Since the birth of the State of Israel in 1948, the young democracy–imported by force of arms into what Lord Balfour had defined in 1917 as the “Jewish national home” in Palestine – has distinguished itself for being permanently characterized by a lively, heated and polemical political debate.
Since its foundation the old Socialist Mapam Party of David Ben Gurion, the first Israeli Head of State, has clashed with the political-religious soul of fundamentalist Hebraism, that of the “Chassidim” who even denied that a State of Israel should be established, without waiting for the “coming of the Messiah”.
Over the decades, the Socialist spirit of the founders of the State of Israel has gradually faded and today two groups are in power, a right-wing one and a centrist one, the Likud and the Blue and White Party respectively. They are headed by two leading figures: the Likudis led by the historical and longstanding leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the “Blue and White Party” by the former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Benny Gantz.
They have been in power together since March last year, but their coexistence in the coalition government has evidently proved more difficult than expected, to the point that on December 22, 2020 a government crisis broke out and was declared officially. Israel’s Parliament, namely the Knesset was dissolved and a new election was called for next March, i.d. less than a year before the scheduled one.
Netanyahu is facing an investigation on corruption charges and has always maintained he is the victim of a politicised judiciary. He claimed:“the Likud Party does not want elections. We have always voted against these elections. Unfortunately, Benny Ganz has reneged on the agreements”.
Ganz, for his part, replied that the Prime Minister’s statements were “just lies” and that Netanyahu was aiming for early elections “to avoid being prosecuted”.
Hard and irreconcilable stances which – in a small country like Israel in which politics, institutions and society are strongly integrated – have had direct consequences also within the powerful Intelligence Community, which is so intrinsically connected to the other institutions, that it immediately feels the echoes of the political debate.
The Israeli “Intelligence Community” is based on three pillars of proven and acknowledged efficiency: Mossad, the National Intelligence Agency operating abroad with tasks of espionage and counter-terrorism; Shin Bet, the Internal Security Service in charge of counter-espionage and counter-terrorism within the national borders; Aman, the Military Intelligence Service.
The simple and pragmatic system entrusts to the two “civilian” Services geographically differentiated tasks, while Aman performs not only specific military intelligence tasks, but also strategic analysis ones and operates in close coordination with the two civilian Services.
In other words, Mossad and Shin Bet have not their own analysis departments and rely on their Aman colleagues, who are responsible for providing the government with reliable evaluation frameworks on all issues of strategic importance.
With a view to understanding how the system has functioned over the years, it suffices to go back to the 1973 Yom Kippur War when, in early October, Israel was attacked simultaneously and suddenly by Egypt and Syria, and for about ten days it had its back to the wall before regaining the initiative and succeeding in turning the tide of the conflict.
During those days all observers, at home and abroad, wondered why the renowned Israeli Intelligence Services had not been able to anticipate the enemy’s moves, despite having extensive and deep intelligence networks in the adversary’s camp.
The answer came from the “Agranat” Inquiry Commission, established by the then Head of State, Golda Meir, which ascertained that intelligence on the Egyptian and Syrian intentions and preparatory moves had actually been gathered, but that the Aman analysts deemed it not sufficient to declare a general alert and warn the government of the imminent danger.
The fiasco cost the Military Service Director his job.
Since then, the liaison and cooperation between the three Services has become closer and more efficient, with excellent results in terms of coordination between intelligence and government and Israel’s ability to effectively respond to internal threats or to those coming from foreign enemies.
All this until to date.
In recent weeks, in fact, reliable Israeli sources have reported that the Israeli Intelligence Services have got involved in the debate opposing Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Ganz on the vital strategic issue of Iran, not only on the decisions to be taken at economic and health levels, but also on the attitude to have towards Iran’s nuclear policy and Iranian interests in the Middle East, in general, and in the Lebanon and Syria, in particular.
While both the Mossad and Aman are waiting to see the first actions the new Biden Administration will take with regard to the Iranian nuclear programme, the Head of the Research Division of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, Dror Shalom, with the support of his Chief, Tamir Hayman – very close to Benny Ganz – has indicated to the government it would be desirable to have a “softer” attitude towards Iran, even suggesting Israel’s direct participation, alongside the United States, in the possible resumption of negotiations with Iran on limiting the nuclear ambitions of the Ayatollah’s regime.
