North Korea’s Attempt to Rain on our Independence Day Parade
by KEVIN D. FREEMAN on JULY 6, 2017
This week as we celebrated on beaches and at barbecues, there were others around the world with entirely different plans in mind. One example was North Korea which chose our Independence Day to demonstrate their progress with InterContinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) capable of hitting our nation. While this was a dramatic contrast, it is just the most recent example of an oblivious American public in the crosshairs of multiple enemies.
Here is some background:
While the focus has been rightly placed on the nuclear danger, there are multiple other threats wrapped up in this one, not the least of which is sparking a cyber-economic war. And, of course, there is clearly the risk of a systemic EMP attack, something we have warned about for several years. Finally, there is a growing call for direct military confrontation which would roil the global economy. Secretary of Defense Mattis has stated that North Korea is the ‘most urgent’ threat to our security. This is a consensus view of our Defense and Intelligence establishment shared with Senators as reported by Bill Gertz. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared the situation to be ‘dire.’ China’s UN ambassador warned that ‘disastrous consequences’ would happen unless tensions are eased. Even the NY Times has warned that a small surgical strike could ‘spin up’ into the worst kind of war.
Basically, if we do nothing, North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons capable of destroying Western Civilization. If we act now, we may trigger an economic war or worse. They may already have a satellite capable of firing an EMP that would wipe out our electric grid. Not the most pleasant of situations.
Yet, despite all of this, the stock market remains near all-time highs and there appears to be very limited concern among the public and investment community. This is not a threat to be ignored.
There are several triggers we need to watch. First, the Trump Administration had hoped to incentivize the Chinese to pressure North Korea. He indicated a willingness to put aside his concerns over currency manipulation to get China’s help. While this might have proven effective, it appears the Chinese did nothing meaningful to that end. In fact, they actually ramped up trade (almost a 40% increase in the first quarter of 2017) with North Korea even while making a show of reducing some fuel sales. And, there are legitimate questions raised by Gordon Chang regarding how North Korea’s missile program advanced so quickly, and why it was launched from a Chinese-made vehicle. The general consensus is that China could have stopped the North Korean test had they wanted to do so.
Now, President Trump is prepared to pressure China in addition to North Korea. The carrot was ineffective so the stick will be tried. It may not be pretty. We may see a full-blown cyber war. Remember that North Korea was likely behind the WannaCry attack. They actually have a pretty robust cyber team but nothing like China. And it is possible that the Chinese may be drawn into a major cyber conflict. Or, perhaps they have been preparing for one.
Another step that President Trump is willing to take is to sanction Chinese individuals, particularly those involved in business with North Korea. He is now being urged to play hardball. Some, like Ambassador John Bolton, argue that sanctions will prove ineffective and are a waste of time. If John Bolton is right, this will “strengthen the hand of Beijing’s pro-Pyongyang faction, obviously the opposite of the result we seek.”Whether right or wrong, however, we have little doubt that sanctions will be tried.
From Gordon Chang in The Daily Beast (July 5, 2017):
“On Monday, the American president welcomed the leader of China’s adversary, India, to the White House in an unmistakable signal to the Chinese. On Tuesday, the State Department dropped China to the worst ranking—Tier 3—in its annual Trafficking in Persons report. On Thursday, the Treasury Department sawed off the Bank of Dandong, a shady Chinese bank, from the global financial system and sanctioned a Chinese shipping company and two Chinese individuals. That same day, the administration notified Congress of a proposed sale of arms to Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province.
And on Sunday Trump iced the cake when a U.S. Navy destroyer, the Stethem, passed close by a Chinese-held island in the South China Sea in a “freedom of navigation” exercise that enraged Beijing.”
These are strong actions that may be propelling us toward conflict. Jim Rickards and George Friedman have both separately said we are headed to war with North Korea. We believe it could start as a cyber-economic war with China. Given the idea that China could have stopped North Korea, does this suggest that the Chinese are prepared for a proxy war with us?
The truth is that China has been preparing for an economic war with America since at least 2013. They publicly stated they wish to “de-Americanize the world.” They have pursued a disciplined approach to dethroning the American dollar as the primary reserve currency of the world. We’ve explained this in detail before but the methodical progress continues. The most recent step has been for China to open up their domestic bond market for foreign investment. This follows a series of steps taken to prepare the Chinese yuan for global conversion and to create a functioning alternative to the Western financial system:
Never forget that the Chinese approach is methodical and uses 5-year plans to achieve long-term goals. Next year we will be at five years since the call for a “de-Americanized” world. We can rightly question whether the current situation with North Korea is being orchestrated as part of this planned challenge to American hegemony. And, even though China has serious domestic economic problems, never forget that a wounded dragon may be more ferocious. In other words, domestic economic problems might encourage global belligerence.
Unfortunately, there are no obvious solutions to the conflict developing. There may be a challenge to the global economy, our stock market, and the U.S. dollar. Some observers like Jim Rickards suggest that this may be an opportunity to look at gold. Others may suggest holding higher levels of cash in case of a knee-jerk decline in the markets. If a disruption to our electric grid is even a remote possibility, it would be worthwhile to have extra food and water available for emergencies. And, this is a good time to pray. Pray for our President and his Administration to have wisdom. Pray for peace.
For now, the next best thing to do may be to stay informed and remain cautious. This is no time for complacency.
SWIFT, CIPS, and NSA Spy Tools
by KEVIN D. FREEMAN on MAY 9, 2017
Last month a hacker calling itself Shadow Brokers released materials suggesting that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been monitoring the SWIFT interbank messaging system. If fully verified, this is a serious threat in and of itself. According to an April 14, 2017 article by Clare Baldwin in Reuters:
“Hackers released documents and files on Friday that cybersecurity experts said indicated the U.S. National Security Agency had accessed the SWIFT interbank messaging system, allowing it to monitor money flows among some Middle Eastern and Latin American banks.
The release included computer code that could be adapted by criminals to break into SWIFT servers and monitor messaging activity, said Shane Shook, a cyber security consultant who has helped banks investigate breaches of their SWIFT systems.”
The April 14th issue of WIRED by Andy Greenberg went into greater detail on the same story:
“…the Shadow Brokers published documents that—if legitimate—show just how thoroughly US intelligence has compromised elements of the global banking system. The new leak includes evidence that the NSA hacked into EastNets, a Dubai-based firm that oversees payments in the global SWIFT transaction system for dozens of client banks and other firms, particularly in the Middle East. The leak includes detailed lists of hacked or potentially targeted computers, including those belonging to firms in Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Syria, Yemen, and the Palestinian territories. Also included in the data dump, as in previous Shadow Brokers releases, are a load of fresh hacking tools, this time targeting a slew of Windows versions.”
