USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup



United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, February 9 - 15, 2012

Table of Contents

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Syrian Opposition Seeks to Wipe the Assad Name Off the Map - Via Google
Anti-government activists in recent weeks have used a Google crowdsourcing program, Map Maker, to rename key streets, bridges and boulevards after their revolutionary heroes, according to opposition figures and the Syrian government. The idea, activists say, has been to expunge the vestiges of the Assad family's 40-year rule and to commemorate protesters who have fallen over the course of an 11-month-old uprising.
See the full article (Washington Post, Colum Lynch, 2/14/12)
Click to read "Making Sense of the U.N. Impasse on Syria," a USIP On the Issues by Abiodun Williams.
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Experts Say Iran has 'Neutralized' Stuxnet Virus
Iranian engineers have succeeded in neutralizing and purging the computer virus known as Stuxnet from their country's nuclear machinery, European and U.S. officials and private experts have told Reuters. The malicious code, whose precise origin and authorship remain unconfirmed, made its way as early as 2009 into equipment controlling centrifuges Iran is using to enrich uranium. Many experts believe that Israel, possibly with assistance from the United States, was responsible for creating and deploying Stuxnet.
See the full article (Reuters, 2/14/12)
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Syria Disrupts Text Messaging of Protesters With Made-in-Dublin Equipment
The Syrian government has ordered blocks on text messages when they contain politically sensitive terms such as "revolution" or "demonstration," according to two people familiar with the filtering systems. A unit of the Syrian intelligence apparatus, known as "Branch 225," often issues the instructions on which messages to block, they say. Syriatel Mobile Telecom SA, the country's largest mobile- phone operator, conducts the blocking with equipment from Cellusys Ltd., a privately-held company based in Dublin.
See the full article (Bloomberg, Ben Elgin and Vernon Silver, 2/14/12)
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Cyberwar Is the New Yellowcake, Fueling a Cybersecurity-Industrial Complex
The reason cybersecurity legislation is so pressing, proponents say, is that we face an immediate risk of national disaster. Yet evidence to sustain such dire warnings is conspicuously absent. In many respects, rhetoric about cyber catastrophe resembles threat inflation we saw in the run-up to the Iraq War. And while Congress' passing of comprehensive cybersecurity legislation wouldn't lead to war, it could saddle us with an expensive and overreaching cyber-industrial complex.
See the full article (Wired, Jerry Brito and Tate Watkins, 2/14/12)
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Ushahidi's 'Disruptive Deployers': The People Behind the Stories
One spark and it happens: An individual or a team of people create a deployment using Ushahidi or Crowdmap. Their motivation and the inspiration are telling tales. These citizens, diaspora and a global community collaborate near and far to make change happen. Who are these deployers? One thing connects all of them irrespective of location or topic: They want to do more in their communities and world.
See the full article (PBS, Heather Leson, 2/14/12)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Preventing Incitement and Promoting Peace " on February 28 at 10:00am.
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How Drones Challenge Our Political System
The use of drones for military purposes is accelerating rapidly, accompanied by some commentary and public discussion of the impact and implications of their use. Thus far, however, the discussion has omitted some of the most important implications of the continuing development of drones. To better understand the problems raised by drones, it is essential to set them within the context of the broader crisis our political system faces today.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Ken Allen, 2/13/12)
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Analysis: In Cyber Era, Militaries Scramble for New Skills
With growing worries about the threat of "cyber warfare," militaries around the world are racing to recruit the computer specialists they believe may be central to the conflicts of the 21st century. In December, the U.S. Army announced its first "cyber brigade" was operational. European, Latin American, Asian and Middle Eastern and other nations are seen following suit. Militaries had barely considered the Internet only a few years ago are building new centers and training hundreds or even thousands of uniformed personnel.
See the full article (Reuters, Peter Apps, 2/9/12)
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Mobile Phones in North Korea: Also Available to Earthlings
Smuggled mobiles have been used on Chinese networks near the border for years, but now business is booming for Koryolink, [North Korea's] only official cellular network. Koryolink is a walled garden: users are not able to make or receive international calls, and there is no internet access. It would be hard to imagine that calls and text messages are not monitored. As in China, the network is even becoming a means by which the state disseminates propaganda.
See the full article (Economist, 2/11/12)
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