Benny Ganz, who was Chief of Staff until 2015, has maintained a close relationship with Aman and the entire military establishment and called for a more moderate attitude towards Iran, also during the election campaign.
Aman‘s move has deeply irritated the Mossad leadership that, in line with Netanyahu’s position, wants to maintain a hard line vis-à-vis Iran, which is still considered a strategic threat to the State of Israel.
Almost as if he wanted to respond to the moves of his political opponent, Netanyahu has extended until next June the appointment of Yossi Cohen as Director of Mossad, who planned and organised the sequence of murders of Iranian scientists involved in nuclear research (on November27 last, Moshen Fakrizadeh, the Head of the nuclear programme, was assassinated on the outskirts of Tehran).
Yossi Cohen will be replaced by another figure loyal to Netanyahu, the current Head of Mossad‘s Operations Department, currently known only as “Mr.D”, who is expected to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps in the strategy of extremely harsh opposition to the Iranian nuclear programme, even in spite of the possible future moderate attitude of the new American President, Joseph Biden.
Therefore, while the Military Intelligence Service, which monopolizes the strategic analysis of the entire Israeli Intelligence Community, takes the field in support of the foreign policy of the centrist candidate in the upcoming elections, Benny Ganz, Mossad sides decisively with his opponent, the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is an advocate of an increasingly harsh attitude towards Iran’s nuclear dream and its expansionist aims in Syria, the Lebanon and Iraq.
Therefore Mossad keeps on planning future eliminations of Iranian scientists and providing the Armed Forces with accurate data on the Iranian positions in Syria and on the targets to be attacked. In this regard, last December the Chief of Staff of Tsahal (Israel Defense Forces), Avin Kochavi, stated that the Iranian military presence has been progressively reduced thanks to targeted bombings.
Aman “prefers” to continue cyberattacks on Iran with its “Unit 8200”, along the lines of the successful cyberattack on the control system of the Iranian nuclear centrifuges carried out years ago with the inoculation of the “Stuxnet” virus in the adversary system.
An all-Israeli paradox: aggressive civilians and moderate military.
It is unfortunate, however, that this paradox is not part of a confidential political dialectic, but has entered by force even the election campaign.
High-Altitude Espionage (Spy Balloon) and India’s National Security
Throughout the nineteenth century, balloons were a vital tool for obtaining intelligence. Since then, their value has drastically decreased. In order to spy on the Soviet Union in the 1950s, the United States utilised high-altitude balloons (that the Soviets complained about and subsequently shot them down). The U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance plane, (which was also shot down) and the Corona reconnaissance satellites, (the first of many generations of spy satellites) that many nations utilise today, succeeded in replacing balloons. Now that a Chinese balloon has flown above the United States, serious worries are being expressed.
During the first two weeks of February, the Chinese spy balloon saga that concerned the United States, Canada, and rest of the world seemed to have come to an end. The four balloons, or “high-altitude objects,” as they were officially referred to, were shot down by American fighter aircraft.
Similar to airships, surveillance balloons are equipped with sensors, cameras, or communication equipment to track and gather information. The spy balloons can either be anchored to the ground or can float at a great height, giving them the ability to take extensive pictures of their surroundings. Safety and monitoring, process sensing, climatology, and disaster response are all possible uses for the collected data.
Among the many uses of balloon surveillance equipment by spies are the following:
SIGINT: The intelligence community can use communication signals, such as voice and data transmissions, to intercept and analyse signals intelligence (SIGINT), which enables the collection of information on foreign governments, military forces, and other organisations. SIGINT is typically collected using balloons fitted with specialised sensors and equipment.
GEOINT: Spy Balloons collect geospatial information (GEOINT) in order to create detailed maps and photographs of the ground and track changes over time.
HUMINT: Balloons can be used to acquire human intelligence (HUMINT) to keep an eye on people, groups, and activities on the ground.
ELINT: Balloons enable the intelligence community to intercept and analyse signals from foreign military and other electronic equipment to learn more about their capabilities and intentions. This is known as electronic intelligence (ELINT).
Balloons were employed during the Cold War for psychological operations, or PSYOP, to drop pamphlets or books. In the 1950s, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) deployed millions of hot air balloons off West Germany’s coast to drift through the Iron Wall with their prized cargo, George Orwell’s book Animal Farm (1945).