So what does SWIFT mean? From a WIRED magazine piece last year:
“SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication and is a consortium that operates a trusted and closed computer network for communication between member banks around the world. The consortium, which dates back to the 1970s, is based in Belgium and is overseen by the National Bank of Belgium and a committee composed of representatives from the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and other major banks. The SWIFT platform has some 11,000 users and processes about 25 million communications a day, most of them money transfer transactions. Financial institutions and brokerage houses that use SWIFT have codes that identify each institution as well as credentials that authenticate and verify transactions.”
We already knew that the SWIFT system had been targeted by criminals. Proof comes in the fact that $81 million was stolen from Bangladesh with $1 billion having been targeted. Other banks were targeted and some maybe successfully. This had serious implications, according to Kim Zetter in that same WIRED magazine report (May 17, 2016):
What Does the Heist Mean?“Even if the hackers didn’t compromise the SWIFT network itself, such that all of SWIFT banks were vulnerable, it’s still bad news for the global banking process. By targeting the methods that member banks use to conduct transactions over the SWIFT network, the hackers undermine a system that until now had been viewed as stalwart.
The incidents also raise integrity issues about the trustworthiness of SWIFT reporting. The US government relies on SWIFT transaction records to alert it to suspicious money transfers that could be related to terrorism financing.”
Here is the problem. A couple of bank heists a year ago undermined the reputation of SWIFT. Now, with the NSA hacking/monitoring “tools” made public, the SWIFT system seems even more vulnerable.
For background, it is important to know that monitoring SWIFT is big business for spies. If you want to know what is happening, you follow the money. The NSA knows this and that is why they likely have been monitoring global transactions. In addition, the United States and/or United Nations have used their position to suggest that certain countries should be cutoff from SWIFT. Such a cutting off is a powerful economic weapon. Even the threat has serious ramifications. This was used recently with North Korea. Before that, SWIFT cutoff was used against Iran. Russia has feared being denied access to SWIFT so much that they created their own version. Perhaps the best known alternative was developed by China, known as CIPS (China International Payment System). According to Financial Times, the launch of CIPS was undertaken precisely because the Chinese feared SWIFT spying:
China launch of renminbi payments system reflects Swift spying concernsThe Financial Times article also suggests that having this system will allow the Chinese renminbi to rival the U.S. dollar for global trade. At one point, the Chinese want the U.S. dollar entirely replaced and the world “de-Americanized.”
Now, with the release of the Shadow Brokers files, the Chinese and Russians have the opening argument they need to pry the world off of SWIFT and on to an alternative. Russia is already bragging about this as shown in Sputnik News:
Why Washington is Terrified of Russia, Chinaby Pepe Escobar April 21, 2017
Enveloped in layers of subtle sophistication, there’s no way to know the deeper terms Beijing and Moscow have agreed upon behind those innumerable Putin-Xi Jinping high-level meetings.
Diplomats, off the record, occasionally let it slip there may have been a coded message delivered to NATO to the effect that if one of the strategic members is seriously harassed — be it in Ukraine or in the South China Sea – NATO will have to deal with both.
For now, let’s concentrate on two instances of how the partnership works in practice, and why Washington is clueless on how to deal with it . . .
Exhibit A is the imminent visit to Moscow by the Director of the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Li Zhanshu, invited by the head of the Presidential Administration in the Kremlin, Anton Vaino. Beijing stressed the talks will revolve around – what else — the Russia-China strategic partnership, “as previously agreed on by the countries’ leaders.” . . .
Follow the money
Exhibit B centers on Russia and China quietly advancing their agreement to progressively replace the US dollar’s reserve status with a gold-backed system . . .
In parallel, Russia and China are advancing their own payment systems. With the yuan now enjoying the status of a global currency, China has been swiftly promoting their payment system, CIPS, careful not to frontally antagonize the internationally accepted SWIFT, controlled by the US . . .
[To CONTINUE READING at Sputnik News…]
Whether this is bluster or serious warning, there should be little doubt that this is the story Russia is promoting. Putin has long threatened the U.S. dollar. If you believe the Russians would meddle in our election, can you be certain they wouldn’t try to undermine our financial system?
Now, connect the dots. With the newly released NSA information and the successful theft of huge amounts of money, the Chinese and Russians can argue that the Western-based system is vulnerable. They will attempt to get even allies of ours to at least connect via CIPS. Will they be successful? Likely yes. As proof remember back to how we opposed allies joining the Asian Development Bank. Yet, they joined China anyway despite our opposition. What happens if Russia and China use their very sophisticated hacker squads to turn the screws on SWIFT? And, if the Shadow Brokers release is proven accurate, will they be able to justify such activity if caught by pointing to the NSA files?
Many will no doubt argue that the Chinese economy is far too shaky for such a move. The truth is that such a move is actually more likely to occur out of desperation. If you run out of options and have nothing to lose, why wouldn’t you make a play? If the world turns away from SWIFT, that is bad enough as we lose a potent economic weapon.If the world turns to CIPS, it’s worse as we see China pick up a potentially loaded economic weapon.
The bottom line is this. Shadow Brokers have given Russia and China the justification to press their alternative to SWIFT if and when they so choose. And, if the Chinese economy starts to turn down, they may have the incentive to do so sooner rather than later. This is a serious cause for concern.
by KEVIN D. FREEMAN on JULY 19, 2017
A few months ago, we shared about a movie that documented the Armenian Genocide entitled The Promise. Set a century ago, starring Christian Bale (who also starred as Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy) and based on history, The Promise tells a powerful story that must never be forgotten. It demonstrated the cruelty of men as well as the beauty of hope. It was released yesterday on DVD and on iTunes.
This weekend, another movie is released. Set 77 years ago, it also recounts history with a story of faith and hope. The tagline is, “At the point of crisis, at the point of annihilation, SURVIVAL IS VICTORY.”Given some of the challenges we face today, understanding both survival and victory can be essential. These lessons taught have tremendous application for our everyday challenges as well.
