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Forced to see things no child should see – exploitation and usage of child soldiers

Teja Palko

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Between 250.000 and 300.000 is estimated number of child soldiers in the past year based on United Nations (UN) report from June this year.

Children are taken from schools, families, kidnapped on the streets and exploited in order to serve as combatants, porters, spies, cooks, human mine detectors, shields, psychological weapon, suicide bombers and sex slaves. Every year the number surprises and new lives even as young as seven years old are put into danger and on the first front lines of fighting. One needs to take into account that in reality this number is even bigger because of widespread underreporting.

The UN reported of grave violations committed against children during the armed conflict in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Palestine, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syrian Arab republic, Yemen, India, Nigeria, Philippines and Thailand just to mention some. The organization has made a list of more than 50 parties that recruit child soldiers. The list is combined of governments and non-state actors. Parties to conflict that recruit and use children are listed by the Secretary-General in the annexes of his annual report on children and armed conflict. The worst countries based on the number of child solders correspond to the most restless territories and in countries where wars are waging and where human rights violations are happening on daily bases. Mass abductions, including children had in past year increased and had led to killing and maiming, recruitment and use, or sexual violence by armies, paramilitaries and rebel groups. The 2014 List on 2014 trafficking persons report from US Department of state includes the government of following countries: Burma, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen that have recruited children in 2014.

Children are the most vulnerable and susceptible to manipulation and forced recruitment in the various conflicts that are being waged around the world today. They are maiming and exposed to killing, sexual violence, denial of humanitarian assistance, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals are common violations of international human rights law and last but not least they are being recruited. They have support or combat roles. The term child solder defines a person, regardless of sex under 18 years old, who takes a direct or indirect (cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, sex slave) part in hostilities of governmental or non-governmental forces. The recruitment can be forced or voluntary. They can be paid, promised a better life, there for revenge; honor or they have no other choice. Data shows that war torn Africa has the largest number of child soldiers. US Department of State has released a report for the year 2014, which is raising concerns with facts such as 14 years is the average of a child soldier, 40% of child soldiers are girls, 23 conflicts involve child soldiers and 59 number of groups, the number of child soldiers has remained constant for 25 years.

Based on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the world all of the countries have limit of the required ages of voluntary and obligatory military service, not including 19 countries that have no defence forces or very limited military forces. Worlds accepted years of starting military career as obligation is 18, even though some countries still have lower census. Younger as 18 and by definition of adult in many states still children, have voluntary military service with 17 years in Algeria, Australia and Canada with parental consent, Germany, Jamaica, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines and Saudi Arabia. Even younger with 16 years voluntary military service exists in Bangladesh, Brazil, Brunei, India, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and in United Kingdom with parental consent. Cuba is based on CIA reports the only country with compulsory military service starting with 17 years.

The numbers of new child soldier recruitment represented in UN report are astonishing. 68 children, of which not all cases are verified and a lot of them not reported to authorities have been recruited as child soldiers in Afghanistan, also to carry out suicide bomb attacks. Underage was seen in police forces and among Taliban. The numbers are concerning in Central African Republic were 464 new cases of recruitment was verified, and because of limited monitoring capacity underreporting also presents problems. Myanmar had ranked high with more than 357 cases of child recruitment. Somalia has seen 819 child recruited by Al-Shabaab, the national army and other militia. Rise in mention topic was seen in Colombia with 343 children. South Sudan crisis has resulted in more than 80 new recruitments. Around 60 was the number in Sudan.

The recruitment and use of children in combat have become commonplace in the Syrian Arab Republic with more than 280 new recruitments. In the Democratic Republic of Congo 241 new cases of recruitment were reported. The deadliest year in Iraq since 2007 was last year, and resulted in more than 67 new child soldier recruitments. Palestine was among those that have in the last year recruited child into combatants, with much fewer numbers than countries mentioned before. Militia groups have recruited child soldiers in Lebanon, Lord’s Resistance Army in DR Congo and in South Sudan, in Mali, Yemen, India, Nigeria with Boko Haram, Philippines and Thailand. What is alarming is also recruitment of children by state organs such as military and police. Such cases were reported in Afghanistan and its National and local police, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, and Yemen.

