Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack - We Are The Mighty
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Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

Cybersecurity firms have found clues that last weekend’s global “ransomware” attack, which infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries, could be linked to North Korea.


The security companies Sympantec and Kaspersky Lab said on May 15 that portions of the “WannaCry” ransomware used in the attacks have the same code as malware previously distributed by Lazarus, a group behind the 2014 Sony hack blamed on North Korea.

“This is the best clue we have seen to date as to the origins of WannaCry,” Kaspersky researchers said.

But it’s possible the code was simply copied from the Lazarus malware without any other direct connection, the companies said.

Symantec said the similarities between WannaCry and Lazarus tools “so far only represent weak connections. We are continuing to investigate for stronger connections.”

Israeli security firm Intezer Labs said it agreed that North Korea might be behind the attack.

Vital Systems Paralyzed

The WannaCry virus over the weekend paralyzed vital computer systems around the world that run factories, banks, government agencies, and transport systems in some 150 countries.

The virus mainly hit computers running older versions of Microsoft Windows software that had not been recently updated.

But by May 15, the fast-spreading extortion scheme was waning. The only new outbreaks reported were in China, where traffic police and schools said they had been targeted, but there were no major disruptions.

The link to North Korea found by the security firms will be closely followed by law-enforcement agencies around the world, including Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser said on May 15 that both foreign nations and cybercriminals were possible culprits.

Symantec and Kaspersky said they need to study the code more and asked for others to help with the analysis. Hackers reuse code from other operations at times, so even copied lines fall well short of proof.

U.S. and European security officials told the Reuters news agency that it was still too early to say who might be behind the attacks, but they did not rule out North Korea as a suspect.

The Lazarus hackers, acting for impoverished North Korea, have been more brazen in pursuit of financial gain than some other hackers, and have been blamed for the theft of $81 million from a Bangladesh bank.

‘Highly Destabilizing’

Moreover, North Korea might have motives to launch such a large-scale, global attack as its economy is crumbling under some of the stiffest-ever UN economic sanctions imposed over its repeated testing of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles.

The United Nations Security Council on May 15 condemned Pyongyang’s latest missile test the previous day, and vowed to take further measures, including possible new sanctions, in response to its “highly destabilizing behavior and flagrant and provocative defiance” of existing prohibitions against such tests.

Whoever is responsible, the perpetrators of the massive weekend attacks have raised very little money thus far — less than $70,000 from users looking to regain access to their computers, according to Trump’s homeland security adviser Tom Bossert.

Some private sector cybersecurity experts do not believe the motive of the attacks was primarily to make money, given the apparently meager revenues that were raised by the unprecedented large operation. They said that wreaking havoc likely was the primary goal.

The countries most affected by WannaCry were Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and India, according to Czech security firm Avast.

Bossert denied charges by Russian President Vladimir Putin and others that the attacks originated in the United States, and came from a hacking tool developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that was later leaked online.

“This was not a tool developed by the NSA to hold ransom data. This was a tool developed by culpable parties, potentially criminals or foreign nation-states, that were put together in such a way as to deliver phishing e-mails, put it into embedded documents, and cause infection, encryption, and locking,” Bossert said.

British media were hailing as a hero a 22-year-old computer security expert who appeared to have helped stop the attack from spreading by discovering a “kill switch” — an Internet address which halted the virus when activated.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

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6 ways being in the military prepared us for Fyre Festival

It’s not like anyone serving in the military could ever afford to go to anything like Fyre Festival. Limited leave, income, and service obligations just won’t allow for it.


And let’s be honest: not a lot of the independently wealthy enlist in the military.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Though some of them feel like they served in the military.

The Fyre Festival, which founders Ja Rule and Billy McFarland described as “a partnership over a mutual interest in technology, the ocean, and rap music,” made some astonishing promises, at an amazing price range of $1,000-125,000 per ticket.

The festival was supposed to be a luxury getaway weekend full of music with concerts in a remote Bahamas setting, full of five-star dining and whatever else the absurdly rich do. What happened when the private jets dropped off their passengers was less festival, more “Lord of the Flies.”

Here are a few ways the military would have prepared these people to get along before Piggy did and civilization went with him.

1. You know better than to volunteer to spend days on an abandoned beach.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Not sure what they’re complaining about so far.

Those dome tents look pretty comfy, reflecting the light like that. A lot nicer than the military’s waterproof tarp tent that sleeps 12 and keeps in all the body odor and humid air you could possibly want.

2. Those pigs are food.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
For at least a platoon. Ever see Black Hawk Down?

Sure, they’re adorable. And probably protected. But when the chow hall is only handing out cheese sandwiches and lettuce, there’s bound to be a negligent discharge sooner or later.

3. You know food could always be a lot worse.

America’s super-rich are probably not used to having to rough it for a long weekend. Why would they be? If I could afford a $2,000 concert ticket, I would probably be a wifi-enabled cyborg. So it’s not really a surprise that the biggest food complaint appeared to be the fact that their “five-star dining” turned out to be a cheese sandwich.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Look at that salad though.

It looks pretty rough, sure, but have you ever been to a tent city midnight meal? Midrats aboard a carrier?

