Tuesday, August 30, 2005

GS(3) Intel Briefing (8-30-05)

NOTE: GS(3) Intelligence Briefing is posted on a bi-weekly basis. As circumstances dictate, we may post special editions. The Briefing is organized into five sections: Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, Americas, Global and Cyberspace. Each issue will provide insight on terrorism, cyber crime, climate change, health emergencies, natural disasters and other threats, as well as recommendations on what actions your organizations should take to mitigate risks. Starting in Sept. 2005, "Words of Power" commentary will also be posted on a bi-weekly basis. This commentary will explore a range of issues in the interdependent realms of security, sustainability and spirit.

GS(3) Intel Briefing (8-30-05)

Europe, Middle East & Africa
Torrential rain, swollen rivers and breached dams have caused floods in Romania, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, and resulted in least fifty or sixty deaths over the last several months. In Romania, two thousand homes were submerged in three days. In Bulgaria, 14,000 people were left homeless in July. In Switzerland, the floods caused landslides and cutting roads and railway lines. Bulgaria has asked the European Union for help to pay for 850 million levs (i.e., $529.6 million) worth of damage. The economic cost in Switzerland is estimated at1bn Swiss Francs (i.e., £440m or 640m euros). Meanwhile, dozens of wildfires rage out of control across Portugal (burning an estimated 180,000 hectares, i.e., 450,000 acres), and areas of southern Europe are experiencing severe heat and drought (the worst in sixty years). Global warming? Drought is, of course, part of the natural cycle in the region, with severe drought expected every ten years and exceptional drought expected every forty years. And, as Malcolm Haylock, of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, UK, recently told the BBC: “You can say that due to the Earth getting warmer there will be on average more extreme events, but you can't attribute any specific event to climate change.” But, while Haylock’s caution is, of course, laudable; the heat waves, droughts, severe storms and floods hitting Europe are linked to global warming and climate change in one way or another. Yes, there are trends going back fifty years and a hundred years. Yes, the North Atlantic Oscillation is a significant factor. Yes, there are other significant factors (e.g., poor land management and arson in the Portuguese fires). But global warming exacerbates and eclipses them all.

  • All organizations should regularly review, revise and test their business continuity and disaster recovery plans. If your organization does not already have such a plan, it is imperative that you develop one and implement it ASAP.

  • All organizations should also perform a risk analysis concerning the potential impact of global warming (a.k.a. climate change), including its security implications.

  • Organizations should incorporate relevant information and suggestions about climate change, in general, and specific regional issues (e.g., floods or fires), in particular, into awareness and education programs for their workforce.

Asia Pacific
Unlike many U.S. anti-terrorism experts, who resigned in frustration with Bush administration’s misguided policies over the past several years (e.g., John P. O’Neill of the FBI, Richard A. Clarke of the National Security Council and Michael Scheuer of the CIA), French anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière is still in power and empowered.
In a fascinating interview with the Financial Times (8-25-05) Bruguière confirmed that the war in Iraq was the “incontestable calayst” of the current upsurge in terrorism and highlighted the lessons of the Istanbul attacks in 2003  (“the issue is not just about the number of victims, it is also the value of the event in a media, political and geopolitical context...”).
He also warned of a possible al Qaeda network attack on one of Asia’s financial hubs:
“We are somewhat neglecting the capacity or desire of the al-Qaeda organization to destabilise the south-east Asia region. We have several elements of information that make us think that countries in this region, especially Japan, could have been targeted. An attack on this country would have a very serious effect.
“We forget that the al-Qaeda organization is sharpening its strategy, more than just focusing on so-called soft targets it is looking to hit economic and financial centers. They have understood that oil is a great tool to increase anxiety and produce a damaging economic effect. They know the economic reality well. Any attack on a financial market, like Japan, would mechanically have an important economic impact on the confidence of investors.”
Japanese parliamentary elections will be held on 9-11-05.
The warning alone was enough to affect markets Friday, with the yen dropping against the dollar. Bruguière said Asian cities were less prepared for dealing with terror threats than their counterparts in the West and so were more vulnerable to an attack.
“I don't think it's a question of whether a terrorist attack will occur in Japan, but when,'' Katsuya Okada, the leader of Japan's opposition Democratic Party of Japan said, ``Japan is basically undefended.'' Okada's DPJ has told voters it will withdraw Japanese troops from Iraq at the end of the year if it wins power.
Meanwhile, in Indonesia, President Susilo Yudhoyono said publicly that security would be stepped up because attacks where being planned for September and October, which he referred to “special months.” The Bali nightclub bombing in 2002, the JW Marriot bombing in 2003 and the Australian Embassy bombing in 2004, which killed a total of 225 people, all occurred in the August-October time frame.
  • All organizations that operate in Japan, Singapore, Australia, Korea, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand should understand their exposures and vulnerabilities, e.g., where are your offices in relation to likely terrorist targets, such as financial centers, embassies, tourist sites, etc.?

