“Cambridge v Cambridge” Obama and Cameron engage in a cyber-game competition

January 24, 2015

Paul Hinks

War GamesPresident Barack Obama and David Cameron’s agreement to conduct a cybersecurity War Game recognises the very real threat from co-ordinated online targeted attacks

In what is being dubbed as a “Cambridge v. Cambridge” hackathon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT, of Cambridge, Mass] will go head to head with the University of Cambridge [of Cambridge, England] in a multi-day cybersecurity hackathon where each team will try to outwit its opponent.

After the Sony cyber-attack

The BBC reported the background to the cyber initiative:

The Cybersecurity war games come in the wake of the recent hacking of Sony Pictures’ computers and the US military’s Central Command’s Twitter feed. This posted comments promoting Islamic State (IS) militants.

The cyber-attack on Sony Pictures led to data being leaked from its computers exposing emails and personal details about staff and its movie stars. The hackers, who called themselves #GOP or Guardians of Peace, also threatened Cinema chains planning to screen Sony’s satirical North Korean comedy. The plot of The Interview involves a bid to assassinate the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.

Sony initially cancelled the film’s release after leading US cinema groups said they would not screen it, a move which Mr Obama later described as “a mistake”.

Leaderless Groups and Anonymous

The manner in which online ‘hackers’ collaborate, and distribute their powerbase deserves closer inspection. ‘Anonymous’ is one example of a self-proclaimed ‘leaderless’ group of dispersed individuals labelled as ‘hackers’ for their various well-publicised distributed denial of service attacks.

Anonymous joins the Je Suis Charlie solidarity campaign

Anonymous recently announced that they would target ISIS websites in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack, They’ve already claimed to have had some level of success. The social distribution of multiple leaders does create a powerful and cohesive force – one which can be used for ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – attacking those who are perceived to hold alternative values from their own.

Improving cybersecurity

Obama and Cameron’s initiative may well provide new levels of cybersecurity research, testing current best practice while also creating debate and discussion about how best to protect against future online threats. The initiative needs to look beyond the technical aspects of cyber-attacks and also explore the social dynamics of how online distributed Communities operate.

Acknowledgements

Author Paul Hinks is a regular subscriber to LWD. He blogs on technology, innovation, and social media. His post on Apple, CSR and Leadership is regularly the most visited of the year on LWD.

Thanks and welcome also to our new production assistant Conor Glean.


NATO Conference to take place in a fortress around a golf course

July 11, 2014

A security fortress is being built around The Celtic Manor golf course and hotel in South Wales for The NATO conference, September 4-5, 1914

The Celtic Manor resort last hit the headlines when it hosted the Ryder Cup in 2010. The event was a success, despite atrocious weather. A few years later, and the the venue has been selected for a very different event. The 2014 NATO conferencepromises to be a target for social activists. Locally, schools and businesses are preparing for major disruptions.

A little local knowledge

The Celtic Manor is located in South Wales, close to the township of Newport, and the M4 motorway which connects London to Cardiff and West Wales. It was recently voted the best hotel in the UK for the fourth time in succession.

Travelers will know of the notorious delays around the area, with its two underpasses, and the dreaded Coldra Roundabout which makes tackling the peripherique a dawdle. Security is estimated to cost £50 million. Police and security forces will be coordinated as best as can be achieved.

The Protestors

The event will be the highlight of the year for activist groups. These will have the advantage of a structure of uncoordinated coordination through social networks.

The NATO participants

The NATO participants will be headed by sixty political leaders from around the world including Barack Obama and Angela Merkel. In the event of any medical problem, The delegates have been offered the opportunity to experience the expertise of the National Health Service, although many of the leaders are likely to bring their own medical teams with them.

To be continued


The Obamas speak peace in Northern Island

June 23, 2013

Barack and Michelle Obama address the achievements and challenges facing Northern Island.

I was not intending to blog yet again on a speech by a leading politician. As I listened to the context of the speeches and introductions [17th June 2013] I became more intrigued about the political messages and composition of the speeches. President Obama had taken the opportunity of meeting with an audience of mainly young people prior to the G8 summit being held this week. Here are my immediate notes:

A sixteen year-old introduces the First Lady. She speaks clearly with clear yet well-crafted words of hopes and demands of young people.

