December 10, 2018

Alleged hybrid warfare against Pakistan

Comment by a reader on the above article

The author's dissemination on the alleged hybrid warfare against Pakistan betrays a paranoid mind-set that has been the bane of most Pakistani commentators. 

Pakistan is a country that has seen numerous tinpot dictators, who blamed their own downfall on various "conspiracies" hatched by unseen enemies, when the more prosaic explanation would be their own incompetence and corruption led to their demise! 

The author says, on one hand, the country is divided (as always) and is rife with historical, ethnic, religious, socio-economic, and geographic differences, but urges all Pakistani institutions to join forces to fend off the alleged hybrid attacks on a failing state like Pakistan. 

The USA or other forces, supposedly hostile to Pakistan, don't have to do anything because the stupidity and ignorance of Pakistanis will ensure that it will self-destruct of its own accord. A former Pakistani diplomat in The Dawn newspaper said as much a while back. 

Pakistanis are past masters at self-destruction without needing the excuse of “unseen” enemies doing the needful! 

When the masses of Pakistan are mostly illiterate, ignorant or uneducated, and rely on rumour-mongering passing off as authentic news, how does the author think his country is going to fend off the metaphorical enemies?

Sonny Azak

December 09, 2018

Google and Facebook's billion reasons to keep Beijing happy
Bill Bishop

The Information reported on how the Chinese government is helping Google connect with small Chinese companies to advertise their products on Google's global platform:

On the 20th floor of a nondescript office building in China’s southern boomtown of Shenzhen, employees from small businesses such as electronic-component makers can often be seen in a colorful bright office checking out big TV screens displaying Google Search, Gmail and YouTube — which are otherwise blocked in China...

They are in one of more than two dozen Google Export Experience Centers scattered around China. Their purpose: to show Chinese advertisers what the internet looks like beyond the strict censorship of the Great Firewall and get them to promote their businesses with Google...

While everyone from Google employees to regulators debate whether Google should relaunch its censored Chinese search engine, the company is continuing to grow its advertising business in China with substantial help from local Chinese governments and Communist Party officials.

The officials shower the centers with incentives like free rent, according to government statements and people familiar with the deals, and promote them through elaborate ribbon-cutting ceremonies. The centers help Google build political goodwill by aligning with China’s economic goals to boost exports from small businesses.

Facebook has a similar businessselling ads to Chinese firms marketing outside the PRC. According to The Information's reporting, those sales for Google and Facebook are massive:

All in, Google is generating between $1 billion and $2 billion a year in China, former Google employees estimate, about 2% of parent company Alphabet’s total revenues last year...

Facebook is even bigger. The social network could generate between $5 billion and $7 billion from China this year, estimates Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group.

Go deeper:

Google Shut Out Privacy and Security Teams From Secret China Project. (The Intercept)Google and Tencent Secretly Explore Cloud-Computing Cooperation. (The Information)China Steps up Nationwide Crackdown to Silence Twitter Users — the Unmediated Story. (China Change)

Erdoğan: Ideological but not Suicidal

By Burak BekdilDecember 7, 2018

Recep Tayyip Erdogan image via Vimeo

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,030, December 7, 2018

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Turkey’s radical shift in crises, first with Russia and then with America, shows that while President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can be confrontational along ideological lines, he is not suicidal. He cannot afford to risk a punishing economic crisis that might cost him his power. 

Is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a devout ideologue or a pragmatist? The answer is both. Perhaps a more relevant question is: When is he a devout ideologue and when a pragmatist?

In late 2010, at the peak of the diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel after the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, a senior Israeli diplomat asked this author: “Is there a way to push Erdoğan from blind (anti-Zionist) ideology to rationalism so that we can normalize our relations?” My answer was, “Costs… If a crisis costs him economically, then politically, he will switch from ideology to reason.” A comment on that conclusion made by a friend of the diplomat explains why Ankara and Jerusalem have had erratic but deeply hostile relations since 2009: “Israel is a powerful country but not big enough to make Turkey pay a price for its antagonism.” After a theoretical normalization of diplomatic ties in December 2016, Turkey and Israel once again downgraded their diplomatic missions in May 2018.

In 2009, then-PM Erdoğan (or his Islamist/ideologue self) boldly challenged Beijing when more than 100 Muslim Uighurs were killed in clashes with China’s security forces. This was at a time when Turkey’s economy was performing spectacularly and posting high growth rates year after year. Championing his “leader of the umma” persona, Erdoğan called the deaths of Uighur Muslims “a genocide.”