  • All organizations that conduct business travel to Japan, Singapore, Australia, Korea, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand should implement travel security programs (e.g., monitor security situations, track travelers’ itinerary and raise awareness).

On Sunday night, Hurricane Katrina, was a Category 5 storm on track to blast New Orleans with winds in excess of 160 miles an hour and storm surges of up to 20 feet. I monitored CNN’s non-stop coverage for several hours. Their promos referred repeatedly to the “almost unheard of strength” of storm, but their talking heads made no mention of global warming or climate change or the significant scientific research from MIT or insurance industry study released recently. The U.S. mainstream news media has not only failed the U.S. populace on vital issues of national security, but also on environmental security in general and global warming in particular.
Of course, if CNN had raised the issue, they probably would have obscured missed the point. The insightful question is not “Was Katrina caused by global warming?” That’s a stupid question, for which there is a simple answer: “No.” The insightful question is “What impact does global warming have on hurricane creation in the region?” Just as the often debated “Is the consumption of fossil fuels causing global warming?” was a misleading question. The real question always was “What is the impact of the fossil fuel consumption on the phenomena of global warming?”
On Sunday night, the Mayor of New Orleans characterized the impending disaster as a “once in a lifetime” event. Although that remark may be historically accurate, looking forward, it is very unrealistic. Global warming, a.k.a. climate change, is already resulting in bigger, fiercer, more frequent and more long-lasting hurricanes.
Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people may be homeless. Eighty percent of New Orleans is under water. Marrtial law has been declared. Thousands who were allowed into the Superdome for shelter now have to be evacuated. Whole towns in Mississippi and Alabama have been destroyed. Millions are without electricity.
Insurance industry analysts are projecting costs of as much as $25 billion. To provide some context for that price tag, the 9/11 attacks cost $30 billion, last year’s major hurricanes (Ivan, Charley, Francis, Jeanne) cost $35 billion all together.
Twenty-five percent of US crude oil production comes from the Gulf of Mexico. Times of London: "At the moment, almost the entire US Gulf oil production capacity is out of commission, some 1.4 million barrels a day, and more than 80 per cent of its gas output." Crude oil futures spiked to more than $70 a barrel for the first time Monday. Wholesale gasoline prices in the New York and Gulf Coast markets soared by 25-35 cents a gallon.
Katrina veered to the east, and lessened to a Category 3 storm just before landfall--if it hadn’t the destruction and disruption, catastrophic as it is, could have been even worse. The Port of Southern Louisiana, which stretches for fifty miles up and down the Mississippi River, is the fifth largest port in the world, if measured by tonnage. Only Singapore, Rotterdam, Shanghai and Hong Kong are bigger. It is a major hub in the global economy.
Of course, there will be another major storm, perhaps even more than one, in a matter of days or weeks.
“Katrina is the eleventh storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1. That is seven more than are usually whipped up by this stage of the season in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, the United States' National Hurricane Centre said. The season ends on November 30.” New Zealand Herald, 8-29-05
The profound significance of global warming (a.k.a climate change) is not the only environmental security lesson to be learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, e.g., on Monday, Associated Press reported: ”Hurricane Katrina didn't deliver a direct hit on New Orleans Monday, there still were fears that the storm could turn one of America's most charming cities into a vast cesspool tainted with toxic chemicals, human waste and even coffins released by floodwaters from the city's legendary cemeteries. Experts have warned for years that the levees and pumps that usually keep New Orleans dry have no chance against a direct hit by a Category 5 storm.”
  • All organizations should regularly review, revise and test their business continuity and disaster recovery plans. If your organization does not already have such a plan, it is imperative that you develop one and implement it ASAP.

  • All organizations should also perform a risk analysis concerning the potential impact of climate change, including its security implications.

  • Organizations should incorporate relevant information and suggestions about climate change, in general, and specific regional issues (e.g., hurricanes, typhoons), in particular, into awareness and education programs for their workforce.

