Tag Archives: Political geography

ASEAN Phishing Expeditions

Mila Parkour, the indefatigable phish researcher from DC, points to some recent spear-phishing attacks which to me help confirm that Southeast Asia, and ASEAN in particular, has become something of a focus for the chaps in China.

They also highlight just how vulnerable diplomats in the region are because of poor security.

One is a phish apparently coming from the Indonesian foreign ministry, in particular one Ardian Budhi Nugroho, whom the email correctly describes as from the Directorate of ASEAN Political Security Cooperation. The subject matter is topical and credible:

Dear Sirs/Mesdames,
Enclosed herewith letter from Director for ASEAN Political-Security Cooperation, informing the date of the next Direct Consultations between ASEAN and P5 Nuclear Weapon States, which will be held on 4 – 6 October 2011 in New York. A Tentative Programme of the Direct Consultations is also attached for your kind reference. Thank you for your attention and continued cooperation.

The only good thing about these phishes is that they reveal something of the attacker’s interests. These attacks are timed carefully a week or so ahead of key meetings–in this case a Oct 4-6 meeting in New York of ASEAN and P5 Nuclear Weapon states (one of those states, of course, is China). The email was sent on Sept 20.

The email address given, aseanindonesia@yahoo.com, doesn’t appear to be genuine, but it could easily be. Look, for example, at the email addresses listed here. More than half are either ISP or webmail addresses.

Diplomats need to get wise to these kinds of attacks by using their domain’s email addresses and being more sophisticated about their communications (not sending attachments, for one thing, and telling me they don’t.)

How does all this work? We don’t know who received this but it’ll probably be a list of diplomats attending the talks–not hard to find, as we can see from the above list. It only needs one member of each delegation to open the infected attachment for their whole delegation to be in danger of China–or whoever is behind this attack–to be able to monitor everything they do.

Korean Banks

The Washington Post report that it seems the attack on South Korea’s Nonghyup agricultural bank back in April was the work of North Korea. The evidence?

South Korean investigators said they determined that 10 servers used in the bank incident were the same ones used in previous cyberattack operations against South Korea, including one in 2009 and another in March, that they blamed on the North. Investigators say they determined, for instance, that a “command and control” server used in the 2009 operation was registered to a North Korean government agency operating in China.

This is interesting. Command and control servers are compromised computers that are used by bad guys to “run” other computers—zombies—that actually do the grunt work. There’s definitely a common thread between the 2009 and 2011 DDOS attacks, and plenty of circumstan

Facebook’s ‘Locality of Friendship’

This visualization by Facebook intern Paul Butler illustrates what he calls

the locality of friendship. I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them.

It’s a magnificent effort and scores marks for beauty:

and for the amazing amount of data it carries within it.

Look at how the world of social media breaks down into clusters:

Europe is hard to subdivide: 

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But Australia and New Zealand are almost three countries:

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But of greatest interest to me is my own patch, Southeast Asia:

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Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are, perhaps unsurprisingly intimately connected:

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North vs South

While the links between the southern  half of the region and Thailand and Indochina are by comparison quite weak:

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Philippines stands alone

But the links between the Philippines and Hong Kong appear as strong as those between the Philippines and the southern half of Southeast Asia:

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The other point to take into account is how spread out Facebook is in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is about as densely packed as Italy or England.

Facebook is not a phemenon limited to the country’s major cities (and this is true of the Philippines and Malaysia, of course.)

I’ll be updating my Facebook Asia Pacific data later this week.

(Thanks to the Guardian’s Simon Rogers.)

http://www.loosewireblog.com/site/wp-admin/edit.php?s&post_status=all&post_type=post&action=-1&m=0&cat=0&paged=11&mode=list&action2=-1

Today’s twin bombings in Jakarta—their implications for Indonesia aside—should bring home to conventional media that social media is a multifaceted force, one that is evolving so quickly it’s fast becoming the primary channel that users tune in to for urgent news.

Some conclusions to draw from Jakarta (or are reinforced by the sad episode):

  • Social media is not just about issues that concern the kind of things that people think social media type people are going to be interested in. This was a bomb that went off in a hotel in the developing world, not a pop star who died in California. Admittedly at the heart of the wealthy quarter of the country, but still not LA.
  • The two tweets below could not really be faulted for their content. OK, the second one should perhaps be “explosion” until it’s confirmed that it’s a “bom”, but that’s a quibble. The 140 characters of twitter have already converted us—both user and consumer—into the headline/alert shorthand that was once the preserve of conventional media.
  • TV was reporting a third bomb—and casualties—in north Jakarta long after a twitterer and his photo had shown it was not so. (I don’t have a timeline for that. Contributions welcome).