Recruiting and using children under the age of 15 as soldiers is prohibited under international humanitarian law – treaty and custom – and is defined as a war crime by the International Criminal Court. Many international conventions and even international law exist in the area of child protection, but unfortunately no paper can prevent the harsh reality some children are living in. The Rome statute of the International Criminal Court since 1998 defines the recruitment of children into military as a war crime and a crime against humanity. Further, children are protected by United Nations Charter from 1945 and with Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948. Important documents regarding protection of children are The Fourth Geneva Convention from 1949 and its two additional Protocols from 1977 Geneva Convention Additional Protocol I and II. International labor law with international Labor Organization (ILO) had declared in 1999 with Convention 182 that worst compulsory and forced recruitment of anyone under the age of 18 in the armed conflict as one of the worst forms of child labor.

Based on The Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC) from 1989 states shall ensure that persons under 15 age do not take a direct part in hostilities. Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which was adopted and signed in 2002, National armed forces can accept volunteers into their armed forces below the age of 18, but states Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities. Non-state actors and guerrilla forces are forbidden from recruiting anyone under the age of 18 for any purpose. Many international organizations are accepting conventions and resolutions in order to protect children among them are also UNICEF with it’s a World Fit for Children from 2002 and UN Millennium Declaration from the year 2000. It is sad and unbelievable that many children in the world do not get a share of childhood they deserve. With less than 200 countries existing today in the world, many have not ratified, signed or did both signed and ratified but do not oblige international and national excepted obligations regarding child protection. Progress has been seen in lower or mostly no recruitment of child soldiers by states authorities, unfortunately than cannot be said for other groups and organizations. In some cases, countries are unfit to protect and prevent heart breaking stories of more than 300.000 children recruited as child soldiers.

Teja Palko is a Slovenian writer. She finished studies on Master’s Degree programme in Defense Science at the Faculty of Social Science at University in Ljubljana.

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Clinton email scandal: Poor Judgment-Yes. Criminal Intent-No. Not guilty

Bob Budahl

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The Clinton “Email Scandal” was long and damaging to the Democratic Party with a final decision that she would not be charged with violations of federal law regarding the use of a personal email server for both personal and government emails in her role as U.S. Secretary of State. For prosecution to occur the FBI would need to prove intent that she willfully divulged classified information to our adversaries and that clearly was not present. Secretary Clinton may have experienced lack of procedural knowledge and poor judgement but she did not willfully break United States law.

I find it very important to note that the Senate Committee that issued a report on the issue in its summary concluded that the “The FBI did not use a grand jury to compel testimony and obtain the vast majority of evidence, choosing instead to offer immunity deals and allow fact witnesses to join key interviews.” Because of this occurrence of not utilizing the standard Grand Jury procedure the confidentiality of an investigation was compromised and with compounding factors and procedures, did detrimentally affect the Clinton Presidency election campaign.

In an article by Dan Roberts on October 31, 2016 he noted that as Election Day became near Clinton was losing support and Trump was surging. And a week before it had been Clinton who was enjoying a high in the polls after Trump foundered in different matters. At this point it seemed certain of a Clinton victory. The timing of the FBI Director’s new vigor into investigating the Clinton email scandal was condemned by the Congressional Democrats and even to the extent that the NV Senate Minority Leader Harry Reidsaid this partisan action had broken the law, including the “Hatch Act” which limits political activity of Federal employees including trying to influence or interfere with an election. Secretary Clinton was left with a daunting task to prove her innocence with just one week to the election. Her polling showed damage to her lead. And the new interest in candidate Clinton was aided by another email controversy which may have involved Russian hackers and released by WikiLeaks. These emails to and from Clintons to campaign chair John Podesta were not necessarily damaging content but were embarrassing with revelations mostly about Secretary Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton. Her polls continued to decline as Trump had no negative news being newly released and negative information from Clinton was divulged. Just turning the attention from Trump to Clintonshifted public polling significantly. During this time polling showed support wavered for Clinton by 1/3 of respondents which were wavered from FBI Director Comey’s disclosures.

