When ‘foreign fighters’ meant something very different

Canada was once concerned about Canadian volunteers returning home from the Spanish Civil War back in the 1930s. Fast forward to 2019 and what phenomenon has seized the attention of the RCMP and CSIS and the Canadian public? Returning Islamic State foreign fighters.

I do not normally read the obituaries. It is not that I have no respect for the dead: it is just that I don’t take the time to see who has passed on. This non-practice is bound to change as I get older and more and more people from my generation, including those with whom I worked alongside at CSE and CSIS, leave this mortal coil.

One obituary did strike my eye this week, however. A featured article in Saturday’s Globe and Mail (April 27) gave the story of William Krehm, calling him the “last of the Canadian volunteers in the Spanish Civil War” (from 1936-1939). Upwards of 1,600 Canadians, largely though not exclusively Communist or Marxist, left our country to fight for the Spanish government against the forces of Francisco Franco, supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

Forgotten history

I would imagine that this vignette in Canadian history is mostly forgotten, although a memorial was opened in Ottawa by then Governor-General Adrienne Clark in 2001 (NB I devoted a fair bit to this in my second book, Western Foreign Fighters). The Canadians who volunteered to travel to Spain came from all corners of our country and from all socioeconomic sectors. In all somewhere between 400 and 700 of the Canadians died. Many of the rest returned, and not to a heroes’ welcome.

The RCMP of the time was concerned that these ‘foreign fighters’ could pose a threat to national security. As then Commissioner McBrien stated “these youths are being sent to Spain largely for the sake of gaining experience in practical revolutionary work and will return to this country to form the nucleus of a training corps.” The last RCMP file on the returnees was closed in 1984, almost a full half-century following the Franco victory.

 

Why the Mounties’ concern?

Recall the perceived threats of that era. Stalin’s Soviet Union, albeit an ‘ally’ – especially in WWII – was feared as was the spread of communism. Not that the RCMP probably had the whole story in 1939 – this would have to wait for the Gouzenko disclosures in 1945 – but they were worried about the growth of Communist and Marxist thought in Canada. Those who fought in Spain were seen as potential radicalisers of others at best and as fifth columnists at worst. Battlefield-acquired skills could be passed on to followers back home, leading to the fear of possible political violence: i.e. terrorism.

To the best of my knowledge none of this transpired, certainly not terrorism. Does that mean that the RCMP’s fears were unwarranted? Not necessarily as the potential was indeed there.

an end to the war on terrorism
Phil Gurski is a former strategic terrorism analyst at CSIS. He will be giving a talk on his latest book on May 27 at the Shenkman Centre.

Fast forward to 2019 and what phenomenon has seized both the attention of the RCMP (and CSIS) and the Canadian public? Returning Islamic State (IS) foreign fighters. Some 200 of our citizens have left to join IS and other Islamist extremist groups in recent years and the concern over possible attacks carried out by returnees is not an academic issue. Several attacks worldwide were indeed perpetrated by such individuals and our government, like many others, is struggling to figure out what to do with those who have experience with terrorist groups abroad: whether even to repatriate them, whether (or how) to charge them, whether to rehabilitate them, etc.

That no Spanish Civil War fighters went on to terrorism careers should not give us reason to breathe easily. Past performance is no guarantee of future action, as our financial prospectuses keep reminding us. The threat of terrorism from today’s returnees is not 100% – not all will go down that path – but nor is it 0% The potential is there and our protectors will have to be on their toes, laying charges where possible. It is best not to panic but also not to dismiss this threat.

Phil Gurski will be giving a talk on his latest book on May 27 at the Shenkman Centre on Ottawa.
Advertisements

AI for fraud detection to triple by 2021

The Anti-Fraud Technology Benchmarking Report assessed data from more than 1000 ACFE members regarding their organizations’ use of tech to fight fraud, discovering that while only 13% of businesses currently use AI and machine learning to detect/deter fraudulent activity, another 25% plan to do so in the next year or two.

