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The old and new techniques of Dezinformatsjia

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Disinformation – i.e. what the Soviet intelligence services called Dezinformatsjia – is at the origin of the phenomenon that we currently define – with oversimplification -fake news, spread to support or not voters’ or consumers’ specific choices, obviously both nationally and internationally. Nowadays the “political market” is globalized exactly like the market of goods and services and hence all the tools available to a country and to its political elite need to be used.

Certainly the intelligence agencies’ room for manoeuvre is currently much wider than it was at the time of the Cold War. Hence many mass manipulation techniques, which in the past were specifically political, are now also commercial, behavioral, cultural, scientific or pseudo-scientific. They are closely interwoven and currently the electoral or political manipulation operations often stem from commercial marketing techniques.

Dezinformatsjia, however, is always a “weak to strong” operation, i.e. a series of strategic and information actions that try to prevent the use of force by those who are tactically superior.

Those who have not enough missiles targeted against the enemy,  or have not the maximum military efficiency, faces the opponent with psychological and propaganda techniques, which cost less and – by their very nature -do not trigger a conventional military countermove by the enemy against whom they are targeted. However they can trigger an equal and opposite disinformation by the target country.

These are all “ironic” operations, in the etymological sense of the word. Irony comes from the Greek word eironèia, i.e. “fiction, dissimulation, or to say the opposite of what you think”.

Just think of the great demonstrations against “Euromissiles” in the early 1980s -not foreseen by the Soviets, which put a strain on the huge intelligence network of the Warsaw Pact in Europe – or of the myth of the opening to dissent in the era of Khrushchev’s “thaw”. Or just think – as maintained by Anatoly Golytsin, the former KGB officer who defected to the USA – of the schisms between the USSR and Mao’s China, or of the transformation of the Komintern into Kominform, in which also Yugoslavia secretly participated, even after the famous schism between Tito and Stalin.

According to Golytsin, a senior KGB officer, all the divisions within the Communist world were a huge and very long sequence of fake news. Westerners never believed him, but the predictive power of his book, New Lies for Old, published in the USA in 1984, is still extraordinary.

He foresaw the “liberalization” of the Soviet system and even its collapse, so as to be later reborn in a new guise. All true, until today.

But what is really Dezinformatsjia, i.e. the technique that is at the origin of fake news and of all current psychopolitical operations?

For the KGB experts, disinformation is linked to the criterion of “active operations” (aktivinyyemeropriatia), i.e. the manipulation and control of mass media; the actual disinformation, both at written and oral levels; the use of Communist parties or covert organizations. In this case, just think of all the organizations “for peace” or for friendship “among peoples”, as well as of radio and TV broadcasts.

“Active measures” even include kompromat, i.e. the “compromising material”, as well as damaging and disparaging information about Western agents or politicians’ involvement in sex, illegal and drugs affairs. This information is collected and used strategically across all domains, with a view to creating negative publicity.

An active kind of measure that we have recently seen at work against President Trump. Nevertheless it has been implemented by his fellow countrymen, who, however, do not seem to be very skillful in the art of desinformatsjia.

It should be recalled, however, that currently a fundamental technique is to manipulate the opponents’ economies or to support guerrilla groups or terrorist organizations.

Manipulation of economies through statistical data or governments’ “covert” operations on stock markets, while support for terrorist groups, even those far from the State ideology, is provided through an intermediary that may be another State or a large company, or through bilateral financial transactions outside markets.

The Red Brigades, for example, initially trained in Czechoslovakia by passing through the Austrian woods at the border, owned by the Feltrinelli family.

When the publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli was found dead near an Enel trellis in Segrate, but long before the Italian police knew who had died on that trellis, the Head of the KGB center in Milan hastily went to report to the Soviet embassy in Rome.

Many friendly and enemy States, however, used right-wing and left-wing terrorism against the Italian Republic.

The goal was clear: to destroy or annihilate a dangerous economic competitor, especially in Africa and in the East.

Dezinformatsjia, however, was institutionally targeted against what the Soviets called “the primary enemy”, namely the United States.

Under Stalin’s power – who was dialectically “superseded” by Khrushchev, always in contrast with true innovators – “active measures” also included assassination.

I do not rule out at all that, in particular cases, this tradition has been recovered even after the death of the so-called “little father”.

As we can see, “active measures” -namely Dezinformatsjia – still has much to do with contemporary world.

If we only talk about fake news, we cannot understand why it is spread, while if it is interpreted in the framework of the old – but still topical – disinformation strategy, everything gets clearer.

In the Soviet regulations of the 1960s, every KGB foreign branch had to devote at least 25% of its forces to “active measures”, while each residence had an officer specifically trained at Dezinformatsjia.

It should be noted that, in 1980, CIA estimated the total cost of “active measures” at 3 billion US dollars, at least.

