Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Coordinated Approach to Cyber Defense Urged

BRUSSELS - Countries need to have a good understanding of the cyber capabilities being developed by opponents, said a leading Israeli government official, because "you can't block an attack by waiting for the attack to come, including in cyber defense."
Isaac Ben-Israel, a senior cybersecurity adviser to the Israeli prime minister, was speaking at a Security and Defence Agenda event on cybersecurity.
Maj. Gen. Patrick Fermier, director of NATO C3 Staff, dodged a question about whether there was a need to improve cyber offensive capacity to improve cyber defense.
"NATO is trying to develop the protection of its infrastructure network," Fermier said. This is the first step, he added, after which "we'll see, at 28, what steps to take in the future. Protecting information and information sharing is a key parameter of success in any military operation."
Robert Bell, senior civilian representative of the secretary of defense in Europe and defense adviser to the U.S. ambassador to NATO, said that NATO needs to get all its agencies and commands under a single cyber defense roof by the end of 2012 and was on track to do that. He also said NATO needs to identify standards.
"We have no alternative except to work in close partnership with industry, which has much to teach us about the use of open standards to get us to the point where we need to be," he said.
Ben-Israel said Israel had realized in 2002 that the most vulnerable points are power production, water distribution, food supply etc. The country then set down a list of 19 key areas but faced a legal problem because most are owned or operated by the private sector. As a result, Israel had to change its laws and define how much government "intrusion" into the private sector was allowed in order to guarantee security.
The EU is faced with a similar issue in that a lot of its critical infrastructure is owned by the private sector. On this point, the German Ministry of the Interior has taken a stance in its national cybersecurity strategy, unveiled earlier this year.
"We are in favor of the alliance's commitment to establishing uniform security standards, which member states may also use for civilian critical infrastructures on a voluntary basis, as foreseen in NATO's new Strategic Concept," says the document.
Ben-Israel also said "there was a real threat from states and major criminal organizations." In that context, a report released Nov. 3 by U.S. intelligence agencies said, "the governments of China and Russia will remain aggressive and capable collectors of sensitive U.S. economic information and technologies, particularly in cyberspace."
Cecilia Malmström, the EU's commissioner for Home Affairs, pointed out that the EU has developed relations with NATO in this area and has a formal relationship with the U.S. But asked if there was an EU-NATO plan to respond to an Estonia-type cyber attack by another state or terrorist organization, she said that "there was no strategy."

U.S. 'Confident' on Pakistan Nuclear Weapons Safety

WASHINGTON - The United States believes that Pakistan's nuclear weapons are in safe hands, a State Department spokesman said Nov. 9, rebutting a report that Islamabad's atomic arsenal was vulnerable to theft.
Two U.S. publications, The Atlantic and the National Journal, citing unnamed sources, last week said Pakistan had transported nuclear weapons in low-security vans on congested roads to hide them from U.S. spy agencies.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters in Washington that the United States was not persuaded that safety had been compromised.
"We have confidence that the government of Pakistan is well aware of the range of potential threats to its nuclear arsenal and is accordingly giving very high priority to securing its nuclear weapons and materials effectively," Toner told reporters. "We continue to have confidence... that they're taking appropriate steps," he said.
Pakistan at the weekend rejected as "pure fiction" the report's assertion that transporting the weapons in such a manner had made them more susceptible to theft by Islamist militants.

EU President Warns of Asia-Pacific Militarization

ZURICH - The Asia-Pacific region is showing signs of militarization that could lead to an arms race, EU President Herman Van Rompuy warned Nov. 9, calling for closer trade ties to defuse any political tensions.
"Whereas Europe used to be the most dangerous continent in the past century... the focus of security analysts and hard power strategic planners has recently moved towards developments in Asia and the Pacific," said Van Rompuy in a speech at the University of Zurich.
"They do not yet observe a full-blown arms race, but in terms of military spending and confrontational psychology, the premises of an arms race are there," he added, without naming individual countries.
"It will thus be key to continue deepening economic relationships within that region, so as to make a war as it were 'materially impossible,' " added Van Rompuy.
Noting that the EU is a key trading partner to major economies in the region, the EU Council president said Brussels "does not only have a significant stake in regional stability, but itself is a potential major factor contributing to this stability."
This fact "should also be reflected in higher political attention paid to and political activity shown in the region," he added.