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
That corn tho.

Sure, airmen get meat, but can you name that meat? No? enjoy your cheese sandwich.

4. You know which leaders to trust but more importantly, which to avoid.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

While Ja Rule should have been a red flag to most of us, doing some basic research would have revealed that Fyre Festival co-founder Billy McFarland appears unable to open a McDonald’s franchise, let alone a multi-million dollar music festival on a deserted island. These buyers were begging for death.

5. The lawsuit pretty much describes life in the Marine Corps infantry.

The line “dangerously under-equipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance” is used in $100 million class-action lawsuit against the Festival.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

Except the Marines are still successful and usually have a plan to get back home.

6. You’re used to leadership passing the blame for failures.

Poor objectives? Terrible leadership? Lack of clear goals? Welcome to the suck. Again: Ja Rule as the unit leader should have been a red flag – but you’re on that island no matter what, so embrace it. No one is going to willing own up to it. And even if they do, the communication will be clear as mud.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Luckily no one high up in our Chain of Command uses Twitter to communicate, right?

“I truly apologize as this is not my fault… but i’m taking responsibility” pretty much says everything you need to know.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Harvard rescinds fellowship invitation for Chelsea Manning after backlash

Harvard University has decided against hiring former whistleblower Chelsea Manning as a visiting fellow, after backlash from two high-profile people associated with the Central Intelligence Agency.


Manning was announced Sept. 13 as a visiting fellow for the 2017-18 academic year. That announcement drew criticism from former acting CIA chief and deputy director Michael Morell, a senior fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and current CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Morell resigned his post in protest Sept. 14, critical of the school’s invitation to Manning — a former Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking sensitive US military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Harvard Hall – Harvard University.

Later Sept. 14, Pompeo canceled a scheduled appearance for the same reason.

Sept. 15, Harvard Kennedy School of Government Dean Douglas Elmendorf announced that Manning’s fellowship had been rescinded.

“We invited Chelsea Manning because the Kennedy School’s longstanding approach to visiting speakers is to invite some people who have significantly influenced events in the world, even if they do not share our values and even if their actions or words are abhorrent to some members of our community,” Elmendorf said in a statement. “However, I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility.”

Manning was initially sentenced to more than 30 years in military prison for leaking the information, but the sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama before he left office. She has since been released.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Chelsea Manning, from her Twitter.

“Unfortunately, I cannot be part of an organization — the Kennedy School — that honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information,” Morell wrote in his resignation letter to Elmendorf.

“We did not intend to honor her in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds, as we do not honor or endorse any Fellow,” the dean responded Sept. 15. “But I see more clearly now that many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations.”

Morell served as the CIA’s acting director in two stints under Obama — one in 2011 and another between 2012 and 2013.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Michael Morell (left) and former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett.

Though she has served her time, Manning continues to be a controversial figure.

Some members of the US intelligence community and diplomatic corps decried the damage done when the documents Manning leaked went public — but anti-war and government transparency advocates celebrated her as a hero for exposing private deliberations that upended public claims by the US government about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Manning was one of several individuals named Sept. 13 as Kennedy School visiting fellows. Also included are former press secretary Sean Spicer, Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook, and former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia denies claim poisoning suspect is Russian intelligence

The Russian government and media are casting doubt on a new report claiming to reveal the true identity of a Russian man Britain accuses of the nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in southern England.

The Sept. 26, 2018 report by the investigative website Bellingcat and its Russian partner, The Insider, claims to have conclusively demonstrated that the poisoning suspect known publicly as “Ruslan Boshirov” is, in fact, a decorated colonel in the Russian military whose real name is Anatoly Chepiga.

Russia has repeatedly denied and mocked British allegations that it is responsible for the March poisoning of Skripal and his daughter with the Soviet-developed toxin Novichok in the city of Salisbury.


Earlier September 2018, Britain announced charges against the man known as Boshirov and his associate, known as “Aleksandr Petrov.”

Both men publicly acknowledged being in Salisbury at the time of the poisoning but said they had arrived as tourists — a claim that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman called “an insult to the public’s intelligence.”

British officials have not publicly confirmed the details in the Sept. 26, 2018 report by Bellingcat and The Insider, though Reuters cited two unidentified “European security sources familiar with the investigation into the Skripal poisoning as saying that they were accurate.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson, meanwhile, said on Twitter following the report that the “true identity of one of the Salisbury suspects has been revealed to be a Russian colonel” but subsequently deleted the tweet without explanation.

Here’s a look at how Moscow has dismissed the alleged revelation of the poisoning suspect’s true identity — and how Russian media outlets have cast doubt on the new report.

‘Diverting attention’

Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, suggested in a Facebook post late on Sept. 26, 2018, that the release of the report was deliberately timed to coincide with May’s address at the UN Security Council “during which she again aired accusations against Russia.”

During the address, May said Russia “recklessly deployed a nerve agent on our streets” and accused Moscow of seeking “to obfuscate through desperate fabrication” in connection with the poisoning.

