Security brings you the monthly Cybersecurity and Geopolitical vodcast from Cyjax CISO Ian Thornton-Trump that ruminates on the enmeshing of cybersecurity and geopolitics and the new challenges and intriguing flashpoints these bring to enterprise security and risk professionals.
This month’s entertaining podcast takes place back in-person from a pub in the U.K, with a wide-ranging conversation covering America’s potentially myopic focus on Russia; the Colonial Pipeline hack and ransomware; as well as cryptocurrency and traceability.
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This month’s podcast saw a change of personnel, with Philip Ingram MBE joining Ian – in person! – while Tristan was away. The conversation is as wide-ranging as ever, moving from America’s Russia-phobia putting the blinkers on Biden and ending up in Belarus, with explorations of Bitcoin, ransomware, and the Israel/Palestine conflict along the way.
But first: Russia, and America’s potentially myopic focus on the country and its leader. The change of personnel in the White House has meant a shift from amicability to aggression. Biden is being tested time and time again by the Putin regime and it seems that the US may have taken its eye off the threat from China particularly.
The recent Colonial Pipeline hack is just the latest example of Russian moves in cyberspace. This, says Philip, is indicative of the biggest threat to the US right now: ransomware. There is no doubt that state-sponsored operatives are being used to attack and disrupt critical infrastructure in the US. False flag mechanisms make it harder to trace and these threat actors are targeting government secrets and IP that would be particularly sensitive if they fell into the hands of a foreign regime.
Not so long ago, the received wisdom concerning cryptocurrency and its traceability was that this was impossible, and users of digital coins were effectively immune from prosecution. The seizure of servers linked to the cybercriminals behind the Colonial Pipeline attack demonstrates this is no longer the case. Philip points out the law enforcement are belatedly catching onto the ‘immutability’ of all transactions in Bitcoin’s public key blockchain, and Ian concurs that it is now the case that anyone who has engaged in criminality using Bitcoin is at risk of being caught.
Next stop, Israel. Why the silence from Iran? Is the country’s influence now contained? Philip categorically states this is not the case. Rather, Iran is just engaged elsewhere, focusing almost exclusively on its proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Furthermore, the regime in Tehran has had its fingers burned this year with fires at the Natanz nuclear plant, an oil refinery and on its largest warship (the last two on the same day). We haven’t heard the last Iranian opinion on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Finally, Ian and Philip check in on Aleksandr Lukashenko and his team in Belarus. Did they really need to redirect an airliner to get their man? What was the endgame here? It seems it was a similar playbook to the one employed by the Russians in Salisbury and London: wherever you are, you’re at risk if you speak out against our regime. Interestingly, Philip states this may also have been a bit of Putin manipulation, with Lukashenko getting the Russian leader to flex his muscles and show his domination of his sphere of influence.
Philip and Ian end with a quick tour round the key Hot Spots for 2021. But you’ll have to listen to the podcast for that!