Dunkirk Movie Poster–In theaters July 21
Dunkirk recounts some rather extraordinary events that took place in May 1940 (see the trailer here). Tragedy of the most extreme type was about to befall the world, with 400,000 British and French soldiers trapped in France, surrounded by Hitler’s army more than twice their strength and size. Short of a miracle, these brave souls, comprising the heart of the British army, would be captured, killed, or starved. Yet, as any amateur historian knows, the vast majority was safely transported back to England in what is now known as “the Miracle of Dunkirk.”
Hopefully director Christopher Nolan (Director of The Dark Knight trilogy) will tell more than the facts of the matter. The rest of the (true) story is that not one, but multiple miracles took place after King George VI called his nation to set aside May 26th as a National Day of Prayer. The King worshiped God at Westminster Abbey. Most of the British Empire joined him either there or in churches around the world in crying out to the true Almighty. The photograph below shows the extraordinary response from the British people as they lined up outside Westminster Abbey for corporate prayer. Their heartfelt cry certainly had an effect.
We know from the scriptures that when two or more gather in the name of the Lord, God shows up (Matthew 18:20). We also know that the effectual, fervent (heartfelt) prayer of the righteous has great power (James 5:16). These scriptures proved true at Dunkirk. As Winston Churchill observed, “335,000 men had been carried out of the jaws of death and shame to their native land.” How that happened was indeed a miracle, documented by intercessor Rees Howells and others.
Reverend David E. Gardner wrote a trilogy on Dunkirk entitled The Trumpet Sounds for Britain. He went to be with the Lord in 2002 but MovieGuide saw fit to excerpt his work for a recent article titled History in the Movies: The Miracle of Dunkirk.
Rev. Gardner explained the miracles that saved the men (quoting the MovieGuide excerpts):
“The first miracle
The first was that for some reason – which has never yet been fully explained – Hitler overruled his generals and halted the advance of his armored columns at the very point when they could have proceeded to the British army’s annihilation. They were now only 10 miles away! Later, Mr. Churchill asserted in his memoirs that this was because Hitler undoubtedly believed “that his air superiority would be sufficient to prevent a large-scale evacuation by sea.” That is very significant in terms of the second miracle.
The second miracle
A storm of unprecedented fury broke over Flanders on Tuesday, 28 May, (1940), grounding the German Luftwaffe squadrons and enabling the British army formations, now eight to twelve miles from Dunkirk, to move up on foot to the coast in the darkness of the storm and the violence of the rain, with scarcely any interruption from aircraft, which were unable to operate in such turbulent conditions. The Fuehrer had obviously not taken the weather into his reckoning, nor the One who controls the weather! And, the third miracle?
The third miracle
Despite the storm in Flanders, a great calm—such as has rarely been experienced—settled over the English Channel during the days which followed, and its waters became as still as a mill pond.
It was this quite extraordinary calm which enabled a vast armada of little ships, big ships, warships, privately owned motor-cruisers from British rivers and estuaries – in fact, almost anything that would float – to ply back and forth in a desperate bid to rescue as many of our men as possible.
The Little Ships
There were so many ships involved in the evacuation that this is the way in which Douglas Bader, the legless Spitfire fighter ace, who sped over with his squadrons from the fighter base at Martlesham, near Ipswich, to help cover the operation, described the scene in Fight for the Sky: “The sea from Dunkirk to Dover during these days of the evacuation looked like any coastal road in England on a bank holiday. It was solid with shipping. One felt one could walk across without getting one’s feet wet, or that’s what it looked like from the air. There were naval escort vessels, sailing dinghies, rowing boats, paddle-steamers, indeed every floating device known in this country. They were all taking British soldiers from Dunkirk back home. You could identify Dunkirk from the Thames estuary by the huge pall of black smoke rising straight up into a windless sky from the oil tanks which were ablaze just inside the harbor.”
Yet still, to a very large extent, the German air squadrons were unable to intervene. Certainly not in force, nor in the way Hitler had anticipated, for so many of these squadrons still remained grounded. So much so, that General Haider, Chief of the German General Staff, three days after the High Command had so proudly boasted that the British Army was about to be annihilated, was obliged to record in his diary on 30 May that “Bad weather has grounded the Luftwaffe, and now we must stand by and watch countless thousands of the enemy getting away to England right under our noses.”
A strange immunity
Even though some squadrons did get through, it seems that yet another miracle happened. Many of the troops on the beaches were favored with a strange immunity. When about 400 men were being machine-gunned and bombed, systematically, by about sixty enemy aircraft, one man who flung himself down with the rest reported that, after the strafing was over, he was amazed to find that there was not a single casualty.
Another man, a chaplain, was likewise machine-gunned and bombed as he lay on the beach. After what seemed an eternity, he realized he had not been hit, and rose to his feet to find that the sand all around where he had been lying was pitted with bullet holes, and that his figure was outlined on the ground.”
There was and should be no doubt that miracles took place. In fact, it was so obvious that the British, with such deep gratitude, held a day of National Thanksgiving on June 9 with praying and the singing of Psalm 124:
1 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say:
2 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us:
3 Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us:
4 Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul:
5 Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.
6 Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth.
7 Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
King James Version (KJV) Public Domain
So What Lessons Can We Learn from Dunkirk Today?
There are at least three valuable and timeless lessons to NEVER FORGET.
First, we must recognize that miracles can still happen today. Sometimes it seems easy to relegate God’s hand of Providence to Biblical Times. And then the temptation is to relegate Biblical accounts as simply stories told as if they were Greek mythology or ancient fairy tales. There is no discounting what happened in 1940, however. That history is so well documented that it must be accepted. And that history is absolute in explaining the miracles that took place.
Oftentimes, people will question Biblical accounts because they don’t experience modern miracles. Dunkirk gives us reason to not only acknowledge the miraculous in modern times but to hearten our understanding of Biblical accounts.
Think about it. We have a nation in an impossible situation. A hostile army of superior strength intent on their destruction surrounded their people. That nation cries out to God and is miraculously delivered through the sea. Sound familiar?
When last in Egypt, I had the opportunity to learn about the mummified remains of Pharaoh Ramses II. This is the Pharaoh commonly associated with Moses and the Exodus. When the researchers unwrapped him for display at the Egyptian Museum late in the 20th Century, his arms were differently positioned from any other mummy. In fact, the museum officially states that his arms were positioned as if he were holding the reins to a chariot with his right hand and attempting to hold back an onslaught of water with his left. In addition, x-rays suggest that he died from drowning with sea salt found inside the mummy. Other research suggests that he died around the age of 90. All of this is consistent with the Biblical account of Exodus.
