Russia Names U.S. as a Security Threat

You’ve read the headline correct: We are now considered a security threat to Russia according to an official assessment recently signed by Vladimir Putin.

Reuters reported the document, “About the Strategy of National Security of Russian Federation,” replaces the 2009 version endorsed by former President Dmitry Medvedev, which didn’t mention the U.S. or NATO. Russia continues to increase its role in “solving” global conflicts, which has caused some reaction from the West, according to the document.

This is the first time Russia has named the United States as a security threat. Are we entering another Cold War? I think we’re already there. I truly believe Putin has aspirations to bring back the Soviet Union in everything but its name.

Russia and the West have recently come at odds politically and militarily over the Syrian and Ukrainian Civil Wars. Relations between Moscow and the West began to deteriorate after Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Western nations have repeatedly accused Russia of funding insurgents in Ukraine despite Moscow’s denials.

Dec. 24, 2015: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Russian and Indian officials and businessmen during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Kremlin in Moscow.

The Syrian Civil War is also a touchy subject between the U.S. and Russia has Russia has been openly backing and providing military support to Assad’s regime, while the United States has been supporting rebels fighting to overthrow the same regime. It will be interesting to watch how our relationship with Russia develops under Russia’s new ‘Czar’ Vladimir Putin with elections around the corner.

US & Egypt Resuming Security Talks

The United States and Egypt on Sunday resumed formal security talks that were last held six years ago and kept on hiatus until now amid the political unrest that swept the country in the wake of the Arab Spring. Two days after the U.S. delivered eight F-16 warplanes to Egypt as part of a military support package, Secretary of State John Kerry restarted the dialogue with Egyptian officials in Cairo. Kerry, on the first stop of a Mideast trip aimed at assuaging Arab concerns over the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, began his day in talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. He later will see President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi before leaving for Qatar, where he will hold discussions with Gulf Arab foreign ministers on the Iran deal and its implications for the region.

Egypt has been battling insurgents and Islamic radicals in the Sinai Peninsula for years. Despite this, aid had been on hold until earlier this year due to human rights and democracy concerns in the wake of the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. I certainly do not agree with everything Mr. Kerry says or does, but I must agree with his statement during this meeting: “We are absolutely clear that terrorists who kill civilians and attack Egyptian security forces have to be brought to justice, and we stand with Egypt in that effort. But it is equally important … to distinguish between those who use violence to achieve their ends and others who seek peacefully to participate in a political dialogue, even if what they say sometimes may make people uncomfortable.”

Therefore, if Egypt wants to truly defeat the terrorists, it needs to begin acting like a democratic country and cease silencing political dissenters. Otherwise, they will just turn to the radicals to have their voice heard.

Encryption – A Growing Threat to Security

Technology companies are creating encrypted communication that protects their users’ privacy in a way that prevents law enforcement, or even the companies themselves, from accessing the content. With this technology, a known ISIS bomb maker would be able to send an email from a tracked computer to a suspected radicalized individual under investigation in New York, and U.S. federal law enforcement agencies would not be able to see ISIS’s attack plans. Unfortunately, this scenario is not at all far-fetched. Recently, FBI Director James Comey recently testified before Congress that terror groups such as ISIS are using encrypted programs to hide their communications and recruiting messages from U.S. federal agencies. As a result, ISIS is aggressively targeting young Americans online — and they are succeeding.

Although I understand the concern here, I can also see why companies’ are creating this encrypted communication. Much of my blogs as of late has focused on external breaches of security. The OPM hack made the headlines for weeks and people will be suffering from the consequences resulting from that hack for years to come. The real question is…where is the happy medium? What is the solution to this problem?

The most obvious one is that U.S. tech companies keep a key to that encrypted communication for legitimate law enforcement purposes. In fact, they should feel a responsibility and a moral obligation to do so, or else they risk upending the balance between privacy and safety that we have so carefully cultivated in this country. I hope they make the right decision.

Homeland Security Warns of Potential Drone Attacks

The Department of Homeland Security has warned police agencies of drones being used as weapons after two drone sightings at NYC airports on Friday, reports said. The intelligence bulletin sent Friday fails to identity a specific security threat, but expressed caution at the increasing drone operation by recreation and commercial users. It follows reports of a drone buzzing a Delta MD-88 from Orlando landing at JFK Airport.

A FEB.9 2015 FILE PHOTO

FRANCOIS MORI/AP

A pilot aboard Delta Flight 407 said he saw a drone flying about 100 feet from the right side of the aircraft during its 5 p.m. landing on Friday, WABC-TV reported. Traffic controllers warned the next round of incoming flights of the drone sighting and called in a police helicopter to track down the drone and its owner, the TV station added. Another drone sighting was reported Friday when crew members aboard a Jet Blue flight from Haiti said they saw one of the tiny aircraft at about 2:30 p.m.,according to WCBS-TV.