Lastly, friends and colleagues have made the point I’m stressing the timeliness of all this too much. They say who reports something first doesn’t matter. Well, in some ways that’s true. But a lot of conventional media still believe it to be so, indeed make that a key part of their business model. I highlight speed here because of the still prevailing sense that twitter is full of noise. To still think that is to fail to see how quickly the medium is evolving. The rise of hashtags, retweets and tools like tweetdeck has made it easier for anyone interested to monitor and contribute twitter—so much so that for many it’s the best way to:

  • be alerted to the fact that something is going on/has happened
  • update oneself quickly
  • bypass news and newspaper sites that are often slowed down by traffic during a big event
  • share the information with friends and others
  • pursue and confirm/refute unconfirmed information
  • and, perhaps most interestingly, expand one’s network of ‘information sharers’ so that the experience of watching an event becomes a social one. (Not as in cocktail party social, but in terms of sharing shock, grief, outrage etc, as in the case of the Jakarta bombing. We journalists tend to hide our feelings a lot but that’s not the case on Twitter. It helps to remind one that the casualties are real people, and the suffering being felt is by people who may be on the same vast network as yourself and reading your tweets.)

Here’s an initial timeline of how the story broke, from what I can gather (all times Jakarta time, WIB). Claims that eyewitnesses beat traditional media by 20 minutes are a little exaggerated—it was probably closer to 10 or 12.

0751 WIB: @dregar (Andre Siregar) “Something going in Mega Kuningan. Explosion? In Ritz CArlton and felt building shaking. Marriott hotel has some broken glasses”

indonesia bomb first tweet 2

 0752 WIB:@danieltumiwa (Daniel Tumiwa) “Bom @ marriot and ritz Carlton kuningan jakarta”

indonesia bomb -first tweet 0852

These tweets were forwarded extensively.

The first conventional media coverage I can find is by Reuters, quoting local television, 15 minutes later (all timings are from Factiva. There may well be stories and updates missing):

0807 WIB: INDONESIA EXPLOSION HEARD, FELT AT RITZ-CARLTON KUNINGAN HOTEL IN JAKARTA -METRO TV

@BreakingNews put out their alert eight minutes after that:

0814 WIB: BULLETIN — EXPLOSIONS HITS NEAR JAKARTA’S MARRIOT HOTEL

Followed by two more, quoting the Associated Press.

AP itself put out a bulletin at 8.20 am (I couldn’t find the original despatch that BNO was quoting):

0820 WIB: Bombs explode at Ritz-Carlton, Marriott hotels in Indonesian capital; at least 3 injured

The Reuters fullout came out nine minutes after that:

0829: UPDATE 1-Explosions heard at two central Jakarta hotels –TV

Please correct any omissions. Just to stress, I’m not having a go at my colleagues in conventional media here. Just recording the sequence of events for future dissection.

South Ossetia: The First Cyber/Physical War?

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BBC picture

Wikipedia is doing a good job of chronicling the war in South Ossetia; its mention of several apparent cyberattacks on both sides makes me wonder whether this is the first instance of a physical war being accompanied by a cyberwar? All those listed on Wikipedia are not parallel attacks, i.e. they are not part of an actual physical war.

So far the attacks have been by Georgian supporters on two Ossetian media sites, and attacks by supporters of South Ossetia on the Georgian National Bank website and the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which was reportedly splashed with a collage of of Saakashvili and Hitler photos.) The Georgian news site, Civil Georgia that reported the attacks on the South Ossetian websites itself now appears to be down.

Some attacks appear to preceded the war, suggesting that they were part of a deliberate build-up ahead of the entry of Russian troops into South Ossetia. On July 21 the Georgian president’s website was attacked. I wasn’t able to access the website as of early Aug 9. While tensions have been growing between Georgia and Russia for several weeks, it seems clear that the botnet involved in this attack was set up for this purpose only a few weeks ago.

Of course, none of this means that it’s done at an official level. But it’s interesting that at a time the Georgians and the South Ossetians would presumably like to get their sides of the story out, they can’t because their websites, official and unofficial, are down.

As the Georgian ambassador to the UK put it to Al Jazeera:

“Georgia has been attacked by a formidable force, it is a brutal attack with the use of air force, tanks and even the trademark cyber attack.”