Borne on the wings of the world’s waterfowl, bird flu is on the move. Reports from Siberia, Kazakhstan, Tibet and Finland reveal that geographical area of impact has expanded dramatically in the past several weeks.  More ominously, migratory patterns suggest that infected birds heading south from China’s Lake Qinghai will bring the virus to the wetlands of India, Bangladesh, and other birds heading from southwest from Siberia and Kazakhstan will bring it to the Black Sea and Europe's largest wetlands in Romania and Bulgaria, where they will co-mingle with waterfowl from Scandinavia, Poland and Germany.
Veterinary experts from the 25 European Union member states meet to discuss what further action should be taken. The EU and Turkey have banned live poultry and feather imports from Russia and Kazakhstan. Dutch farmers were ordered to bring all 5.5m free-range poultry indoors. Italy imposed tightened quarantine of foodstuff and live birds, as well as random examinations of baggage of passengers from countries seriously affected.
Meanwhile, in S.E. Asia, Malaysia has decided to stockpile the anti-viral drug oseltamivir (a.k.a. Tamiflu) to prepare itself for a possible bird flu outbreak. (Wealthy countries have been stockpiling oseltamivir, but most of S.E. Asia has either not acquired the drug or has obtained very few doses.) The World Health Organisation (WHO) is warning Laos to prepare for a human pandemic. The Australian government is proposing a new plan involving an early warning system, quick access to vaccines and coordination with other S.E. Asian governments (although the Labor Party opposition says that the plan should have been developed six months ago). In Vietnam, H5N1 bird flu killed three rare Owston civet cats at Cuc Phuong National Park, south of Hanoi, and Hanoi has been warned that 50 percent of waterfowl transported into the city and 10 percent of those being raised there have tested positive for bird flu.
Mike Davis, author of Monster at our Door, The Global Threat of Avian Flu (New Press), writing for www.tomdispatch.com, provides vital background and insightful perspective on what he terms an “exponential multiplication of hot spots and silent reservoirs” and its planetary significance: “The avian flu outbreak at Lake Qinghai was first identified by Chinese wildlife officials at the end of April…An ornithologist called it ‘the biggest and most extensively mortal avian influenza event ever seen in wild birds.’ Chinese scientists, meanwhile, were horrified by the virulence of the new strain: when mice were infected they died even quicker than when injected with "genotype Z," the fearsome H5N1 variant currently killing farmers and their children in Vietnam. Yi Guan, leader of a famed team of avian flu researchers who have been fighting the pandemic menace since 1997, complained to the British Guardian in July about the lackadaisical response of Chinese authorities to the unprecedented biological conflagration at Lake Qinghai…As in the case of SARS' whistleblowers, the Chinese bureaucracy is now trying to gag avian-flu scientists, shutting down one of Yi Guan's laboratories at Shantou University and arming the conservative Agriculture Ministry with new powers over research…The bottom line is that avian influenza is endemic and probably ineradicable among poultry in Southeast Asia, and now seems to be spreading at pandemic velocity amongst migratory birds, with the potential to reach most of the earth in the next year. Each new outpost of H5N1 - whether among ducks in Siberia, pigs in Indonesia, or humans in Vietnam - is a further opportunity for the rapidly evolving virus to acquire the gene or even simply the protein mutation that it needs to become a mass-killer of humans.”
The economic toll could be profound.
“An outbreak of Asian bird flu, which experts said yesterday is bound to hit the UK, could trigger an economic collapse similar to the Great Depression of the 1930s, two financial analysts warned yesterday. In a lengthy research report titled An Investor's Guide to Avian Flu, Sherry Cooper and Donald Coxe warn that the food, tourism and insurance industries could be devastated in a relatively short time. The two analysts, who work for BMO Nesbitt Burns, a Canadian bank, said: ‘The combination of collapsing demand from China and India and the likelihood of a collapse in demand for housing and cars in the OECD nations would mean prices of base metals and steel would plunge.’ They also said companies would be hit by panicking staff and that "rates of both absenteeism and death would be sharply higher than should be necessary.’”
There is an encouraging experimental vaccine and an effective anti-viral. But most governments are not responding to the threat with appropriate speed or sufficient resources. Stockpiles are very low and production capacities very limited.
“As long as the virus remains entrenched in Asia and circulates through other regions with poor public health systems, the risk remains that the virus will trigger a human pandemic, which some estimate would reach across the globe within four months. Although only a handful of new human bird flu cases have been reported in Asia in recent months, the WHO expects an upturn in the numbers as the weather cools.” Financial Times, 8-24-05
  • Your business continuity plans and crisis management capabilities should incorporate contingencies for coping with the impact of health emergencies, including quarantine, the disruption of business operations and the threat to the health of your people.