The usage of balloons for espionage operations and surveillance is not hidden from the world. Today, China adopted the earlier existing technology of balloons in its advanced version to fulfil its own intelligence needs. According to sources, US intelligence authorities think the recently discovered Chinese spy balloon is part of a vast surveillance operation managed by the Chinese military.
Such practices of China and the balloon system leaves an important question on India’s national security. A similar balloon like the one in America was sighted in January 2022 over the Andaman Nicobar tri-service command by the Indian forces last year. “But soon it flew off. These advances sparked conversations about some rethinking of the tactics to counter emerging dangers like spy balloons, ” said by former DG of DRDO. Even if such a balloon isn’t armed, it can gather private information about vital infrastructure, such as the activities of the armed troops near the border, in the islands, or anywhere else on the mainland, and test India’s capacity to recognise aerial surveillance gadgets.
China’s stance on the balloons were that it was a weather balloons, however the high resolution cameras could serve for the purpose of stationary Surveillance. Spy balloons, however, are difficult to shoot down. Elevated targets are inaccessible to anti-aircraft guns that are mounted on the ground. The fired bullets from the ground may cause casualties or injuries. Only a small number of fighter jets have the ability to launch an air-to-air missile from a height of 20 km which could quite expensive. Spy Balloons might make it easier for China’s military to collect electromagnetic emissions that reveal a weapon system’s capabilities when compared to using sophisticated satellite systems positioned at higher altitudes.
India has to improve its intelligence and counterintelligence capabilities in light of the latest incident. Sino-Indian ties are already fraught with uncertainty, so failing to recognise and address new dangers, especially those in the grey area, would have serious consequences. New Delhi needs to improve its technological proficiency and work with nations that share its interests.
Data collection today has become a very important part of a state’s strategies. Being unaware of such actions in its own backyard would have negative effects on India, given the tensions between the two countries. Although, advancement of the technology has led to blurring of the geographical border lines India needs to be rigorously vigilant to such espionage attempts especially near its borders and critical infrastructure.
Maritime Cybersecurity: A Potential Threat to India’s National Security
India has a huge coastline of 7516.6km comprising 13 major ports (including one private port) and more than 200 minor ports across the coastline. It is a very known fact that the maritime sector is very crucial for India’s security, stability, economy, and sustainable development. India conducts around 70 percent of its total trade by value through the sea. India is strategically placed in the Indian Ocean, which gives it greater access to trade with the world’s major shipping routes. India’s seaborne trade has grown at a rate that is twice the 3.3% rate experienced globally. India is now focusing on strengthening its maritime sector through the upgradation of safety and security standards at the ports, enhancing port capacity and operations, and automation. It is placing emphasis on automation and technology upgradation through projects like SAGAR and Sagarmala. With digitalization in place in almost all the port operations and in the surveillance of the maritime waters, as shown in figure 1, the maritime domain is vulnerable to cyber threats ashore and afloat.
Figure.1 Technology in the Maritime Sector
With Information and Communication Technology (ICT) coming into use, increasing reliance on seaways, and the growing importance of the data as a weapon in the hands of the state, all these pave the need for better cybersecurity management systems in the maritime sector.
The maritime business, its ships, and its cyber environment are all protected by a variety of tools, policies, security concepts, safeguards, guidelines, risk management techniques, actions, training, best practices, assurance, and technologies.
Maritime cyber risk can be referred to as the extent to which the technology in use could be attacked, that could result in the loss or compromise of information.
Pirates and opposing nations have been a menace to the maritime transportation business for thousands of years, but as the sector has developed and technology has been more thoroughly integrated for enhanced efficiency, so too has the magnitude of possible cyber threats. Now, even using something as simple as a USB flash drive, or even an unsecured Wi-Fi, the hacker can get access to the critical systems of the vessel, thereby obstructing the entire port operations. For example, a suspected ransomware attack on the Management Information System (MIS) crippled the operations of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Mumbai, in 2017 and again in 2022.
Though the primary motive behind cyber threats is profiteering, there are several aspects that motivate a cybercriminal to conduct a cyberattack on the port or vessel operations. This includes espionage, activism, terrorism, warfare, and others.