God’s deliverance is a continual theme in the Bible. Sometimes, this was personal deliverance for individuals or families, as in the case of Daniel in the Lion’s Den or the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. Other times, there was a miracle to save a nation (such as David vs. Goliath). But the point is that the history of Dunkirk demonstrates that these are more than stories from long ago. And, the miracles did not end when the Bible was finished.
The second lesson from Dunkirk has to do with the importance of giving thanks for God’s deliverance.
It is essential to note that the deliverance of Dunkirk did not end the war. In fact, the British were still heavily outmanned and outgunned. The war was going to be taken to their homeland with the Battle of Britain that would start in the next month and last for at least six months. And, the completion of the war itself was five years away and the prospects remained dire. Britain was about to be tested as never before and the British knew it. And yet, they paused on a Sunday in June to drop to their knees in Thanksgiving, prayer, and praise.
For us, we should be careful to give God the glory and demonstrate our own thanksgiving for any deliverance, whether large or small. We must do this even if we don’t know or see the final outcome. It is too easy to ignore the miracles we experience daily because we continue to fear the larger challenge. A good example from Exodus is how the children of Israel took manna for granted because they remained in the wilderness. Sadly, they forgot the Red Sea miracle in short order.
A New Testament example that shows a lack of gratitude can be seen with the ten lepers who were healed. Only one returned to give thanks. Jesus rightly questioned (Luke 17: 17), “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”
The third lesson from Dunkirk is a reminder that we ought to be crying out for deliverance.What are you going through today where you could use a touch from God? Do you need God’s miraculous help with your family, your health, or your finances? If God was able to rescue 335,000 souls from an impossible circumstance, He is clearly able to deliver you. And, for those of us concerned about the declining culture, the economy, or national security threats, it is imperative that we purposely cry out to God now.
There are so many threats we face as Christians in America. There is the effort to stamp out religious liberty, wherein you are not allowed to demonstrate your faith in the marketplace. There is the threat of terrorism and radical jihadists who want to force Shariah law on our nation. There is the risk of a financial failure. There is human trafficking and child exploitation that hides in the shadows but threatens our children. There are potentially systemic threats to our power grid from hacking or EMP. There are cyber threats that can destroy a nation with the click of a mouse. Such things were impossible even a decade ago. And, of course, there are international threats from rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran. The list is long. Given that, shouldn’t we be crying out to God Almighty both individually and corporately?
Sometimes it seems as if God waits for His people to cry out before delivering them. So why aren’t we crying out? Oh that President Trump, accompanied by leaders in Congress, would call for a day of national prayer and fasting to ask for God’s hand of protection. Oh that each state or city’s leaders would do the same. Oh that we would be unwavering in joining together in prayer groups and Bible studies everywhere, to perpetually and persistently petition God for deliverance for our ourselves, our families, our cities, our states, and our country!
For us, the challenge of Dunkirk is to believe in God, to recognize our utter dependence on his sovereign divine hand, to cry out to him ceaselessly, and to understand that the God of the Bible is alive today and He continues to reign in the affairs of men.
Are you facing a personal Dunkirk where things seem impossible and there is no way out? Odds are, you have just emerged from a serious challenge or are about to enter one. Take comfort! The God behind the miracle of Dunkirk is alive and well, ready to help you in your time of greatest need.
Qatar called out? It’s About Time!
by KEVIN D. FREEMAN on JUNE 5, 2017
Patrick Poole sent me his commentary late yesterday regarding the severing of ties with Qatar by multiple major Middle Eastern nations. It’s definitely worth reading if you missed it. Here is a quick summary:
Major Confrontation Between Saudi, Egypt, UAE Against Qatar Over Terror Support
BY PATRICK POOLE JUNE 4, 2017Several countries took major moves against Qatar today over its support for terror. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties, setting off a major crisis in the Middle East.
BREAKING: United Arab Emirates, Egypt join Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in cutting diplomatic ties to Qatar.
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 5, 2017
Egypt, Saudis, Bahrain and U.A.E. cut ties with Qatar as Gulf rift deepens https://t.co/PSkpolT3bx
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) June 5, 2017
The move also cuts Qatar’s transit rights with these countries:
#Bahrain, #Egypt, #Saudi Arabia and #UAE to also cut air and sea traffic to #Qatarhttps://t.co/T1PADdkbfD pic.twitter.com/ArY7J8irR7
— Arab News (@Arab_News) June 5, 2017
Qatar Airways will also not be able to fly to Jordan (most of journey over Saudi), North Africa & much of Europe (except via Iran)
— Ghanem Nuseibeh (@gnuseibeh) June 5, 2017
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Bahrain cut all ties. Qatari citizens have 14 days to leave counties. Saudis shut down sea, air, land crossings. https://t.co/2ffoNz6PYu
— @DukeStJournal (@DukeStJournal) June 5, 2017
Qatar citizens have been given 14 days and diplomats 48 hours to leave Bahrain https://t.co/gx1CYRcqik
— India Today (@IndiaToday) June 5, 2017
[To CONTINUE READING at PJ Media….]
There is clearly a lot going on with this. Perhaps the most significant aspect is the recognition of Qatar’s role in supporting terrorism as well as unrest. It’s about time.
For our readers, there should be no surprise. We documented the very sophisticated financial terrorism of 2008 and the connections to Qatar. Here is one example from two years ago:Did this Wanted Muslim Brotherhood Leader Trigger the 2008 Global Economic Collapse?by KEVIN D. FREEMAN on MAY 29, 2015
Two seemingly unrelated headlines hit the news in the past couple of days. The first is that Egypt wants to extradite a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader from Qatar. The second is that former CEO Dick Fuld claims that Lehman Brothers could have been saved.
Looking back seven years, we are reminded that the failure of Lehman Brothers triggered the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression. That much we know. But did Lehman have to fail? Dick Fuld, from his May 28 press conference (as reported in The New York Times):
Mr. Fuld also quickly offered three data points that he suggested made it clear that Lehman could have survived, had the Fed not forced it to fail: “When Lehman was mandated into bankruptcy, we said our equity capital was $28 billion. Second, we had a Tier 1 capital ratio of 11 percent. Third, Lehman had unencumbered collateral of $127 billion.” …
After his formal remarks, a moderator pressed Mr. Fuld to answer questions about the last days of Lehman.
“It’s very easy to look back. As they said, hindsight is 20/20. There is no ‘if’ or ‘woulda coulda shoulda,’ ” he said. “You can only make a decision at any specific time with the best information that you think you have.”
