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Morning Security Brief: White House Counterterrorism Policy, Wiretaps, 'Bedroom' Hackers, and More

By Carlton Purvis

► The White House has issued a National Strategy for Counterterrorism policy statement. In the cover letter, the President states, "To defeat al-Qa'ida, we must define with precision and clarity who we are fighting, setting concrete and realistic goals...consistent with our core values...." The strategy document goes on to state that "The preeminent security threat to the United States continues to be from al-Qa‘ida and its affiliates and adherents (including those in the Middle East, East Africa, the Maghreb and Sahel regions of northwest Africa, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia. "Beyond al-Qa‘ida, other foreign terrorist organizations threaten U.S. national security interests. These groups seek to undermine the security and stability of allied and partner governments, foment regional conflicts, traffic in narcotics, or otherwise pursue agendas that are inimical to U. S. interests. Whether these are groups that operate globally, as Hizballah or HAMAS do, or are terrorist organizations located and focused domestically, we are committed to working vigorously and aggressively to counter their efforts and activities even as we avoid conflating them and al-Qa‘ida into a single enemy," it states.

► Wiretap applications are up 34 percent since the last annual report, according to data from the Federal Judiciary. A new report released this week, containing data from January to December 2010, shows that Federal judges approved 1,207 wiretaps, and 1,987 were authorized by state judges. “Historical data reveal applications are rarely turned down,” The Legal Times reports. Eighty-four percent of all wiretaps were in drug related cases. These wire taps led to 4,700 arrests and 800 convictions.

► A British think-tank says that if Britain wants to stay on the leading edge of cybersecurity, it should consider hiring “bedroom hackers” to help fight cybercrime. The Institute for Security and Resilience Studies says the government needs to develop more innovative ideas to tackle the problem, the Telegraph reports. An expert from the institute has written to the Foreign Secretary and the Defense Secretary, asking them to consider building a Cyber-Resilience Task Force. “The task force would look at how to train and recruit computer experts from outside the mainstream, including former hackers who want to help fight off attacks from Chinese and Russian spies and from organized criminal gangs,” the Telegraph reports.

► In related news, computer hackers targeting al Qaeda took out their communications systems, MSNBC reports. The attack was well-coordinated and used sophisticated techniques, according to one terrorism expert. "My guess is that it will take them at least several days more to repair the damage and get their network up and functioning again, Evan Kohlmann, of Flashpoint Global Partners, which monitors the group's communications, told MSNBC. No groups have taken credit for the attack. 

► With the future in mind, employee-screening companies are actively looking for ways to make screening more convenient and mobile. A new app from BeenVerified shows the potential, though it is not structured as a business background screening app. The app allows users to run free background checks from their Android devices and iPhones by searching through information like social media profiles, criminal records, and online shopping lists, Gizmodo reports. “There is all this information floating around that is publicly available. It just happens to be information about people. Everything it found about me was also available with a Google sleuthing. It just did it faster and automatically,” Gizmodo wrote Matt Honan wrote after using the app to run a background check on himself. "It was amazingly comprehensive," he wrote. 

► In other news, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said as the threat of homegrown terrorists increases, the Department of Homeland Security is recruiting local police to help track down terrorists. ♦ The FDA approves generic forms of anthrax treatment drugs. ♦ And a judge rules that Google can be sued for violating wiretap laws for accessing WiFi data while using their Street View mapping cars.

 

 

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