Although these occurrences do not necessarily imply malicious intent, I think the DHS is forecasting potential future threats via the use of this technology, if operated by individuals with the wrong intentions. If the devices are this powerful, and can obviously be purchased by the average consumer, then what is stopping them from being modified in a way so that they can cause damage to flights and endanger the lives of those on-board? I think the whole concept of drones is really a new idea to most. The legalities of the devices, such as with the exploration of space, has not truly been tested and “hashed” out. Questions remain to be answered and I hope in the meantime we are still able to protect ourselves from these devices being used to cause harm to others. I have to admit…they are fun to fly!

1 in 4 IT Firms Suffered Security Breach

Twenty-three percent of executives at technology companies say their firms have suffered a security breach in the past 12 months, according to the national annual Technology Industry Business Outlook survey conducted by KPMG LLP, the audit, tax and advisory firm.  Three-fourths of executives surveyed say their companies will spend between 1 percent and 5 percent of annual revenue on IT security in the next 12 months. “The survey findings on security are an important marker, since tech companies are the pacesetters in IT security. How much and where tech companies spend on IT security, and how successful they are, can serve as guides for all other industries,” Gary Matuszak, global chairman of KPMG’s technology, media and telecommunications practice, said in a release.

The KPMG survey was of upper managers at 111 U.S.-based technology companies. Of the respondents, 54 percent were in companies with revenue of more than $1 billion a year, with the rest at companies with annual revenue between $100 million and $1 billion. When the executives asked what the largest drivers of cost would be in the next two years they stated it will be mobile (27%). I have been reading the headlines and like most involved in the industry and especially after the recent OPM hack, am worried about the  current level of IT security. Nonetheless, seeing these statistics are alarming to see on paper.

Admittedly, most of my experience generates from the physical side of security. I’d like to know from experts truly of the inside of this aspect of our industry what is being done to combat this problem, if any. The question many seem to be asking is: How can we keep our information safe in this day and age?

Violence in Turkey

A car bomb exploded Sunday in southern Turkey, killing two security officers and wounding four other people, officials said. The attack was launched when a vehicle carrying security personnel was ambushed on its way to an emergency call, the Diyarbakir provincial office said. Diyarbakir is a province in southeastern Turkey, a heavily Kurdish area, and is home to the city of the same name. No one has been arrested in connection with the explosion, officials said. The bombing comes as Turkey grapples with a wave of violence near its southern border with Syria and is ramping up its effort to fight terrorists.

On Thursday, at least five ISIS militants in northern Syria approached the border and fired on a Turkish border unit, killing a soldier and wounding two others, the Turkish military said. Authorities say ISIS was also to blame for a suicide blast Monday that killed more than 30 people in Suruc, a Turkish town that borders Syria. And after the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, killed two Turkish police officers Wednesday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed to take action. “We will not stay silent in the face of those who kill our police officers in their sleep,” Davutoglu said. Turkey initially decided to attack ISIS during a national security meeting Thursday headed by Davutoglu. Turkish forces arrested 590 suspected terrorists, bombed ISIS positions in northern Syria and targeted the PKK in strikes in a daylong operation Saturday. It was the first time Turkey had attacked ISIS and the PKK simultaneously.

Movie Theater Security

John Russell Houser, a 59-year-old drifter, opened fire at Lafayette’s Grand Theatre on Thursday night, killing two people and injuring nine before turning the gun on himself and ending his own life, according to authorities. The incident renewed the debate on security that began three years ago when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 and wounding 70. Beefing up security at the nation’s 5,000 theaters would be expensive. Walk-through metal detectors, for example, can cost about $5,000. In addition to the price of such devices, security systems require training personnel and paying their wages.

Theater shooting In Lafayette

In Lafayette, La., police work at the multiplex where a gunman killed two and wounded nine others. (Stacy Revere / Getty Images)

While visiting a movie theater in the inner part of Houston, I noticed many off-duty Houston Police Department officers working throughout. The area and neighborhood around was seedy, but there was a feeling of safety throughout. However, the shootings in Louisiana and the one prior in Colorado did not necessarily occur in bad neighborhoods. Nonetheless, this usage of security measures might be a cost-effective deterrence to potential perpetrators.

Maintaining a strong security installation at a multiplex could cost between $250,000 and $1 million annually, according to security consultant Michael Dorn. Such a system would include metal detectors, X-ray machines, workers to operate those devices and additional armed security. The problem is that many movie theaters have already been struggling for over a decade due to more Americans opting to watch movies online / at home since the advent of home theater systems and big-screen TVs. Possibly, the high-end theaters that seem to operate also as a restaurant and appear to be thriving in today’s market will see the benefit in these additional security measures, but I dearly hope they are utilized effectively. Improper use of security equipment due to poorly trained staff and/or management oversight is simply a waste of funds.