Going further, Mr. Fuld insisted that he could have saved the firm: “Lehman Brothers at the point of 2008 was not a bankrupt company.”
Asked what he could have done differently, he avoided answering directly, and instead said, “I think I missed the violence of the market and how it spread from one asset class to the next. Did we do everything we could? Did we fall prey to some other agendas? I’ll leave it at that.”
As a reminder, Lehman Brothers was allowed to fail in mid September after coming under a vicious naked short selling and Credit Default Swap attack that began on September 11, 2008. Much of the naked short selling seemed to emanate from the Middle East through London. Some believe that Sovereign Wealth Funds were involved and that Barclays may have been a conduit.
Now, here is where it gets interesting.
First, in August 2007 Shariah Compliant Funds (SCF) began to adopt short selling tactics working with Barclays among others. At least one of the focal points was banks.
Second, sovereign wealth funds (SWF) in Qatar and UAE had major stakes in Barclays during the 2008 crisis. And these deals have involved a notable amount of scandal. Some believe that Barclays cut deals with the SWFs to avoid nationalization. In exchange, however, Barclays in essence deeded control of the London bank to the Middle East.
Third, the Qatari SWF had a Shariah scholar named Qaradawi. Qaradawi, a senior Muslim Brotherhood scholar, has been known as anti-Israel, anti-America, and anti-capitalism. To him, Lehman Brothers would be all of the above, historically Jewish, based in America, and a capitalist bank that practices usury–something forbidden by Sharia Law. And, he saw the Western financial collapse as demonstrating the superiority of Shariah:
“The collapse of capitalism based on usury and paper and not on the trading of goods on the market is proof that it is in crisis and shows the Islamic economic philosophy is holding up,” prominent Egyptian-born Qatar-based cleric Sheikh Yussef al-Qaradawi told a recent conference in Doha.
Fourth, Shariah scholars have enormous power and leeway and seem unaccountable in a way that even some Muslims find objectionable. SCF is seen as too personality driven and there is no doubt that Qaradawi is a strong personality.
Fifth, it was the failure to rescue Lehman that triggered the crash. Bear Stearns had been saved months earlier without market disruption. That rescue was orchestrated with American-controlled JP Morgan Chase. But when Middle East-funded Barclays refused to step in and rescue Lehman, the collapse began.
Sixth, ultimately it was the lack of shareholder approval from Barclays that killed any deal. It’s not that Barclays didn’t want the Lehman assets. They did and bought them out of bankruptcy. But, they were unwilling to rescue Lehman. Everyone assumed that getting shareholder approval on such short notice would have been impossible. But we now know just how powerful the Sovereign Wealth Funds were in every Lehman decision. Did Qaradawi demand that Lehman fail? He certainly had the authority and would have been pleased with the outcome. And, he would have clearly opposed any rescue. Without Qatar’s support, there was no chance for Barclay’s to rescue Lehman.
Here are a few very recent thoughts on Qaradawi from Center for Security Policy:
Sheikh Yusuf Al- Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood chief jurist, has resided in Qatar for decades. However on May 26, 2015 Egyptian authorities requested Qatar extradite Qaradawi back to Egypt. Yusuf Qaradawi, followed by as many as 41 other Muslim Brotherhood officials, such as the former President of Egypt Mohammad Morsi, are awaiting the death penalty in Egypt. Following the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government, Qaradawi issued a call for jihad in Egypt. Their convictions include, but are not limited to, murder, violence, inciting violence, theft, insulting the judiciary and escaping from jail. The Egyptian court will have their final decision on the matter June 2, 2015.
Yusuf Al- Qaradawi’s background is far from clean, as his membership to the Muslim Brotherhood has led to multiple arrests. The Muslim Brotherhood has been the cause of many Egyptian crackdowns, such as the ones in 1949, 1954 and 1981. In Qaradawi’s autobiography, each arrest and imprisonment experience is discussed with a sense of dignity and positivity, even comparing himself to the Quaranic story of Joseph. A similar sense of comfortableness is seen in Qaradawi’s comments on the current charges he is facing, saying they are “worthless and undeserving of attention.”
Yusuf Al- Qaradawi along with the other 41 Muslim Brotherhood Organization members facing charges can all be found on the Interpol, or the International Criminal Police Organization, wanted list. The addition of all these men to the wanted list is a good sign for Egypt. Leaders like the Chief of the Egyptian Police Interpol, Gamal Abdel Bary, commented saying this is “an important change in the international communities’ view to the banned groups members.”
Based on this, it is in no way a stretch to imagine that this man could have been the one to pull the trigger on the global economy. He is an admitted jihadist who would like to see the failure of the West. Now, he is also a wanted man.
Clearly, most of the Arab world now officially recognizes that Qatar is a problem. The whole world also recognizes that London is a target. In fact, this morning’s USA Today (Print Edition) had an interesting headline (page 8A News, June 5, 2017): “Why has Britain been targeted?”
This seems almost ridiculous in light of a recent UK report that an estimated 23,000 jihadis live in Britain. From the (London) Times (May 27, 2017):
“Intelligence officers have identified 23,000 jihadist extremists living in Britain as potential terrorist attackers, it emerged yesterday.
The scale of the challenge facing the police and security services was disclosed by Whitehall sources after criticism that multiple opportunities to stop the Manchester bomber had been missed.”
And, why so many have moved there? Social welfare benefits are cited. And these welfare benefits have been used to fund jihad. This is also something we have discussed before. We’ve even covered London as a primary target.
Really, none of this is new to readers of this Blog. But we are seeing the cards played in rapid succession, just as we have been warning. We are even seeing the riots and social unrest that was predicted accompanied by massive cyber attacks. None of this is coincidental in regard to what is taking place or the timing of it.
The good news? It appears that today a serious blow was struck for civilization with the isolation of Qatar. Recognizing a problem is the first step to correcting it. It’s obviously too soon to declare success but it certainly feels like a positive step. And, it appears to be a direct benefit from President Trump’s recent trip to the Middle East.
The remaining question, Will the United States also do the right thing and call out the Muslim Brotherhood? For now, there seems to be an intense debate inside the Trump Administration according to Fox News today:
“There’s a battle inside the Trump administration over what to do about the Muslim Brotherhood, the group at the center of Monday’s pivotal decision by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to cut ties with Qatar over allegations it supports terrorism, experts familiar with the situation say.