Terrorist Group Says It Acquired Libya Weapons

NOUAKCHOTT - Al-Qaida's North Africa franchise acknowledged it had acquired part of slain Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's arsenal, in comments by one of its leaders quoted Nov. 9.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, believed to be one of the leaders of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), made the remarks to Mauritanian news agency ANI, which has carried interviews and statements from the group in the past.
"We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world," said Belmokhtar, an Algerian national.
"As for our acquisition of Libyan armament, that is an absolutely natural thing," he said, without elaborating on the nature of the weapons purportedly acquired.
Officials and experts have expressed concern that part of Gadhafi's considerable stock of weapons could end up in the hands of AQIM, which has bases in the Sahel and currently holds several foreign hostages.
According to several experts, AQIM has acquired surface-to-air missiles which could pose a threat to flights over the region.
Belmokhtar also claimed a level of ideological convergence existed between his movement and the Islamist rebels who eventually toppled Gadhafi last month and became Libya's new rulers.
"We did not fight, alongside them in the field against the Gadhafi forces," he said. "But young Islamists, jihadis ... were the ones spearheading the revolution in Libya."
The National Transitional Council now in charge of Libya owes its victory over Gadhafi's 42-year rule partly to Western military backing and claims to seek the establishment of a moderate Islamic administration.

NATO Urges Georgia to Deepen Reforms

TBILISI - NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Georgia on Nov. 9 to intensify its political and military reforms to bring the ex-Soviet state closer to membership of the Western alliance.
"Further reforms will be a ticket to membership," Rasmussen told reporters in Tbilisi at the start of his two-day visit to the country.
NATO leaders agreed at their 2008 summit in Bucharest that Georgia and Ukraine could join the military alliance at an unspecified point in the future, although they were denied coveted pre-membership status amid strong opposition from Russia.
"Since the Bucharest summit, Georgia has become a lot closer to NATO but there is still work to be done," Rasmussen said.
He praised the government's reform process but said more must be done to strengthen the rule of law, media freedoms, the judiciary and the electoral process before upcoming polls.
"The elections of 2012 as 2013 will be a litmus test of your democracy," he said, referring to parliamentary and presidential votes over the next two years.
The small Caucasus republic's NATO aspirations have infuriated its powerful neighbor Russia, which fought a brief war with Georgia in 2008.
Seeking to prove itself as a reliable partner, Georgia has become one of the largest non-NATO contributors to the Western alliance-led mission in Afghanistan, deploying more than 900 troops to help combat the Taliban.
"That is a priceless contribution and the best proof of your commitment to our alliance," Rasmussen said.
NATO membership is a key goal for the pro-Western government led by President Mikheil Saakashvili and has strong public support amid Tbilisi's continuing disputes with Moscow.
"Georgia's NATO aspirations... are a consensus within the whole Georgian society and the whole Georgian political spectrum," Prime Minister Nika Gilauri said at the media briefing with Rasmussen.
But opposition critics accuse the authorities of flouting democratic principles and argue that the 2008 war set back hopes of joining the alliance.

Cuba's New Defense Minister is an Angola War Vet

HAVANA - Cuba named Gen. Leopoldo Cintra Frias, a hero of military campaigns in Angola and Ethiopia, as the country's new defense minister on Nov. 8.
Cintra, 70, replaces the late general Julio Casas Regueiro - President Raul Castro's right hand man - who died of a heart attack Sept. 3 at the age of 75.
The announcement that Cintra was appointed Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces came in a statement read on state television.
Cintra, a member of the influential Communist Party politburo since 1991, is a symbol of Cuba's military internationalism for his participation in campaigns in Ethiopia and Angola in the 1970s and 1980s respectively.
He has been deputy defense minister since 2008.
Cintra - nicknamed "Polito" by former Cuban president Fidel Castro - was awarded the title "Hero of the Cuban Republic" in 1988.
Cintra joined Cuban rebels aiming to topple dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1957 and is one of the "young" revolutionary leaders: Raul Castro turned 80 in June, while his older brother Fidel is 85; first vice president Jose Ramon Machado is 81, and the historic revolutionary commander Ramiro Valdes is 79.