It was the real struggle for hegemony that the USSR was fighting, considering that the missile, nuclear and conventional balance of the two forces on the field did not permit a real military clash.

However, the result of the final clash would have been very uncertain.

Nowadays every State produces fake news, as well as ad hoc opinion movements, and spreads agents of influence in the media, in universities, businesses and governments.

Hence the globalization of disinformation, not simply fake news, is the phenomenon with which we really have to deal.

During the Cold War, the Soviet apparata spread the fake news of the CIA and FBI involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, while the East German apparata often spread news about Western politicians being members of Nazi hierarchies or about the pro-Nazi sympathies of Pope Pius XI.

It should also be noted that Andropov, who was elected General Secretary of the CPSU in 1982, had been the Head of the KGB First Chief Directorate, precisely the one that coordinated and invented all “active measures”.

At the time, Western newspapers were filled with news about Andropov as a “modernizer”, a reader of the American literature classics and a jazz lover.

Was it Dezinformatsjia? Obviously so, but no one answered that question, thus raising expectations – among the NATO European Member States’ peoples – about a sure “democratization” of the Soviet Union in the future.

Andropov, however, secretly believed that the United States would unleash a nuclear war in the short term against the USSR. Hence this was the beginning of a long series of Dezinformatsjia hard operations right inside the United States.

Nevertheless, following the rules of “active measures”, they were not specifically targeted against the US military and political system, but against other targets apparently unrelated to the primary aim: the US responsibility for the (impossible) creation of the AIDS virus or – as the Soviet Dezinformatsjia always claimed – the “unclear” role played by CIA and FBI in the assassinations of J.F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King or even the death of Elvis Presley.

A specific product for each public.

Hence a fake storytelling is created – not a series of objective data – around a theme that is instead real, so as to reach the goal of a generic defamation of the primary enemy, where there is always a “bad guy” (obviously the US government and its Agencies) and a “good guy”, that is the American people that must be freed from the bad guy holding them prisoner.

According to the theories of the great Russian scholar of myths, tribal rituals, folktales and fairy storytelling, V.I. Propp, whose text “Morphology of the Folktale” was published in Leningrad in 1928, this is exactly one of the primary narrative elements of the folktale.

As in the case of  KGB “active operations”, Propp’s scheme envisages some phases of construction of the myth or of the folktale: 1) the initial balance, i.e. the phase in which everything is devoid of dangers; 2) the breaking of the initial balance and hence the creation of the motive for the subsequent action; 3) the vicissitudes of the hero, who is the one who “restores order” after the natural twists and turns; 4) the restoration of balance, namely the conclusion.

Hence the mythical and fairy mechanism concerns the archetypes of the human psyche, as described by Carl Gustav Jung.

This is the reason why, despite their evident counter factuality, propaganda constructions work well and last well beyond the time for which they were thought and designed.

Active operations are modeled on the natural parameters with which the human mind works. When well done, said operations do not use abstract theories, cultural or sectoral models. They speak to everyone, because they act on the unconscious.

It is no coincidence that currently the archetypal branding – i.e. the marketing system based on the 12 Jungian archetypes – is increasingly widespread.

It was created in 2001, several years after the fall of the USSR and in the phase in which the New World Order was strengthening.

Propp’s four elements work just as an “active measure”, based on four categories: 1) mastery and stability; 2) belonging; 3) change; 4) independence.

It is easy to verify how these four categories of modern marketing (and of the archetypal tale) fully apply  both to disinformation operations, which can often favor one of the four elements compared to the others, and to the actual political marketing.

Hence politics, intelligence services’ propaganda and marketing currently work on the basis of the same deep psychic mechanisms.

In the Soviet tradition, there is also a certain tendency to use Ivan Pavlov’s psychology in the field of intelligence.

Pavlov developed the theory of “conditioned reflexes”, i.e. the psychic mechanism that is produced by a conditioning stimulus.

The experiment of the dog and the bell is, in fact, well-known and needs no elaboration.

It should be noted, however, that the conditioned reflex is triggered precisely when the food announced by the sound of the bell is no longer there, while the dog shows all the typical reactions of the animal in the presence of food.

Here, the “active measures” of disinformation create a conditioned reflex by connecting a country, a leader or a political choice to something universally negative which, however, has nothing to do with the primary object.

This connection becomes instinctive, automatic, obvious and almost unconscious.

Just think of the automatism – once again artfully created – between the Italian intelligence services and the so-called “strategy of tension”.

The goal of perfect Dezinformatsjiais to create a Pavlovian conditioned reflex that works immediately and naturally as a Freudian “complex”.

Nevertheless, with a view to being successful, every fake news or message that is part of an “active measure” must have at least a grain of truth – otherwise it immediately appears as an opinion or ideology, which is soon rejected by the subject.