The various kinds of cyberattacks on the maritime sector involves malware, trojans, botnets, advanced persistent threats, ghost shipping attack, cryptocurrency hijacking, and other. In addition to these cyber threats, the maritime domain is vulnerable to cyber terrorism as well. The awareness in the maritime sector over cyber terrorism is very minimal or negligible, with very little emphasis given to it. Chinese cyber activity is a major security threat to India. China is also using cyber technology in its South China Sea Anti–Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy. The A2/AD strategy denies freedom of movement and navigation to rival powers by increasing defense systems that threaten their ships/submarines.
The technologies like the Automatic Identification System (AIS), ECDIS, GPS, information systems, Industrial Control Systems, and other operational technologies have played a crucial role in enhancing the efficiency of port and vessel operations. Nevertheless, these technologies are of no exemption to cyberattacks as every technology comes up with its own loopholes. For example, the adoption of AIS is compulsory for any vessel to ensure its safe navigation, but as it is unencrypted and unauthenticated, the maritime sector is vulnerable to spoofing, water holing, social engineering, and other cyberattacks. It is also important to identify the human role in operating such technologies, as it is noted that human error and equipment flaws are primary reasons behind the success of these cyberattacks.
Maintaining the integrity of supporting systems, protecting ship systems from physical assault, and making the maritime sector resilient to both internal and external threats are all critical. Protection from various cyberattacks is necessary to prevent a breach of the network and its systems. Proper countermeasures and in-depth defense strategies must be deployed for each attack to prevent an attack from taking advantage of a flaw or vulnerability in the technology.
Primarily, it is important to promote awareness among the staff or the crew to identify cyber threats and on responding to such threats and, for example, alerting the officials if any malicious or unusual mail or notification is identified in the system.
Block chain technology can be an efficient solution as it allows for a continuous monitoring system and provides real-time status on the ship’s security. It also enables secure communication and storage of data in the control centers. It helps in avoiding loss of data and data modifications by unauthorized users.
The AIS and GNSS systems must adopt encryption and authentication measures which are given zero attention to this date.
With the vast coastline, it is not possible for India to secure the coastline through manpower. Israel based startups, in order to effortlessly secure the maritime IoT ecosystem, Cydome Security offers a cyber solution to handle this precise problem. The company’s solution is intended for systems with links to coastal infrastructure as well as guidance, sensors, control, and command.
Fighting fire with fire is one way that organizations can aid in stopping such intrusions: AI-driven security systems can successfully foresee and thwart AI-driven threats in real-time with appropriate data.
It is crucial to note right away that there is no magic solution for marine cybersecurity. An interconnected era has been retrofitted with a history of outdated shipboard equipment, leading to a shattered and vulnerable maritime environment.
It is in India’s interest to take a leading role in negotiations and developments with global countries, given its crucial position in the Indian Ocean Region and the need to protect itself against China’s growing threat in that region. In order to take shipping on to the next level of connectedness, strong cybersecurity is imperative.
CIA’s Supremacy in Global Spy Ring and Hammering Russian Intelligence Since Cold War
I Doubt Therefore I Survive”- Michael Richard Daniell Foot, British Intelligence Historian.
Since world war US always had upper hand in conducting sub/ unconventional warfare especially Covert Psyops, Americans have always heavily invested in sinister designs- the famous MKultra progaramme of using high psychotic drugs- LSD to psychologically weaken Human’s mental state and force confessions out of them. Also, Its aim was to develop mind-controlling drugs for use against the Soviet bloc. The project attempted to produce a perfect truth drug for interrogating suspected Soviet spies during the Cold War, and to explore other possibilities of mind control. CIA’s Subversion techniques and plans into the Soviet’s camp and other communist camps are also one of the greatest security headache for Soviets. The problem was that Soviets espionage/ Intelligence temperament was not that ruthless, hard and developed as CIA’s. Eventually, this became a reason of how and why US’s psychological operations substantially harmed Russian/Soviets’ influence too much. If we leave Vietnam, the scores of US in espionage circles, activities of de-installing regimes and squeezing Soviets sphere of influence and even now squeezing Russia’s sphere of influence are much higher than of Russia. Further, this also becomes a strong reason why Russians were not able to swiftly retort to these activities in a fashion in which US does or the tit for tat temperament was not proactively seen from the Russian or Soviet’s side. In other words, they struggled to match and register covert successes in countering US’s influence in substantial sense. A story of one of the greatest female speies and phenomenal covert operations led by US and west which set the stage rolling for “espionage” in global politics.