“If this is not an all out war what is?” he asked.

War in South Ossetia (2008) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Update on Aug 12: some more links

http://lists.grok.org.uk/pipermail/full-disclosure/2008-August/063820.html

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-10014150-83.html

Tibet and the Information War

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From EastSouthWestNorth

Rebecca Mackinnon of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre in Hong Kong does a great job of looking at how Chinese are increasingly skeptical of Western news agencies’ perceived bias about what has happened in Tibet:

Hopefully most of China’s netizens will draw the obvious conclusion: that in the end you shouldn’t trust any information source – Western or Chinese, professional or amateur, digital or analog – until and unless they have earned your trust.

She provides some great examples including the apparent cropping of photos on CNN.com to shape the story. It’s well worth a read.

Ethan Zuckerman takes issue with one BBC reporter who, he says, take all the criticism of coverage he has received as coming from government stooges: “In other words, there may be angry Chinese citizens contacting BBC reporters to complain about their coverage, but they’re being controlled by Chinese state media.” (There’s no link for the report so I can’t follow this up.)

This is a fascinating discussion, because it represents something of a watershed in different ways:

  • What was originally perceived to be a crisis for China’s image of itself in the world may end up being something else. Too early to say yet;
  • The first big international story that may, in the final analysis, be defined not by the (Western) mass media but by an online debate (kind word)/’information war’ (probably more accurate word);
  • The extent to which a country/nation defines itself is drifting from an official function to an informal, online one. An online fightback, and one which is done by its passionate and angry citizen, has much more credibility than a state-sponsored one.

‘Stories’ are shaped early on and it’s a brave journalist who defies preconceptions and refuses to pander to them. (Brave usually because their editors will yell at them to provide copy and content to match their competitors, but also because they face viewer/reader harrassment.)

The Tibet story, which has not yet played itself out and may have more twists to come, is one of those stories any media should be mature enough to cover in a nuanced and unbiased way.

RConversation: Anti-CNN and the Tibet information war

People’s Daily Most Read: Tibet

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The annoying thing with social media is that you can’t really control it. If you insist on having a section listing the most-read stories, say, you can’t really fiddle with it without making it pretty meaningless.

The English-language version of the People’s Daily website, for example, doesn’t have any story on Tibet displayed prominently on its front page (at least now; it did before) but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just check out the Most Popular box near the bottom on the right hand side:

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Three out of five stories on Tibet, two of them unpatriotically above a piece on the NPC:

Tibet regional gov’t: Sabotage in Lhasa masterminded by Dalai clique
Death toll rises to 10 in Lhasa riot
Dalai-backed violence scars Lhasa

Of course the stories themselves, let alone the headlines, aren’t exactly paragons of journalistic objectivity, but I’m guessing you don’t read the People’s Daily for that.

It’s kind of funny. I wonder whose idea it was to include a ‘Most Read’ box on the site. And how long it will be before the feature is quietly dropped, or some filters applied. 

People’s Daily Online – Home Page

Angry Pondok Indah-ans


Angry Pondok Indah-ans
Originally uploaded by Jeremy Wagstaff.

If today’s Jakarta Post is anything to go by, the residents of swanky suburb Pondok Indah are taking their opposition to a plan to build a busway through their neighborhood to the streets. Actually, it looks more like the forests.

The World’s Smallest Mobile Clinic

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JP/J. Adiguna

I love this kind of stuff, and wish these kinds of initiatives got better support from government, NGOs and companies:

Harun checks the blood pressure and weight of a customer in a park in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday. He has offered the mobile service for the past 10 years, charging Rp 5,000 (about 60 US cents) per checkup.

We found dozens of these kinds of businesses in a pretty small patch of south Jakarta, and there are probably hundreds more, from guys renting out their cellphones to doing tailored alterations to clothes. Cellphones have improved their business a lot, but imaginative use of technology could help them a lot more, I suspect. But most of these guys fly under the radar of those who might be able to offer support and help.

The Jakarta Post – The Journal of Indonesia Today

World’s Slowest Email?

Burma (Myanmar) may be in the running for the world’s slowest email: more than four months.

clipped from www.lirneasia.net

LIRNEasia and ISEAS organized an expert forum on ICT indicators in Singapore in March 2007.  On the 26th of January, the Myanmar Ministry of Post and Telecom sent an e-mail to the ISEAS in Singapore, nominating an officer to attend.   That e-mail reached ISEAS yesterday (4th June 2006; more than four months later).