U.S. Pacific Fleet Head Warns of Tactical Missteps

HONG KONG - The U.S. 7th Fleet commander said Nov. 9 he was not worried about a major conflict in Asia but about small incidents with unpredictable consequences in areas such as the South China Sea.
Vice Adm. Scott Swift said military-to-military dialogue between Washington and Beijing was taking place at the highest levels of command and both sides shared a desire to minimize tensions.
"I think we are in a very positive place with China and the vectors are moving in the right direction," he told reporters in Hong Kong, where the George Washington aircraft carrier was making a visit. "We need to be as transparent as we possibly can."
But he said areas such as the potentially resource-rich South China Sea, where several countries including China have territorial and maritime claims, required greater cooperation to avoid dangerous flare-ups over minor incidents.
"In general terms I'm concerned about any tactical trigger with strategic implications," Swift said.
Swift said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had made "significant progress" in encouraging dialogue between the rival claimants to the sea, which stretches off China's southern coast into vital sea lanes.
"There's not much that keeps me up at night, and I'm not worried about a major conflict breaking out anywhere in the region," he said. "I do have concerns about a specific brush-up that could result in a tactical miscalculation, but I think rapid compromise will prevail and those incidents will be appropriately adjudicated at the diplomatic level."
Swift's visit to Hong Kong, the autonomous southern Chinese harbor city formerly ruled by Britain, comes as Washington talks up Asia's strategic importance to the United States.
In his first trip to the Asia-Pacific region since taking over at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that the United States wanted to strengthen its presence in the Pacific.

China-Pakistani military drill not targeted at India

- File Photo
BEIJING: Brushing aside New Delhi media’s frenzy over joint anti-terrorism exercise, the Ministry of National Defence here has dismissed Indian reports that China and Pakistan are holding a joint military exercise to put pressure on New Delhi, and said the anti-terror drill is not targeted at any third country.
According to the annual exchange plan between China and Pakistan’s militaries, the two armies will hold the ‘Friendship 2011′ joint anti-terror exercise near Islamabad, The China Daily quoted the Information Office of the Ministry of National Defence.
“This is the first joint drill of the two armies this year and is not targeted at any third nation. It is aimed at enhancing the capability of the two militaries to handle non-traditional security threats and launch joint anti-terror activities,” the office said in a written reply.
The two-week exercise will begin on Nov 16, it said.
Fu Xiaoqiang, an expert on South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, while rejecting the report accused the Indian media of basing such reports on “hearsay evidence”.
“They always wear blinkers to examine China cooperation with Pakistan.
For example, we all know there are many Chinese experts and engineers in Pakistan working on large projects. It is the Indian media which linked that with security issues,” he said.
Premier Wen Jiabao suggested that the Indian media should stop overplaying security issues and make more positive efforts to improve bilateral relations, when he visited the country last year.
The premier said that, in recent years, there has been no conflict in the China-India border area.
“But the border issue has been hyped as a rather serious problem.”

Afghan soldier turns gun on Australian troops, wounds three

An Afghan soldier shot and wounded three Australian and two Afghan troops . — Photo by AFP
KABUL: An Afghan soldier shot and wounded three Australian and two Afghan troops in southern Afghanistan, the third such surprise attack against Australians in the past five months, officials said on Wednesday.
The shooting comes after a string of attacks by “rogue” soldiers and police, or by insurgents who have infiltrated security forces.
Such attacks are especially damaging as the Afghan National Army (ANA) tries to win public trust before Afghan forces take full responsibility for security nationwide.
Foreign combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014.
The ANA soldier opened fire with a grenade launcher and an automatic weapon from a position overlooking a patrol base in Uruzgan province late on Tuesday, Australia’s Defence Force commander David Hurley said.
The Australian soldiers sustained wounds that were not life-threatening but serious, while the two Afghan soldiers also shot at the base were in a satisfactory condition, Hurley and a spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan said.
The Afghan soldier fled the scene in an army vehicle, Hurley said. ISAF said a search for him was still underway.
Tuesday’s shooting followed a similar attack less than two weeks ago in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, when an Afghan soldier shot and killed three Australian soldiers and an Afghani interpreter.
In May, an Afghan soldier killed an Australian service member who had been mentoring the Afghan army, ISAF said, an attack which also took place in Uruzgan province.
The Afghan soldier was later killed when he refused arrest, ISAF said.
The latest shooting prompted the Australian Greens political party to renew their call for Australia to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, where it has around 1,500 troops.
But Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who made a surprise visit to Kabul in the past week, said Australia would stick with its military commitments in Afghanistan.
“As distressing as these incidents are, as dreadful as these incidents are, our mission in Afghanistan does need to continue,” Gillard told reporters in Melbourne.
“Training is pivotal to that mission and our purpose in Afghanistan is to deny Afghanistan as a country in which terrorists can train to wreak violence around the world.”
In September, an Afghan guard employed by the US embassy opened fire inside a CIA office in Kabul, killing an American contractor.