USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, April 18 - 24, 2013

Table of Contents

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which includes a special section on Internet and social media.**

The New Digital State?
Today, Google is arguably one of the most influential nonstate actors in international affairs, operating in security domains long the purview of nation-states: It tracks the global arms trade, spends millions creating crisis-alert tools to inform the public about looming natural disasters, monitors the spread of the flu, and acts as a global censor to protect American interests abroad.
See the full article (Slate, Mya Frazier, 4/24/13)
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Who is the Syrian Electronic Army?
The Syrian Electronic Army may sound like an obscure Levantine rave outfit but it grabbed the world's attention by hacking the Associated Press's Twitter account and briefly wiping $136 billion from stock exchanges. On its website, available in Arabic and English, the SEA declares its ambition to be "supporting the cause of the Syrian Arab people by armaments with science and knowledge against the campaigns led by the Arab media and Western on our Republic by broadcasting fabricated news about what is happening in Syria".
See the full article (Telegraph, Alex Spillius, 4/24/13)
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Campaign to Ban Killer Robots Launched by Human Rights Watch
After months of preparation, Human Rights Watch has launched a global Campaign to Ban Killer Robots, over fears that life-or-death decisions in wars are going to be made by machines instead of humans. The name might sound like a joke, but it's very much a serious endeavour. According to the campaign, which features a coalition of NGOs from around the world, the world is at risk of a "robotic arms race" with "new humanitarian and legal challenges" that could undermine international humanitarian law.
See the full article (, 4/24/13)
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Google Execs Say 'The Power Of Information Is Underrated'
Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen - coauthors of a new book, The New Digital Age - recently returned from a highly publicized trip to North Korea. In the second part of their conversation with NPR's Audie Cornish, they discuss the role of the Internet in more repressive countries.
See the full article (NPR, 4/23/13)
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State-backed Data Spies Hunt Industrial Secrets
State-sponsored industrial espionage became a bigger cyber-threat to companies in 2012, a report indicates. Statistics gathered for Verizon's annual data breach report suggested state-sponsored hacking attacks were now the number two cyber-threat. Many of the state-backed attacks used phishing campaigns to try to get a foothold in a target company. This technique tries to trick people into revealing useful information that attackers can capitalise on to penetrate deeper into a network.
See the full article (BBC, 4/22/13)
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Will Water Supplies Provoke World War III?
Extreme climate change and a global scarcity of vital resources could prove to be an explosive combination. Two nightmare scenarios - a global scarcity of vital resources and the onset of extreme climate change - are already beginning to converge and in the coming decades are likely to produce a tidal wave of unrest, rebellion, competition, and conflict.
See the full article (Salon, Michael Klare, 4/22/13)
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Small Cells vs. Big Data
The fundamental dynamic of the Cold War was an arms race to build nuclear weapons; conflict today is primarily driven by an "organizational race" to build networks. Terrorists, insurgents, and other militants focus on the creation of dispersed cells pursuing common goals, but without central controls. Intelligence, law enforcement, and military organizations strive to network their information flows, the aim being to mine "big data" to illuminate enemy cells, then to use this knowledge to eliminate them.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, John Arquilla, 4/22/13) *Foreign Policy sign-up may be required to view the full article
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