The debate reaches deep inside Washington politics, where Qatar has poured money in recent years, deepening a rift in American policy circles over what to do about the Muslim Brotherhood. The immensely influential group has long been considered a supporter of terrorism by several key American allies including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”
We clearly believe that America should join the sensible decision of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain by isolating Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood (and declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terror group). Let’s not follow London’s example but instead deal with the terrorists before the situation gets out of hand. This will not only save lives but also could stop a devastating attack on our financial system.
Confirmation: Barclays, Qatar, and the Serious Fraud Office
by KEVIN D. FREEMAN on JULY 18, 2017
In the past month we’ve had several points of confirmation regarding things we’ve covered over for a decade in this Blog and our books. There are a half dozen dramatic examples that have cropped up this year alone. But for sake of simplicity and focus, we will concentrate on just one of these. It certainly bears watching.
For those who read Economic Warfare: Risks and Responses published eight years ago (access the text in multiple formats here) or Secret Weapon: How Economic Terrorism Brought Down the U.S. Stock Market and Why It Can Happen Again released five and a half years ago, or any of a number of our blog posts (most recently here), you know of the suspicious activity surrounding Barclays and Qatar in the financial crisis. Now, four former Barclays executives have been charged by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in the UK. This is monumental. We are hopeful that they will dig into all of the very unusual series of events that have taken place and how Barclays and Qatar seem to be ever present as things were collapsing, earning unusual profits at every turn.
We found numerous suspicious practices almost from the moment that Barclays and Qatar were first introduced in 2007. There are legitimate questions regarding Barclay’s role in the rise and fall of oil prices and its connections with SEM Group in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Barclays had a role in crafting a short selling technique that would allow Sharia Compliant funds to sell short stocks (with one observer excited about the prospect of shorting banks). This happened just before the financial collapse that included massive naked short selling of Lehman Brothers. Lehman’s failure was clearly identified as a bear raid by the likes of George Soros. The New England Complex Systems Institute also documented what happened to the banks as a purposed and targeted attack.
There are serious questions about Barclay’s role in rigging markets. The day after the bank paid 290 million British pounds ($450 million) in fines for manipulating LIBOR (the London Interbank Offering Rate on which much of our financial system has been pegged), a Barclays trader began manipulating gold prices. This eventually cost the bank a $44 million fine.
There are serious questions about why Barclays’ interest in Lehman Brothers disappeared when Lehman needed a rescue partner. Lehman’s failure was THE trigger in the financial collapse that changed the world. There are questions as to why Barclays was able to secure Lehman assets from bankruptcy after rejecting the rescue. And, why were Qatar and the UAE allowed to pull out financing from Barclays in the midst of a banking crisis? For that matter, there are serious questions as to why and how Qatar made such a large investment in Barclays that allowed this one large bank to be the only bank in the U.S. or U.K. not forced to take bailout money from TARP or the UK equivalent.
It is the last set of questions that has recently made news. In many ways, this transaction that took place in June 2008 represents the foundation for all of the concerns raised. For example, Qatar and the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund play a large role in the energy markets. There are legitimate arguments that Middle Eastern Sovereign Wealth Funds were involved in manipulating energy prices higher through the oil futures markets. Richard Eckaus, Chairman Emeritus of the Economics Department at MIT made it clear that the oil price rise in 2008 was a speculative bubble based on price manipulation using oil futures. In private conversations, he acknowledged that the Sovereign Wealth Funds of the middle east would be uniquely positioned both to both cause and profit from such activity. This is significant because as Barclays investors, the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund might have been given access to both sides of the trade (knowing what the buyers and sellers of oil futures were doing), thus guaranteeing success. This would have been an illegal manipulation, of course. But we know that Barclays has been caught twice for manipulation so this would not have been out of the question.
As a Forbes story explained:
“…if somebody has your book and knows every trade, it would not be difficult to bet against that book and put the company into a tremendous liquidity squeeze…”
Barclays ultimately held control of the enormous SEM Group short position on oil. They were the largest sellers of oil futures. The traders at SEM Group had been confident that oil was overpriced as it rose to $147/barrel in the summer of 2008, so they took a huge short position. At one point, SEM Group controlled almost 20% of America’s oil inventory. Barclays knew their positions as SEM Group was turning to them for financing. At the same time, Barclays was in negotiation with the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund. As Goldman Sachs later admitted, every large buy in the oil futures market moved the price of oil higher. So middle eastern Sovereign Wealth Funds became logical buyers because they could push prices higher and then profit from the higher prices. This would create a “short squeeze” against anyone like SEM Group who was betting oil prices would fall.
So, in theory you have a massive short squeeze potentially perpetrated by a middle eastern Sovereign Wealth Fund using Western banks to push oil prices up as much as $50 per barrel in the first half of 2008. Some estimates are that this was a $500 billion scam, where oil consumers paid out a half-trillion dollars in the midst of a recession. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Henry Kissinger and Martin Feldstein called the long-term runup in oil prices “the largest transfer of wealth in human history.” Money went from the west to the middle east. Of course, the parabolic rise in oil prices was unsustainable. At some point the Sovereign Wealth Funds would have to be prepared to push prices lower and profit from the decline.
In 2008, the small but experienced group of oil traders in Tulsa, Oklahoma (SEM Group) knew that oil was overpriced. They take out massive short positions but the market kept rising. They become desperate for capital, turning to Barclays for help. At about the same time, Qatar would take a massive equity stake in Barclays, using questionable means to get control. Barclays then grabs the SEM Group book of business and enjoys all the profits as the short positions begin to pay off. SEM Group falls into bankruptcy, knowing they were right about oil but lacking the staying power to win. Oil collapses from almost $150 to under $30 per barrel in a matter of months. In less than 30 days, Barclays was sitting on a $1 billion gain. Ultimately, press reports suggest that Barclays profited as much as $3 billion. That’s not pocket change. To a bank in the midst of a financial crisis, $3 billion could make the difference between success and failure.
As all of this unfolded, Barclays and Qatar were linked in a series of unusual transactions.Their connection happened just as Barclays profited $3 billion. Interestingly, Barclays loaned Qatar $3 billion. And Qatar made nearly $15 billion of investments in Barclays in two tranches (4.5 billion British pounds in June 2008 and another 7.3 billion in October). This gave Qatar de facto control at Barclays, eliminating the possibility of UK bailout scrutiny. These transactions are also what has brought about the charges from the Serious Fraud Office.
