USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, March 8 - 14, 2012

Table of Contents

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

TechnoTalk - @Documentally Discusses "Revolutionary" Protest Apps
As governments and security forces become more aware of the role of social media in coordinating protest movements they are developing new ways to block, hack and track citizens tweets, Facebook posts and other social-media messages. [But] Demonstrators and citizen journalists have an ever-widening range of virtual tools that can help them navigate safely around protest sites.
See the full article (Reuters, Julie Mollins, 3/14/12)
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BBC Fears Iranian Cyber-attack over its Persian TV Service
[BBC] headquarters in London were the target of a sustained online attack in a widening of earlier assaults on the BBC by suspected government forces in Iran. The latest attack - which disrupted email access within some parts of the BBC for about four hours - came two days after the BBC hailed the success of its Farsi-language service that has come under fire from Tehran authorities. The sophisticated cyber-attack is suspected of being the latest attempt by Iranian authorities to threaten BBC Persian TV.
See the full article (Guardian, Josh Halliday, 3/14/12)
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Ending Trade in Conflict Minerals Trickier Than it Sounds: Analysts
The issue of conflict minerals is hugely complicated, spanning from secretive supply chain practices of massive technology companies to the non-transparent political situations of resource-rich African states, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. The conflict minerals problem is certainly complex. If solutions are going to be found, all the stakeholders need to play a part - including companies, investors and consumers.
See the full article (Globe and Mail, Iain Marlow, 3/13/12)
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Iran and the Era of Cyber Infection
Like it or not, we've entered a new era in which the global geopolitical balance may be determined by hackers and cyber-activists in hooded sweatshirts rather than career diplomats in fashionable pantsuits. [Regarding] the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, the leading Republican presidential candidates provided their best options for diffusing the nuclear threat. Amidst all this wartime bravura, there's another option on the table that has yet to be more openly considered - a cyber-attack to cripple Iran's nuclear infrastructure.
See the full article (Washington Post, 3/12/12)
Click to read "Tensions with Iran," a USIP On the Issues by Daniel Brumberg.
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The Mystery Code at the Heart of a Potent Cyberweapon
The mystery behind the Duqu trojan, a supposed follow-up to Stuxnet, has deepened after analysts lifted the lid on a module in its computer code - and found that part of it is written in a strange programming language that they do not recognise. The finding has sparked a fascinating hunt amongst coders and security engineers, who are chipping in ideas as to what the language might be in the comments under this blog post by security analysts Kaspersky.
See the full article (New Scientist, 3/12/12)
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How 'Peace Provocateurs' are Defusing Religious Tensions in Indonesia
An interfaith group with no formal structure, the Peace Provocateurs are as ambitious in their goal as they are simple in their method. After watching some in [Ambon, Indonesia] use SMS and social media to whip up fights, exaggerating or simply inventing incidents to spark trouble, they decided they could respond in kind with reverse intent. "If provocateurs could use the new technology to incite violence, we could use it to undermine their incitement", says one of the leaders of the group.
See the full article (Independent, Andrew Stroehlein, 3/12/12)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping: An Emerging Approach to Civilian Protection and Violence Prevention " on March 21 at 10:00am.
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Microsoft's 'Universal Translator' Lets You Speak Foreign Languages in Your Own Voice
The DoD has long sought a universal translator that can help battlefield troops communicate with civilians in conflict zones. Microsoft Research labs has demoed a new prototype software that could be the next big step toward a so-called "universal translator" device, one that can instantly flip one language into another and back again so a conversation can be carried on between two people even when neither can understand the other's language.
See the full article (Popular Science, Clay Dillow, 3/12/12)
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US Army: Geotagged Facebook Posts Put Soldiers' Lives at Risk
By posting photos on Facebook or checking-in on social media sites, soldiers may reveal the exact location of their unit or their family, the US Army said in a statement. It says Facebook's new Timeline feature, which creates a map of places geotagged by users, also poses a risk to soldiers and their families Many smartphones automatically geotag photos with GPS co-ordinates. In 2007 four US Army helicopters were destroyed in Iraq after geotagged photos were posted on the internet.
See the full article (BBC, 2/9/12)
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IPaidABribe in India and Kenya
As the name implies, the original founders [of] set up a crowdsourcing website to report and track corruption in India. It is probably too soon to judge whether the site has had an impact on corruption. However, despite the difficulties of actually measuring corruption due to its illicit nature, Ipaidabride has successfully gathered a wealth of data, including fairly concrete numbers of how much money is going towards bribes [in Kenya].
See the full article (Council on Foreign Relations, John Campbell, 3/8/12)
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Don't Freak Out, But Iran is Helping Venezuela Build Drones
Iran is planning to build drones for the Venezuelan military. According to [U.S. Air Force Gen. Douglas] Fraser, the drones are to be manufactured in Venezuela with Iranian help and will likely be used for "internal defense." The exact kind of drones isn't clear. But the robots are probably too small to be armed. [But] officials also don't know if technology acquired from a CIA-operated drone that crashed in Iran last year has made it into the design.
See the full article (Wired, Robert Beckhusen, 3/8/12)
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China Testing Cyber-attack Capabilities, Report Says
For a decade or more, Chinese military officials have talked about conducting warfare in cyberspace, but in recent years they have progressed to testing attack capabilities during exercises. Such exercises, combined with evidence that China is streamlining its forces to integrate cyber and electronic warfare and is financing research in the two areas, show that "Chinese capabilities in computer network operations have advanced sufficiently to pose genuine risk to U.S. military operations in the event of a conflict."
See the full article (Washington Post, 3/8/12)
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