The Hillary Clinton email controversy did leave open the possibility of access to national security from classified information contained within or referenced to in emails that she had used her private email server for. There is no evidence of damage to national security. The investigation did reveal flaws but she should not have or currently face criminal prosecution.

The fact that the State Department’s own email system was hacked in November 2014 and deemed one of the most severe ever is a counterpoint against blaming a private server for security lapses. It required the State Department IT workers to close down its entire unclassified email system for a weekend which shows the extent of capability that the Russians and other have. It is also noteworthy that a different event involved the disclosure of Clinton’s personal correspondence which had been accessed via the hacking of a confidante of hers, Sidney Blumenthal. This was conducted by a hacker known as Guccifer who was later revealed to be a Romanian with the name of Marcel-Lehel Lazar. There are numerous means and methods of transmitting of classified materials including direct contact, cryptographic systems, courier services, designated hand couriers.

The partisan views, opinions and actions show the controversy involved in the email scandal. The FBI re-started its investigation and resulting negative polling ensued for Secretary Clinton. The State Department did release a large set of emails which were sent on her personal server in May of 2015 which were related to the 2012 Benghazi U.S. Consulate attack. During Secretary Clinton’s term as Secretary of State 62,320 emails were received or sent from her personal server. About half of these were determined official and turned over to the State Department. Her decision to use the personal server in lieu of an official Government email was something that others utilized including predecessors. The Inspector General found that others including the former Secretary of State Colin Powell had not been in compliance with Federal recordkeeping. And the New York Times reported the Mr. Powell had suggested to Clinton to utilize private email unless it was classified information. He later denied issuing that statement. The NY Times also reported that the former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush who was also a 2016 candidate for the U.S. Presidency utilized a private email address. And a poll within a magazine showed 33% of federal workers utilized personal email occasionally for government business. Secretary Clinton said there had been no security breaches of the system she utilized and that it was well protected and the July 2016 FBI report concludes that there was no direct evidence of Secretary Clinton’s server system being hacked. But technology experts conclude that experts can hack without leaving an evidence trail, not to mention that commercial firewalls and security systems are no match for high tech foreign government systems. In May of 2016 a hacker from Romania who was jailed in the U.S. for hacking told news sources he had accessed Clinton’s email numerous times. Secretary Clinton said she only emailed one foreign official which was a United Kingdom destination. The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community however found that she had sent four or more messages which contained classified material. Later it was known that two of the emails sent were classified “top secret.” Two-thousand emails receiving the classified designation had been identified by the time the final batch of Secretary Clinton’s emails were released in March of 2016.

A controversial article appears on the internet which does present assessments and ideas that some or possibly most people will label as partisan politics but it does present a couple of good concepts in my opinion. One is that the U.S. intelligence community did not conduct a thorough investigation of the email scandal and of the national security. This is counterproductive in my opinion as the FBI is one of the top intelligence agencies the nation has and utilizes. It alleges that ultra-secret information on U.S. drone strikes could have been disclosed from Secretary Clinton utilizing a private server for her email use. James Clapper who had been Director of National Intelligence thought it was not needed and said since the details of the ultra-secret information on drone strikes had already been disclosed in earlier leaks, which were unrelated to Clinton’s use of a personal email server, a national security assessment was not needed. Some say his decision was politically motivated. Then U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, Republican,  Kansas who was a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence strongly argued in favor of a DNI investigation.

The Senate Committee even during the initial time of the investigation found a considerable amount of important information. It concluded that Secretary Clinton did set up a private server in her home, which was in violation of the State Department policy and Federal IT standards, according to the Inspector General and State Department. The FBI director James Comey described this as “grossly negligent” which was softened with up slightly with a slight legal distinction.

FBI Director, Comey also indicated the Secretaryutilized her personal email outside of the United States and did send and receive work related emails while in the countries of U.S.adversaries. His comments werethat adversaries had “possible” access to the information. The FBI did find 110 emails in different email chains which contained classified information that was confidential at the time sent or received. Of these eight were with Top Secret information, 36 chains of Secret and eight with confidential.

