USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, May 24 - 30, 2012

Table of Contents

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The White House Unveils New Cyber-Security Strategy
Essentially, World War 3 has begun, and it's not a conventional war, it's a cyberwar. This morning, at a Washington D.C. summit lead by Howard Schmidt, cyber-security coordinator at the White House, and Janet Napolitano, United States Secretary of Homeland Security, jointly announced a voluntary set of Internet-industry principles designed to prevent and detect botnets as well as a consumer-education campaign about the computer viruses to help combat the threat.
See the full article (Forbes, Reuven Cohen, 5/30/12)
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'Hidden' Water: Where Does It All Go?
Water, a plentiful banality to some Americans but a source of conflict for millions of others, is a more intriguing commodity than you may have thought. At least, that's the conclusion one might draw from "Surface Tension: The Future of Water," an exhibition that opened today in Manhattan as part of the 2012 World Science Festival. One of the main themes running through "Surface Tension" is "hidden water" - the water that goes into producing plastics, clothes, and foods, for example.
See the full article (New York Times, Kelly Slivka, 5/30/12) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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Iran's Mehmanparast Says 'Soft War' Cyber Attacks to Fail
Iran's Foreign Ministry said cyber- attacks against the Islamic Republic are launched by hostile governments as part of a broader "soft war" and will fail. He was commenting in response to a question about whether a newly detected virus, called Flame, had infected any Iranian computer systems. Iran, whose nuclear facilities and oil ministry have previously been the target of virus attacks, accuses the U.S. and Israel of trying to sabotage its technological progress.
See the full article (Bloomberg, Ladane Nasseri and Calev Ben-David, 5/29/12)
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This Rock Could Spy on You for Decades
America is supposed to wind down its war in Afghanistan by 2014. But U.S. forces may continue to track Afghans for years after the conflict is officially done. Palm-sized sensors, developed for the American military, will remain littered across the Afghan countryside - detecting anyone who moves nearby and reporting their locations back to a remote headquarters. These "unattended ground sensors," or UGSs could give the Pentagon an enduring ability to monitor a one-time battlefield long, long after regular American forces are supposed to have returned home.
See the full article (Wired, Noah Shachtman, 5/29/12)
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Iran 'Finds Fix' for Sophisticated Flame Malware
Iran says it has developed tools that can defend against the sophisticated cyber attack tool known as Flame. The country is believed to have been hit hard by the malicious programme which infiltrates networks in order to steal sensitive data. Security companies said Flame, named after one of its attack modules, is one of the most complex threats ever seen. Iran says its home-grown defence could both spot when Flame is present and clean up infected PCs.
See the full article (BBC, 5/29/12)
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The Big Idea: Should the U.S. 'Airdrop' Millions of Phones into Syria?
This kind of thing isn't completely without precedent. In Sudan's Nuba Mountains, as The New York Times reports, an American named Ryan Boyette has been working to arm locals not with weapons but with tools that will help them make digital recordings when bombs fall on the caves in their territory. There are efforts all over the world to help people document their own lives and submit that news to global media organizations.
See the full article (CNN, John D. Sutter, 5/29/12)
Click to read "Giving Peacetech a Chance," a USIP Olive Branch Post by Sheldon Himelfarb.
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Newly Identified Computer Virus, Used for Spying, is 20 Times Size of Stuxnet
Researchers have identified a sophisticated new computer virus 20 times the size of Stuxnet, the malicious software that disabled centrifuges in an Iranian nuclear plant. But unlike Stuxnet, the new malware appears to be used solely for espionage. Variously dubbed Flame, Skywiper and Flamer, the new virus is the largest and possibly most complex piece of malware ever discovered, which suggests it is state-sponsored, researchers said.
See the full article (Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, 5/28/12)
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What Fearmongers Get Wrong About Cyberwarfare
Should we worry about cyberwarfare? Judging by excessively dramatic headlines in the media, very much so. Cyberwarfare, the argument goes, might make wars easier to start and thus more likely. [But] instead of basing our cyber policy on outlandish scenarios from second-rate films, we have to remember that those who would deploy cyberweapons have real agendas and real interests -- and would have to pay real costs if something goes awry.
See the full article (Slate, Evgeny Morozov, 5/28/12)
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