This means they can be discussed and maybe accepted rationally, but the “active measure” must mimic an immediate, natural and pre-rational reaction. Otherwise it becomes traditional propaganda or part of an open debate, exactly the opposite of what it has to do.

Hence the message must be processed with extreme care to reach the goal of any disinformation operation: to convey in the public “enemy” and / or in its ruling classes a message that – when well done – fits perfectly and unknowingly into the communication mechanisms of the “enemy”.

Western experts call this procedure “weaponization of information” or “fabrication of information”.

Nowadays, however, all information is distorted by the manipulation about the aims it must achieve – just think of the Italian and European debate on immigration from Africa.

Hence also the West uses the weaponization of information- but, probably, it still uses it badly.

Hence we will never witness the end of fake news – which  have always existed – but simply its refinement as real natural “states of mind” or, more often, as immediate reactions, such as those connected to a conditioned reflex artfully created.

In this case, there is no longer difference between reality and imagination.

Fake news as fiction – we could say.

If this is the new battlefield of psywar, it will be good for Italy – even autonomously from the NATO center that deals with “strategic information” – to equip itself with a structure, within the intelligence agencies, developing and carrying out specific disinformation operations.

For example, with reference to the Italian companies operating abroad, to Italy’s general image in the rest of Europe and to its action in Africa or in the rest of the world.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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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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Intelligence

The Failures of 737 Max: Political consequences in the making

Sisir Devkota

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Last month, as Boeing scaled new contracts for the 737 Max, horrific remains in Bishoftu, from the crashed Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, witnessed the Dubai Air show in despair; the plane manufacturer had sealed another 70 contracts for the future. Still, the dreaded MCAS software is looking for a resolution at last. Two of the fatal Max 8 crashes have been reportedly caused by censor failures, accounted to software malfunctions. Hundred and fifty-seven people died inside flight 302, only months after Lion Air 610 crashed into the Java Sea with 180 passengers on board.

Both accidents are predisposed towards the highly sophisticated Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), an algorithm that prevents 737 aircrafts from steep take offs; or de-escalates the vehicle at its own will. However, there is more to Boeing accidents than just a co-incidental MCAS failure. Largely, it is only a consequence of political and economic interests.

While Boeing’s European competitor, Airbus, relaunched its A320’s in 2010, there were fewer changes in the operating manual. Airbus 320 Neo, as it was re-named, had larger engines on the wings, primarily designed for fuel efficiency. The Neo models claimed a whopping 7% increment in the overall performance; inviting thousands of orders worldwide. Consequently, Boeing’s market share of more than 35% was immediately under threat after Lufthansa introduced it for the first time in 2016. Despite of major competition from the A320, 737’s lack of ground clearance space, hindered for a major engine configuration. Nevertheless, Boeing responded to the mechanical challenge and introduced the MCAS for flight safety. As bigger engines in 737 was increasing the take-off weight, the MCAS would automatically re-orient the aeroplane’s steepness to avoid stall. Boeing’s lust to stay afloat in the competitive market, led by a robotic intrusion in flight controls did not fare too long. Flight investigations claimed that although Lion Air 610 was gaining altitude in normal circumstances, the MCAS read it wrongly; hence, pulling the aircraftlower, beyond the control of physical pilots. It was a design flaw, motivated by the need to overcome dwindling sales profits.

Neither is Airbus enjoying smooth performances over the years; it however has not performed as miserly as the 737. Indigo, a major Indian airline is the largest importer of A320 Neo; despite new technologies, it has been warned of repeating problems like momentary engine vibration. Months back, an Indigo flight stalled on its way from Kolkata to Pune, before being forced to return to its departure. Unlike the Boeing 737, Airbus malfunctioning does not lead to a major disaster. There is an element of mechanical interference available to pilots flying the European prototypes. Still, it is not everything that separates the two giants.

The Ethiopian disaster, scrutinized Boeing’s leadership at home; a congressional hearing concluded that after repeated attempts to warn the airline manufacturer to present information as transparently as possible, deaf ears have persisted. As the statement read, Boeing was hiding significant information away from airline companies and pilots. While it plans to resume sales in 2020, progress has been waning, in terms of improving the knowledge behind operating the 737 Max. The investigative hearing concluded that Boeing was manufacturing flying coffins.

Unsurprisingly, there is little amusement towards the development of airline sales around the world. Visibly, there is a band of companies, preferring the American manufacturer to the other. The politics is simple; it is merely about technological superiority, but more related with subsidies and after sales services. Regardless of whether Boeing will scrap the 737 Max or improve the software configuration, doubts have presided over choosing to fly altogether with choosing to fly a specific model. Air travel could not be safer in 2020. That claim is in serious trouble.

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