  • Organizations should incorporate relevant information and suggestions about health emergencies in general and bird flu in particular into awareness and education programs for their workforce.

“A federal court in San Diego has indicted Carlos Enrique Perez-Melara, 25, programmer of Loverspy, on thirty-five counts of unauthorized computer access and manufacturing, distributing, and advertising an interception device. Loverspy is a Trojan designed to look like an online greeting card, but built to record the recipient's e-mails and web browsing habits to catch unfaithful lovers. The information would be sent to Perez-Melara and forwarded to Loverspy customers. Four Loverspy customers have each been charged with two counts of hacking, punishable by five years imprisonment and fines up to $250,000. Perez-Melara faces a possible 175-year prison sentence if convicted.”
Wired, 8-27-05
“Webroot has released a report analyzing spyware activity in 2005's second quarter, finding that spywares are shifting from targeted advertising to identity theft. Public awareness of the spyware threat is generally high, but spyware infection rate for enterprise desktops is 80% and the number of spywares per machine has increased 19% in 2005. The number of websites distributing spyware has quadrupled since the beginning of 2005 to 300,000. Corporate executives may have to take responsibility for the damage to a company's reputation if a spyware manages to steal sensitive data.” SearchSecurity.com, 8-23-05

  • All organizations and all individuals must come to grips with the spyware threat; all systems must be scanned regularly with updated anti-spyware programs, and all awareness and education programs must provide users with guidance on how to overcome this threat both in the office and at home.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

GS(3) Intel Briefing (8-17-05)

NOTE: GS(3) Intelligence Briefing is posted on a bi-weekly basis. As circumstances dictate, we may post special editions. The Briefing is organized into five sections: Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, Americas, Cyberspace, and Global. Each issue will provide insight on terrorism, cyber crime, climate change, health emergencies, natural disasters and other threats, as well as recommendations on what actions your organizations should take to mitigate risks. Starting in September 2005, "Words of Power" commentary will also be posted on an alternating, bi-weekly basis. This commentary will explore a broad range of issues in the interdependent realms of security, sustainability and spirit.

GS(3) Intel Briefing (8-17-05)

Europe, Middle East & Africa

Five thousand Israelis on five cruise ships were diverted from Turkish ports to Cyprus in recent days amid intelligence that a terror attack was imminent. Turkish police reportedly detained 10 people for allegedly plotting to attack Israeli cruise ships docking at vacation resorts. Israel urged its citizens not to visit beach resorts on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, with one official saying that although Turkey was cracking down on terror threats the travel warning would remain in force. Overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey is a top vacation spot for Israelis and more than 300,000 visit each year…The issue of attacks at tourist resorts is extremely sensitive in Turkey, which is hoping to host some 22 million tourists this year, and bring in US$19.5 billion. (Associated Press, 8/10/05)

The botched, bungled “war on terrorism,” with its tragic, misguided detour into Iraq and subsequent horrors (e.g., Abu Ghraib, Fallujah. etc.), has swelled the ranks of recruits to Al Qaeda style organizations. The war on tourism has been spreading throughout the Moslem world.  The beaches of Malaysia and southern Thailand are still paradises, but no longer carefree paradises. Nightclubs of Bali and Casablanca have become scenes of carnage, so have Red Sea resorts and Cairo tourist sites. Where next? Tangiers or Marrakech? The Seychelles? Train yourself to think ahead of the curve.

  • If you have business in tourist magnets within or adjacent to areas of the Moslem world where Al Qaeda style terrorism has been active, you should perform due diligence in regard to the security of your people, your operations and your clientele. Tourist districts, like financial districts, are being targeted. Remember, Al Qaeda style terrorism aims at inflicting economic losses and sowing fear and doubt through the slaughter of civilians. Developing crisis management capabilities and strengthening security controls must be a priority for your business.

  • If you are traveling, on either business or pleasure, to such dazzling but dangerous locations, take appropriate precautions, including but not limited to the following simple but powerful steps: leave your full itinerary with two reliable people (one in your personal life, one in your professional life), learn something about the current security situation in the locale before you go, and check in with your country’s consulate or embassy at your destination when you arrive.

Asia Pacific

Philippines National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said Indonesian suicide bombers might already be in Manila planning attacks on four targets with members of the Abu Sayyaf Group. Gonzales said there were reports 10 suicide bombers had been sent to the Philippines and that the country could become a "major target" in a global expansion of militant violence.

Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida have plotted attacks on U.S. and British embassies, hotels, a mall and other targets across the country, according to a confidential Philippines government report. The report, which was prepared in March, contains sketchy details of bombing, kidnapping and assassination plots…(Associated Press, 8/05)

According to Professor Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert based in Singapore, Jemaah Islamiah, has moved its strategic base from Indonesia to the southern Philippines. Gunaratna says Jemaah Islamiah now sees Australia as the United States of the region, and Australian interests are being targeted. Gunaratna also says that Jemaah Islamiah is building its presence in the southern Philippines. He says Australia should deepen its investment in counter-terrorism in the Philippines to match the effort being made in Indonesia, because the JI training camps in the southern Philippines are now the movement's strategic base. “These camps are still functioning. As long as the terrorist training camps are active…As long as those camps are there, JI will remain a credible threat. Today, the strategic base of JI is not in Indonesia, it is in the Philippines. You need to make the same investment that you have made in Indonesia in the Philippines.” (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/05)

On a recent trip to Manila, I experienced the heightened danger and surveyed the situation first-hand. There are bomb-sniffing dogs at the entrance to the Makati Shangri-La. Security at the Manila airport is of concern. The drive into the city is potentially perilous. The increasing threat of terrorist attacks against Western or Australian business or government targets are exacerbating a security situation already made difficult by dire economic straits and serious political instability.

  • Organizations with interests or operations in the Philippines must commit to developing crisis management capabilities for various scenarios, including disruption of business due to car bombings that destroy buildings or street violence during coups or counter-coups.

  • Australia, with its vast coastlines, open society and small vulnerable regional airports, is also at great risk–particularly because of the Howard government’s commitment of military forces to the US-UK invasion and occupation of Iraq. Organizations with operations or interests in Australia should review their own security posture and crisis management capabilities and also coordinate with civil authorities.


“It was early evening in a nice part of Caracas…Young filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz and a friend were driving home from a movie when a car suddenly cut them off and forced them to stop. Two assailants jumped in, guns drawn…It was all over in less than an hour. No ransom notes. No calls to relatives for money. Just stops at ATMs to drain bank accounts and at stores to use credit cards. The victims were released on a highway outside of town, no car, cell phones or shoes…Kidnappings have become commonplace in Latin America — one per hour on the continent, according to one estimate…More and more, the middle class has fallen prey to so-called "quicknappings," in which people like Jakubowicz are held for short periods for fast cash. The crime now has a nickname based on the Spanish word for kidnapping — "secuestro express," a sort of in-and-out abduction.” (LA Times, 8/7/05)

“Economic kidnapping is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world.” It is estimated that kidnappers globally take home in the region of $500 million each year in ransom payments: the hostage is a commodity with a price on his head. Reliable statistics are hard to come by, but it is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 kidnappings each year worldwide. The undisputed kidnap capital of the world is Colombia, where the activity has been described as 'a cottage industry'. In 2000, the Colombian National Police recorded 3162 cases...Colombian kidnapping groups often cross over into Venezuela and Ecuador to take hostages, and both countries feature in the top ten. Other hot-spots around the globe include Mexico, where the problem has risen dramatically in the last five years, Brazil, Philippines and the former Soviet Union…Latin America is an important hub for kidnapping. However, it would be wrong to see the crime as a uniquely Latin American problem. Over the past decade or so, kidnapping has risen in parts of Africa, most notably Nigeria and South Africa…” (Rachel Briggs, Guild of Security Controllers)

  • Does your organization have an understanding of Kidnap, Ransom and Extortion (KRE) issues? Does your organization have KRE insurance? Do you have an established relationship with a security services group? Does your organization have a travel security program? Do you monitor business travel to destinations with high kidnapping rates? Have your people been briefed on how to avoid express kidnappings? Have they received any training on how to handle themselves during more traditional kidnaps for ransom? Have crisis management team members been drilled in kidnapping scenarios?


Summer temperatures have risen sharply in most west European capital cities over the past 30 years, adding to evidence of the accelerating impact of climate change, the environmental group WWF International reports. WWF blamed most of the warming on pollution from power stations rather than road traffic and urged the European Union to set tougher targets for emissions of greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide. Between 2000 and 2004, average temperatures in 13 of the 16 cities surveyed were at least one degree Celsius higher than during the first five years of the 1970s. The study covered the 15 capitals of the pre-2004 European Union as well as Warsaw in Poland…Average temperatures across Europe over the whole of the past century rose by 0.8 degrees Celsius, according to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The panel of scientists also predicted four years ago that average temperatures on the continent should rise by 0.1 to 0.4 degrees Celsius every decade, while summer heat waves would be both more intense and more frequent. Environmentalists said the significant difference between the overall data and the WWF's more limited study on urban summers backed up evidence of an acceleration in warming in recent decades caused by pollution.

