What I’m Reading: May 2019 — Tech, Hybrid War, Middle East Tactics, and Chinese Strategy

Michael Lortz
Jun 6 · 5 min read

Articles I found most interesting in May 2019:

Silicon Valley is awash in Chinese and Saudi cash — and no one is paying attention (except Trump) — Vox, 5/1/2019

A lengthy look at foreign-funded venture capital investments in Silicon Valley. For years, the Chinese and the Saudis poured billions in tech and start-up companies. Recently, the US government has gotten involved, attempted to limit the amount of Chinese influence. And Saudi influence was temporarily hindered by the assassination of Jamal Khasshogi. It is definitely interesting how geopolitical the tech world has become, especially on the business side.

Facebook’s Surveillance-Like Software Is Called Audience Network — Hacker Noon, 5/20/2019

Interesting exploration into Facebook’s strategic change from an ad-driven business to a data-selling business. Facebook’s agreements with vendors to share information even for users not on Facebook changed the way the company does business. The article advocates for more regulation on Facebook due to its holding of information. However, it compares Facebook to a bank or hospital. Neither of those are as completely optional in society as Facebook.

How to spot the realistic faces creeping into your timelines — Fast Company, 4/30/2019

As artificial intelligence grows, so too does the power of fakes. As we break down the human face, several computer scientists are generating “deepfaces” — fake faces that could be real, but are usually wrong due to a slight eye difference or background change. The article also details how academia is trying to develop ideas to immunize people and help them understand when what they see is not true.

How to Evaluate Threat Intelligence Vendors That Cover the Deep & Dark Web — Security Week, 5/20/2019

Interesting discussion on how to compare and contrast intelligence services that scour the depth of the internet for information. Corporations always have to know where their information may surface. Some investigative companies have connections, others do not.

What Should We Do to Prevent Software From Failing? — MIT Sloan Management Review, 5/20/2019

This article proposes that the programmers behind key infrastructure in the United States have to have a level of top certification. It is an interesting idea. I think there is merit, although it might be difficult to enact initially.

Content Moderation and Censorship: Can We Handle a Double Standard? — Center for the Analysis of the Radical Right, 5/30/2019

Interesting article on how to use machine learning to discover and analyze extreme right wing social media. While machine learning was celebrated against ISIS, right wing leaders claim censorship when the same algorithms are pointed at themselves or their followers. So according to this post, data scientists and programmers using machine learning are attempting to plot not only the message but also the social network of extremely right wing personalities.

The New Age of Propaganda: Understanding Influence Operations in the Digital Age — War on the Rocks, 5/1/2019

Good article on how influence operations has evolved thanks to the growth of participative social media. As nations battle for cyber supremacy, they are taking the thoughts and hearts of millions of social media users with them. As well, nations are also learning that the online world moves as fast as the business world and competition is constant. Traditional ways of handling Influence Operations through the military should be discouraged. Instead more cooperation with media, marketing, and business should occur.

How to win America’s Next War — Foreign Policy, 5/5/2019

This article is completely out of touch. While there is some good information on missile placement and ranges, it completely misses the point of modern conflict. Full-blown war doesn’t need to be fought. It is expensive and low reward. Countries would rather perform cyber, information, or economic actions.

Why the Military is the Wrong Tool for Defending Western Society — The Strategy Bridge, 5/20/2019

I liked the end of this article. However, the beginning meandered through a history lesson about Napoleon. That wasn’t necessary. And there should have been more discussions on what tools are needed. But this isn’t a bad read, with the good premise, I expected more.

In Yemen Conflict, Some See A New Age Of Drone Warfare — NPR, 5/25/2019

Interesting article on the tactics, techniques, and processes of drone use in the Yemen conflict. The opposing Houthis are using cheap drones to attack or monitor the Saudis. Many of these low-cost, high-impact drones are manufactured in Iran and provided by the Iranian military or Iran-sponsored middle men.

Middle East Lobbying: The Influence Game — Al Monitor

An interactive map of the Middle East with links to articles on how much each nation has lobbied the United States. Saudi Arabia, for example, spends $13 million to get what it wants from the US. The UAE spends $21.3 million. Not surprisingly, Yemen spends $0.

Exporting the Gulf Crisis — War On The Rocks, 5/29/2019

Good article on how the division between Qatar and Saudi Arabia/Egypt/UAE is unfolding throughout the Middle East. These stable, unfriendly nations are supporting opposition groups in unstable countries as a way to gain power regionally. Curious also to see what tools of national power these traditionally weak military nations use to gain leverage. Will they use political, economic, propaganda, or cyber means? They have used them before.

How Should the U.S. Disconnect Iran’s War Machine? — Strategy Bridge, 5/28/2019

Interesting article advocating an attacking strategy against Iran. This pro-US article describes a plan to remove Iranian influence throughout the Middle East. I am not sure how feasible this plan is and I am also not sure I trust the partners it relies on. But that is the problem in the Middle East: there are few good options.

US ‘Concerned’ by Sophisticated, Deceptive Pro-Iran Social Media — VOA, 5/29/2019

Good article summarizing a recent report by FireEye discussing Iranian actions on Facebook and Twitter. According to the report, Iranian hackers are creating many imposters and trying to game social media and influence the American populace. The intelligence of our people remains out beogg

How China uses cyber theft and information warfare — Federal Computer Weekly, 5/6/2019

This article discusses a recent Pentagon report detailing Chinese intrusion into corporate networks. The Chinese are particularly focusing on economic espionage, especially in defense. As well, by organizing their defense forces to focus on information instead of territory, the Chinese show they understand major 21st century conflict better.

Chinese Threat Intelligence: Part Three — Sec Juice, 5/12/2019

In this article, writer Mitch Edwards discusses the evolution of Chinese threats online. He details how a sense of nationalism is driving Chinese hackers to steal intellectual property from foreign militaries and companies so China can catch up or hope to pass their national competition.

China Gears Up to Weaponize Rare Earths Dominance in Trade War — Bloomberg, 5/25/2019

Interesting look at China’s hold on rare earth minerals and how that industry could impact US-China economic relations. Until mass mining is established in other locations, China is a single point of failure for production. Politicians should keep this in mind when negotiating trade. The Chinese do not mind using geoeconomics to get their way.

Michael Lortz

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Hybrid Analyst, OSTB Solutions LLC. Threats, Intel, Markets, InfoSec, Processes, & Irregular Warfare. Just a simple man trying to make his way in the universe.