June 6, 2017

Audrey Alexander : ISIS Online: Are they Winning?

The London Bridge terror attacks that occurred this past weekend are causing policymakers to once again re-evaluate the efficacy of their counterterrorism efforts against ISIS. ISIS counterterrorism expert Audrey Alexander () is a Research Fellow at...

The London Bridge terror attacks that occurred this past weekend are causing policymakers to once again re-evaluate the efficacy of their counterterrorism efforts against ISIS.

ISIS counterterrorism expert Audrey Alexander (@aud_alexander) is a Research Fellow at The George Washington University Program on Extremism. Before joining the Program on Extremism, she worked at King’s College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR). At ICSR, Audrey used open source intelligence to identify instances of Western women relocating to enemy-held territories. Previously, Audrey worked at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), where she studied online radicalization and “lone-actor” terrorism. She contributed to the widely acclaimed “Till Martyrdom Do Us Part: Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon” report published by ISD and ICSR. Alexander holds a Masters in Terrorism, Security & Society from the War Studies Department at King's College.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • how American institutions have tried and failed to contain the ISIS threat online.
  • alternatives to current technological approaches to containing the enemy's online recruitment efforts.
  • how policymakers can identify warning signs pertaining to potential activity by non-ISIS groups.


The George Washington University Program on Extremism

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick

Deep Work by Cal Newport


Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers partner Mary Meeker released her annual Internet Trends report last week. Key findings include a slow down in smartphone growth, to just a 3% growth in shipments last year, down from 10% the year before. There's also an uptick in voice searches, which have reached about a 95% accuracy rate. The report found voice searches to be well on their way toward replacing text-based search inquiries. Meeker's report also reveals that some 60% of the most highly valued tech companies in the U.S. were founded by first- or second-generation Americans. These findings only scratch the surface. Here's a link to the slides.

Elon Musk announced in a tweet last week that he has decided to leave president Trump's advisory councils following the president's announcement last week that he would be pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement. The Agreement is a multinational accord that brings together 195 countries in a commitment to fight climate change. The U.S. joined Nicaragua and Syria among the nations that will not participate if Trump has his way. However, the earliest possible date the U.S. would be able to make an effective withdrawal from the agreement is November 4, 2020, or one day after the 2020 presidential election.

Tech giants Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and hundreds of other businesses have also formed an initiative dubbed "We're Still In", which was organized by Michael Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Sierra Club, and the Center for American Progress, to express their commitment to the Paris Agreement and local and state authorities whom they see as being more influential than the federal government on climate change.

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear a key case regarding law enforcement's ability to obtain cell phone data without a search warrant. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Carpenter v. U.S. upheld the district court which sentenced defendant Timothy Carpenter to some 116 years in prison for committing a string of armed robberies of TMobile and Radio Shack stores in Michigan and Ohio back in 2010 and 2011. The evidence admitted at trial against Carpenter included cell phone records showing he was in close proximity to the stores when the robberies occurred. Lydia Wheeler has the story in The Hill.

Once again, Booz Allen, the same firm that employed Edward Snowden as an NSA contractor, is the subject of a data breach. Some sixty thousand sensitive documents related to a US military project were found unsecured on on a public Amazon server.  Gizmodo reports the compromised files also contained the encrypted passwords of officials with top security clearance. Dell Cameron reports at Gizmodo.

Democratic leaders in Congress have asked Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to probe the cyberattack that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai claims caused the agency's commenting site to go down. The site went down shortly after John Oliver directed his viewers to go to site domain gofccyourself.com, which redirected to the FCC's actual commenting page. But Chairman Pai said the site went down due to an external cyber attack. Senators Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Al Franken (Minn.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Ed Markey(Mass.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.) want answers from the FBI by June 23rd. Morgan Chalfant has the story in The Hill.

Finally, Uber fired the former Google engineer accused of stealing secrets from Alphabet self-driving car unit Waymo and bringing them with him when he started his own self-driving car company, Otto, which Uber then acquired. Anthony Levandowski apparently became too much of a liability for Uber, which is currently embroiled in litigation Google brought against it because of Levandowski's alleged actions. Daisuke Wakabayashi and  Mike Isaac report in the New York Times. Greg Bensinger at the Wall Street Journal reports that Uber also posted a $708 million loss in the first quarter. This was on top of the $991 million the company lost in the 4th quarter of 2016. Uber Head of Finance Guatam Gupta will be leaving the company in July to work for an unnamed startup.