News

DHS Report Finds “Immeasurable Vulnerabilities and Attack Vectors” Against U.S. Critical Infrastructure

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A Department of Homeland Security assessment released in April states that critical infrastructure throughout the U.S. faces “immeasurable vulnerabilities and attack vectors” due to the increasingly prominent role of information and communication technology (ICT) in critical infrastructure sectors. The strategic risk assessment, authored by the Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis within DHS, was obtained by Public Intelligence and describes the “convergence of cyber and physical domains” as a strategic threat to the nation’s infrastructure.

Nation-State Cyber Actors Focused on “Maintaining Persistent Access” to U.S. Energy Infrastructure

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There is currently a low threat of damaging cyber attacks against the U.S. energy infrastructure according an intelligence assessment released by the Department of Homeland Security and Industrial Control Systems Computer Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) in January. While “advanced persistent threat (APT) nation-state cyber actors are targeting US energy sector enterprise networks,” these activities are conducted primarily in support of cyber espionage focused primarily on “acquiring and maintaining persistent access to facilitate the introduction of malware” in the event of “hostilities with the United States.”

DHS Report Details “Persistent” Cyber Targeting of Police, Emergency Services

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Cyber attacks against law enforcement, fire departments and other emergency services have become increasingly common and are likely to increase according to a recent intelligence assessment prepared by the Department of Homeland Security and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC). The assessment, which was distributed to law enforcement in September 2015 and was obtained by Public Intelligence, reviewed a number of “cyber attacks against the [emergency services sector or ESS] between February 2012 and May 2015,” finding that “targeting of the ESS will likely increase as ESS systems and networks become more interconnected and the ESS becomes more dependent on information technology for the conduct of daily operations—creating a wider array of attack vectors for cyber targeting.”

FBI Finds “Minimal Correlation” Between Suicide Vests Used in Middle East and Europe

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An analysis of recent suicide bombings throughout the Middle East, Europe and Africa by the FBI Terrorism Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC) that was released after the terrorist attacks in Paris, France last month states that “suicide vest and belt improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the Middle Eastern, African, and European regions likely . . . have minimal correlation” and do not indicate tactical migration.

The Dangers of Traveling Overseas to Fight Against the Islamic State

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Foreign fighters are pouring into Iraq and Syria from all over the world to take up arms with the Islamic State (ISIL). Recent reports have estimated that as many as 30,000 foreign fighters may be fighting in Iraq and Syria and that they are flowing in at a rate of nearly 1,000 new recruits a month. However, a recently emerging phenomenon of Western individuals, primarily veterans, returning to Iraq and Syria to fight against ISIL forces has only recently begun to receive significant media attention. No one has a precise number on how many Westerners are actually fighting in the conflict against ISIL, though estimates often place the number somewhere around 100-130 foreign fighters.

The Increasing Sophistication and Legitimacy of the Islamic State

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The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has become the preeminent terror group among U.S.-based extremists according to an assessment authored by the Department of Homeland Security and more than a dozen state and local fusion centers. Individuals determined to fight “overseas in a Muslim-majority country” or conduct attacks domestically will be “more likely to derive inspiration from ISIL than [al-Qaeda] or any of its affiliates” as long as ISIL can maintain its “current level of perceived legitimacy and relevancy.” This assessment of ISIL’s increasing popularity among domestic extremists is the focus of a ten page Field Analysis Report obtained by Public Intelligence titled Assessing ISIL’s Influence and Perceived Legitimacy in the Homeland: A State and Local Perspective. Drawing on suspicious activity reports from around the country as well as intelligence reporting from DHS and the Bureau of Prisons, the report finds that ISIL’s military successes in Iraq and Syria along with the group’s self-proclaimed re-establishment of the caliphate have captured the attention of violent extremists likely to buy in to its “violent extremist counterculture.”