Michelle Obama speaks. Her words are also clear and well-crafted. Here is someone who believes in a future guarded by the aspirations of young people. It spoke to Northern Island but she could have been speaking in any of a hundred other countries. The message is partly clear because it is uncluttered.
See introduces her husband with well-received gentle irony.

Barack speaks. At first his message is not clear and well-crafted. Its local references do not quite work. The jokes do not quite work.

He moves almost hesitantly to his main point, his key metaphor. Much has been achieved in fifteen years since The Good Friday agreement but there is still much to do. He spoke of walls keeping communities separate. Now his speech was clear. Northern Island continues to remind the World that there may not be peace but we must hold to the promise of peace.

Fifteen hundred young people and battle-hardened politicians were still applauding after the Obamas had left the hall.

Footnote

The speech by President Obama appears to have been made in relatively relaxed mood the anticipated difficulties of dealing with the Syrian conflict at the G8 meeting. President Putin was sending vigorous signals that the West was calamitously wrong in its emerging policy towards arming the insurgency in Syria.


Unsung Melodies: This week’s events I didn’t write about

January 24, 2013

Apps for apesThis week I would have liked to have blogged about Barack Obama’s second inauguration; David Cameron’s long-awaited speech on Europe; blacklisting of employees; Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey; and iPads for Apes

President Obama’s inauguration

The UK, like the rest of the world, followed the inauguration. An estimated 40 million people watched [see the figures for Armstrong and Whitney, below]. A video of the 18 minute speech is available.

Initial reactions seem to be that the president will take steps to counter what he sees as obstruction to his policies by political opponents in the Senate. The speech signals this intention specifically on actions to preserve the environment, supporting human rights, and strengthening gun controls.

Prime Minster David Cameron’s European Speech

Meanwhile, over in Europe, Prime Minister Cameron makes what is considered his most committing political speech of his term in office. [23rd January 2012] His party’s stance on Europe will be built around a pre-election pledge for a post-election “in or out” referendum on membership of the European Community. The strategy appears to be a move to counter the rise of the anti-Europe UKIP party in the polls, and as a means of reducing trouble with his own anti-Europe MPs. He plans to renegotiate before the next general election [in 2015] to obtain changes in the EC and its arrangements with the UK. If successful. these will permit him to support a “stay in” vote in the subsequent referendum. A video of this speech is also available [via the BBC website]

Blacklisting of employees in the UK

This story is one which I believe will recur over the next few months, as a matter of corporate social responsibilities. Attention has been drawn to bullying and possibly illegal means through which organizations prevent employees from speaking out concerning their working conditions. The sanctions include the blacklisting of uncooperative employees from future employment. The examples suggest the practice has been widespread in some industries such as construction where part-time and supply work is common.

Lance and Oprah

The hero to zero story of Lance Armstrong played out as a full-blown televised confessional between Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey. It was watched by 28 million people worldwide. The charismatic figure considered the greatest cyclist of his generation once acquired cult status. Eventually he was revealed as a drug cheat who dragged his sport into disrepute. I like to describe leadership in terms of dilemmas. In chess terms, Armstrong moved not because he could or because he wanted to, but because he was forced to by a build up of stories against him.

Apps for Apes

Here’s a story which is fun and with animal rights implications. Apes like iPads. (Don’t we all?). The story was widely reported

The ‘Apps for Apes’ project came into being [in a Milwaukee zoo] because orangutans need constant stimulation – otherwise they become bored or depressed. Previous experiments have proved that the animals have an innate ability to use touchscreens.

‘The original idea came literally when Steve Jobs gave his opening presentation introducing the iPad,’ said conservationist Richard Zimmerman.

MBA student note

You may find a story for a leadership blog within these five items. Try to focus on a specific theme, and bring out its leadership implications around a critical incident.


Too Close to Call but then Obama moves to a second term

November 7, 2012

Tudor Rickards

A personal and unedited report based on the BBC’s radio coverage. I’m concentrating on the Presidential campaign as the votes are reported State by State

3.00am This and all times in British [GMT] time. Too close to call [TCTC]. No unexpected swings. The key states to be announced are Florida, Virginia and Ohio. Before the statistics indicate anything beyond TCTC inferences, BBC reports an intuitive sense of a ‘gentle breeze’ to Obama. Senate seats going to democrats from several republicans who had made particularly outrageous comments about ‘women’s issues’ such as rape.

