Global Threat Assessment

Global Threat Assessment

This global threat assessment is based on only one type of source: testimony to congress by leaders of the U.S. Intelligence Community. We review all this testimony and parse them for threats to business interest and recompile them into this threat assessment. Specific sources are provided at the end of this assessment for your further review.

This report provides an overview of the cyber threat, the foreign intelligence threat, transnational crime, terrorism, and then insights into many key countries.

Keep in mind, this is just a very high level summary. Contact us if you would like deeper dives into any of this. And be sure you are subscribed to The Daily Threat Brief for daily updates and context on the threat.

 

Overview:

  • We live in a complex and dangerous world with a large and growing list of stressors including: burgeoning populations; the urgent demands for energy, water and food; the increasing sophistication of transnational crime; the tragedy and magnitude of human trafficking; the insidious rot of inventive, synthetic drugs; the potential for pandemic disease occasioned by the growth of drug-resistant bacteria, plus terrorism, cyber crime and the threat of state on state conflict.
  • These many threats are all interconnected via the global online web of technologies we usually just call “The Internet” or Cyberspace. So analysis of the cyber threat is critical now to tracking all other threats.

The Cyber Threat

  • Threat actors are all using cyberspace for infrastructure, communications, planning and intelligence collection. Some are using it as an attack mechanism.
  • Computer network exploitation and disruption activities against US business interests will continue, including attacks launched from countries where there is little rule of law or where the leadership of the country condones it.
  • Many countries are creating cyber defense and offense institutions within their national security establishments.
  • Russia has created many offensive cyber attack/exploitation organizations and also supports criminal elements that attack US business interests via cyber.
  • China cyber operations reflect leadership’s priorities of economic growth, domestic political stability and military preparedness.
  • For a full examination of the cyber threat see our book at http://ctolink.us/TheCyberThreat

Foreign intelligence collection against US Business interests:

  • Attempts to penetrate companies will continue. Russia and China are very active in this type of attack.
  • Means used are both cyber and physical.

Transnational Organized Crime

  • Poses a threat to US economy and national security and to individual businesses.
  • Criminals seek both theft of information for financial gain and theft of trade secrets for longer term gain.
  • Drug trafficking a major thrust of crime groups.
  • Mexican drug cartels responsible for high levels of violence and corruption in Mexico.
  • Drugs contributing to instability in Central America and are eroding stability in West and North Africa, and remain a significant source of revenue for Taliban in Afghanistan.
  • Synthetic drugs including new psychoactive substances pose an emerging and rapidly growing public health threat.
  • Trafficking in persons reporting indicates estimated 27 million men, women and children are trafficking victims. Virtually every country in the world is a source, transit point, and/or destination for people being trafficked.
  • Worldwide money laundering totals more than a trillion dollars annually.

Terrorism:

  • Remains the most clear, most likely to materialize threat to America at home and abroad
  • The threat is evolving, not defeated. Globally there could be 120,000 violent extremists ready to attack.
  • Western aviation is still a target.
  • Now more geographically diffuse and involves a greater diversity of actors
  • In the US, lone actors and insular groups not directly tied to terror groups are a major concern. This homegrown violent extremist (HVE) threat is growing, but appears to be trending towards simple plots that do not require advanced skills.
  • HVE threats can develop with little or no observable indicators for law enforcement to act on.
  • HVE leverage the Internet in dynamic ways. Cyberspace is playing a critical role for those who would like to encourage this behavior.
  • Our youth is susceptible too this increasingly sophisticated use of social media.
  • Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) grew in a surprising way and is now at least 30,000 strong. Nothing succeeds like success, and they are succeeding. The FBI has arrested more than a half-dozen individuals seeking to travel from the US to Syria to join ISIL.
  • Be sure to reference our list of terrorist organizations (which includes hotlinks to searches)

Country/Regional Notes

Syria:

  • Both the regime and insurgents believe they can win. Conflict will continue. Asad will not negotiate himself out of power.
  • Watch for threat of conflict spilling over into neighboring Lebanon and continuing into Iraq. Consider with destabilizing flood of refugees into Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon (now at around 2.5 million). This is becoming one of the largest humanitarian disasters in history.

Afghanistan:

  • With drawdown of ISAF, key to sustaining gains will be international support including external financial support.

Iraq:

  • Security situation is deteriorating with large gains by ISIL
  • Sunni population remains disenfranchised.
  • Sunni extremists moving between Syria and Iraq.

Iran:

  • Challenging to assess
  • Growing nuclear program
  • Economic sanctions have had an impact on their economy. Economy struggling.
  • Will almost certainly continue support to Syria.

Pakistan:

  • Populace very concerned over economy
  • Country seeking better relations with US, but strained due to Pakistani sensitivities towards perceived violations of sovereignty
  • There is a chance of an economic arrangement with India

India:

  • Coalition politics dominates policymaking and governance.
  • Economic growth will remain solid, but less than the 8 percent of the past.
  • Mutual suspicions with China persist.
  • Threats include attacks by extremists as in the 2008 Mumbai attacks or attacks by Al Qaeda which are periodically referenced in the press.

Egypt:

  • Interim Egyptian government continues to crack down on dissent. Designated Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group.

Russia:

  • Increasingly assertive against the US and Nato
  • Holds different views on the meaning of security including cybersecurity
  • Has established its own Cyber Command
  • Intelligence services target US and allied governments and businesses. This includes targeting by cyber and also by people.
  • Kremlin confronts a growing trend of opposition politicians taking their fight to the local ballot box.
  • Kremlin faces a rise in ethno-religious tensions, and these will grow as Muslim population increases. Moscow must balance an increasing immigrant Muslim population needed to offset its shrinking labor force against growing nationalist sentiment among the ethnic Russian population.

Balkans:

  • Lingering ethnic divisions

Ukraine:

  • Violent political struggles
  • Do not expect Russia to cede anything gained.

China:

  • Increasing competing. Aggressive policy agenda driving disputes, including hardline stance towards Japan over Senkaku Islands and dispuits with all others in in South China Sea
  • Has no intention to stop with intellectual property theft
  • Holds different views on the meaning of security
  • Cyber operations reflect leadership’s priorities of economic growth, domestic political stability and military preparedness.
  • Seeking to reverse multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance.

North Korea:

  • Dangerous and unpredictable
  • Kim Jong Un seems to have solidified his position as unitary leader and final decision authority.

Africa:

  • Perpetual conflict and extremism in Mali, Nigeria, Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Mexico:

  • Large-scale troop deployments are the current approach to try to mitigate key challenges and to reduce homicide, kidnapping and extortion rates.
  • But crime continues and cartels are expanding their presence throughout the Western Hemisphere

Central and South America

  • El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras struggling to overcome economic and security problems. All facing debt issues and falling revenues.
  • Columbia: Defense ministry maintaining security operations against FARC while Bogota conducts peace talks.
  • Venezuela: Economic stress continues to build. But military modernization continues.

 

Sources include the following key testimonies to Congress:

  • As Prepared Statement for the Record by NCTC Director, Matthew Olsen Before the House Committee on Homeland Security 17 Sep 2014
  • Remarks as Delivered by DNI Clapper on the 2014 Worldwide Threat Assessment 11 Feb 2014
  • Statement for the Record – Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community 11 Feb 2014
  • DIA Director Lt. Gen Michael Flynn on Current and Future Worldwide Threats Testimony Before the Senate Armed Services Committee 11 Feb 2014