USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, August 2 - 8, 2012

Table of Contents

The United Nations and the Internet: It's Complicated
A number of countries, including Russia and China, have put forward proposals to regulate aspects of the Internet like "crime" and "security" that are currently unregulated at the global level. It should be possible to build governance structures and processes that not only mediate between the interests of a variety of stakeholders, but also constrain power and hold it accountable across globally interconnected networks.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, Rebecca MacKinnon, 8/8/12)
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Syria Crisis: Cyber War and Disinformation Growing in Conflict
On Sunday, it was a hijacked Reuters twitter feed trying to create the impression of a rebel collapse in Aleppo. On Monday, it was another account purporting to be a Russian diplomat announcing the death in Damascus of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. As the situation on the ground becomes ever more bloody, both sides in Syria are also waging what seems to be an intensifying conflict in cyberspace, often attempting to use misinformation and rumor to tilt the war in reality.
See the full article (Reuters, Peter Apps, 8/7/12)
Click to read "Syria and "The Day After" Project," a USIP On the Issues by Steven Heydemann.
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A Modern, Wired University Grows in Nigeria
It's tough to get an Internet connection in northern Nigeria. That's why Google was surprised to see a big bright dot of activity in the Nigerian city of Yola. So when Google sent a team out to Nigeria last fall to figure out who was doing all that Googling, the California-based company was surprised to find a scene right out of an American college campus. The American University of Nigeria provides a modern education right in the backyard of Boko Haram, Nigeria's homegrown terrorist group.
See the full article (Christian Science Monitor, Jack Rodolico, 8/6/12)
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Google Creates Interactive Visual about Small Arms Trade
Google has created an interactive visualization that shows patterns and trends in imports and exports of small arms and ammunition across the world, which it says is an $8.5 billion industry. The interactive visualization is part of the Google Ideas initiative on illicit networks and was produced by Google's Creative Lab team working with the think tank Igarape Institute. The groups used more than 1 million data points garnered from the Peace Research Institute Oslo small arms database.
See the full article (PC World, Christina DesMarais, 8/5/12)
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Iranian State Television Airs 'Confessions of Nuclear Scientists' Killers'
Iranian state television has broadcast purported confessions by more than a dozen suspects in connection with the killing of five nuclear scientists since 2010. It said the suspects took courses there, including how to place magnetic bombs on cars -- the method used in the killing of the scientists. Iran has blamed Israeli, U.S., and the British secret services for the assassinations, with support from some of Iran's neighbors.
See the full article (RFE/RL, 8/6/12)
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Cyber Arms Deals and Latin America in the Post-Stuxnet World
In a way, the Stuxnet virus is not that surprising. Washington and Tel Aviv, just like Washington and London, have a historical "special relationship;" hence it is not astounding at all that binational operations include defense-related initiatives, such as dealing with a common foe (in this case, Iran). But what kind of precedent has been set by this inter-state cyber initiative? And what can we expect in the future?
See the full article (Forbes, W. Alex Sanchez, 8/3/12)
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Mexico Turns to Surveillance Technology to Help Fight Drug War
As a new president prepares to take on Mexico's drug war, the country's army is turning to high-tech spy technology. But could it be used for more than just monitoring criminals? Mining text messages from mobile phones, intercepting voice calls and emails, logging instant messages-even covertly turning on a mobile phone's microphone so it can be used to record and transmit audio without the knowledge of its owner. These are just a few of the things surveillance software owned by the Mexican army can do.
See the full article (Slate, Ryan Gallagher, 8/3/12)
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Cybersecurity Bill Fails in Senate
A bill that would establish security standards to prevent large-scale cyberattacks on the nation's critical infrastructure - including water supplies and the electrical grid - failed in the Senate on Thursday despite strong endorsements from top military and national security officials. The challenge surrounding cybersecurity is that most of the nation's vulnerable systems are overseen by the private sector.
See the full article (Washington Post, Ed O'Keefe and Ellen Nakashima, 8/2/12)
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Did we miss anything?



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