There are MANY questions that can and should be asked about all of this. For example, was the main purpose for Barclays to avoid UK oversight through this seemingly very incestuous deal with Qatar? A bank shouldn’t be allowed to make a loan to someone that then invests the money back in the bank. On the surface this makes their capital accounts look stronger even though it is really just paper shuffling. It’s similar to one kid writing a $1 million check as a “loan” to a friend who then hands a $1 million check back as an “investment.” It might look like they were both worth a million dollars but no real money actually changed hands. In the case of Qatar and Barclays, real money eventually changed hands but it seems suspicious nonetheless as it allowed Barclays to escape government bailouts and scrutiny.
At the start of all of this, Barclays had expressed serious interest in buying key assets from Lehman Brothers. But then there was a bank run on Lehman Brothers that may well have emanated from Sovereign Wealth Funds in the Middle East. Was Qatar short Lehman just as Qatar was investing in Barclays? Remember that the year before, Barclays helped create a mechanism that allowed Sharia-Compliant funds to sell banks short without violating Sharia restrictions. After that, there were bear raids on Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers, two historically Jewish banks. These attacks put the entire Western financial system at risk.
It was reported that Barclays would not rescue Lehman because the shareholders were not in approval. The most significant shareholder at that point was Qatar. Had Qatar wanted Lehman rescued by Barclays it would have happened. We know that Barclays had been very interested in Lehman before their bankruptcy and also willing to buy Lehman assets after their bankruptcy. And we know that Barclays was forced to MARK UP their holdings of Lehman assets because they bought them so cheap compared to their actual value. Shortly thereafter, Qatar took serious capital out of Barclays while other banks in the U.S. and U.K. were forced to take on government bailouts with all the restrictions involved.
The final element to add to this toxic mix is the recognition of who was making decisions at the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund. Egyptian Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi would have had great sway over the fund as one of the most recognized Muslim Brotherhood scholars resident in Qatar. He also boldly called for the demise of the Western financial system to be replaced by Islamic finance. He urged Muslims to “profit from the crisis to bring about the triumph of the (Islamic) nation.” In hindsight, it is clear that Barclays and Qatar profited handsomely from the crisis. In addition, Qatar used their windfall to finance the Arab Spring just a couple of years later, much to the approval of al-Qaradawi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The wheels of justice sometimes move very slowly. We find it heartening to note that the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) finally has brought charges against Barclays. This is the first time that the SFO has brought any charges against a bank regarding the 2008 crisis. This is also happening at the same time that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain have brought pressure on Qatar to expel the Muslim Brotherhood. We hope that the SFO and the coalition of nations pressuring Qatar will dig deeply enough to get answers to all of the questions regarding Barclays’ and Qatar’s role the 2008 crisis that nearly destroyed the Western financial system.
What to Do Since the Geeks Can be Compromised
by KEVIN D. FREEMAN on MAY 30, 2017
Yesterday, we sent an important post, What Happens if the Geeks are Compromised. It explained how Best Buy’s Geek Squad has been connected to the FBI. While that’s not a bad thing from a national security view (putting aside the privacy concerns for the moment), it does raise questions regarding the loyalty of various IT support services. The blog went on to explain how IT support can be infiltrated, and helped expose a potentially serious threat to our own Congress. If you didn’t read it, be certain to do so now.
Our government has a real problem in protecting itself, let alone our national security infrastructure. Businesses are left to themselves to protect against cyber threats although required by law to do so in many cases. Sadly, there is no provision for protecting individuals. Basically, you are on your own. Worse still, this isn’t something you can do alone.
Short of unplugging your computer and replacing your smart phone with a dumb phone, there is no way to protect your personal residence from cyber threats. And, even if you do unplug and downgrade, your life is already delicately intertwined with the world-wide web. There’s no way of eliminating that risk unless you operate solely in cash and use a bank that doesn’t exist–one that is also unplugged. You’d have to go fully “off grid,” eliminating externally produced electricity, pumping your own water, avoiding doctors and medicine, and hiding in the woods to be mostly untouchable by cyber threats. It is simply not practical. And, it would be far less than fun.
The reality is that we must all take reasonable risks and precautions. And few, if any, of us are sufficiently prepared to go it alone. Most of us need serious help. But with the risk of “geek compromise,” where do we turn?
First, be certain that you follow the hygiene rules we laid out in an earlier post, The Mother of All Hacks and What You Must Do About It. This includes keeping your operating system fully updated with patches. Of course, this can seem ominous, especially to the computer challenged. There are several ways to address this. Please note that we are not endorsing or maligning any products or services, merely pointing out some perceptions, opinions, and facts that you might find useful.
Some people choose Apple over Microsoft or Google operating systems. Apple computers are generally perceived to be less vulnerable to viruses. This may be due to the fact that there are fewer in service and thus the target size is smaller. Most people believe the architecture to be more secure in general. And, with an Apple purchase you get access to their Genius Bar at Apple stores. This offers a generally secure environment with hopefully uncompromised and reputable employees to call upon for service. Even still, there are a number of security software options available for Macs.
Another option is to purchase a Windows-based computer from a reputable store that provides service. Just be prepared to travel back and forth as needed for service, although remote service may also available in some cases. You will also need to install some sort of antivirus and anti-malware software, which can be pre-loaded. And, this software will need to be kept up to date. This also may require professional assistance.
Some may opt for a reputable Internet-based seller such as Dell. You can buy computers that are customized and pre-loaded with security features. You can also buy in-home service packages as well as online or telephone support. Of course, Dell computers have at times demonstrated serious security flaws as well. As stated below, there are no perfect solutions.
Having a computer requires vigilance and awareness. And it is best to have a relationship with someone you can know and trust, whether as a company or an individual.
What you MUST NOT DO, however, is to take calls over the phone claiming that you have viruses. These are virtually guaranteed to be scams. If you don’t get anything else from this Blog Post, get this: Anyone who calls you claiming to be from Microsoft, Google, Apple, or even an Anti-Virus company and tells you that your computer is “sending out viruses” is a con artist. Don’t talk with them regardless of how convincing they may seem. Their purpose is to get you to install viruses not to remove them.
Here is an excerpt from an article in UK’s Express (April 9, 2017):
According to a top security researcher, criminals are targeting victims all over the world with fake support calls pretending to be PC experts.
Masquerading as employees from the likes of Microsoft, Google or Apple, the scammers are able to persuade victims into installing harmful malware onto their devices without getting their hands dirty – and then making off with your data….