Other key findings discovered that 26% of organizations are using biometrics as part of their anti-fraud programs, with another 16% expecting to deploy biometrics by 2021, while more than half of respondents (55%) plan to increase their anti-fraud tech budgets over the next two years.

“As criminals find new ways to exploit technology to commit schemes and target victims, anti-fraud professionals must likewise adopt more advanced technologies to stop them,” said Bruce Dorris, JD, CFE, CPA, president and CEO of the ACFE.

Read entire post AI for fraud detection to triple by 2021 | Michael Hill| InfoSecurity

How attackers infiltrate the supply chain & what to do about it

Attackers today are getting increasingly creative with how they target organizations, often utilizing the supply chain as a point of ingress — exactly the kind of thing that keep security pros up at night. Rather than attack their targets directly, attackers today are perfectly happy to compromise one of their third-party providers and accomplish their end goal that way.

Whether it’s a hardware provider further down the supply chain, a software provider that the organization outsourced some added features to, or a service provider, all can represent a potential point of entry. This dramatically changes the attack surface for the typical enterprise and, with recent highly publicized breaches such as ASUS and Docker, is negatively impacting once-inherent trust in the supply chain.

Recent attacks have even targeted patching processes and software updates, leveraging the very means by which organizations protect themselves against potential threats.

Read entire post How Attackers Infiltrate the Supply Chain & What to Do About It | Shay Nahari | DarkReadings

Terrorism: plus ca change (Part 2)

If you are a faithful reader of my blogs or have had the opportunity to listen to my podcasts you will know that I have been going on lately about Buddhist terrorism. Yes, I am referring to that oddly-phrased form of violent extremism which I imagine strikes most as oxymoronic (can peaceful Buddhists REALLY engage in terrorism?) And if you have indeed read my posts you already know the answer is yes (a quick search told me that I have used the words “Buddhist extremism/terrorism” 34 times since I began this blog in May 2015).

The manifestation of this form of terrorism most familiar to many would be the current scourge of Buddhist-infused hatred directed mostly against Muslims in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand (although Christians have also been targeted in Sri Lanka). The more astute reader may have cited the bizarre Aum Shinrikyo quasi Buddhist cult in Japan in the 1990s. Aside from these examples, however, I’d bet that you would assume that, like other terrorist ‘movements’, Buddhist violent extremism is a recent phenomenon.

Think again.

Master Nissho Inoue and his band of assassins teach some uncomfortable truths about terrorism, for those who will hear
Master Nissho Inoue and his band of assassins teach some uncomfortable truths about terrorism, for those who will hear.

I came across a very interesting article on the Aeon Web site on Nissho Inoue, a convicted Japanese domestic terrorist and lay disciple of one of Japan’s most famous modern Zen masters, Gempo Yamamoto. Inoue had once been the leader of a terrorist band, popularly known as the ‘Blood Oath Corps’, which was responsible for the deaths of two of Japan’s political and financial leaders in the spring of 1932, with plans to assassinate many more.

In the midst of the Great Depression and a government crackdown on left-wing activists accused of ‘dangerous thoughts’ as defined by the Peace Preservation Law, Inoue became radicalised. After receiving some Zen training he headed up a Buddhist temple where initial normative religious instruction led to political activism and militancy. In his own words:

“In an emergency situation emergency measures are necessary. What is essential is to restore life to the nation. Discussions over the methods for doing this can come later, much later… We had taken it upon ourselves to engage in destruction, aware that we would perish in the process.”

Drawing on the lessons of a 13th-century Zen collection of koans Inoue maintained that

“Revolution employs compassion on behalf of the society of the nation. Therefore those who wish to participate in revolution must have a mind of great compassion toward the society of the nation. In light of this there must be no thought of reward for participating in revolution.” In other words, the use of violence was actually compassionate Buddhism!

