“Fishwrap”: Watch Out for This Cyber Threat on Social Media

Globe connectionsRecorded Future has published their latest research, titled “The Discovery of Fishwrap: A New Social Media Information Operation Methodology“. In the report, author Staffan Truvé discusses Recorded Future’s foray into the detection and analysis of influence operations, both by nation states and other actors. As established by RAND Corporation, influence operations (also known as information operations and warfare), is defined as the “collection of tactical information about an adversary, as well as the dissemination of propaganda in pursuit of a competitive advantage over an opponent.”

From the report, the “fishwrap” technique “recycles old news about terror incidents by publishing them to appear as new. […] This operation is also using a special family of URL shorteners that allow attackers to track click-through from social media posts used in their campaigns.” Many may associate influence operations with the very prevalent term of “fake news”. While this is true to some degree, Recorded Future also explicitly notes that real news is used, too, to cultivate particular opinions in the targeted audience.

Recorded Future provides seven Key Findings from the report, which are summarized below:

  • Recorded Future has developed new algorithms which can detect “seed accounts”, and analyze both the seed and additional accounts that are involved in an influence operation.
  • Behavioral analytics derived from topological methodologies can form the foundation for an analysis that clusters the highest-likelihood participants with the highest degree of similarity.
  • Based on the new algorithm, Recorded Future has discovered Fishwrap, a methodology in which old terror news masquerades as new.
  • Recorded Future analyzed 215 social media accounts that were using the Fishwrap technique.
  • The 215 accounts use a particular kind of associated but different URL shortener services, which track the effectiveness of the operation. These services run the same code, and are hosted on the same commercial infrastructure.
  • Based on the behavioral similarity of the accounts, Recorded Future believes they are all part of the same influence operation.
  • Recorded Future’s research is ongoing – attribution is challenging since account holders are seemingly fictive and the URL shortener services have anonymous registrations.

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to Cyber Crime and National Security, as well as Cyber Infrastructure Protection. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Kendall Scherr

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Stalkerware: A Growing Threat of Technology-Facilitated Violence

cell phone global positioning systemThe Citizen Lab, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto, released a report highlighting the growing threat of technology-facilitated violence. In a two-part series, the watchdog group provides insights into some of the most concerning manifestations of privacy violations via intimate partner surveillance software. While often used for legitimate purposes, a variety of available applications “can constitute stalkerware under certain circumstances.” According to research, persons seeking to control their partner’s activities can install spyware on a targeted person’s mobile phone. In some instances, such monitoring behavior is magnified due to the regular use and accessibility of cell phones. The authors emphasize that:

“As new technologies have seeped into everyday life, aggressors have adopted and repurposed them to terrorize, control, and manipulate their current and former partners.”

The first part of the series, “The Predator in Your Pocket: A Multidisciplinary Assessment of the Stalkerware Application Industry,” provides a detailed overview of specific aspects of existing consumer spyware, including technical capabilities, marketing practices, current public policies, as well as commercial privacy legislation. The second part, “Installing Fear: A Canadian Legal and Policy Analysis of Using, Developing, and Selling Smartphone Spyware and Stalkerware Applications,” focuses on a broader legal assessment of stalkerware, as well as the further implications of such technology.

In conclusion, the authors offer a list of recommendations aimed to reduce the threat of stalkerware technology. Ultimately, the goal of this report is to “rebalance stark information asymmetries between the operator and target(s) of stalkerware” by proactively addressing intimate partner violence.

The HSDL offers many other resources related to cybersecurity in out featured topics Cyber Policy and Cyber Infrastructure Protection. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Julia West

2019 Global Peace Index Released

Blue map of the world with flags representing the members of the Group of 20The Institute for Economics and Peace  has released the 2019 Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks the level of peacefulness for over 160 independent states and territories around the world. The study measures peacefulness “using three thematic domains: the level of Societal Safety and Security; the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict; and the degree of Militarisation.”