“Microsoft, or Apple, or whoever they would never call your house and tell you that you have a virus on your computer – it will never happen!”
If you have already fallen victim to such a scam, the Express offers advice regarding what to do next at this link.
Just to drive the point home, here is what Microsoft says about this scam:
It is a SCAM!!! Microsoft does not do that nor do they have partners who do that nor do they hire sub-contractors or people or even get volunteers to do that. There are probably thousands of such companies out there doing this every day – we get two or three messages like this (or more) every day asking about it. You are the lucky ones who recognized the scam enough not to be sucked into it and end up with identify theft, infections, hacking of your computer, convincing you to buy software or services you either don’t need or that don’t really exist at all, and all sorts of nefarious tricks. You’d be surprised by how many contact us AFTER they realized they’d been suckered asking what to do. Do not waste time talking to these people, do not give them any personal information whatsoever, do not be tricked by what they may get you to see on the computer – in fact, don’t do anything they suggest on your computer or even visit websites they recommend, and for heaven’s sake don’t give them access to your computer.
Microsoft knows this goes on but with these companies springing up like dandelions, or closing and changing names when discovered, and mostly operating in foreign countries, it would take an army of lawyers to pursue every one of them. They do the best they can, but there simply are too many and more get added every day. People have to be careful of these things. They not only occur by phone, but also by e-mail, instant messaging, regular mail and every way imaginable. Just remember that Microsoft does not do this and hang up or delete emails or messages or mail from anyone claiming they are doing this because they know information about your computer or want information from you to confirm your account so it won’t be closed and ask you for your username and password and all sorts of other personal information. Microsoft DOES NOT DO THIS!
WIRED Magazine played along with one of the spammers and recorded it to show you how the same works. It gets very tedious but you can watch the scam unfold.
Another scam that happens daily is a pop-up ad that appears as a very official looking virus warning. If you click a link or call the number, you will be subject to a very similar full court press to access your computer. Here is a description of this type of scam. And here is some advice from Microsoft in dealing with it if you unfortunately see one of these pop ups. Here is an article thread from Apple users on the same subject.
A lot of this comes down to finding someone trustworthy who can help you. In light of what we shared in the last Blog, this gets a little complicated. Even if you find a reputable service team, you still need safe and secure software and hardware. At some point, you are going to have to step out in faith. Therefore, you must be as confident as possible in where you are stepping.
This raises a delicate point. Would you trust an anti-virus software produced in Iran or North Korea? Of course not. But what about China or Russia? There it gets more complicated. One of the best-known and highest regarded anti-virus packages is from Kaspersky Labs, a Russian-based company. Kaspersky has a strong track record. And yet, senior defense and intelligence officials have expressed hesitancy in employing them. This from a May 11, 2017 report at ABC News:
Senior members of the U.S. intelligence community are for the first time publicly expressing concern that one of the world’s largest cyber-security firms — Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab — could pose a threat to the U.S. homeland.
The acting head of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, told the Senate Intelligence Committee today that his agency is “very concerned about it … and we are focused on it closely.”
Robert Cardillo, the director of National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said he is “aware of the Kaspersky Lab challenge and/or threat.” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said the matter “has risen to the director of the CIA as well.” And the head of the National Security Agency, Adm. Mike Rogers, said he is “personally aware and involved” in “national security issues” associated with Kaspersky Lab.
Until those remarks at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing today, such concerns have been communicated only behind closed doors and in private memos, as ABC News first disclosed in a report Tuesday….
Current and former U.S. officials worry that Russian intelligence could seek to exploit Kaspersky Lab’s widely-used software to steal and manipulate users’ files, read private emails or attack critical infrastructure in the United States. And they point to Kaspersky Lab executives with previous ties to Russian intelligence and military agencies…. [Read the entire article at ABC News.]
Kaspersky is a software and services company. And, they have been known to do excellent work, even one time outing a Russian hacking effort. But the concerns of senior defense officials does give reason for pause.
There are also concerns with some hardware companies as well, like the former IBM ThinkPad now a Lenovo computer. From a Bill Gertz report (October 24, 2016) in the Free Beacon:
The Pentagon’s Joint Staff recently warned against using equipment made by China’s Lenovo computer manufacturer amid concerns about cyber spying against Pentagon networks, according to defense officials.
A recent internal report produced by the J-2 intelligence directorate stated that cyber security officials are concerned that Lenovo computers and handheld devices could introduce compromised hardware into the Defense Department supply chain, posing cyber espionage risks, said officials familiar with the report. The “supply chain” is how the Pentagon refers to its global network of suppliers that provide key components for weapons and other military systems.
The J-2 report was sent Sept. 28, and also contained a warning that Lenovo was seeking to purchase American information technology companies in a bid to gain access to classified Pentagon and military information networks.
The report warned that use of Lenovo products could facilitate cyber intelligence-gathering against both classified and unclassified—but still sensitive—U.S. military networks.
One official said Lenovo equipment in the past was detected “beaconing”—covertly communicating with remote users in the course of cyber intelligence-gathering.
“There is no way that company or any Chinese company should be doing business in the United States after all the recent hacking incidents,” the official said.
About 27 percent of Lenovo Group Ltd. is owned by the Chinese Academy of Science, a government research institute. In April, a Chinese Academy of Sciences space imagery expert, Zhou Zhixin, was named to a senior post in the Chinese military’s new Strategic Support Force, a unit in charge of space, cyber, and electronic warfare. China has been linked by the National Security Agency to large-scale cyber spying against both the Pentagon and American and foreign defense contractors. [Read the entire article at Free Beacon.]
So, what is the best way to protect yourself? First, make certain you have an updated computer with an updated operating system. Look for hardware from a trustworthy manufacturer subject to U.S. law. Get professional IT support from someone you can trust. There may be someone at your church or a friend of a friend. Or, you might get support from the manufacturer.
When looking at Anti-Virus software, you might check out the 10 highest rated suppliers from PC Magazine.You should note that Kaspersky made this list. There are also well-known suppliers like Bitdefender, McAfee, and Symantec. For Mac users, check out the Top 11 list PC Mag provides. Of course, this is just for your computer. There are whole other issues to consider regarding your Smart Phone and Tablet device. We will save some of that for a future Post.
The point is this: It is essential that you begin to consider personal cyber security. You must do it with the awareness of supply chain risks. Look for a trusted supplier or support person. And by all means, DO NOT FALL for the telephone scams.