The terrorist group sought to assassinate (their terrorist method of choice) 20 Japanese political and financial leaders but managed to kill only two before the band’s members were arrested. At his trial Inoue again emphasised the links between his acts of violence and Buddhism:

”I was primarily guided by Buddhist thought in what I did. That is to say, I believe the teachings of the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism as they presently exist in Japan are wonderful.”

Inoue’s Zen master Yamamoto testified for his disciple on trial stating

”It is true that if, motivated by an evil mind, someone should kill so much as a single ant, as many as 136 hells await that person … Yet, the Buddha, being absolute, has stated that when there are those who destroy social harmony and injure the polity of the state, then even if they are called good men killing them is not a crime.“

In the end Inoue was convicted and given a life sentence, although he was released a scant six years later. Incredibly, this Buddhist terrorist was invited by the then Prime Minister to serve as an ‘advisor’ and never expressed remorse for his role in the assassinations. On the contrary: he felt that his actions had “dealt a blow to the transgressors of the Buddha’s teachings”.

So what are the lessons here? There are several:

  1. Any ideology, including religion, can be used to justify terrorism, even Buddhism;
  2. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon;
  3. Terrorists sometimes never apologise for their actions;
  4. Extremists will go to inordinate ends to use ideas and sacred teachings to make their violent acts acceptable or even preferable.

Interpretation

The campaign of terror spurred by Inoue based on his interpretation of Buddhism should give pause to those who maintain that certain religions (i.e. Islam) are inherently violent (hint: no they are not). It has been my experience that many religions have served as the foundation for terrorist movements and that the ways in which terrorists use and misuse doctrine are all but incomprehensible to normative believers. We might want to bear that in mind when we think and write about terrorism based on religions.

At the same time it perhaps gives new meaning to the phrase “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him”.

PS This is as good a time as any to promote my new book, When Religion Kills, to be published by Lynne Rienner this winter.

Only six months remain until the end of Windows 7 support

Despite the awareness that in six months Microsoft will officially end its support for its nearly 10-year-old operating system, Windows 7, 18% of large enterprises have not yet migrated to Windows 10, according to new research from Kollective.

At the start of 2019, researchers found that 43% of companies were still running Windows 7. Of those, 17% didn’t even know about the end of support. In its most recent analysis of 200 US and UK IT decision makers, the report revealed that organizations have a long way to go to prepare for the much anticipated end of Windows 7 support.

https://resiliencepost.com/2019/07/09/one-in-10-it-pros-would-steal-data-if-leaving-a-job/

Six months later, 96% of IT departments have started their migration, and 77% have completed the move. However, given that the migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 reportedly took some firms more than three years to complete, companies that have not started migration are at risk of missing the final deadline.

Read entire post Nearly 20% of organizations still run Windows 7 | Kacy Zurkus | InfoSecurity

New ISO standard for urban resilience in development

There’s no stemming the tide, so city leaders need to build resilience in order to cope. Work on a new International Standard for urban resilience, led by the United Nations, has just kicked off, aiming to help local governments build safer and more sustainable urban environments.

The development of the standard is being led by UN-Habitat, the United Nations programme for human settlements

City living is where it’s at. The top 600 cities in the world house 20 % of the global population but produce 60 % of the world’s GDP, and the numbers are growing. It is estimated that, by 2050, 68 % of us will be living in cities), increasing the scale of impact when disasters strike. Which they will. In 2018, for example, more than 17 million were displaced by sudden-onset disasters such as floods).

https://resiliencepost.com/2019/05/09/the-term-resilience-is-everywhere-but-what-does-it-really-mean/

Work has now started on a new ISO standard for urban resilience, aimed at supporting national and local governments build their capacity to face the new challenges arising from climate change and shifting demographics. It will define a framework for urban resilience, clarify the principles and concepts, and help users to identify, implement and monitor appropriate actions to make their cities more resilient.

Read entire post New ISO standard for urban resilience in development | Clare Naden | ISO.org

ISO training and certification with ContinuityLink – Register today



UK firms hit by attacks every 50 seconds

The business ISP analyzed traffic for its customers during the period and found them to be on the receiving end of 146,491 attempted attacks each, on average. That’s 179% higher than the same period in 2018, when firms faced down 52,596 attacks on average.