On Twentieth Anniversary of Oklahoma City Bombing, Feds Warn of Domestic Extremist Threat

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A joint intelligence bulletin released by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing warns that “domestic extremism will remain a persistent threat through the end of 2015 and beyond” with “high confidence that lone offenders and those who pursue leaderless resistance continue to pose the greatest threat of violence.” The bulletin, which is based on “recent patterns of extremist activity” often “taken by those who plan and act alone or in small cells,” states that domestic extremism “remains a persistent threat, and the United States has experienced violent ideologically-motivated criminal acts, both prior to and after the Oklahoma City attack” including “assaults, arsons, shootings, and use, or attempted use, of improvised incendiary and explosive devices, resulting in death, injury, and property damage.” Moreover, the bulletin states that “many of the same motivations used by domestic extremists to justify their criminal acts in the mid-1990s—anti-government and anti-law enforcement sentiment; racial, ethnic, and religious hatred; and advocacy of violent conspiracy theories—continue to influence domestic extremists and their targeting choices in 2015.”

Feds Issue Bulletin Warning ISIL’s “Savvy” Use of Media is Resonating with Western Youth

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The “innovative use of social media and messaging” by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) “has played a key role in motivating young Western males and females to travel to the Syrian conflict to join and support the self-declared Islamic State” according to a join intelligence bulletin released by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI last month. The 5-page bulletin titled “ISIL Social Media Messaging Resonating with Western Youth” was disseminated to law enforcement throughout the country at the end of February to report on the “continuing trend” of Western youth being inspired to travel to Syria and join ISIL forces. According to the bulletin, this trend is aided by the fact that “Western youth are willing to connect over social media with like-minded persons, and have proven adept at obfuscating such social media usage from their parents and guardians.”

Comments on Reddit Led to Virginia Fusion Center Warning on Protesters Attacking Emergency Vehicles

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A bulletin issued in December 2014 by the Virgina Fusion Center (VFC) warned law enforcement and first responders that emergency vehicles could be targeted by violent protesters seeking to retaliate against the perceived surveillance of their activities. The bulletin, which is titled “Malicious Activists May Promote Harm to Emergency Management Vehicles Observed During Violent Protests,” draws its conclusion that “violent or malicious activity” could be directed toward emergency vehicles “operating near protest areas” based primarily upon comments to a post on Reddit and a protest guide posted anonymously on Pastebin.

FBI Warns Law Enforcement of Copy Cat Attacks Following Murders of Two NYPD Officers

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The FBI has issued a National Situational Information Report (NSIR) to law enforcement around the country warning of “copy cat assassinations” following the murder of two New York Police Department (NYPD) officers in December. The report, which was issued days before Christmas and posted online by a lodge of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, states that the “recent murders of New York City Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos have spawned numerous threats” against law enforcement personnel.

DHS Analysis Finds ISIL Most Likely to Conduct IED, Small Arms Attacks in Western Countries

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An intelligence assessment released last month by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis found that a domestic terrorist attack conducted by individuals affiliated with or inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) would most likely “employ tactics involving edged weapons, small arms, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs).” The assessment, which was obtained by Public Intelligence, was released in October following several recent attacks conducted in Europe and Australia by individuals sympathetic to ISIL. Based on a review of these and other planned attacks, analysts at DHS evaluated the tactics and targets, as well as operational security measures employed in order to determine “tactics, targets, and tradecraft that potentially could be used in the Homeland by individuals associated with or inspired” by ISIL.

FBI Warns of Hacktivist Threats Following U.S. Airstrikes in Iraq and Syria

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The FBI Cyber Division has issued a notification to private industry and law enforcement to be aware of the potential for retaliatory cyber attacks following recent U.S. military actions in the Middle East. While the FBI has “no information at this time to indicate specific cyber threats to US networks or infrastructure in response to ongoing US military air strikes against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)” the bulletin states that the FBI believes that “extremist hackers and hacktivist groups, including but not limited to those aligned with the ISIL ideology, will continue to threaten and may attempt offensive cyber actions against the United States in response to perceived or actual US military operations in Iraq or Syria.”