It is my conclusion that mistakes or lack of judgment were made with the utilization of a personal email server but in no way did she possess intent to purposely release or leak information.

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The hi-tech war between China and the United States

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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The new directive of the Central Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC), issued on December 8, 2019, ordered all State offices to quickly remove all foreign computer equipment and software within the next three years.

 The CPC directive, which was highlighted only by the Financial Times, has not been made public.

 It is therefore expected that many US companies, especially the likes of Dell, Microsoft, HP and some other smaller companies, will quickly be damaged by this choice of the Party and hence of the Chinese State.

The Chinese press has nicknamed this policy line as “3-5-2” because the substitutions will take place at a pace of 30% in 2020, 50% in 2021 and finally 20% in 2022.

Chinese sources estimate that 20 to 30 million pieces of hardware, mainframes, software and local networks will need to be swapped out throughout China with a large-scale replacement operation.

According to the Financial Times, the source of this news is China Securities, which is one of the companies entrusted by the CPC with the quick switch to domestic information technology.

Obviously this CPC choice is related to the current commercial tension between China and the United States.

Moreover, the IT substitution will allow to isolate government decisions from parallel US technological networks and from the cycle of negotiations and commercial tension between China and the United States.

We can also obviously think that this is a response to the fact that last May the United States entered Huawei into the “black list” of Chinese companies with which all U.S. IT companies and the North American subsidiaries of foreign ones are banned from doing business and carrying out joint operations.

 This means that U.S. companies cannot buy or sell technology to and from Huawei without a specific license issued by the U.S. government’s Bureau of Industry and Security, which is impossible to obtain.

 The Chinese company Huawei immediately responded to the U.S. government, noting that “moving away our company from the American market will not make the United States stronger or safer. Quite the reverse. This choice will force the United States to choose lower quality and more expensive technologies, thus even damaging the interests of U.S. consumers and companies”.

However, the story of relations between Huawei and the United States is long-standing.

 In January 2019, the Department of Justice had announced legal action against two divisions of the Chinese company, on charges of having stolen trade secrets owned by T-Mobile USA, and later stopped the sale or purchase of U.S. government technology by Huawei and by the other Chinese mobile phone company, namely ZTE.

 In December 2018, the Canadian authorities had also arrested Huawei’s CEO, Meng Wanzhou, to comply with an extradition request issued by the United States, based on the fact that the Chinese computer and telephone company had not disclosed payments to and from Iran to some U.S. banks.

 Moreover, the United States included in the “black list” of Chinese companies other undesired ones, such as Hikvison, which sells AI technology for mass surveillance, and the already mentioned ZTE.

It should be recalled that surveillance through Artificial Intelligence technologies is currently used by at least 75 countries, with 56 countries using this technology for road safety and smart cities, and as many as 64 countries using AI technologies for mass facial recognition, of which China alone is accused. Other 52 other countries manage AI systems for smart policing, an activity developed within the American police which brings together advanced databases and the measurement of inspection performance and of computerized mass predictive systems.

 Certainly, thanks to Huawei, Hikvision, Dahua and ZTE, the Chinese technology in the sector takes the lion’s share in this specific global market and sells mass recognition technologies in 63 countries, all members of the China’s Belt & Road Initiative.

Huawei alone sells this AI technology to 55 countries.

 Outside the Chinese market and the Chinese social reconnaissance producers, the world’s largest company in this AI sector is the Japanese NEC.

However, the U.S. companies operating mass control technologies with Artificial Intelligence are still present in 32 countries.

These American companies include IBM, which works for AI facial recognition networks in eleven countries, as well as Palantir, which operates in nine countries and finally CISCO, operating in six countries.

The other countries selling similar AI systems globally are Israel, France, Germany and Japan.

 51% of the universally defined “advanced liberal democracies” use AI mass control technologies, while these control systems are used in only 37% of what the international press calls “closed autocratic States” and in 41% of the States abstractly defined as “illiberal democracies”.

Hence theoften hypocritical alarm for the AI recognition procedures in Xinjiang, sounded by the Chinese government, should remind us of the old Latin Horatian saying De tefabulanarratur.

 All the States we currently call “liberal democracies” use systems of citizens’/users’ facial recognition at various levels.