IoT devices and file sharing services were most frequently targeted, hit by 17,737 and 10,192 attacks respectively during the quarter.

https://resiliencepost.com/2019/07/09/one-in-10-it-pros-would-steal-data-if-leaving-a-job/

This chimes somewhat with a FireEye report from last month which revealed a dramatic increase in attacks exploiting file-sharing services to deliver malware via email. From hardly being used in any attacks in Q4 2018, OneDrive was seen in over 60% by Q1, it claimed.

Read entire post UK firms hit by attacks every 50 seconds | Phil Muncaster | InfoSecurity

One in 10 IT pros would steal data if leaving a job

In addition, the survey found that 15% of participants would delete files or change passwords upon exiting.

While a number of organizations have invested in technologies to help detect and defend against external attackers, many companies are starting to better understand the risks from insider threats, which a recently published whitepaper said may actually be a larger issue.

https://resiliencepost.com/2017/07/18/more-than-half-of-ex-employees-still-have-access-to-corporate-networks/

According to the report insider attacks are more difficult to detect and prevent than external ones, with 91% of respondents in a similar survey of IT and security professionals reporting they feel vulnerable to both malicious and accidental insider threats.

Read entire post One in 10 IT pros would steal data if leaving a job | Kacy Zurkus | InfoSecurity

Are you earthquake prepared?

Wednesday morning a large earthquake hit Southern California — initial reports saying it had a 6.4 magnitude and could be felt in Las Vegas.

Are you earthquake prepared Washington Emergency Management photo

Washington Emergency Management (WEM) took the opportunity to remind folks on how to be prepared for an earthquake.

If you feel an earthquake, drop, cover and hold, WEM said in a tweet. If you feel shaking and you’re near the coast, get to high ground right away. WEM says to assume a tsunami is on the way and don’t wait for sirens to get higher.

Read entire post Are you earthquake prepared? | KOMO News

The impact of banning single-use plastics on the Canadian fast food industry

Once in a while, however, this change comes from government legislation, and usually ends up creating significant evolution in the foodservice landscape. Some readers may remember the upheaval of the front of house model when smoking bans began nearly two decades ago, redesigning dining rooms and removing smoking and non-smoking sections of the restaurant.

Industry analysts are watching as a newly announced potential single-use plastics ban in Canada may create similar changes, especially in the fast food segment. In early June, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the government will ban single-use plastics as early as 2021 and introduce standards and targets for manufacturers of plastic products or those companies that sell items with plastic packaging.

Some chains, like Tim Horton’s and A&W, have started making changes to their supply chains in preparation

For the fast food industry, plastic has traditionally played a large role in the take out order, from plastic bags to straws, cutlery, plates, and stir sticks. In recent years, in recognition of mounting consumer pressure and the ongoing shift away from plastic, some chains have started making changes to their supply chains in preparation.

Read entire post The impact of banning single-use plastics on the Canadian fast food industry | Lesli Wue | Forbes

The disconnect in declaring a climate emergency and approving a pipeline

On June 18, the government of Canada declared a national climate emergency. The next day, the same government approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX), which will be able to move almost 600,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Port of Burnaby in British Columbia.

Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX), which will be able to move almost 600,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Port of Burnaby in British Columbia
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX), will be able to move almost 600,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Port of Burnaby in British Columbia

If this seems like a contradiction, you are not alone.

To date, Canada is the largest single jurisdiction to have declared a national climate emergency, following nations like Scotland, regions like Catalonia in Spain and cities like Vancouver and San Francisco.

Altogether, 83 million people, living 623 jurisdictions, are now living under a state of climate emergency. The vast majority of these declarations have occurred in the last six months. The term climate emergency intentionally evokes a state of emergency — and implies imminent action on the part of the government.

Read entire post The disconnect in declaring a climate emergency and approving a pipeline | ThoroldNews