“There is no proof, so an information campaign is continuing with the primary goal of diverting attention to the main question: WHAT HAPPENED IN SALISBURY?” Zakharova wrote.

She did not provide any substantive rebuttal of details reported by Bellingcat and The Insider.

‘Typical conspiracy theory’

A senior Russian lawmaker laughed off the report with a reference to Major Pronin, a fictional Soviet-era secret agent who successfully battled spies and generated scores of popular jokes revolving around the character’s incredible counterespionage abilities.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

A handout picture taken in Salisbury of Aleksandr Petrov (right) and Ruslan Boshirov.

“It’s a typical conspiracy theory,” Frants Klintsevich of the defense committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency. “You could just as easily say Ruslan Boshirov is named Major Pronin, if one recalls such a character from Soviet-era jokes.”

Klintsevich added: “What we warned about is continuing.”

“More and more details will accumulate so that the plot doesn’t get dull,” he was quoted as saying. “Interestingly, one gets the impression that the British media are working hand in glove with authorities. And that’s completely depressing.”

‘Complete nonsense’

A Russian news outlet owned by Klintsevich’s fellow lawmaker, Vitaly Bogdanov, published interviews with a retired major-general in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) who claimed documents used in the investigation by Bellingcat and The Insider could not have made their way into the public domain.

“It’s complete nonsense. How could secret documents become publicly available?” the retired officer, Aleksandr Mikhailov, told National Sluzhba Novostei (NSN).

Mikhailov said the British media “together with turncoats” will “spin tall tales” and suggested that the key piece of evidence in the report — a 15-year-old passport photo of Chepiga showing a man resembling Boshirov — could have been doctored.

‘Completely unprofessional’

NSN also published an interview with Andrei Vedyayev, a writer focusing on Russia’s security services, who said the poisoning suspects are unlikely to be officers for Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU, as British authorities alleged.

The Bellingcat/Insider report said it had confirmed that Chepiga is actually a GRU colonel who was previously awarded Russia’s highest state medal: Hero of the Russian Federation.

“First of all, they don’t admit this,” Vedyayev said, referring to the interview with the two suspects on Russia’s state-funded network RT that May’s spokesman said was full of “lies and blatant fabrications.”

“Secondly, they don’t resemble [GRU officers] at all,” Vedyayev added. “From the perspective of security-service officers, if they carried out this task as has been told and described, then they acted completely unprofessionally: roaming around the city, being filmed by video cameras.”

Interpol

Other Russian media outlets published reports focusing on the fact that searching for the name “Chepiga” yields no results on the publicly available portion of Interpol’s database of “red notices.”

That appears to have first been reported by the Russian news agency Interfax and subsequently picked up by RIA Novosti and Kremlin-friendly outlets Life.ru and Ren-TV.

This is, in fact, no surprise. Interpol itself notes that most red notices — which alert police worldwide of at-large suspected criminals wanted by a particular government — “are restricted to law enforcement use only.”

“Some member countries choose to make an extract publicly available,” Interpol says on its website.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Don’t wait, vaccinate! Nationwide PSA encourages veterans to get their COVID-19 vaccine

AdTechCares, co-founded in 2020 by Amobee and 50 partners from across the advertising ecosystem, has partnered with the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination (VCV)—formed earlier this year with six leading veterans organizations—and Venables Bell + Partners to launch a nationwide public service announcement (PSA) campaign to encourage full vaccination and help put an end to the Covid-19 crisis.  

AdTechCares and VCV worked closely with Venables Bell + Partners to develop the creative for the integrated campaign by looking to the past—from Rosie the Riveter to Smokey the Bear—for inspirational images that drove Americans to work together and overcome obstacles by appealing to a shared sense of duty, and updated these iconic images to reflect the America we see today. The “Call to Arms” campaign enlists arms of every kind from “the tatted, the toned and the sun-deprived” to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated because “better times are within arms reach.” The ads end with a simple and direct call-to-action: “Don’t wait. Vaccinate.” Mass market messaging will appear across broadcast, digital, social, video and Times Square out-of-home. Integrated media for this effort was donated and a sampling of the creative can be viewed here.”

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

“As the Covid-19 crisis continues, even as the vaccines rollout, the advertising industry has an inherent duty to support fact-based journalism and to ensure continued access to accurate and timely information,” says Ryanne Laredo, Chief Customer Officer at Amobee and Co-Founder of AdTechCares. “It’s an honor for AdTechCares to work with the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination and their renowned veterans organizations and we’re confident we’ll replicate the success of our initial Covid-19 PSA campaign with a renewed focus on driving the public to credible vaccine information with the goal of keeping humanity well.” 

“Veterans are among one of the most trusted populations in the United States, and through the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination we are able to bring together these leading veterans organizations to build trust for the nationwide vaccination effort,” says Lorey Zlotnick, Chief Marketing Officer at Team Rubicon and founding member of the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination. “We are proud to launch a campaign that is visually representative of the communities that we serve and reaffirms the VCV’s priority and commitment to equitable vaccine distribution. We invite you to ‘roll up your sleeves’ and help us defeat this virus.”

