Weekly Snapshot
23-29 September 2018

  1. Hamas is preparing for war

Earlier this week the Israeli news agency, Haaretz, broke a story in which they interviewed several members of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. It was learned that Hamas sees a possible war with Israel in Gaza at “95 percent” and assumed that it would break out in the next few days.

These statements due to Hamas’s belief that Israel will attack during a supposed training exercise near the Gaza strip. These allegations have not been backed up by facts and are merely thoughts from Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ political leader in Gaza. But the Palestinian Authority has not confirmed these reports.

None the less, this rhetoric is not conducive to peace. Hamas has started to evacuate citizens and even put up roadblocks in areas they believe are in danger. These allegations are unfounded and exaggerated, however, could be a way that Hamas can ratchet up the tensions between them and Israel leading to long-run destabilization, and the looming threat of war to remain persistent.

  1. Chinese linked hacking has US cybersecurity experts worried

This week the US Department of homeland security issues a tech warning to companies due to an increase in hacking by the group Cloudhopper, a group linked to the Chinese government. Cloudhopper has launched attacks against several US companies, targeting information technology, energy, healthcare, communications, and manufacturing firms.

This increase in hacking activity is likely linked to the ongoing trade war between the US and China. In 2015 the US and China agreed to stop cyber-attacks of economic theft. However, Dmitry Alperovitch, chief technology officer of US cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike said: “I can tell you now, unfortunately, the Chinese are back. We’ve seen a huge pickup in activity over the past year and a half. Nowadays they are the most predominant threat actors we see threatening institutions all over this country and western Europe”.

The government, with the use of there technical alert, is trying to help cyber-security firms combat these attacks by giving advice on how to prevent, identify and remediate these attacks. The Chinese government still denies any connection to this hacking group.

  1. North and South Korea begin to remove landmines on DMZ

Over the past week, reports have been made that both North and South Korea have made efforts to remove landmines along the DMZ. The removal of landmines has been focused on the areas of Panmunjom and “Arrow Head Hill” where there are plans to search for soldiers killed during the Korean War. For the first time since the early 2000s, both countries have agreed upon such efforts with the hopes that the process would positively ease tensions between the two neighboring states. Other agreements that were made in the past month between North and South Korea included the removal of 11 front-line guard posts by December, as well as the creation of buffer and no-fly zones along the DMZ.

South Korea seems more than willing to work with North Korea in order to decrease military tensions and denuclearize the Korean peninsula. As this may be true, South Korean president Moon Jae-in has also made comments regarding the importance of national defense in this impending process of peace. Although Moon Jae-in has made emphasis on the importance of defense capabilities during this denuclearization process, many have criticized his liberal ideology, including former vice chairman of the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Shin Wonsik, stating that these agreements have weakened the defense capabilities of South Korea.

The denuclearization process of the Korean peninsula has created questions on what techniques should be used to successfully complete the process. At the same time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to head to North Korea this month to schedule another summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump. The success of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula greatly relies on the relation between North Korea and the United States. 

  1. Russian cyber attacks continue across the world

Claims continue to pour in regarding the issue of Russian hacking through Russia’s military intelligence servce, the GRU.  Russian government officials continue to defend their intelligence agencies saying that the West will say anything that will delegitimize Russia. Russian officials have bashed the West for making similarities between GRU and the former KGB, but looking at track records, it doesn’t seem like an odd claim.

GRU’s latest attacks targeted anti-doping agencies throughout the world, including those of the United States, Canada, and other world organizations. These come on top of the claims that Russian hackers have attacked the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Democratic Party emails, a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company, the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and many other worldwide organizations.

The United States Justice Department has charged a total of seven Russian military intelligence officers that have taken part in GRU’s hacking of multiple international organizations. World organizations need to continue efforts to protect themselves with cyber securities because it seems Russian hacking isn’t slowing down anytime soon.