3.30am One weary Republican in Virginia points to lack of attention by his party to ‘women and Hispanic votes’.

3.45am Democratic HQ in Chicago. BBC reports that ‘about an hour and a half ago something like a light switch flicked’. [My take: the switch was from belief grounded in hope to belief backed up with more rational analysis of information coming in.

4.00am The micro-evidence in Ohio places attention on Hamilton county, a particular bellwether or indicator of the whole. (‘Big fleas have little fleas…’). In the Pacific States, voting ends. California immediately announces for Obama.

4.15am NBC is the first network to announce for Obama. BBC insists that the result cannot be formally called.

4.19am Barack Obama tweets and calls it for Obama. Fox News calls it for Obama. BBC still refuses to call it formally. Fox news argues with itself whether it can be called yet.

4.24am ABC reports Ohio goes to Obama, and calls the election for Obama.

4. 25am BBC calls it for Obama. I’m going to bed.


Buckeye Barnstorming: “I need you Ohio”

November 5, 2012

Two days before election Tuesday, President Obama headed for Ohio, for the umpteenth visit of the election campaign. The myth of the Buckeye State’s iconic bellwether status is preserved

In one rally at the University of Cincinnati he said twice what political commentators had been increasingly saying: “I need you, Ohio!”

The Buckeye State

Ohio, The Buckeye State, has iconic significance as having the most volative voting pattern. The political myth is born of a statistical fact, that how the State votes is a prediction of who will become the next President, be he Republican or Democrat.

Election fatigue

Frank Hagler, [November 2nd 2012] writing in Policymic captured the sense of election fatigue getting to the candidates, as much as it has got to the American electorate:

Election fatigue has set in and the general feeling is that most people can’t wait for this election to be over so that they can get on with the important work of moving this country forward

Wednesday, November 7 will be a day of joy, regardless of which party comes out victorious because it will mark an end to one of the most contentious, racially polarized and negative election seasons in recent memory.

He went on to list five reasons which leads him to tip an Obama victory. Most of them can be challenged [and probably will be by Obamaphobes]. But here they are as indicated:

1 Momentum has shifted back to Obama.

2 The October jobs report

Which showed that unemployment remained below 8% and job creation is growing.

3 Late-breaking endorsements

from influential republican and Former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the independent New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, within the last week.

4 Hurricane Sandy and the President’s response to it

5 The 24/7 news cycle accentuating the most recent good news stories for Obama.

Pulled in two directions

It’s all pulling commentators in two directions. Many with a political case to push look hard for evidence to add one last endorsement for their cause.

But there is still professional caution, so that the “too close to call” line is also being offered by a majority of those contributing to the 24/7 election news fever.


Will twitter change the course of history and swing the Presidential election?

October 24, 2012

Another too-close-to-call Presidential campaign. And a pivotal moment is being identified as the first Presidential debate, which seems to have caught out team Obama by the influence of a whirlwind of tweets on reshaping political opinion

ABC’s Michael Brissenden suggested it did.

In his post Twitter frenzies shake up traditional debate tactics, he suggests that “In politics Twitter might be proving to be a new and somewhat unpredictable complication”. I have summarized his analysis below:

Impact of the first televised debate

If Barack Obama does lose this election, the first TV debate of this campaign will take on a historical significance that will be studied by political science undergraduates for years to come and no doubt writ large in campaign strategists’ offices for decades.

The frenzy of online engagement is like performance algebra – a jumble of characters, symbols and short, sharp calculations that somehow end up reaching a conclusion, faster and more efficiently than the old-school campaign long division.

As a result 90 minutes of prime time TV became a political eternity. In cyber space no-one can hear you scream but they can sure tell if you’re off your game. They used to say you could tell who won a TV debate even with the sound turned off – but no-one can control the volume of instant messaging. And politicians all over the world are being caught flat-footed by it.

It was 90 minutes the Obama campaign could never get back. The dynamics shifted decisively and now we have a contest that some think could end up being one of the closest presidential races ever.

Two more weeks

Two more weeks of relentless politics, increasingly targeted on the handful of ‘swing states’ whose uncommitted voters are believed to hold the key to the election. Two more weeks of attack ads. Do they influence anybody? And if not, why are funders spending billions of dollars on an expensive turnoff? The pollsters have been predicting a close race for some while.

To be continued