“The national vaccination effort is the largest and most important mobilization in recent history. We felt that the messaging needed to be welcoming and optimistic, but also feel big, and really tap into people’s sense of duty to a larger cause; something the Veterans Coalition is very familiar with,” says Tyler Hampton, Creative Director at Venables Bell + Partners. “We couldn’t help but be inspired by the ‘in this together’ messaging and design harkening back to World War II.” 

The new campaign builds on the artwork and messaging of iconic home front effort posters with a modern twist. Venables Bell + Partners partnered with photographer Jim Hughes to photograph a wide range of masked people proudly displaying their vaccination bandages. Alice Blue Production Studio artists Lena Pigareva and David Waraksa then hand painted the images and created the typography to give them a vintage poster look. The campaign builds on a partnership between AdTech Cares and the Ad Council and it’s the biggest push in the history of the organizations.

Last March, Amobee launched a PSA campaign to lead consumers to authoritative sources like Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization to help the public understand the seriousness of Covid-19 and encourage mask wearing. Amobee’s campaign quickly evolved into the formation of the larger AdTechCares coalition, which now includes more than 50 companies spanning demand-side platforms, supply-side platforms, agencies and data providers—including Universal McCann, eBay, DoubleVerify and others. That PSA campaign has served more than 4.8 billion impressions to over 2.6 billion people across dozens of countries in 50 languages with digital, video and out-of-home ads.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

About Veterans Coalition for Vaccination

The Veterans Coalition for Vaccination will partner to convert vaccines to vaccinations. Utilizing veterans, we aim to build trust in the vaccine and fight the spread of misinformation. We have created a nationwide network that can quickly mobilize veteran volunteers to assist with the set up and management of vaccination sites. We aim to provide care to patients and support the decompression of the healthcare workforce; and ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine to communities often forgotten. 

The VCV’s founding members include Team Rubicon, Wounded Warrior Project, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Student Veterans of America (SVA), Team Red, White & Blue and The Mission Continues.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US can make North Korea back down

While the White House seems to mull over an attack on North Korea, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair pointed out that the U.S. military has backed down North Korea before and, if need be, they should do it again.


In written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Blair debunked a few misconceptions popular among the public and policymakers.

While Blair doesn’t think that sanctions have been ineffective, that North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons, or that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with an arsenal of nuclear inter-continental ballistic missiles won’t be deterred from attacking the U.S. like the Soviet Union was, he also takes issue with the idea that military force doesn’t work on Pyongyang.

“Military preparedness, and the use of military force are vital components of American policy towards North Korea,” wrote Blair. Citing the U.S. and South Korea’s joint war plan to reclaim the entire peninsula in the event of war, Blair wrote that North Korea would be wary of entering a war it knows it will lose.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
U.S. Marines engaged in street fighting during the liberation of Seoul, circa late September 1950. (Image Wikipedia)

“Damage will be heavy on all sides, but there is no question about the outcome,” Blair wrote.

Blair pointed to a history of the U.S. military asserting its dominance over North Korea as evidence that Kim doesn’t want war, and instead wants to keep his provocations below the level that will prompt a strong U.S. response.

North Korea can and has been tamed with force

In 1976, U.S. Army and United Nations personnel went into the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea to trim a tree that blocked the view of U.N. observers. North Korean soldiers showed up and killed two of the U.S. Army officers with their own axes they had set aside while pruning the tree.

Within hours, U.S., South Korean, and U.N. personnel returned with a massive convoy of military vehicles, attack helicopters, and soldiers trained in martial arts with axes. They came without warning and removed the tree entirely. The North Koreans could do little but watch in the face of a resolute, united front against them.

Also Read: 6 of the bravest aviators of the Korean War

“Every time the US-ROK response has been relevant and strong, supported by contingency plan preparations that make it clear that if North Korea escalates the Alliance is ready for major war, North Korea backs down. It will later in the future commit further and different provocations, but it will retreat in the near term,” Blair wrote.

Similarly, in 1994, when the U.S. cooked up plans to bomb a North Korean nuclear reactor, Pyongyang soon submitted to talks, though they ultimately backed out.

What is Pyongyang going to do about it?

In light of that, the U.S. and its allies “should respond promptly and disproportionately to North Korean provocations such as missile tests that land on or near American, South Korean or Japanese territory and nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean,” Blair wrote, referring to North Korea’s standing threat to detonate a nuclear missile over the Pacific Ocean or to fire missiles at U.S. military bases in Guam.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
B-26 Invaders bomb logistics depots in Wonsan, North Korea, 1951

While most experts have dismissed the Trump administration’s reported notion of a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea in response to some provocation as madness that will lead to nuclear war, Blair, who at one point commanded the U.S. military’s Pacific area of operation, disagrees.

If the U.S. responded to some provocation with Pyongyang, Blair argued, “North Korea will understand that the actions are retaliation for what North Korea has done.”

Blair suggested the U.S. and its allies “raise its readiness level so the North Koreans know that if they escalate the confrontation, they risk starting a war they know they will lose.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Largest study of its kind finds genetics to be a small factor in obesity

Research by scientists at King’s College London found that the role the gut plays in processing and distributing fat could pave the way for the development of personalized treatments for obesity and other chronic diseases within the next decade. The research is published in Nature Genetics.