 There is evidence of partial and uncontrollable use of advanced AI technologies also in countries such as Tunisia, Angola, Azerbaijan, Hungary, Peru, Sri Lanka and Turkmenistan.

 However, the recent Chinese stance on the switching to domestic IT technology regards much of the software currently used in Chinese offices. Nevertheless, there are problems that should not be overlooked.

Lenovo, the world’s largest laptop manufacturer, has been Chinese since 1984, when the Chinese company Legend was entered into the Hong Kong Business Register.

In 2005 Chinese Lenovo bought IBM’s entire personal computer division and IBM’s server-producing division in 2014.

Again in 2014, Lenovo bought the Motorola Mobility Division from the previous owner, namely Google.

 The problem lies in the fact that Lenovo still uses chips produced by the American Inteland the replacement of the old semiconductors seems to be complex.

China may have discovered an effective replacement for Microsoft OS, the operating system of most “Western” computers but, for the time being, this is not known in the West.

Furthermore, the semiconductor industry in China has been greatly stimulated by Huawei’s adventures in the United States and the EU.

 The Chinese “nationalisation” of the semiconductor and computer chip industry, however, is already envisaged in the China 2025 Plan and the Chinese government wants at least 40% of chips to be produced in China and be ready for export by that date.

In vain China tried to negotiate purchases of chips with the American company Xcerra, but the operation was stopped last February for the well-known political reasons mentioned above.

Also the Chinese acquisition of the US company Lattice Semiconductor – a 1.3 million US dollar “deal” – was stopped by the US government.

 Despite the fact that an up-to-date semiconductor industry is hard to set up in a short lapse of time, China’s “National Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund” will significantly fund all these operations.

 In its second round of fund-raising, the Chinese Semiconductor Fund raised as many as 200 billion renmimbi (equal to 29 billion US dollars), after a first round of fund-raising which amounted to 138 billion rmb in 2014.

 The Chinese government deems this replacement operation to be absolutely necessary to reduce the dependence of Chinese information technology on U.S. manufacturers.

It should be recalled that in 2017 – the last year of for which data is available – China imported semiconductors to the tune of 300 billion US dollars.

Now China must run twice as fast, otherwise it will lag a technological generation behind, as far as the very fast chip evolution is concerned.

Moreover the Chinese Cyber Security Law, enacted in 2017, requires the user’s real name for registering in any Internet network, as well as very strict rules for the protection of critical infrastructure, and a much greater protection than in the USA and the EU for what China calls “private critical infrastructure”, as well as a few additional control requests for some groups of network operators.

 In 2018 China also enacted new regulations for Personal Information Security Specification, i.e. a set of more stringent web privacy rules than the Western ones.

 In the current year, the Chinese government has also established new rules for checking information technology, for the transfer of personal data abroad, as well as for encryption and cloud security.

 In the EU legislation on network security, the so-called GDPR, the whole set of rules is focused on protecting the user privacy. In addition to legally protecting individuals’ privacy, however, China also protects a specific class of data, which the provisions define as “relevant to national security, the national economy and people’s lives”.

We are far beyond privacy as it is considered and understood in the West.

By mainly using information technology, China wants to stimulate innovation in four areas: a) the manufacturing industry in general; b) digital commercial platforms and their specific markets, especially as regards online payments; c) the development of telematic apps for “social use”, such as those for rented cars or bicycles; d) the enhancement of basic research and development for biotechnology and big computing.

 China currently has around 800 million Internet users, all of whom also having smartphones.

 It should be recalled that the Cyber Security Law enacted in China in 2017 entails the obligation for all web companies to store data on Chinese territory and restricts some data transfers also within China’s national territory.

 In addition to the above mentioned 2025 Plan and the State Fund for Technologies, there is also – in China – the New Generation of Artificial Intelligence Development Plan.

As early as 2017 China has already overtaken the USA as far as investment in Networks and AI is concerned. Currently Research and Development is more funded in China than in the United States, also as to the IT collateral and “hybrid” sectors, such as AI social and medical applications.

