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What I’m Reading: August 2018 – Cyber Conflict, Facial Recognition, Strategic Thinking, and Changes in America


Here is what I was reading this month:

Corporate Cybersecurity Is Becoming Geopolitical. Are U.S. Tech Companies Ready? – Harvard Business Review, 8/24/2018

This article details the need for companies to be aware of international actors and their intentions in cyberspace. Written by Ben Buchanan, author of The Cyber Security Dilemma, this article particularly points at tech companies whose platforms can be used for nefarious purposes. As Buchanan writes, the line between government and corporate defense has blurred. They both have to be equally ready and aware.

The Rise of the Cyber-Mercenaries – Foreign Policy, 8/31/2018

As cyber tech grows, some companies are doing the bidding of nation states, blurring the line between normal relations and acts of conflict. This article focuses primarily on Israel’s growing tech hub outlining the increased anarchy that is occurring on the cyber platform of conflict. There are few, if any, rules and fewer treaties. Nation states are linking themselves with private innovation as never before and no one has any idea where it will stop, if it will.

Why Technology Favors Tyranny – The Atlantic, October 2018 issue

Bold, sweeping article on how tech is making human aspirations irrelevant. Innovation and disruptive technology has reduced the need for humans as independent agents of success. Humans need tech and therefore those who control tech control how humans interact with it. As well, tech is getting smarter and faster than humans. The biggest struggle of our time will be who controls who.

Facial Recognition Is the Perfect Tool for Oppression –, 8/2/2018

While this article means well and is well-written, it has a huge blindspot. It advocates banning facial technology by governments and corporations to curtail potential overuse and oppression. But it assumes actors are rational and law-abiding. Rogue actors won’t care about laws. Hackers will try to control cameras and steal data. Oppressive governments will ignore previously written laws. Tech companies will continue to create functions that acquire data in new and less trackable ways. There is no banning innovation.

Free Facial Recognition Tool Can Track People Across Social Media Sites – The Hacker News, 8/9/2018

A giant social media searching tool that uses facial recognition. For free. To be used by good, morally ethical people of course.

Researchers Developed Artificial Intelligence-Powered Stealthy Malware – The Hacker News, 8/9/2018

Another new tech product. This is malware designed to only activate when key indicators such as facial features or vocal tones are recognized. To be used by good, morally ethical people, of course.

This Is How Russian Propaganda Actually Works In The 21st Century – Buzzfeed, 8/31/2018

An interesting article on Russia sponsoring or outright owning media channels in other countries. In this case, BALTNEWS was pushing Russian agendas in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. They even bought page views and comments. Of course, shell companies were involved to obscure trails and allow denials.

Technology Innovation Is Great, But Strategy Is Better – Strategy Bridge, 8/13/2018

How should US National Strategy handle innovation? The DoD and National Security apparatus doesn’t move as fast or innovate as quickly as industry, so how can the US DoD not fall behind. Should they look to what may happen, rather than what is happening? What is the correct balance between current and future ideas? This article summarizes studies on this phenomenon and claims that “a cross pollination of expertise would be best”. The worst idea is to throw money at innovation for innovation sake with no strategic goal.

Bank Strategic Planning Needs More Strategic Thinking – Cornerstone Advisors, 8/23/2018

A look at how banks should handle strategic thinking and planning. According to the article, not enough banks think strategically. They may plan, but their planning is not strategic. The article also says many bank managers are good at managing, but are poor at planning for the future.

My small problem with these types of articles is that they are never specific and rarely do they give case studies. They are always written about mysterious environments the reader has to assume exists. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t.

China’s Patriotism Drives Risks Ostracizing its Intellectuals – South China Morning Post, 8/18/2018

According to this article, Chinese academics have always walked a fine line between free speech and government loyalty. In freer nations, academics are the challengers, the thinkers, and the askers of questions. But recent drives for patriotism in China have people thinking the government is going to tighten the leash of academics.

Can you spot fake news before hitting “share”? Kids are learning and so can you – FastCompany, 8/23/2018

I have been advocating a program like this for years. I am so glad to see someone doing it. According to Fast Company, the New Literacy Project has received grants to promote media literacy in school kids. The program is teaching kids how to identify misleading media and even how to think like a journalist. Best of all, the course is available online.

How Much Does a Security Clearance Cost? – ClearanceJobs, 8/27/2018

For years, I was told Top Secret clearances cost over $50,000. That was a fact and it was one of the reasons private companies did not want to pay for clearances, especially for employees who might leave. That is a lot of money to invest in an employee. According to ClearanceJobs, however, the cost is less than $6,000. Unfortunately, investigations still take almost two years to complete.

White threat in a browning America – Vox, 7/30/2018

A look at perceptions of America’s growing demographic changes. According to the article, as White people feel threatened by a loss of power, their voting habits change. Likewise, as the Democrat party attempts to embrace a multi-cultural approach, their politics change. There is some good analysis here based on sociological and psychological studies.

The most interesting thing about this article, however, is that it never uses the terms “conservative” and “liberal” to explain the sharing or not sharing of power. To conserve means to hold on to and to be liberal with something means to use.

Planning for the Post-Trump Wreckage – Foreign Policy, 8/30/2018

While I am inclined to agree with Stephen Walt on all of these points, there is the outside (for now) chance this type of governance could be our reality for generations. Yes, even a diehard Trump clone needs to come up with a cyber policy, but what if the US never opts to support Europe or join global organizations again? If a Trump disciple follows Trump’s philosophical lead into the White House, pundits such as Walt will be irrelevant, pandering for another age. Keep in mind, large swathes of America approve of the job Trump is doing. They might not understand the complexities of geopolitics, but they still vote and their vote counts just as much as the vote of Stephen Walt.