In the largest study of its kind, scientists analyzed the faecal metabolome (the community of chemicals produced by gut microbes in the faeces) of 500 pairs of twins to build up a picture of how the gut governs these processes and distributes fat. The King’s team also assessed how much of that activity is genetic and how much is determined by environmental factors.


The analysis of stool samples identified biomarkers for the build-up of internal fat around the waist. It’s well known that this visceral fat is strongly associated with the development of conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

By understanding how microbial chemicals lead to the development of fat around the waist in some, but not all the twins, the King’s team hopes to also advance the understanding of the very similar mechanisms that drive the development of obesity.

An analysis of faecal metabolites (chemical molecules in stool produced by microbes) found that less than a fifth (17.9 per cent) of gut processes could be attributed to hereditary factors, but 67.7 per cent of gut activity was found to be influenced by environmental factors, mainly a person’s regular diet.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

This means that important changes can be made to the way an individual’s gut processes and distributes fat by altering both their diet and microbial interactions in their gut.

On the back of the study researchers have built a gut metabolome bank that can help other scientists engineer bespoke and ideal gut environments that efficiently process and distribute fat. The study has also generated the first comprehensive database of which microbes are associated with which chemical metabolites in the gut. This can help other scientists to understand how bacteria in the gut affect human health.

Lead investigator Dr. Cristina Menni from King’s College London said: ‘This study has really accelerated our understanding of the interplay between what we eat, the way it is processed in the gut and the development of fat in the body, but also immunity and inflammation. By analysing the faecal metabolome, we have been able to get a snapshot of both the health of the body and the complex processes taking place in the gut.’

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

Head of the King’s College London’s Twin Research Group Professor Tim Spector said: ‘This exciting work in our twins shows the importance to our health and weight of the thousands of chemicals that gut microbes produce in response to food. Knowing that they are largely controlled by what we eat rather than our genes is great news, and opens up many ways to use food as medicine. In the future these chemicals could even be used in smart toilets or as smart toilet paper.’

Dr. Jonas Zierer, first author of the study added: ‘This new knowledge means we can alter the gut environment and confront the challenge of obesity from a new angle that is related to modifiable factors such as diet and the microbes in the gut. This is exciting, because unlike our genes and our innate risk to develop fat around the belly, the gut microbes can be modified with probiotics, with drugs or with high fibre diets.’

This article originally appeared on Medical Xpress. Follow @medical_xpress on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy wants a fast-track for special weapons to counter special threats

The Vice Chief of Naval Operations told the force there needs to be an intense and concentrated effort to speed up weapons and technology acquisition for the specific purpose of countering massive military gains by both Russia and China.

“We need to scale up in a wildly unpredictable environment, as we see the reemergence of true existential threats. We face a new era of great power competition,” Vice Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, told an audience at the annual Navy League Sea Air Space Symposium.


Moran emphasized that, although threats like Iran and North Korea are still quite relevant, major power competition – with rivals such as China and Russia – needs to take center stage as the Navy seeks to both expand in size and sustain a technological advantage.

“We need to act with a sense of urgency,” Moran stressed.

In the context of talking about urgency, Moran specified fleet growth and “agile” acquisition; he said the service was on a “good vector” to reach its goal of 355 ships.

He also made the point that the Navy must further accelerate rapid acquisition with quick integration of new technologies on existing platforms as well as fast-tracked innovation to stay in front of adversaries.

“We cannot afford to play cat and mouse games with contracting requirements,” Moran told the audience.

Among many things, these kinds of Pentagon efforts tend to involve terms we often hear in the weapons development world such as “open architecture,” “common standards,” and rapid integration of fast-evolving commercial sector innovations.

This, Moran said, includes keeping pace with applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), networking systems and new offensive and defensive weapons, Moran said.

Networking and AI

The Navy has been trying to move quickly with AI in recent years; among other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data. Algorithms are increasingly able to access vast databases of historical data and combat-relevant information to inform decisions in real time.

The Navy, for example, is using AI to expand and cyber-harden its growing ship-based ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES).

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

Nodes on CANES communicate using an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals, senior Navy developers have told Warrior Maven.

CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.

CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers told Warrior.

Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation – and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention, Navy developers say.

LCS & AI

Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time – such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing and fire control system.

CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.

The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters, drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems – the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.

Chinese & Russian Threat

While Moran stopped well short of citing specific Russian and Chinese weapons systems, he did say that each of these potential adversaries are increasing in size and fielding new high-tech weapons at an alarming rate.

“We dominated technology after WWII. We dominated the maritime domain after fall of Berlin wall. We dominated innovation throughout the 20th century. We cannot cede space to authoritarian competitors. We have to be ready to win the peace again,” Moran said.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Vice Chief of Naval Operations – Vice Adm. Bill Moran

Also, it goes without saying that both Russia and China have 5th-gen stealth fighters, advanced ground weapons, nuclear weapons and anti-satellite weapons – all of which are potential threats to the US Navy. Alongside these efforts, both China and Russia are making rapid progress with expanding their respective naval forces and high-tech weapons.

