Gertz

Iran is continuing aggressive cyber attacks against U.S. financial institutions and officials say the U.S. government has failed to take steps to halt the electronic strikes.

The sophisticated denial-of-service cyber attacks have been underway for several months and involve Iranian-origin hackers who flood banking and financial institution web sites with massive log-in attempts that disrupt or halt remote banking services.

“The are going after the same types of sites,” said an intelligence official familiar with reports of the attacks.

The official criticized the Obama administration for failing to protect American corporations from what the official said were state-sponsored cyber attacks.

Critics in government and the private sector say the U.S. government remains unprepared to respond to such coordinated covert cyber attacks.

Several government agencies, including the military’s U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. intelligence agencies, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI are responsible for dealing with cyber attacks. Yet the White House is in charge of directing any counterattacks on nation-states and so far has refused to authorize aggressive action, such as retaliatory counter cyber attacks.

The intelligence official suggested that the administration is reluctant to take action because of the president’s conciliatory policies toward Iran. President Barack Obama failed to back Iran’s democratic opposition in 2009 and has taken limited diplomatic action against Iran’s illicit nuclear program.

The administration appears to be treating the Iranian cyber attacks as a law enforcement matter rather than covert warfare.

White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to comment when asked why the administration has failed to respond to the attacks.

FBI spokeswoman Jennifer Shearer also declined to comment on what she said were “ongoing matters.”

The hackers called the attacks Operation Ababil and stepped up their efforts last week, prompting PNC Bank to warn customers about the disruptions.

PNC Bank disclosed in a statement Jan. 3 that a number of U.S. banks, including PNC, were dealing with “unusually high volume of traffic at their Internet connections.”

“This volume of traffic is consistent with threatened cyber attacks on the U.S. banking system and is designed to cause access delays for legitimate Internet customers,” the bank said.

Read more at Free Beacon

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