The report provides the overall peacefulness rankings among studied countries, trends being observed over time, and an examination of the economic impact of violence.  The report also analyzes the transformational effects of positive peace, and the foundation necessary for that peace to be attained. Positive peace is defined as “the attitudes, institutions & structures that create and sustain peaceful societies,” versus negative peace, which is simply “the absence of violence or fear of violence.”

Despite slight improvement from the 2018 GPI to 2019, the average level of peacefulness has been deteriorating worldwide since 2008, with the gap between the most and least peaceful countries growing over time. Overall, Europe ranks highest as the world’s most peaceful region, and Iceland is the world’s most peaceful country. Conversely, the Middle East and North Africa is measured to be the lease peaceful region, with Afghanistan as the world’s least peaceful country.

For more information on topics related to this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on and Global Terrorism and Border Security.

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Author: Vincent Milano

White House Releases Its Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security

WorldFlagsOn June 11, the White House released the United States Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS Strategy), which aims to include and empower women in the areas of peacekeeping and national security.

The WPS Strategy extends from the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017.  The implementation of the WPS Strategy makes the United States the first ever nation with both a comprehensive law on Women, Peace, and Security, as well as a whole-of-government strategy to address such a law.

The strategy recognizes that women globally are underrepresented in peacekeeping efforts, and cites research that suggests that peace talks are more likely to succeed when women are part of the process. The overall goal of the strategy is an “end state whereby women can meaningfully participate in preventing, mediating, and resolving conflict and countering terrorism, in ways that promote stable and lasting peace, including in conflict-affected areas.”

More resources on Women, Peace, and Security can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL). Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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Author: Vincent Milano

Terrorist Assets Report for 2018 Released

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has released its Twenty-seventh Annual Report to the Congress on Assets in the United States Relating to Terrorist Countries and Organizations Engaged in International Terrorism for calendar year 2018.

The United States implements economic sanctions against terrorist organizations and state sponsors of terror to combat the financing of international terrorism. As a result, the U.S. government seizes millions of dollars in assets held in the United States by terrorist organizations and supporters.

The report provides a background of the events and legislation driving the economic sanctions, a summary of the assets seized related to international terrorist organizations, and a summary of assets seized related to state sponsors of terrorism.

In total, the U.S. government seized $46,181,775 in assets related to over 40 different international terrorist organizations in 2018. Over $216 million in assets were seized related to three state sponsors of terrorism: Iran, Syria, and North Korea.

For more information on topics related to this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on and Global Terrorism and the September 11, 2001 Attacks

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Author: Vincent Milano

Islamic Extremism on Telegram

Globe connectionsThe George Washington University Program on Extremism just released Encrypted Extremism: Inside the English-Speaking Islamic State Ecosystem on Telegram, a study into the usage of the Telegram messaging software by Islamic State (IS) sympathizers.

Telegram is a multimedia messaging application that is accessible by smartphones, tablets, and computers. Telegram users can utilize its end-to-end encryption when making private phone calls or when having secret chats.

The specific focus of the study was to address the following research questions:

  1. How do English-speaking IS supporters use Telegram’s suite of features to build online networks, disseminate propaganda, and guide operations?
  2. In which ways do English-speaking IS supporters on Telegram balance the need for broad-based messaging and recruitment with the necessity of operational security?
  3. How do English-speaking IS supporters on Telegram react to pressure against the organization in the online and offline spaces?

The study finds that the features offered by Telegram are often exploited by extremist groups, and the application is described as “the centerpiece of IS supporters’ online communications strategy.” Telegram is preferred because of its encryption capabilities as well as its public accessibility. Its myriad of features allows for a massive amount of content sharing across the networks of Islamic State sympathizers.

While it seems that Telegram may be willing to cooperate more with law enforcement moving forward, it is uncertain whether Islamic State supporters will continue to heavily utilize the application, or look for other platforms to exploit.

For more information on topics related to this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Cyber Crime & National Security and Global Terrorism.