Chinese Naval Threat

A 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released an open-source expert assessment of Chinese military progress; the review contained a 70-page chapter on Chinese military modernization. (Although the report is from a few years ago, it offers one of the most comprehensive and available assessments, which is still of great news relevance.)

China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to the Congressional report.

Several reports in recent years have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say. China currently has one operational carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning.

The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.

These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

The Chinese are also developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.

Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.

The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.

China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines, and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.

The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.

Russian Threat

On the overall Naval front, a report in recent years from Globalfirepower.com has assessed the Russian Navy as having 352 ships, including one aircraft carrier, 13 destroyers and 63 submarines. The Black Sea is a strategically significant area for Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations as it helps ensure access to the Mediterranean.

Russia is also attracting international attention with its new Air-Indpendent Propulsion submarines; recent reports say the first one, is now complete. An article from Strategic Culture Foundation cites the submarine as Kronstadt, a fourth-generation diesel-electric attack submarine.

“AIP (battery power) is usually implemented as an auxiliary source, with the traditional diesel engine handling surface propulsion. Conventional submarines running on AIP are virtually silent. Unlike nuclear boats, they don’t have to pump coolant, generating detectable noise. It makes them highly effective in coastal operations and areas where enemy operates many anti-submarine warfare assets.” according to a report from the Strategic Culture Foundation

The AIP or anaerobic technology allows to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen, the report says.

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Marines eye plan to put women through West Coast combat training

The US Marine Corps for the first time is eyeing a plan to let women attend what has been male-only combat training in Southern California, as officials work to quash recurring problems with sexism and other bad behavior among Marines, according to Marine Corps officials.


If approved by senior Marine leaders, the change could happen as soon as next spring. And it could be the first step in a broader campaign to give male Marines who do their initial training on the West Coast the opportunity to work with female colleagues early in their career.

Marine leaders are also considering allowing women to attend boot camp in San Diego, the officials said. Currently all women recruits go through boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., while male recruits go either there or to San Diego. The combat training comes after troops have finished boot camp, and is done both in South Carolina and at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, but women attend the course only on the East Coast.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
A Marine with Headquarters Company, Headquarters and Service Battalion, performs mountain climbers during Battalion physical training on Parris Island, S.C., June 15, 2016. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mackenzie B. Carter

The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter because final decisions have not been made, so they spoke on condition of anonymity. The boot camp decision is still under discussion.

Marine leaders have come under persistent criticism from members of Congress because the Corps is the only military service to separate men and women for portions of their boot camp. And only the Marine Corps allows a full half of its recruits to go through initial training without any female colleagues.

Because there are only a small number of female Marines, they all go through boot camp at Parris Island, where they are separated from the men for portions of the training. Congress members have been highly critical of that policy and demanded changes, and the Corps has been reviewing the issue.

Marines have argued that the separation from the men is needed so the women can become more physically competitive before joining their male counterparts. They also have argued that it gives the female Marines the support they need during their early weeks of boot camp. Women make up 8.4 percent of the Marine Corps, and that is the smallest percentage of all the armed services.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Pfc. Christina Fuentes Montenegro is one of the first women to graduate infantry training with Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion. (US Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul S. Mancuso/Released)

But Marine Corps officials are now suggesting that training half of their recruits on the West Coast with no females in their units could be contributing to some of the disciplinary problems they’ve had. Giving the male Marines greater exposure to females during training could foster better relations and greater respect over time, some have suggested.

Over the last several years, Marine leaders have battled persistent accusations that the Corps is hostile to women. The Marines were the only service to formally request an exception when the Pentagon moved to allow women to serve in all combat jobs. That request was denied in late 2015 by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

More recently, the service was rocked by a nude-photo sharing scandal in which Marines shared sexually explicit photos on various social media and other websites and included crude, derogatory, and even violent comments about the women. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is looking into the matter and several Marines have been disciplined.

A Marine task force has been reviewing a range of options and changes for several months to try and reduce the problems.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
US Marine Corps recruits run 800 meters during an initial Combat Fitness Test on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., May 13, 2017. US Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Pete Thibodeau

Months ago, Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, told Congress that the service has been looking at the recruit training issue. But to date, no major changes have been made.

The nude-photo sharing investigation represents a broader military problem. In a report issued earlier this year, the Pentagon said that nearly 6,200 military members said that sexually explicit photos of them were taken or shared against their will by someone from work, and it made them “uncomfortable, angry or upset.” But, across the services, female Marines made up the largest percentage of women who complained.

More than 22,000 service members said they were upset or angry when someone at work showed or sent them pornography. And, again, female Marines represented the highest percentage of complaints from women.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine vet is still missing in Syria after 7 years

Austin Tice is a former Eagle Scout, a former Marine Corps officer, and an award-winning journalist held in captivity in Syria. The Georgetown law student was on assignment there in 2012, covering individual stories set amid the background of the Syrian Civil War. Just five weeks after he arrived in the country, unidentified armed men released a 43-second video of Tice blindfolded and held hostage.