We mostly idealize male as spies, because of their endurance and the tradition or culture of talking only about male spies, the amount of glorification/popularization which a male spy gets is somewhere reduced to less when the story of female spy comes in. Though the mindset is now changing and people are now equally focusing on both the cases, However, it has been observed that stories of female spies are still struggling to get glorified or talked about in some parts of the world. The tides changed their directions when a female spy- Virginia Hall, regarded as one of the greatest female spy whose contribution led to Allied Forces Victory in World War-II. In America she is regarded as one of America’s greatest heroes.
She was born on 6th April 1906 in Maryland, attended Roland Park country school, later for her higher studies she went to Barnard College(Columbia University) where she learned French, Italian and German and later moved to Geroge Washington University to peruse Economics. Virginia Hall’s life was filled with roller coaster rides with dramatic twists and turns. She had a dream to become the first female Ambassador of the United States. She even started to work towards her dream by taking up the job of a clerk at the consular office in Warsaw Poland and later in Turkey. She didn’t know that a major setback is still waiting for her. In an accident she lost her left leg, However, this accident didn’t slow down Hall’s dream, She was firm and determined to achieve her dreams and serve for her country.
Making of A Spy
Later, She applied for Foreign Services and her application in the foreign services was turned down because of disability and her gender(Females were rarely hired at that time). Repeatedly her applications were turned down over and over. However as usual her determination and refusal to comprise with her dreams were fueling/ not letting her dreams die. Later she moved to France for employment, where During World War-II in February 1940 (the early period of war) she become an ambulance driver for France Army, after the defeat of French she again moved to Spain for employment where she accidentally met British Intelligence Official name Geroge Bellows. Bellows got amazed by her communication and thinking skills and gave her the number of a “friend” who was working in Special Operations Executive(SOE), United Kingdom secret operations unit in World War-II. After getting in touch with “friend” she joined the SOE in April 1941.
The First Job
She gets the training in SOE and sent to France by France Section of SOE. She was given a cover of a reporter/ journalist for New York Post which enabled her to interview people, gather information from surroundings which can be useful for intelligence/ military officials of Allied Forces. Gradually she became an expert and learned how to arrange contacts, logistics, and who to bribe to get information and get the required work done. She also learned how to distribute and supervise wireless sets among agents and the network of SOE. Despite the French occupation by the Germans, she managed a long tenure as a spy-transmitting information to London about German which highlights her operational brilliance and. She also sensed danger and refused to attend a meeting of SOE Agents and later French Police raided the meeting place and SOE agents got arrested.
The Journey with Americas
After successfully planning an escape of the SOE agents from jail, when Hall returned, she was declined to serve in France because she and SOE networks were almost compromised, and sending her again would be too much risk. After this, Hall got in the contact with OSS(predecessor of CIA) and joined American Intelligence at the low rank. She was sent to France again by OSS. This time she was given a cover of poor peasant women, she used to roam around the various places and often changed her disguise to a milkmaid and prepared Cheese and sold cheese to German Soldiers. Hall was tasked to prepare resistance force known as Maquis and set up Anti- Nazi The environment in France, which would help Allied Forces during Invasion. Hall continued to gather information about German Soldier’ locations and finance Maquis and help to set up resistance force which later helped Allied Forces in planning effective Invasions- Operation Jedburgh. No doubt with an artificial leg, she ruled the helm of Spy Networks, and in those times when females were rarely hired for jobs. German described her as “Most Dangerous Allied Spy” She successfully established Anti Nazi resistance which eventually led to the collapse of the Nazi and victory of Allied Forces, It was Hall with whom help Allied Forces were victories over the Axis Powers effectively. Hall broke all the stereotypes in the spying network who believe that Females are not that smart witted to survive in the Intelligence Word. She was awarded Distinguished Service Cross in 1945 and earlier she was also awarded prestigious British Medal. Later She becomes the first female to work in CIA, she was given desk jobs in CIA and due to her age she couldn’t perform well in the tests which were mandatory in CIA and after a brief period of time she resigned and took retirement at the age of 60. She lived with her husband Paul Barnesville, Maryland, until her death in 1982. She always refused to talk/write about her World War-II or in-field experience which led to the curiosity of many. The way she believed in her instincts, intuition, and with the brilliant skill set despite one leg has made her one of the greatest spies of all time.
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