 It should also be noted that China is already world leader in the registration of new patents. It currently accounts for 40% of the world total, twice as much as the United States and four times as much as Japan.

 In 2025, China is expected to far exceed the number of papers on Artificial Intelligence – with international citations -developed by the United States.

Furthermore, the fact that China’s domestic IT market is subject to what someone has defined “hi-tech Leninism” makes it obvious -also considering the size of China’s domestic market – that a carefully protected growth of cutting-edge technologies in China slows down the U.S. and Japanese sectoral development also in the short term.

 If Chinese technologies become world market leaders, it will be hard for the USA, the EU and Japan to define and establish reliable and effective data protection criteria.

Certainly there are geoeconomic risks for the United States.

  In the medium term, we will record a Chinese monopoly on international standards, as well as a Chinese leadership on dual-use technologies, considering that the Chinese National Intelligence Law lays down that private or public companies shall provide access and support to the Armed Forces and to the intelligence Services for the collection of sensitive data and for their processing.

Furthermore, the United States, the EU and Japan could be negatively affected by the marketing of Chinese cutting-edge technologies, which would create their own markets and quickly replace “obsolete” or not well-interconnected products and systems.

There is also the possibility that, in the global market of AI surveillance, China may develop data collection models valid also for other countries, thus leading to a structural advantage for its own foreign intelligence.

We should also avoid underestimating the geopolitical effects resulting from China’s non-aggressive foreign policy, starting from Mao Zedong’s Three Worlds Theory (the First World was the USA and the Soviet Union; the Second World was the developed countries, satellites of both powers; the Third World was the “global peripheries” to be led by China) or the saving of often huge economic resources.

 In the last Middle East wars, the United States has spent a total of 7 trillion US dollars, which is more or less the same amount China has invested in Research & Development since 1994.

There is a fact, however, which is in contrast with the above.

Over the last five years both the U.S. and Chinese economies have grown significantly, but the wealth gap between the two countries has remained constant, even using the often misleading measure of GDP.

Moreover, the United States is still “richer” than China by about 7 trillion US dollars.

Hence, apart from the structural fallacy of these measures and putting aside statistical manipulations on both sides, China shall record a much faster development than its GDP to reach, at least, the United States.

China’s global technological victories are now well-known: its Micius satellites; some biotechnologies; hypersonic vehicles; energy technologies, including “green” ones; some AI networks and quantum computers, as well as quantum encryption and obviously the 5G.

 In other sectors, there is still substantial parity between the two countries.

The current U.S. geopolitics, with the usual cyclical return of isolationism, could unintentionally lead to the global expansion of Chinese technologies and to their progressive hegemony, if not worldwide at least in the Belt & Road area, in Africa and in some Asian regions.

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The global strategy of computer hacking

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Whoever operates on the Web and has even interesting or relevant data sooner or later will always be hacked by someone or by some organizations.

 Usually “economic” hackers take the data of interest from the victim’s network and resell it in the dark web, i.e. the system of websites that cannot be reached by normal search engines.

Currently, however, after the Bayonet operation of July 2017 in which many dark web areas were penetrated, we are witnessing a specialization of the dark web and an evolution of web espionage methods against companies and States.

 These operations which, in the past, were carried out by web amateurs, such as youngsters at home, are currently carried out by structured and connected networks of professional hackers that develop long-term projects and often sell themselves to certain States or, sometimes, to some international crime organizations.

As often happens in these cases, the dark web was born from research in the military field. In fact, in the 1990s, the Department of Defense had developed a covert and encrypted network that could permanently protect the communications of the U.S. espionage “operatives” who worked abroad.

Later the secret network became a non-profit network that could be used for the usual “human rights” and for protecting privacy, the last religion of our decadence.

 That old network of the State Department then intersected with the new TOR Network, which is the acronym of The Onion Router, the IT “onion” covering communication with different and often separable encryption systems.

 TOR lives on the Internet edge and it acts as the basic technology for its dark web.

 Like the “Commendatore” vis-à-vis Don Giovanni in Mozart’s opera.

 TOR, however, is a free browser that can be easily extracted from the Web.