Kenyans Seek to Highlight Security Gains Ahead of Obama Visit

Kenya aims to project an image of security as President Barack Obama makes his first official visit here this week—in part by reopening the Westgate mall nearly two years after it was the scene of a deadly terrorist attack. Hundreds of Kenyans flocked to the newly reopened shopping center amid bolstered security over the weekend, a sign, officials said, that the capital had rebounded. However, Kenya still has a long way to achieve security within their country. Kenya is still battling al-Shabaab militants from neighboring Somalia and homegrown extremists within their country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta seeks to show President Obama the gains his country has made in security. However, many are skeptical about what, if any, security gains have occurred since the the terrorist attack at the Westgate mall which left 67 people dead. Some have questioned whether the government has really learned any lessons from the incident at all. “Westgate gave us a grand moment to increase our national security and we did not seize the moment,” said Mwenda Mbijiwe, head of Nairobi-based Eye on Security Ltd.—a consulting firm for government and private clients. “One politician said, ‘Westgate will be to Kenya what 9/11 was to America.’ Oh, how we wish that was true!”

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Kenyan officials arrived at the reopening ceremony of Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall on Saturday. PHOTO: NOOR KHAMIS/REUTERS

Al-Shabaab has suffered greatly since the 2013 attacks. They have been forced out of most major Somalian cities and their numbers have been significantly reduced. A drone strike last year by the United States killed its leader and many experts believe the group to be in a steady state of dissolution. However, homegrown terrorist groups are on the rise in Kenya. U.S. Diplomats are still barred from vacationing in Kenya’s famed beach city Mombasa as a realization to what extent the Western world believes Kenya has achieved improvement in regards to their national security. Maybe the President has it on his agenda to lift this ban after his trip if he sees improvement. Kenya, a country whose economy relies heavily on tourism, can only hope..

Potential Islamic Militant Spillover? Algeria

At least 11 Algerian soldiers were killed after they were attacked by Islamist militant gunmen west of the capital Algiers, a security source said on Saturday. The source did not give further details about the attack which took place on Thursday night in the Ain Defla area. Algeria has found stability after a 1990s war with armed Islamist groups. But al Qaeda-allied fighters and a splinter armed group loyal to Islamic State are still active in pockets of the country, mostly in remote mountain areas.

Due to the turmoil of radical Islamic militant activity in neighboring Libya, the news is not as alarming as it might otherwise have been. After the Arab Spring, militant activity in Northern Africa by radical Al Qaeda inspired or aligned groups have been on the increase. After the recent terror attacks in Tunisia and the anarchy in Libya, we can only hope Algeria doesn’t become a new haven for terrorist activity. I would heed anyone thinking about a visit to Northern Africa caution unless the travel is truly required.

It is truly a shame because the area has so significant amounts of history and beauty, especially along the coastal areas. Hopefully, the Algerian government is able to quickly and swiftly quash these activities and stabilize their country. The last thing we want to see are ancient artifacts and relics being systematically destroyed in the same fashion as what ISIS is currently performing in Iraq. However, I will remain pessimistic unless similar actions are taken in nearby Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt to wipe out their hotbeds of militant activity.

2 Security Officers Shot, 1 Killed in Attack

“He wanted to protect and serve,” said his sister Ashanti Sharps. “The last time I talked to him, he was happy because he was going to apply for that police position.” Adrian Kinard, a security officer in Capitol Heights, Md. with Code 3 Security and Protection Services was fatally shot while protecting an apartment complex yesterday morning before he could live out his aspiration of becoming a police officer. The shooting left a second security guard wounded. The incident began about 1 a.m. at Central Gardens Apartments, police and neighbors said. After the gunfire, police and residents said, a black Dodge Charger sped from the parking lot.

Lt. Jarriel Jordan, a spokesman for Prince George’s County police, said the security guards were taking care of paperwork in their cars on Cindy Lane, off Central Avenue, when they were shot. Both were taken to the hospital, where Kinard, 26, was later pronounced dead. The other guard’s injury, a wound to his lower body, was not life-threatening, police said. What this demonstrates are the dangers of working private security. Uniforms of security officers are becoming increasingly more para-militaristic looking which may cause security officers to be mistaken for police, and thus, targeted as such. Although it should be mentioned a motive has not yet been officially declared, I do feel this could have been a contributing factor considering the neighborhood and time of day in which the incident occurred.

I feel security officers are often paid too little for the sacrifice they can be required to make. Most of the time the work is routine, simple, and mundane and this may be why the pay for the industry is so low. However, it is the ‘2%’ of the time that really resembles the true risk of the job.