No one has claimed responsibility for his capture, unusual for such a propaganda war. After the first five years, his family was still trying to piece together what happened that led to Tice’s capture. Now, the reward for information leading to Tice’s whereabouts is more than $1 million.

No other information, photos, or video related to Tice has been released since.

Tice’s family is on a mission to get the Syrian government of Bashar al-Asad and the government of the United States to cooperate, using every available resource to locate Austin Tice and bring him home. They say the United States believes Tice is alive. He was last seen getting into a car in a Damascus suburb but was detained at a checkpoint shortly after.

When President Trump took office in 2017, the new State Department set up a back-channel with the Syrian government to secure Tice’s release. Unfortunately, that’s when the U.S. involvement in Syria began to thicken, The administration was forced to launch Tomahawk missiles at Syrian military sites, and the talks stalled.

As of December 2018, Tice’s parents divulged that they had received information that Tice is still alive and had survived his captivity. They believe he is being held by the Syrian government or one of its allies and the U.S. State Department has called on Russia to exert its influence is obtaining Tice’s release.

The Syrians insist they don’t know where Tice is being held, but the Tice family maintains that the best chance for the man’s release would come from direct talks between the United States government and that of the Syrian Arab Republic.

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Taliban capture of US vehicles is the latest in a long history of gear falling into enemy hands

Over 200 vehicles provided to the Afghan government by the United States have fallen into the hands of the Taliban in Badakhshan province. That shocking claim comes from a former Afghan intelligence chief who claims that the vehicles include High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles.


“We lost 200 Humvees and Rangers in two or three months as the result of incompetence. Imagine what has happened to the people in those two or three months,” Rahmatullah Nabi told TOLO News. Faisal Bigzad, the governor of Badakhshan province, has urged that NATO assist the Afghan government by destroying the stolen vehicles.

The story might sound familiar for another reason. Humvees and other vehicles provided to the Iraqi government were captured by ISIS when the terrorist group seized control of portions of Iraq. American air strikes have since destroyed some of that equipment. However, ISIS and the Taliban aren’t the first American enemies to get their dirty mitts on American military gear.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Artists rendering of the capture of the USS Chesapeake. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Way back in the War of 1812, several American vessels, including the frigates USS Essex, USS Chesapeake, and USS President were among those captured by the British in the fighting. The U.S. Navy, of course, captured or sank a number of British ships as well.

At the end of the Age of Sail, the Civil War saw some American ships captured. Most famous was the USS Merrimac, which was repurposed into the ironclad CSS Virginia. But the USS United States, one of the original six frigates ordered in 1797, was also captured by the Confederacy and briefly used until it was scuttled.

In World War II, Japan captured the four-stack destroyer USS Stewart (DD 224). The Stewart had fought in the Dutch East Indies campaign in January and February 1942 before being damaged. As Japanese forces neared, Allied personnel used demolition charges to try to scuttle her.

Despite the scuttling attempt and a hit from a Japanese bomber, the Stewart’s wreck was captured and the Japanese fixed her up and put her into service as Patrol Boat 102. The ship would be notable for assisting the sub chaser CD 22 in sinking the USS Harder (SS 257). After Japan surrendered, the old USS Stewart was recovered, although the name had already been assigned to an Edsall-class destroyer escort, DE 238. The ship was eventually sunk as a target.

Germany, though, takes the prize for its acquisition of American gear. Perhaps its most notable coup was the way the Luftwaffe was able to either capture or cobble together as many as 40 B-17 Flying Fortresses.

The captured planes were often used by Kampfgeschwader 200, sometimes for inserting agents or for reconnaissance. But some were used to infiltrate Allied bomber formations.

Even after World War II, American gear fell into enemy hands far too often. In 1975, a lot of American equipment fell into Communist hands when South Vietnam fell, including F-5E Tiger IIs, C-130 Hercules and C-123 Provider transports, and A-37 Dragonfly attack planes.

In 2005, Hugo Chavez threatened to give China and Cuba F-16 Falcons that the United States had sold to Venezuela in the 1980s. The Soviet Union acquired an F-14 Tomcat from an Iranian defector. In 2006, Marines in Iraq killed a sniper team of two insurgence who were trying to carry out a sniper attack, and recovered a M40A1 sniper rifle that had been lost in a 2004 ambush.

American gear falling into enemy hands is not new — there has been a long history of that happening in the past. Infuriatingly, it will happen in the future, despite the best efforts of American military personnel.

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How Diamond Dallas Page developed yoga to help disabled veterans

World Championship Wrestling star Diamond Dallas Page was badly injured at the height of his career. To get back to the top of his game he created a unique mix of yoga and rehabilitative motion — what he calls DDP Yoga.


“I’m the guy who wouldn’t be caught dead doing yoga the first 42 years of my life,” says Page, now 59. “Especially when I started wrestling at 35, and my career literally took off at 40.”

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

Page was on top of the world in 1998, when he was one of the top four wrestlers in the world. Soon after, however, he blew out his back, rupturing his L4-L5 spinal segment.

“Three specialists I went to and they all said the same thing,” he continues “‘You’re done. You had a great run, but you’re done.’ On that Sunday, I just signed a multimillion dollar three-year deal.”