Obviously, the more the anonymity of those who use TOR and go on the dark web is covered by effective encryption systems, the more unintentional signals are left when browsing the dark web.

Moreover, the farther you have to go, the more pebbles you need to go back, as in the Thumbelina fairy tale.

 TOR and the Dark Web were born to allow the communications of U.S. secret agents, but were later downgraded to “free” communication system to defend Web surfers from “authoritarian governments”. Currently the dark web hosts a wide underground market where drugs, stolen identities, child pornography, jihadist terrorism and all forms of illegal business are traded.

Moreover, if these dark web services are paid with uncontrollable cryptocurrencies, it is very difficult to track any kind of dark web operations.

Nowadays, about 65,000 URLs operate in the dark web, which means Internet websites and Universal Resource Locators that operate mainly via TOR.

A recent study of a company dealing with cybersecurity has demonstrated that about 15% of all dark web URLs facilitate peer-to-peer communication between users and websites usually by means of chat rooms or websites collecting images, pictures and photos, which are often steganographic means and transmit hidden and concealed texts, but also for the exchange of real goods via specialized websites for peer-to-peer trading that are also encrypted, as can easily be imagined.

 Moreover, a further study conducted by a U.S. communication company specialized in web operations has shown that at least 50% of the dark websites is, in fact, legal.

 This means they officially deals with things, people, data and pictures that, apparently, also apply to “regular” websites.

  In other words, the dark websites have been created by means of a regular request to the national reference office of ICANN, which grants the domains and registers the permitted websites, thus communicating them to the Californian cooperative that owns the web “source codes”, although not in a monopolistic way.

Currently all the large web organizations have a dark “Commendatore” in the TOR area, such as Facebook, and the same holds true for almost all major U.S. newspapers, for some European magazines but also for some security agencies such as CIA.

Nevertheless, about 75% of the TOR websites listed by the above stated IT consultancy companies are specialized URLs for trading.

 Many of these websites operate only with Bitcoins or with other types of cryptocurrencies.

Mainly illegal pharmaceuticals or drugs, items and even weapons are sold in the dark web. Said weapons are often advanced and not available in the visible and overt networks.

 Some URLs also sell counterfeit documents and access keys for credit cards, or even bank credentials, which are real but for subjects other than those for whom they were issued.

In 2018 Bitcoin operations were carried out in the dark web to the tune of over 872 million US dollars. This amount will certainly exceed one billion US dollars in late 2019.

It should be recalled that the total amount of money “laundered” in the world accounts for almost 5% of the world GDP, equal to 4 trillion US dollars approximately.

Who invented the Bitcoin?

 In 2011, the cryptocurrency was used for the first time as a term of trade only for drug traffickers operating in the dark web, mainly through a website called Silk Road.

 The alias used for those exchanges was called Satoshi Nakamoto, that was also filmed and interviewed, but was obviously another.

We should also recall web frauds or blackmails: for example, InFraud, a U.S. organization specialized in the collection, distribution and sale of stolen credit cards and other personal data.

Before being discovered, InFraud had illegally made a net gain of 530 million US dollars.

 Another group of illegal operators, Fin7, also known as Carbanak, again based in the United States, has collected over a billion US dollars on the web and has put in crisis, by blackmailing them, some commercial organizations such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Chipotle, a widespread chain of burritos and other typical dishes of Mexican cuisine.

 Obviously the introduction of new control and data processing technologies, ranging from 5G to biometric sensors, or of personal monitoring technologies, increases the criminal potential of the dark web.

Hence the dark web criminals will have an even larger mass of data from which to derive what they need.

 The methods used will be the usual ones, such as phishing, i.d. the fraudulent attempt to obtain or to deceive people into sharing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication possibly with a fake website, or the so-called “social engineering”, which is an online scam in which a third party pretends to be a company or an important individual in order to obtain the sensitive data and personal details of the potential victim,  in an apparently legal way, or blackmail by e-mail and finally the manipulation of credentials.

With a mass of additional data on their “customers”, the web criminals will be able to perfect their operations, thus making them quicker and more effective. Or the new web technologies will be able to accelerate the time needed for blackmail or compromise, thus allowing a greater number of frauds for more victims.