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Author: Vincent Milano

In Focus: Soft Targets for Terrorism

New In Focus now available on Soft Targets for Terrorism

Soft Targets, such as sports venues, parks, open air festivals, and anywhere people congregate, are a difficult security challenge.  This In Focus includes resources that address the challenges and approaches to making Soft Targets safe and secure.

Each HSDL In Focus brings together short lists of resources in the HSDL collection that are highly relevant to current events.

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Author: Sally Chapman

Inaugural Indo-Pacific Strategy Report Released

US Patrol in Indo-PacificThe U.S. Department of Defense released its inaugural 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy Report: Preparedness, Partnerships, and Promoting a Networked Region, highlighting the importance of the Indo-Pacific region in American politics, economics, and homeland security.

The U.S. has five Pacific states that include Hawaii, California, Washington, Oregon and Alaska and four territories in the Pacific: Guam, American Samoa, Wake Island, and the Northern Mariana Islands. According to the Secretary of Defense, the Indo-Pacific presents a “complex security environment” in which the U.S. must act to ensure peace and prosperity and compliance with international order.

This report describes the history of the Indo-Pacific; the current geopolitical and economic landscape; and the nature and extent of foreign presence and interest in the region. It provides a strategy for the U.S. to maintain and achieve strategic interests through effective partnerships and alliances in the region:

The United States, along with our like-minded allies and partners, will continue to be engaged in this dynamic and rapidly growing region. The Department of Defense, in conjunction with other U.S. Government Departments and Agencies, regional institutions, and regional allies and partners, will continue to ensure that the rule of law – not coercion and force – dictates the future of the Indo-Pacific. We will build on our successes to ensure that this region remains peaceful, prosperous, and secure for decades to come.

More resources can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL). Some links on this page require institutional access, click here for direct access to the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report.

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Author: Andrea Page

Top Ten Global Challenges Facing the G20

The Council of Councils (CoC), a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) initiative, has released its 2019 Report Card on International Cooperation generally focused on the performances of the Group of Twenty (G20).

The CoC is a group of foreign policy institutes from 24 countries, who were asked to prioritize the top global challenges and rank the results 1-10, as well as assign each challenge a letter grade, A-F. Each institution was also provided with the opportunity to submit written comments along with the grades on each category.

The categories, in ranked order from most important (1) to least important (10), include:

  1. Mitigating and adapting to climate change
  2. Managing the global economy
  3. Blue map of the world with flags representing the members of the Group of 20Preventing nuclear proliferation
  4. Preventing and responding to violent conflict between states
  5. Preventing and responding to internal violent conflict
  6. Managing cyber governance
  7. Expanding global trade
  8. Combating transnational terrorism
  9. Advancing development
  10. Promoting global health

The grades and comments can be viewed via the 2019 Report Card.

For more information on topics raised in this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Climate Change, Nuclear Weapons, Global Terrorism, Cyber Policy, and Energy Security.

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Author: Emily Bruza

Protecting Soft Targets and Crowded Places — Everyone’s Responsibility

A young audience at a music festival cheers for an unseen musician or bandIn April of 2019,  The Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released the Security of Soft Targets and Crowded Places Resource Guide. Soft targets and crowded places are any easily accessible, public areas such as malls, houses of worship, and event venues that consistently attract large crowds and are susceptible to unsophisticated attacks.

Separated into three parts, Resource Matrix, Resource Descriptions and Links, and Contacts, the Guide contains tools and resources for identifying suspicious behavior, screening access to facilities, protecting against unmanned aircraft systems, and preparing and responding to active assailants and bombings for the general public, businesses, the government, and first responders.

The Guide intends to raise awareness among the private and public sectors of the risks associated with soft targets and crowded places, and to be used as a quick-access resource for preemptive security protocol, prevention and response to a variety of different terrorism scenarios, and contact information for safety training organizations.

Please Note: An HSDL account may be required to view some resources.

For more information on topics raised in this piece, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Domestic (U.S.) TerrorismActive ShootersSchool Violence, Cyber Crime and National Security, Lone Wolf Terrorism, Mass Gatherings, and Suicide Bombers.

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Author: Emily Bruza