Today, with Turkey’s economy badly ailing over record-high inflation and interest rates and the national currency having lost a third of its value against major western currencies since the beginning of the year, a much different Erdoğan is on display: Not a word against Beijing from the “leader of the umma” in the face of a crackdown in which China has forcibly put hundreds of thousands of devout ethnic Uighurs in “rehabilitation camps.” Erdoğan has also rejected relocating Uighur militants fighting in northern Syria into camps on Turkish soil. Why Erdoğan’s reasonable self all of a sudden instead of his ideological self, which champions the Uighur cause? Simple: He needs loans, investment, and more trade with China.

In September and October 2015, Turkey started to complain of airspace violations by Russian military aircraft along its border with Syria. It announced that it had changed the rules of engagement with foreign aircraft violating Turkish airspace: Such (Russian) aircraft would be shot down. In November of that year, the Turkish military did indeed shoot down a Russian Su-24, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace. Then-PM Ahmet Davutoğlu announced that the same rules of engagement would be applied if there were further violations. Erdoğan boldly demanded of the Russians, “What business do you have in Syria? You don’t even have a border with Syria.”

An angry Vladimir Putin immediately installed Russian air defense systems in northern Syria in a not-so-subtle move to threaten Turkish military aircraft flying over Syrian skies. The Turkish military had to stop flights in Syrian airspace. Putin also announced scores of punishing economic sanctions on Turkey and Turkish companies doing multi-billion dollar businesses in Russia. The sanctions included bans on Turkish exports and a travel ban that quickly hurt Turkey’s tourist industry. More threateningly, Putin said the Russian sanctions could include “military retaliation,” reminding the Turks of their less-than-glorious military past with pre-Soviet Russia.

It took a mere six months for Erdoğan to move from demanding an apology from Moscow to personally apologizing to Putin. In June 2016, Turkey and Russia “normalized” their frozen diplomatic ties. Since then, Ankara has committed to acquiring the Russian-made S-400 air and anti-missile defense system despite warnings from its NATO allies, and will become the first NATO member state to deploy that system on its soil. Erdoğan has said Turkey would also consider buying the S-500 system now under development. Non-military trade normalized too, and flocks of Russian tourists have arrived at Turkey’s Mediterranean resorts.

More importantly, Turkey has radically moved from “what business do you have in Syria” to allying with Russia in Syria. The two countries, along with Iran, are partners in the Astana process. Moscow orchestrates every strategic move in northern Syria, and Ankara simply complies with its dictates.

Enter America. In the first half of 2018, Ankara and Washington went through their worst diplomatic crisis in decades over several major disputes. Turkey claimed that America was harboring its most wanted terrorist, Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric in self-exile in Pennsylvania accused of being the mastermind behind a failed coup against Erdoğan in July 2016. Also, a senior Turkish government banker was in a US prison, with his bank a potential target of billions of dollars in US sanctions for violating the Iran sanctions. In addition, Ankara accused Washington of equipping what it calls “Kurdish terrorists” east of the Euphrates in northern Syria. America views them as allies in its fight against ISIS.

The US responded to Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 system by threatening to suspend delivery of the next generation F-35 fighter to Turkey. Washington also sanctioned two Turkish ministers and doubled its tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminum. Ankara retaliated by sanctioning two US secretaries.

At the heart of the matter was an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, held in a Turkish prison on charges of espionage and terrorism. “As long as I am in power,” Erdoğan once roared, “that spy (Brunson) will never be set free.”

Then came the reversal. The Turkish lira lost more than 40% of its value in eight months. In what traders called the Brunson effect, the markets went into a meltdown. Turkish bond yields rose to record highs and recession loomed, with huge conglomerates knocking on banks’ doors demanding debt restructuring. Several large-scale companies announced bankruptcy.

In October, “the spy who would never be set free” was released, flew to America, and posed for the cameras with President Trump. Markets sighed with relief, and the lira is now trading at its highest point since August. On Nov. 2, Ankara and Washington bilaterally dropped sanctions against each other’s ministers.

Erdoğan can be offensive and confrontational, in keeping with his neo-Ottoman ideology. But he is not suicidal. He knows that an economic crisis can quickly turn into a political crisis that could cost him his closely guarded power, and he will change his tune accordingly.

View PDF

Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist. He regularly writes for the Gatestone Institute and Defense Newsand is a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is also a founder of, and associate editor at, the Ankara-based think tank Sigma.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

December 08, 2018

GCSC Cyberstability Update, December 7th, 2018

GCSC Cyberstability Update, December 7th, 2018

Your weekly news updates on the GCSC, its members, and relevant developments in the field of international cyber affairs. For more information about the GCSC, please visit


Former Estonian Foreign Minister Urges Cooperation in Cyberattack Attribution, Policy

The article by Kelly Jackson Higgins was published in Dark Reading, 5th December 2018
Black Hat Europe 2018, London. As nation-state cyberattacks continue to evolve into more complex and disruptive campaigns, the pressure is on for countries to set specific cybernorms and support one another in the attribution of nation-state hacks, according to Marina Kaljurand, chair of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC) and Member of the UN Secretary General's High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation.