Joint Chiefs of Staff Guide Offers Blunt Assessment of Afghan National Police

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“First time I ever saw an Afghan Police Station I thought it was something straight out of the dark ages, complete with zero electricity, mud structure, and no sewage drainage. Immediately I knew this mission would be challenging and wondered what the heck I got myself into?” This quote from a U.S. Army Captain is just one example of the unusually blunt assessments contained in the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance (JCISFA) guide for advising the Afghan National Police (ANP). The 2010 version of the JCISFA ANP Mentor Guide, which was obtained by Public Intelligence along with a guide for troops assisting the Afghan National Army (ANA), contains a number of revealing observations on the often poor condition of Afghan National Security Forces, in particular the ANP.

Feds Issue Bulletin on Google Dorking

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A bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center earlier this month warns law enforcement and private security personnel that malicious cyber actors can use “advanced search techniques” to discover sensitive information and other vulnerabilities in websites. The bulletin, titled “Malicious Cyber Actors Use Advanced Search Techniques,” describes a set of techniques collectively referred to as “Google dorking” or “Google hacking” that are used to refine search queries to provide more specific results.

DHS Warns of “Domestic Violent Extremists” Targeting Government Officials, Law Enforcement

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An intelligence assessment released July 22 by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis warns of an increasing trend of “anti-government violence” from what are described as “domestic violent extremists” inspired by the recent standoff at the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada. The report, titled “Domestic Violent Extremists Pose Increased Threat to Government Officials an Law Enforcement,” was originally obtained and published by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a non-profit alliance of local state and federal resource professionals that has been advocating for criminal charges against Cliven Bundy and “militia snipers” involved in the April standoff with the Bureau of Land Management. In recent months, the report suggests that there has been a notable increase in violence from domestic extremists motivated by “anti-government ideologies.”

Identity Dominance: The U.S. Military’s Biometric War in Afghanistan

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For years the U.S. military has been waging a biometric war in Afghanistan, working to unravel the insurgent networks operating throughout the country by collecting the personal identifiers of large portions of the population. A restricted U.S. Army guide on the use of biometrics in Afghanistan obtained by Public Intelligence provides an inside look at this ongoing battle to identify the Afghan people.

FBI Law Enforcement National Data Exchange Contains 223 Million Records

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The Law Enforcement National Data Exchange (N-DEx) run by the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division now contains approximately 223 million records on nearly two billion entities. A FBI CJIS presentation from February 2014 posted on the website of the Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute includes detailed information on state and local data contributors including a tally of the total number of records contributed by state.

Feds Tell Law Enforcement to Look Out for Dead Body Bombs

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In the first weeks of 2013, police officers were combing through a bloody scene in the Indian state of Jharkhand where a dozen security personnel had died in a shootout with local rebels. The Naxalite fighters, who promote a Maoist ideology through their ongoing guerrilla conflict with the Indian government, had killed the men, including five Central Reserve Police Force members, in a gun battle days before. When local villagers and police tried to remove the bodies, a bomb went off killing four more people. After the incident, a group of doctors in nearby Ranchi were performing an autopsy on one of the bodies when they encountered something metal lodged inside the body. A bomb squad was called in and an explosive device triggered by shifts in pressure that had been sewn into the police officer’s body was successfully defused.

The U.S. Government’s Diminishing Expectations Plan for Afghanistan

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham listens, in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 26, 2013.

Public Intelligence has obtained the most recent version of the U.S. Civil-Military Strategic Framework for Afghanistan, the second revision of the document dated August 2013, detailing the U.S. government’s goals and priorities for rebuilding Afghan society. Issued by the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham and signed by the commander of U.S. forces Joseph Dunford, the framework covers U.S. priorities related to governance, the rule of law, socioeconomic development as well as the gradual transfer of authority to the Afghan government. When compared with a previous version of the framework from March 2012, also obtained by Public Intelligence, the document solidifies the prospect of long-term U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, removing optimistic statements about turnover dates and self-sustaining funding estimates and replacing them with measured assessments reinforcing the notion that U.S. and international forces will be present in Afghanistan far into the next decade.