Tag Archives: Israel

US-Israeli Stuxnet Cyber-attacks against Iran: info and implications

Our guest speaker in class today, Professor Ralph Russo, briefly discussed the US-Israeli Stuxnet Cyber-attacks against Iran. With the topic of class this week being cybersecurity, I think that a deeper look into this event is warranted.

In 2009-2010, the US (in collaboration with Israel) used malware, specifically a Stuxnet worm, to invade the control systems in an Iranian nuclear plant so that it’s centrifuges would spin at incorrect rates. Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility was the specific target. This cyber-attack successfully caused major technical problems with the centrifuges at this site and stalled nuclear production in Iran.

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The cyber-attack qualifies as “an act of force” using “cyber weapons” under the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare, which states: “acts that kill or injure persons or destroy or damage objects are unambiguously uses of force” (A). This event is also widely acclaimed (by Professor Russo and other professionals) as “an act of war.”

Obama recently stated in an article in the Wall Street Journal: “cyber threat to our nation is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face” (B). On the same note, just two weeks ago, the president of Estonia stated in the New York Times: In a modern digitalized world it is possible to paralyze a country without attacking its defense forces” (C). In other words a country can virtually be brought to a halt by cyber-attack.

Clearly, the world understands the potential devastating outcomes of a cyber-attack as one of the most serious threats to a country, its economy, public health system, safety, etc. So was the US cyber-attack against Iran warranted? Are we promoting the ‘use’ of cyber-attacks by carrying them out ourselves, even if the intention of the cyber-attack against Iran was (arguably) harm reduction, disaster mitigation, or self-defense? Are we just asking for/ should we expect a strike back from Iran now that we’ve initiated this cyber-war? Professor Russo argues that we can’t really complain when Iran turns around and does something like this to us, and I have to agree with him.

Sources: A, B, C

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City wide Wi-Fi: Hurt or Help the Digital Divide?

As we begin looking at ICT4D, the class has started thinking critically about information, knowledge, and technology and who it is benefiting.  Today, while learning about the digital divide, we discussed barriers to access where we considered things such as economical, geographical, educational, and generational gaps.  We also looked at information societies and knowledge societies, and what they mean for ICT4D.

A large barrier in the digital divide is obviously access, especially for the poor.  Accessing the Internet requires paying for both access as well as a device to connect to the world wide web.  As smartphones and computers become less expensive and more prevalent, this reduces the cost of the device, but does not guarantee Internet access.

This conversation reminding me of an article I read last year, and I decided to look into it further.

The municipality of Tel Aviv, Israel is looking towards a solution for this barrier by offering free, public Wi-Fi across the city.  A travel website advertised the 80 free wi-fi hotspots that can be accessed on any “computer, tablet, or smartphone.”  The speed is estimated to be 5 megabytes and will block any major downloading and file sharing as well as pornography and gambling websites.  The municipality website confirms the project with an estimated $1.6 million USD budget.

City council member Alon Solar (Rov Hair) initiated the project and states that this is only the “first step toward a more advanced city government, which is adapting itself to the technological world.” (Haaretz, 2011)

This initiative is an interesting example in that it both reduces and widens the digital divide.  By offering a free way to access the Internet, public Wi-Fi networks offer individuals who may have no or limited internet a constant connection – thereby narrowing the gap.  However, by only creating free access points in urban areas, this further isolates those living in rural settings.  Additionally, the city is only creating Wi-Fi hotspots, meaning that only individuals with the right devices can take advantage.

City-wide wireless may prove to be an upcoming and exciting trend with potential to help close the digital divide, but precautions should also be taken to ensure that does not further isolate individuals or communities.


Tweets from the Conflict Zone

      Although it did not apply to the     topics for this week, when I read this article on CNN.com I couldn’t pass it up. Many of us have been following the recent escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine, but perhaps less are aware of the ways that both sides have been using Twitter to engage in a “war of words”. The Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) live tweeting of the air strike that killed Ahmed Jabari, a high ranking Hamas leader, opened up the world of social media as a new sphere through which the two countries have attempted to sway public opinion. The IDF even went so far as to post a video of the bomb being dropped on Jabari’s car. However, Palestinian groups have not remained silent. The military wing of Hamas tweet AT the IDF, saying, “Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)”. Some observers have questioned whether this development will change the face of warfare forever and whether armies and military officials will now be forced to use social media to “spin the public in real time”.

One woman quoted in the article says that the governments’ tweets seem “hollow and distortionist” in comparison with tweets by/of people who are actually effected by the violence. Others have questioned whether Twitter has a responsibility to monitor more of what is posted. Personally, I find the use of Twitter by both groups to be appalling. In fact, the tweet by Hamas gives me the chills. It seems that there would be much more productive ways for the two sides to communicate. However, it is obvious that they’re not tweeting for each other’s benefit, but rather for the public.


Israel sets its sites on its own National Broadband Network

Word on the street in Israel is that its state-owned electric company hopes to roll out its own high-speed national broadband network.  The new technology that would be adopted is called “fiber to the home,” or FTTH.  It is super quick, providing connection speeds of 100 megabits to a 1 gigabit per second, unlike traditional broadband speeds used in developed worlds that connect at speeds that are 5 to 10 megabits.  With connections of 10 to 100 times current speeds, it will transform the entertainment, business and health care industries in the country.  This technology is described as the “gold standard” of the next generation, and would easily put Israel at the forefront of Internet technology.

Putting it in a global perspective, let’s look at where other countries stand regarding FTTH. Below is the percentage of households that have this technology:

  1. South Korea-just over 50%
  2. Japan & Hong Kong- just over 40%
  3. United States-6.6%

Despite Israel’s small size, it is one of the world’s top high-tech centers having created leading products in areas like security software and instant messaging.  If Isreal can develop information and communication technology at these levels, why hasn’t the United States taken such initiative? I think we need to start stepping up our game or we are going to be left behind in future generations.

Article Link: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/australian-it/israel-sets-its-sites-on-its-own-national-broadband-network/story-e6frgakx-1226254885060