 Biometrics certainly expands the time for the use of data in the hands of cybercriminals. Facial detection or genetic and health data are stable, not to mention the poor security of data held by hospitals. Or we have to do with the widespread dissemination of genetic research, which will provide even more sensitive data to web swindlers.

 According to some recent analyses carried out by the specialized laboratories for the Web, 56% of the data most used by web criminals comes from the victims’ personal data, while 44% of the data used by swindlers comes from financial news.

 Moreover, specific types of credit cards, sold by geographical area, commercial type and issuing bank, can be bought in the dark web.

 85% of them are credit cards accredited for a bank ceiling, while 15% of “customers” asks for debit cards.

The web scammers, however, always prefer e-mail addresses even to passwords.

Furthermore, less than 25% of the 40,000 dark web files have a single title.

  In the “dark” web there are over 44,000 manuals for e-frauds, available for sale and often sold at very low prices.

The large and sometimes famous companies are the mainly affected ones. In 2018 the following companies were the target of cyberattacks in the United States: Dixus, a mobile phone company which was stolen 10 million files; the Cathay Pacific airline, with 9.4 million files removed, but also the Marriott’s hotel chain (500 million data/files removed) and finally Quora, a website of scientific documents and generic data. Over 45 million files were removed from Quora.

 How can we know whether we are the target of an attack from the Dark Web? There is certainly the presence of ransomware, such as the recent Phobos, which uses the Remote Desktop Protocols (RDP) that allow to control computers remotely.

 Then there is the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), which is a temporary block of the Web, apparently accidental, and finally there is the traditional malware, the “malicious” software that is used to disrupt the victims’ computer operations and collects the data present on their computers.

 However, the Dark Web ambiguity between common crime and the defence of “human rights” and safe communications in “authoritarian regimes” always remains.

The United States, Iran, China and other countries have already created a “fourth army”, composed only of hackers, that operates with cyberattacks against the enemies’ defence and civilian networks.

 The US Cyber Command, for example, is estimated to be composed of as many as 100,000 men and women, who operate 24 hours a day to hit enemy servers (and also allies’ ones, when they contain useful information).

Just think also of the private group Telecomix, which supported the 2011 Arab rebellions and, often, also the subsequent ones.

Also in these months both Telecomix and Anonymous are working to permit the free use of the Syrian computer network.

 There is often an operative interface between these groups and the Intelligence Agencies, which often autonomously acquire data from private networks, which, however, soon become aware of the State operations.

 There is also cyber-rebellion, which tries – often successfully – to strike at the victims’ data stored, by deleting them.

 DDoS, the most frequent type of attack, often uses a program called Low Orbit Ion Cannot (LOIC) which allows a large number of connections to be established simultaneously, thus leading to fast  saturation of the enemy server.

The attacking computers can be used remotely and some groups of hackers use thousands of computers simultaneously, called “zombie machines”, to hit the database in which they are interested to delete it or to remove its files.

 This type of “fourth army” can inflict greater damage on a target country than a conventional armed attack. The faster the attack, the easier is to identify the origin of the operation.

It is currently estimated that the “zombie” computers in the world are over 250 million – a greater network than any other today present in the military, scientific and financial world.

Hence a very dangerous military threat to critical infrastructure or to the economic resources of any country, no matter how “advanced” it is technologically or in terms of military Defence.

 There have been reports of hackers linked to global drug organizations, especially Mexican cartels, and to jihadist or fundamentalist terrorist groups.

Financial hacking, which often supports all these initiatives, remains fundamental.

 The South Korean intelligence services’ operative Lim was found “suicidal” after having purchased a program from the Milanese Hacking Team.

A necessary tool for these operations is often a briefcase containing circuits which mimic the towers of cellular repeaters and store in the briefcase itself all the data which is transferred via cetel or via the Internet Network.

The Central Bank of Cyprus, the German CDU Party and many LinkedIn accounts – a particularly favourite target of hackers – some NATO websites and, in Italy, some business and financial consultancy companies were attacked in this way.

 It is a completely new war logic, which must be analysed both at technical and operational levels and at theoretical and strategic levels.

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