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  • Exposing Afghan Cyber-crime to the Light
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 4:07 PM on Jun 23, 2010

    The war on corruption in Afghanistan may finally get serious attention, but whether there are results is another matter.

    The targets of interest are cyber-crimes including financial scams, organized crime, blackmail, bureaucratic corruption or spying via networked communications.

    The weapons of choice include software that tracks social media connections and money transfer processes. Hardware and software options include high-speed, purely optical, photonic switches and fiber optics that allow the fast access and distribution of massive amounts of data for processing and rapid analyses by intelligence agencies.

    Afghanistan – notorious for corruption at every level of society, business and government – is to become a test case for redirecting such technology and intelligence techniques toward solving internal abuses. While al Qaeda, the Taliban and temporary residents of the un-policed Pakistani tribal lands have been the primary target for intelligence-gathering, the Afghan bureaucracy may soon have equal status in observation and analyses of its activities.

    “The technology to monitor [internally] exists and is being acquired by many governments around the world to suppress criminal activity and corruption,” says a senior Pentagon official with insight into Afghan operations. “The main underlying reason is to track foreign entities and anti-government groups in[side threatened] countries. This specifically can be applied to Afghanistan.”

    However, corruption is an ingrained element of a culture that is based on family, tribal and village ties rather than rule of law.

    “It’s easy to talk about universal terrorism,” says a veteran, U.S. intelligence specialist. “It’s tougher to talk about what countries are doing internally to police themselves. They face problems from corruption, extortion, kidnapping and international or local Mafia. Commerce is another threatened area. Are there basic core capabilities being stolen?”

    “The current direction of technology is to monitor [communications] traffic optically with something that can select a particular optical fiber [selected from among thousands] on demand,” says Robert Lundy, president & CEO of Glimmerglass Networks, a company that builds advanced intelligence optical systems to remotely access, sort and distribute massive amounts of data flowing through fiber optic conduits. “Once you have extracted the wavelengths, you can dynamically select the ones you are interested in and do it all from a remote location. If we were [installed] at an operations center of some country, our systems could be used to look at all the international entry and exit points for fiber optics.”

    As the mid-point of an 18-mo. buildup of NATO troops in Afghanistan nears, additional intelligence gathering capabilities, new techniques and tools such as  specialized fusion cells as well as an increase in interrogators and analysts are being focused on internal surveillance.

    The effort began late last year when the U.S. created an anti-corruption task force led by U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, the director of military intelligence for operations in Afghanistan. Early targets have been border police, drug traffickers and politicians.

    “More than 95% of the world’s transoceanic communication is carried over fiber,” says Keith May, senior director of defense intelligence solutions for Glimmerglass Networks. “That presents a problem to the intelligence communities that since World War II have been learning to intercept radio, microwave and satellite communications.”

    “On the intelligence side, the message is that if you are going to protect your citizens by monitoring communications traffic, you need light [and optical tools] because nearly all internet traffic is ultimately on some form of fiber,” Lundy says. “If you are going to monitor it, you need to do much of it optically. You can pick some off cell phones. But clearly, the massive top of the [intelligence gathering] funnel is coming through optically and you need to manage that.”

    Tags: ar99, Afghanistan, cyber

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