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‘Cyber-Attacks have become the New Normality’

The article by Catherine Chapman was published in The Daily Swig, 5th December 2018
Marina Kaljurand, current chair of the Global Commission of the Stability of Cyberspace, was the Estonian ambassador to Russia at the time her country’s critical infrastructure was hit by the politically motivated offensive. “I had two tasks,” Kaljurand said, in her keynote address to attendees at this year’s Black Hat Europe conference in London. “I had to learn in 15 minutes what DDoS meant in order to start explaining it to others, which I managed, and my second task was to find ways of cooperation with Russia – that, I failed.” “Cyber-attacks have become the new normality, and they are global and massive in their scale,” she said. “Cyber does not have borders and that’s why, if you want to be efficient, you have to cooperate with others.”

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Hybrid and Transnational Threats

The discussion paper was published by Friends of Europe, 5th December 2018
In an age where hybrid tactics such as disinformation and cyber-attacks are increasingly deployed, the limitations of conventional military power have become evident. The paper includes different perspectives from a range of authors including: Giles Portman, Head of the East Stratcom Task Force at the European External Action Service, Antonio Missiroli, NATO Assistant Secretary General, Emerging Security Challenges, and Marina Kaljurand, Chair of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace. The article of Marina Kaljurand is on “The Need for International Norms to Help Govern Conduct in Cyberspace.”

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International Institute for Strategic Studies Cyber Report: 30 November to 6 December

The report by IISS was published on their website, 6th December 2018
Global approaches to the vulnerabilities equity process – GCHQ, the United Kingdom’s signals intelligence agency, released details about how the department assesses the software vulnerabilities it finds in order to determine whether it should exploit them or disclose them to vendors so that they can be patched. In November 2017, the US government made public the contours of its own policies around vulnerabilities, which is known as the vulnerabilities equity process (VEP).
The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (in which IISS experts Sean Kanuck and Nigel Inkster participate) has proposed a norm for VEP: ‘States should create procedurally transparent frameworks to assess whether and when to disclose not publicly known vulnerabilities or flaws they are aware of in information systems and technologies. The default presumption should be in favour of disclosure.’

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Is Responsible State Behaviour in Cyberspace Achievable?

The Chatham House event was held in London on 5th December, 2018
While attribution remains a sovereign political decision and should be established in accordance with international law, there is a clear consensus between like-minded states that malicious cyber activities need to be brought to light, coupled with other tailored measures, which would alter the perpetrating state’s risk-calculation.
On the cyber diplomacy level, the French president has recently launched the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace. It has been supported by 370 states, companies and civil society entities so far.The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC) has also recently released its cyber Norm Package which aims at promoting stability in cyberspace and build peace and prosperity. GCSCCommissioner Christopher Painter speaks at this event alongside Carmen Gonsalves, the Head of International Cyber Policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

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Avoiding A World War Web: The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace

The article by Arthur P.B. Laudrain was published by Lawfare, 4th December 2018
French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a charged speech [on Nov. 11] denouncing nationalism and urging all leaders to pursue peace through multilateralism. On November 12th 2018 at the Internet Governance Forum, Macron unveiled France’s first international initiative to that end, the “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace.”
A key theme of the document is the importance of protecting individuals and critical infrastructure from harm. The document presses to safeguard the “public core of the Internet” from hostile actors. This is a clear demonstration of support for a package of norms unveiled by the Global Commission for the Stability of Cyberspace on Nov. 8 in Singapore.

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It's Time To Strengthen Global Digital Cooperation

The article by Doris Leuthard was published by the World Economic Forum, 6th December 2018
Digitalization transforms, pervades and affects all aspects of our social, economic and political lives. These impacts span a wide range of issues, which through digitalization become increasingly interconnected and interdependent. However, at the global level, these issues are addressed by institutions that were founded in the 19th and 20th centuries, and which are often incapable of ensuring effective cooperation between the relevant international actors. In fact, the need to strengthen cooperation has been identified in different ways in recent years. From a general point of view, we have witnessed various initiatives, including in the field of cybersecurity, the Global Commission on Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC).

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Global Cyber Security Norms: A Proliferation Problem?

