Morning Security Brief: Encryption Thwarts Wiretaps, Lawmakers Discuss Irregular Warfare, and Education Efforts Questioned
The U.S. government says that encryption has thwarted wiretaps for the first time, a House of Representatives committee discusses irregular warfare and the private sector, and a report questions the effectiveness of the government’s security education efforts.
► According to Wired, U.S. officials have reported that encryption stopped the government from obtaining information via wiretaps for the first time. In a report from the U.S. Administrative Office of the Courts, encryption was present on 15 wiretaps the government executed in 2012. Of these, four wiretaps failed to produce intelligible information because the encryption scrambled the data. According to the report: “This is the first time that jurisdictions have reported that encryption prevented officials from obtaining the plain text of the communications since the [government] began collecting encryption data in 2001.” The article points out that the numbers are miniscule compared with the 3,395 wiretaps authorized in 2012, but it does suggest that encryption could be used to protect privacy.
► The Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats, and Capabilities for the House Committee on Armed Services held a hearing to discuss the U.S. military’s use of irregular warfare and how private sector products and services could enhance such efforts. Social media, biometrics, and training programs were all offered as possible enhancements to existing military tactics. One witness, Rudolph Atallah, CEO of White Mountain Research told lawmakers that a critical part of implementing any technology is focus on the cultural aspects of the conflict. Atallah testified that “eroding irregular adversaries’ ideological and social centers of gravity and wielding the influence required to win at a war’s moral level—critical in an age where social media turns tactical missteps into strategic conundrums—can only be achieved through the access, dexterity, and context afforded by properly equipped warriors and analysts.”
► A report by the Government Accountability Office examines the five Regional Centers for Security Studies , overseen by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). The report found that the centers are distinct from other DOD programs. While most DOD institutions offer training and education to help participants understand security and military matters, the centers focus on helping “foreign participants understand regional security issues” and “generally target a foreign civilian and military personnel audience.” The centers also offer program that are shorter and less formal than other DOD offerings. Asked by Congress to determine whether the centers are performing as expected, the GAO found that such an assessment is currently impossible because the DOD’s ability to gauge whether the centers are “achieving departmental priorities remains limited because it has not developed an approach for assessing progress.”