Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Sitrep - 26 October, 2016

Iraq Security Forces (ISF) are slowly moving to encapsulate the northern Iraqi city of Mosul to contest the Islamic State (IS) for control. After one week of combat operations, the fight is not yet for the city but rather the outlying towns. ISF elements are clashing with determined IS fighters, reportedly killing 300 of the militants while sustaining moderate damage themselves.

The militants are responding elsewhere by evacuating some fighters into Syria and organising spoiling attacks in Kirkuk, Rutba and Sinjar provinces to draw ISF troops away. The flashpoints underline the latent strength of the militant group. The question for Baghdad is how many more sleeper cells IS has placed in position across Iraq – or the world – to activate when it chooses.

Alongside this concern is the tense coalition relationships arrayed against Mosul. Turkey and Iraq continue to argue because Baghdad says it doesn’t want Turkey’s assistance. Turkey claims its artillery and armour is supporting Kurdish Peshmerga forces, but Arbil denies this. All participants are tied by a common enemy, but the coalition appears to be weakening before the main assault begins.

In the US, three massive separate Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks took Twitter, Amazon, Reddit, Netflix and others offline for hours at a time. The attack was committed by unknown perpetrators and is already being called one of the largest in history. It was certainly intrusive, inconvenient and dangerous and highlights the power of cyber-attacks to disrupt business.

DDoS attacks are reportedly up 75% in 2016 year-on-year and increasing. Health is not the only concern for businesses. Loss of service for websites can cripple a small business, and many large companies pin their reputation on constant website availability. This particular attack also utilised the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) as its army of infected computers.

The IoT vulnerability is not a new phenomenon, but it sheer scale is concerning. It includes every machine with a computer attached to the internet, which often means coffee machines, house front doors, cars and even ceilings. Once they become infected by a virus, they can all be used to attack. This reflects the inherently poor construction of the internet which simply wasn’t created to cope with the tasks and responsibilities now expected of it.

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