USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, May 31 - June 6, 2012

Table of Contents

Ugandan Innovators Don't Get the Credit They Deserve
Three Ugandan pre-university students have designed a bomb detector and detonator prototype. The bomb detector is a response to a pressing issue in the community: Uganda has experienced several bomb scares over the past few years. The most recent threat was the 2010 twin bomb attacks against crowds watching the World Cup soccer games in Kampala. The attacks were attributed to the al-Shabaab militant group operating out of Somalia.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, Jackee Budesta Batanda, 6/6/12)
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Cyberweapons, Drone Strikes Circumvent Congress' Constitutional Authority
The United States' use of cyberweapons against Iran threatens to undermine the critical and sensitive ongoing negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. Building trust is a significant component of these negotiations, and the use of cyberweapons may break down that trust and leave us vulnerable to similar attacks. Congress must reassert its constitutional authority and conduct proper oversight of government's "counterterrorism" policies regardless of the technology being used.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Dennis Kucinich, 6/6/12)
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Drone Attacks Create Terrorist Safe Havens, Warns Former CIA Official
A former top terrorism official at the CIA has warned that President Barack Obama's controversial drone programme is far too indiscriminate in hitting targets and could lead to such political instability that it creates terrorist safe havens. Drone strikes in Pakistan over the weekend hit a funeral gathering for a militant slain in a previous strike and also may have accidentally hit a mosque. That sort of action adds credence to the claims that the drone campaign is likely to cause more damage by creating anger at the US than it does in eliminating terrorist threats.
See the full article (Guardian, Paul Harris, 6/5/12)
Click to read "Saving Lives in Pakistan: the USIP Connection," a USIP Olive Branch Post by Thomas Omestad.
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Is It Possible to Wage a Just Cyberwar?
In the last week or so, cyberwarfare has made front-page news. This digital evolution means that it is now less clear what kind of events should reasonably trigger a war, as well as how and when new technologies may be used. With cyberweapons, a war theoretically could be waged without casualties or political risk, so their attractiveness is great -- maybe so irresistible that nations are tempted to use them before such aggression is justified.
See the full article (Atlantic, Patrick Lin, Fritz Allhoff, and Neil Rowe, 6/5/12)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR)" on June 15 at 9:00am.
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Flame Hijacks Microsoft Update to Spread Malware Disguised as Legit Code
It's a scenario security researchers have long worried about, a man-in-the-middle attack that allows someone to impersonate Microsoft Update to deliver malware - disguised as legitimate Microsoft code - to unsuspecting users. The fact that this vulnerability existed in the first place is what has security experts all aflame. Code that is officially signed by Microsoft is considered safe by millions of machines around the world, something that put them all at risk.
See the full article (Wired, Kim Zetter, 6/4/12)
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MTN Irancell, Iranian Cellphone Carrier, Obtained Banned U.S. Tech
A fast-growing Iranian mobile-phone network managed to obtain sophisticated U.S. computer equipment despite sanctions that prohibit sales of American technology to Iran. MTN Irancell, a joint venture between MTN Group Ltd of South Africa and an Iranian government-controlled consortium, sourced equipment from Sun Microsystems Inc, Hewlett Packard Co and Cisco Systems Inc. The procurement - through a network of tech companies in Iran and the Middle East - offers further evidence of the limitations of U.S. economic sanctions.
See the full article (Reuters, Steve Stecklow, 6/4/12)
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A Massive Web of Fake Identities and Websites Controlled Flame Malware
The attackers behind the complex Flame cyberespionage toolkit, believed to be a state-sponsored operation, used an extensive list of fake identities to register at least 86 domains, which they used as part of their command-and-control center. Many of the domains, set up as early as 2008 in some cases and as late as April this year, were registered with the GoDaddy registrar service, and used fake addresses in Germany and Austria.
See the full article (Wired, Kim Zetter, 6/4/12)
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March of the Robots
Demand for land robots, also known as unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), began to pick up a decade ago after American-led forces knocked the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Soldiers hunting Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda fighters in the Hindu Kush were keen to send robot scouts into caves first. Remote-controlled ground robots then proved enormously helpful in the discovery and removal of makeshift roadside bombs in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.
See the full article (Economist, 6/2/12)
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Balancing Advocacy and Accuracy
In a Washington Post op-ed last month, Senator Joseph Lieberman spoke of "horrific human rights abuses perpetrated daily, including the widespread and deliberate use of rape and other sexual violence as weapons of war." Lauren Wolfe, director of the Women Under Siege Project, which has curated a map plotting instances of sexual violence in Syria, talks with [On the Media] about trying to check the senator's claim and the difficulty of verifying claims of rape in a war-zone.
See the full article (NPR, 6/1/12)
Click to read "Atrocity Prevention through Persuasion and Deterrence," a USIP Peace Brief by Jonas Claes.
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Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran
From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran's main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America's first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program. This account of the American and Israeli effort to undermine the Iranian nuclear program is based on interviews over the past 18 months with current and former American, European and Israeli officials.
See the full article (New York Times, David E. Sanger, 6/1/12) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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