They guy who wouldn’t be caught dead doing yoga was suddenly willing to try anything.

“All the reasons I didn’t ever do yoga, the whole spiritual mumbo jumbo, it wasn’t my thing,” he says. “But I started doing yoga and learning the moves on VHS tapes. I would mix those moves with rehabilitation techniques because I had to rehab both shoulder surgeries, both knee surgeries, and my back.”

This combination of forces worked like a charm. He was back in the ring in three months. At age 43, he was the oldest champion ever to wear a belt. His wrestling career continued well into 2005 and he still makes sporadic appearances to this day.

“At 42, they tell me my wrestling career is over, and at 43 I’m the world champ. Yeah, I’m going to keep doing that,” he says.

While DDP Yoga is for anyone who wants to be stronger, recover from an injury, or just generally look and feel better, Page created it for workers and athletes who, by the nature of what they do, end their careers having put a great deal of physical stress on their bodies.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

“I developed DDP Yoga for cops, firefighters, the military, the worker, the roofer on his knees, tile layers, the athlete that’s beat up,” he says. “If you played high school football or soccer, there’s a good chance that by the time you got to your forties, you’re pretty beat up.”

One day, a disabled Gulf War veteran named Arthur Boorman bought the DDP Yoga program. Page sent Boorman a questionnaire and was moved by the vet’s responses.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Desert Storm veteran Arthur Boorman before DDP Yoga

“He wrote, ‘I’m a disabled vet that’s morbidly obese and so beat up I’ve relegated to thinking of myself as a piece of furniture,'” Page says. “I told him to send me some pictures so I can see what I’m looking at. I saw knee braces that took him twenty minutes every morning to put on. They attached into his back braces. His wife had to do that for him every morning. Then he grabbed these canes, he called them wrap around cups. I saw those cups and was like, how am I going to help that guy?”

Page and a dietician developed a meal plan for Boorman while Boorman started DDP Yoga. In ten months, Boorman lost 140 lbs, as well as his knee and back braces, his canes, and was not only able to walk, he started running.

“If he would’ve wrote back to me, ‘I think I can do this’ or ‘I’ll give it a try,’ I would’ve typed back, awesome, keep me posted,” Page says. “But he didn’t do that. He wrote, ‘I can do this.'”

These days, Boorman appears in DDP Yoga workouts.

“When you see him on the energy workout which is twenty-five minutes, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, that’s that guy! Wait a minute, that’s ten years later!'” Page says with a smile. “Then when you get to the hour-long workouts, there’s Arthur again. Doing the most extreme levels.”

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Boorman Beforeand After

As he developed DDP Yoga, he found two of his fellow wrestlers in despair. Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Scott Hall (aka Razor Ramon) suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. In 2012, Roberts was obese, addicted, and contemplating suicide. Hall faced much the same situation. World Wrestling Entertainment wouldn’t even let the legendary wrestlers into the Wrestling Hall of Fame. They both turned to DDP Yoga and made remarkable changes. Roberts’ turnaround is the subject of Page’s new film, The Resurrection of Jake the Snake.

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack
Page and Roberts

“All I did was guide my two buddies who guided me in other times in my wrestling career,” Page says. “It was great to help my buddies get their lives back in order.”

DDP Yoga has expanded exponentially. Page has a live-streaming studio in Atlanta, as well as DDP Yoga apps for Android and iPhone formats, which include cooking and nutrition. His Twitter account is full of people like Arthur who thank him for developing the program. The company tries to respond to every tweet.

“I’m not a doctor,” Page says. “And I have enough lawyers to know that I don’t claim to do anything. What I am is a guide. I don’t put the work in for you and I won’t. I will help guide you from what I’ve learned.”

Signs point to North Korean role in global cyber attack

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Today in military history: American victory in Battle of the Philippine Sea

On June 19, 1944, the United States crippled Imperial Japanese naval aviation at the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Japan was determined to halt America’s march through the Pacific and had laid a large trap near the Marianas Islands to cripple American naval forces and tip the war in the Pacific to their favor. In June 1944, Japanese forces stashed thousands of planes on land bases and placed a large fleet as bait.

It was to be a gamble for the Japanese no matter what but it’s impossible that Jisaburo knew just how badly the next two days would go for him and the rest of the Japanese forces. The Japanese chose this engagement as the “decisive battle” and pitted all serviceable ships and planes in range into the fight in order to break the back of the American amphibious forces.

But problems for Japan began before the battle. On June 15, an American sub spotted the Japanese fleet headed toward the islands, allowing the U.S. commanders to favorably redistribute their forces for the massive surface and aerial fight to come.

The Japanese won the intel battle on the morning of June 19, learning of the American fleet’s location first and getting their planes aloft to fight it. Nothing else went well for them. 

All told, America destroyed well over 500 aircraft, sank five ships (including three carriers), and protected the invasion forces at Saipan. The engagement cost the U.S. over 100 sailors and aircraft as well as a battleship, but so weakened the Japanese navy that it was seen as a sort of second Midway, permanently tipping the balance of power even further in America’s direction.

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