The article by Paul Meyer was published on the ICT for Peace Foundation website, 3rd December 2018
Paul Meyer, Senior Advisor of the Foundation, prepared his analysis of the most recent developments at the United Nations and elsewhere regarding the development and promotion of norms of responsible state behaviour in Cyberspace. He analyses the recent process at the UN (UN GGE, Open-ended Working Group),  new instruments such as the Paris Call, Digital Peace Initiative, Digital Geneva Convention, and the recent norms proposal by the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace.

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Is Fake News Here to Stay?

The article by Commissioner Joseph S. Nye was published on Project Syndicate, 5th December 2018
Experience from European elections suggests that investigative journalism and alerting the public in advance can help inoculate voters against disinformation campaigns. But the battle with fake news is likely to remain a cat-and-mouse game between its purveyors and the companies whose platforms they exploit.

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CSIRTs and Global Cybersecurity: How Technical Experts Support Science Diplomacy

The article by Leonie Tanczer, Irina Brass and Madeline Carr was published in Global Policy, 29thNovember 2018
Ongoing efforts by state actors to collaborate on addressing the challenges of global cybersecurity have been slow to yield results. Technical expert communities such as Computer Security and Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs) have played a fundamental role in maintaining the Internet's functional structure through transnational collaboration. Responsible for security incident management and located in diverse constituencies, these coordination centres engage in joint responses and solve day‐to‐day cybersecurity problems through diverse national, regional and international networks. This article argues that CSIRTs form an epistemic community that engages in science diplomacy, at times navigating geopolitical tensions in a way that political actors are not able to. Through interviews with CSIRT representatives, we explain how their collaborative actions, rooted in shared technical knowledge, norms and best practices, contribute to the advancement of international cooperation on cybersecurity.

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Authoritarians Are Exporting Surveillance Tech, And With it Their Vision for the Internet

The article by Justin Sherman and Robert Morgus was published on the Council on Foreign Relationsblog, 5th December 2018
Chinese telecom giant ZTE is exporting surveillance technology to Venezuela, according to a recent Reuters investigation. Venezuelan officials allegedly visited Shenzhen, the Chinese technology hub, to learn about the country’s national identity card technology. It’s an insidious tool for population control, and its export—along with the export of other digital surveillance systems—is lending to the diffusion of an increasingly consolidated authoritarian model for internet governance and control. This ZTE incident is the most recent in a long line.

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Hoarding Threat Information 'Not a Competitive Advantage,' DHS Official tells Corporate Leaders

The article by Sean Lyngaas was published in Cyber Scoop, 5th December 2018
Companies that view cybersecurity as a competitive advantage and fail to exchange threat data make the broader private sector more vulnerable to hacking, a Department of Homeland Security official has warned. If a good product or company fails because of a breach that could have been thwarted by sharing threat information, “there’s something that we’ve all lost,” Willke said at the Public Sector Innovation Summit. 

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Resolution bloat at ITU Plenipotentiary Conferences

The article by Samantha Dickinson was published in Lingua Synaptica, 6th December 2018
Delegates who were in Dubai for the recent ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018 may remember the Chair of the Ad Hoc Group on Resolution 130 (about cybersecurity) regularly reporting on how many pages his group had succeeded in deleting from the original 56-page consolidated draft containing all proposed changes to the resolution. Member States engaged in long hours, including nights, weekends, and almost through to the dawn of the final day of the conference, to slowly work their way through the 18,063 words in the initial consolidated draft of proposals. 13 versions of the Ad Hoc Group’s draft resolution were to follow the first version.

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Czech Republic blames Russia for Multiple Government Network Hacks

The article by Catalin Cimpanu was published on ZDNet, 3rd December 2018
Two Russian-linked cyber-espionage groups have hacked into the Czech Republic's government networks, the country's intelligence agency revealed today in an annual report. The Czech Security Intelligence Service (BIS) blamed two cyber-espionage groups --known as Turla and APT28 (Sofacy or Fancy Bear)-- for hacks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Ministry of Defense, and the Army of the Czech Republic. The hacks took place in different campaigns across 2016 and 2017.

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Doha forum – Diplomacy, Dialogue, Diversity

The agenda for the Forum was recently uploaded to their website.
Doha Forum is a global platform for dialogue, bringing together leaders in policy to build action driven networks. The Forum will take place from 15-16 December 2018. GCSC Co-Chair Latha Reddy will participate in a panel alongside Commissioner Marietje Schaake on 15 December from 14:00-15:00. The panel is entitled Bit-by-Bit: Enforcing Norms in Cyberspace. Commissioner Samir Saran will moderate a session on 16 December, from 10:45-11:45.

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