April 20th, 2012
05:16 PM ET

Cadets and Midshipmen square off on the virtual battlefield

By Pam Benson

The intense rivalry among the nation's military service academies extends well beyond the playing fields. It's deep down in the internet.

This week, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Naval Academy in Maryland, the Air Force Academy in Colorado and the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut squared off in the annual competition to determine who wins the coveted trophy as chief geeks.

The arena was the super secret National Security Agency's Cyber Defense Exercise. For four days, around the clock, the cadets and midshipmen tried to match wits with the nation's top cyber experts.

The NSA 'red teams' bombarded the students with malware of all types as each academy tried to defend its own network and score the most points.

The overall goal: to give them a nearly real life experience of using the tools they have learned as computer science and information technology majors to identify and defend against cyber attacks.

As the nation's future military leaders, the ability to master information technology and protect critical information systems is key to fighting and preventing modern day wars.

It was quite a challenge for both the students and the NSA cyber masters.

Security Clearance paid a visit to the Naval Academy in Annapolis to see first hand how the midshipmen were coping and then stopped by to witness the NSA sleuths as they launched their attacks during the virtual competition.

Final Results: Sorry Navy... Air Force won the trophy followed by West Point, Navy and sitting in last place, the Coast Guard

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Filed under: Cybersecurity • Military
Brennan on bin Laden raid, and "dangerous" Yemen
John Brennan, the White House counter-terrorism advisor
April 20th, 2012
04:34 PM ET

Brennan on bin Laden raid, and "dangerous" Yemen

By CNN Terrorism Analyst Paul Cruickshank

White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan warned of the dangers posed by al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen in speech at NYPD Headquarters in New York Friday, when he assessed the threat from al Qaeda one year after the death of Osama bin Laden.

He described the group – al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – which has taken advantage of a security vacuum in southern Yemen to expand its reach as “very, very dangerous.”

Brennan received a standing ovation from NYPD officers at the event for his role in the operation that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. He was presented with an NYPD jacket by New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

One NYPD official asked him what it was like to be in the White House Situation Room that night. “There wasn’t a sense of exubarance, he said, “there were no high fives. People let out a breath. It was a moment of reflection. This was something we’d all worked toward for a long time.”
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Filed under: Al Qaeda • AQAP • Living With Terror • Pakistan • Terrorism • Yemen
April 20th, 2012
04:15 PM ET

Timing of Egypt's arrest request questioned

By Libby Lewis

Egyptian officials have filed global arrest notices with Interpol for some of the Americans charged for overstepping in their pro-democracy work in Egypt, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

(Listen to a radio version of Libby Lewis' report here)

Officially, nobody's talking about this politically sensitive topic - that goes for the U.S. government, the Egyptian government, and Interpol.

But some are questioning the timing of the notices, issued just after the Obama administration agreed to restart more than $1 billion in aid to Egypt, over objections from members of Congress angered that the Egyptians had pursued a case against the workers for non-governmental organizations.

"I find the case a shocking example of how Interpol is open to abuse by countries which are seeking to prosecute - not sex traffickers or drug dealers - but people campaigning for democratic reform," said Jago Russell of Fair Trials International, a human rights group. He noted that such action "was not the desired intention of Interpol," but added that "the lack of safeguards in the way Interpol works means it's happening in practice."

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Filed under: Security Brief
The West "will lose" the cyber war
April 20th, 2012
12:51 PM ET

The West "will lose" the cyber war

By Jill Dougherty

On April 27, 2007, the tiny Baltic nation of Estonia - one of the most wired countries in the world - was hit with a massive cyberattack. Websites for banks, government ministries, newspapers, Parliament and media outlets were paralyzed, swamped by a distributed denial of service attack.

"We were frankly shocked when this happened," said Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. "Botnets attacked all aspects of society."

He contends it was "political act" in which Russia, angered over Estonia's decision to move a Soviet-era statue dedicated to a World War II Russian soldier in Tallinn, tried to shut down the country. Russia has always denied the charge.