With half of its territory below sea level—and much of the rest threatened by coastal or river flooding—the Netherlands is taking climate change very seriously. Global warming is expected to cause the seas to rise by somewhere between four inches (ten centimeters) and three feet (one meter) during this century, while increased rainfall may enhance the flood risk for low-lying towns and cities behind the Dutch sea defenses. Unlike the United States and many other countries, there is no debate in the Netherlands over the need to take action to ensure that the country is prepared for the possible effects of rising seas, increased storms, and surging rivers. (Christian Science Monitor, 9/01)

Andrew Cooper of the Coastal Research Group (University of Ulster) said that the sea was swallowing up about 750 acres of Ireland each year, and warned that the process would quicken. He said global warming was likely to subject Ireland's shores, particularly along the northern and western Atlantic coasts, to more frequent and powerful storms... (Associated Press, 3/02)

All organizations, in all regions, should already be factoring the security and crisis management implications of climate change due to global warming into their programs. In the near-term, the impact of severe weather conditions (e.g., major storms, serious flooding, prolonged, intense heat waves, etc.) on already inadequate and out-dated power grids in Europe and North America will be significant. Likewise, security situations in already marginal social structures in Africa will deteriorate even further as climate conditions grow extreme.


The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners program was offered information on 1000 Australians. Four Corners says it was offered a deal on the information, through an unidentified broker, which it turned down. The information included names, addresses, telephone numbers, birth details, Medicare numbers, driver's licence numbers, ATM card numbers and even passport information. The program verified that the information belonged to real people.
Four Corners said the information appeared to have come from a call centre based in the Indian city of Gurgaon…The call was from a telemarketer offering a mobile phone deal on behalf of an Australian phone company, Switch Mobile. Switch Mobile said it had contracted out its telemarketing to a Melbourne company, One Touch Solutions, which has offices in India.
That company, in turn, contracted out the work to an Indian company, Brick and Click. Sydney Morning Herald (8/15/05)

This story highlights another in a recent series of similar incidents involving identity theft and related criminal enterprise at call centers and the outsourcing of financial services support. Organizations that have either outsource to or establish their own call centers or other support processes in countries geographically remote from their own headquarters should perform security assessments of these facilities, or at a minimum, request that the documentation for assessments conducted by third parties, and closely track related mitigation. Also, a system of appropriate background checks should be in place for people working in such call centers, particularly if they are working with sensitive financial information about clients or customers.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

GS(3) Intel Briefing (8-4-05)

NOTE: GS(3) Intelligence Briefing is posted on a bi-weekly basis. As circumstances dictate, we may post special editions. The Briefing is organized into five sections: Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, Americas, Cyberspace, and Global. Each issue will provide insight on terrorism, cyber crime, climate change, health emergencies, natural disasters and other threats, as well as recommendations on what actions your organizations should take to mitigate risks. Starting in September 2005, "Words of Power" commentary will also be posted on an alternating, bi-weekly basis. This commentary will explore a broad range of issues in the interdependent realms of security, sustainability and spirit.

GS(3) Intel Briefing (8-4-05)

Europe, Middle East & Africa

Recent events underscore the terrorist threat in the region.On 8/4/05, Al Jazeera broadcast a video-tape of Al-Qaida's No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri threatening more destruction in London, and saying that British PM Tony Blair would be to blame. After the 7/7/05 London attacks, an Al Qaeda related group, claiming responsibility, directly threatened attacks against Denmark and Italy, two more “Coalition” countries.On 7/22/05, a car bomb exploded in a popular nightclub area of eastern Beirut. The city has experienced a series of attacks in recent months. The “conventional wisdom” is that Syria is behind them, but as is often the case, “conventional wisdom” is sometimes simply convenient and not wisdom at all. On the night of 7/22-23/05, in Egypt, at least 64 people were killed and 200 others injured when three truck bomb attacks were launched against two hotels and a market in Sharm al-Sheikh. Egypt, the lynchpin of the Camp David accords, has been the target of several savages attacks aimed at its tourist sites since similar attacks against other Sinai resorts in 10/04. It is important to remember that despite the rhetoric of some leaders, Al Qaeda, and those allied with it, do not seek to “destroy our way of life.” Their primary goals, long-held and clearly and repeatedly articulated, are to expel Western forces from the region and bring down the current regimes, in particular, those in Cairo and Riyadh.On 7/21/05, four more bombings targeting the London transportation system went awry and resulted in only partial detonations. Several related tableaux, e.g., the siege of a flat in Nottinghill, the killing of an innocent Brazilian man mistaken for a terrorist by London police and the beginning of random searches of bags and parcels by NYPD in the New York City subway offer a chilling glimpse into our future if the situation continues to spiral out of control.