But as bad as the attack on Estonia was, the next generation of cyberattacks could be much worse, Ilves said in a speech this month on "E-Governance and Cyber-Security" at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies. Distributed denial of service attacks are so "yesterday," he said. "... We can get around them."
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Transatlantic Shoe Bomber Knew Bin Laden
April 20th, 2012
03:23 AM ET

Transatlantic Shoe Bomber Knew Bin Laden

By Paul Cruickshank, CNN Terrorism Analyst

Saajid Badat, a U.K. terrorist convicted for plotting in December 2001 to blow up a shoe bomb on a transatlantic airliner heading from Europe to the United States, revealed in a U.S. court Thursday that he met Osama bin Laden several times in Afghanistan between 2000-2001.

When he pleaded guilty in 2005, Badat indicated that had been directed by al Qaeda to launch the plot, but this is the first time he has publicly revealed his interactions with the terrorist group’s founder.

As part of his guilty plea, Badat admitted he had conspired with shoe-bomber Richard Reid to launch the plot against transatlantic aviation. In December 2001 Reid attempted but failed to blow up a plane travelling from Paris to Miami with a device made from the explosive PETN hidden in his shoe, and
subsequently pleaded guilty of the plot in the United States.

The revelations about Badat’s ties to bin Laden suggest it is possible the deceased terrorist leader had a hand in the plots to target U.S. bound aviation with shoe bombs in late 2001.

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Truck raises questions about China's role in North Korea's missile program
April 20th, 2012
02:08 AM ET

Truck raises questions about China's role in North Korea's missile program

By Larry Shaughnessy

After weeks of military analysts examining the latest North Korean rocket before and after its failed launch, the focus now has turned to a truck.

It's not just any truck. It's known as a "transporter, erector, launcher," TEL for short, and is designed to move a long-range missile into place, stand it upright and launch it from just about anywhere in North Korea. The truck was spotted in a military parade in Pyongyang last weekend with what experts say is a new long-range rocket on board.

The United Nations is investigating if the TEL came from China in violation of U.N. resolutions, a U.S. official tells CNN. The U.N. Security Council committee that monitors implementation of the sanctions on North Korea is investigating, the official said. The investigation was first reported by Jane's Defense Weekly.

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Filed under: Asia • China • North Korea • UN Security Council • United Nations
Women found on both sides of terrorism fight
April 20th, 2012
02:04 AM ET

Women found on both sides of terrorism fight

By Suzanne Kelly

Women are increasingly being used to carry out terrorist attacks and raise money to support terrorist actions, but on the flip side, more policy makers are waking up to the fact that women can also be an extremely effective tool in combating the spread of terrorism.

Heidi Panetta, a terrorist analyst with the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department, told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday that no fewer than 50 suicide attacks have been carried out by women in the past seven years.

While she rarely talks about her work in public, Panetta told a group assembled by the Women in International Security project at CSIS, that while women remain on the fringes of terrorist organizations statistically, the results of their efforts are no less deadly than those of their male counterparts.

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It's the only Syria plan they have
April 20th, 2012
12:14 AM ET

It's the only Syria plan they have

By Elise Labott, from Paris

None of baker's dozen of foreign ministers huddling Thursday at the mini-Friends of Syria meeting actually said they believed that the six-point plan proposed by special envoy Kofi Annan would stop the violence in Syria and pave the way for President Bashar al-Assad's ouster.

Even as the ministers stressed the urgent need to send monitors into Syria to observe the cease-fire, they were pointing to the declaration by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the Syrian regime has violated nearly every aspect of Annan's plan, including obstructing work on the advance monitoring team on the ground and turning a blind eye to the growing humanitarian crisis on the ground.

Despite the fact the U.N. says the shelling of Homs and other Syrian towns are as bad as ever, despite the fact that the regime continued to fire on peaceful protestors while the U.N. observers were presented, the ministers in Paris were loath to declare the Annan plan dead.

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