  • Organizations with offices or other business interests in Denmark, Italy and other “Coalition countries” (in particular Netherlands) -- or other countries such as France and Germany involved in Afghanistan, or Middle Eastern or African countries which have been targeted by or host to terrorists -- should immediately review crisis management capabilities and travel security programs. If your organization does not already have crisis management capabilities or a travel security program, their development should be a high and urgent priority. Al Qaeda and its allies strike commercial districts, financial districts, public transportation and tourist sites. They target US and Western interests as well as regional entities perceived to represent or collude with those interests. The tactical goal in their targeting is to cause economic damage and civilian causalities.

Asia Pacific

GS(3)Intelligence monitor the threat of “bird flu,” i.e., the danger to those living in or traveling to the region, as well as the potential outbreak of a pandemic. According to health experts, two of the three factors that trigger a pandemic are already in play. Recent developments do not bode well.The deadly strain has been found in migratory geese at a nature reserve in western China. Tens of thousands of birds that could be carrying H5N1 avian influenza virus are due to leave in September, heading for warmer climes across the Himalayas and south towards Australia and New Zealand. The migrating birds will reach India in mid-October. (Indian Express, 8/2/05)Russia's Emergencies Ministry is warning that the H5N1 strain, the strain dangerous to humans and responsible for the deaths of more than 50 people in Asia, could spread into mainland Europe from farms in Siberia. The Ministry issued a statement saying that the autumnal migration of birds from Siberia to the Caspian and Black Sea regions could increase the risk of new outbreaks, Reuters reports. "Human infection, especially among workers at poultry farms, cannot be ruled out," the statement warned. (The Register, 8/3/05)In Southeast Asia, where bird flu first emerged, Indonesia has acknowledged its first three bird flu deaths (a man and his two daughters) and became the first known country to destroy pigs in an effort to contain the rapid spread of bird flu. Also, two more people died in Vietnam, and one more person died in Thailand, in unrelated cases for a total of at least 61 fatalities in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, China denied that an outbreak in Sichuan that has killed at least 17 people is SARS or bird flu, saying it was likely a bacteria spread among pigs, state media reported.

  • Organizations with offices or other business interests in Southeast Asia should incorporate bird flu crisis response into existing crisis management capabilities, e.g., monitor developments so that you that you are ahead of the curve should a pandemic break out, prepare alternate or virtual work sites so that your business can continue if quarantines or other travel restrictions are imposed, people based in or traveling to impacted areas should be provided with awareness and education materials related to bird flu, etc.


The delicate post Cold war geopolitical balance has been disturbed. New alignments are forming. Dormant regional tensions are being stirred. Russia and China, for example, are conducting joint military exercises. Racial and historical animosities between China and Japan have been recently inflamed. Globalization, climate change, the end of oil, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the unfortunate unilateralist tangent in U.S. foreign policy and other pressures are bringing radical realignment. Nowhere has this realignment been more evident than in Latin America, and it is exemplified in the dangerous tension between the US and Venezuela.The launching of Telesur, a regional TV network funded and supported by the several Latin American governments, including Venezuela, Uruguay, Brazil and Cuba, on the 222nd birthday of Simon Bolivar (the “Great Liberator”), is an event of historic importance. Projected as a rival to CNN and Univision, Telesur will have a significant impact on the shaping of political and geopolitical opinion in the South equivalent to that of Al-Jazeera throughout the Moslem world. It is already being dubbed “El Jazeera.” Aram Aharonian, a Uruguayan journalist and Telesur’s general director, says it will be, "the first counter-hegemonic telecommunications project known in South America." Al Giordano of NARCO News elaborates: “Chávez’s international opponents view the nascent TV network with horror, as something akin to Venezuela developing the atomic bomb: Oh no! He’s coming into our living rooms! What’s at stake is much bigger than one man (Chávez) or one TV station (Telesur). An authentic rebellion against the real center of power in this world (that is to say, against the Commercial Media) has finally gained traction.”

  • Organizations with offices or business interests in Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay and other Latin American countries should keep informed of geopolitical, military and economic developments in the region and should temper their approaches and plans accordingly. They should also perform a risk analysis of the potential impact of social or economic unrest, military action or anti-US protests or government actions on their offices, business travelers and interests. And just as in regard to threats related to terrorism and health emergencies, crisis management capabilities and travel security programs are vital.


According to the U.K. National Criminal Intelligence Service, 83% of the 203 major U.K. firms surveyed have fallen victim to cyber crime for a total of £195m in financial losses. Cyber gangs based in the former Soviet Union, North America, Brazil and the Far East, it reports, "are involved in all aspects of hi-tech crime, including malicious software, fraud, extortion and counterfeiting," and using Trojan horse programs “to obtain bank account details, passwords and PIN numbers,” which is then used “to steal cash or extort money from the victim.” Another scam is disrupting a company's Internet service, and offering to end the attack in return for payment. Russian gangs have targeted online gambling sites, promising to stop in return for a payment often as low as £3,000. "As some companies were losing £100,000 an hour while under attack, many chose to pay up," the service reported. (Independent, 8/3/05)The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that the seven unnamed financial market bodies it was tasked to assess (including exchanges, clearing houses and payment system processors) have completed action on only 35% of those issues deemed necessary for creating a “sound information security program.” The subjects of the study were considering, planning, or in the process of taking action on the bulk of the remaining suggestions. The GAO says it will continue to monitor their progress. (CNET, 8/3/05)

  • The UK study underscores the clear and present threat from cyber crime gangs. The GAO study reveals that even within the financial services industry, cyber security is not properly prioritized, adequately staffed or sufficiently funded. There are multi-billion dollar organizations operating globally, with sensitive client data on their internal networks, which have delayed $500,000 deployment of a global IDS framework, while spending $1,500,000 on their annual executive leadership soiree. Where are your organization’s priorities? Are you just paying lip service to cyber security?


GS(3)Intelligence researches the security and crisis management implications (short-term, mid-term and long-term) of global warming and climate change, which will be significant and need to be factored into the planning and capabilities of organizations, families, etc.Recent developments underscore the concern.The unprecedented collapse of an ice-shelf in Antarctica could indirectly lead to a significant rise in global sea levels. The Larsen B ice shelf covered more than 3,000 square kilometers and was 200 meters thick until its northern part disintegrated in the 1990s. Three years ago, the central part also broke up. An international team used data collected from six sediment cores near the former ice shelf to show the shelf had been relatively intact for at least 10,000 years or since the last ice age. (CBC, 8/3/05)Hurricanes have grown significantly more powerful and destructive over the last three decades due in part to global warming, says an MIT professor who warns that this trend could continue. "My results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in [hurricanes'] destructive potential, and--taking into account an increasing coastal population--a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the 21st century," reports Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Theories and computer simulations of climate indicate that warming should generate an increase in storm intensity, i.e., hit harder, produce higher winds and last longer. (MIT, 7/31/05)A fierce and unprecedented heat wave struck across the continental U.S. in recent weeks. (Remember, over 14,000 people died in the heat wave that struck France in 2003.) The following excerpts from Associated Press (7/18/05-7/25/05) offer a glimpse into the future.Chicago, Illinois: “Sweat-drenched city workers checked on senior citizens Sunday and shuttled people to cooling centers as temperatures surpassed the 100-degree mark here for the first time in six years. Chicago was among scores of cities suffering amid a scorching heat wave that blazed across the upper Midwest.”Las Vegas, Nevada: “Even in a place accustomed to triple-digit heat, this has been one hot summer already. Tuesday's 117 degrees tied the record set in 1942…Twenty-one people, mostly homeless, have died from similar heat in neighboring Arizona, and authorities in Las Vegas are investigating whether 10 deaths were heat-related… This kind of heat cracks dashboards, makes steering wheels too hot to grip and fries feet unfortunate enough to touch pavement. Even swimming pools offer little relief because of bathtub-like temperatures.”Phoenix, Arizona: “The deaths of three homeless men over the weekend were being investigated by police as heat-related, and record-breaking temperatures were refusing to let up. All three men were found dead Saturday in south Phoenix, when temperatures there reached 113 degrees.” · All organizations should educate themselves about global warming and climate change in general and its security and crisis management implications in particular.

  • Organizations should implement security and crisis management plans for all facilities and information systems. If your organization already has such plans, they should be revised to address short-term, near-term and long-term security implications of global warming and climate change.