CBP loses face data; RTN-UTX merger; HASC’s space-force deal; INF proposal; And a bit more.

By Ben Watson

June 11, 2019

Have you driven near an airport or a land-border crossing in the U.S. lately? Your face and or license plate could be part of the data breach suffered by an unspecified Homeland Security Department subcontractor following the (1) unauthorized copying of that data to the subcontractor’s computers, then (2) a “malicious cyberattack” disclosed Monday by officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  

CBP discovered the breach 12 days ago, the Washington Post reports, “and said that none of the image data had been identified ‘on the Dark Web or Internet.’ But reporters at The Register, a British technology news site, reported late last month that a large haul of breached data from the firm Perceptics was being offered as a free download on the dark web.”

So who was the subcontractor? Unclear exactly just yet. However, “a Microsoft Word document of CBP’s public statement, sent Monday to Washington Post reporters, included the name ‘Perceptics’ in the title.”

What does Perceptics do? “offer automated license-plate-reading devices that federal officials can use to track a vehicle, or its owner, as it travels on public roads,” the Post writes.

According to a U.S. official, “Perceptics was attempting to use the data to refine its algorithms to match license plates with the faces of a car’s occupants, which the official said was outside of CBP’s sanctioned use. The official said the data involved travelers crossing the Canadian border.”

Not suspected (yet) in this breach: a foreign nation like, say, China, for example, according to the Post.

Initial findings indicated that fewer than 100,000 people had their images compromised,” a CBP official told the Wall Street Journal.

For your eyes only: A perilous dusk photo from AFP’s Mexico-based photog, Pedro Pardo. His caption: “Central American migrants and locals arrive in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, after illegally crossing the Suchiate river from Tecun Uman in Guatemala in a makeshift raft.”

In video: Other migrants detained by Mexican authorities on Mexico's southern border with Guatemala. That also from AFP, here.

By the way: Mexico’s President López Obrador “shifted [his] policy and ramped up detentions even before the new migration deal with U.S.,” the WSJ reports this morning from Tapachula, which is right on the border with Guatemala.


From Defense One

Will Trump Object to the Raytheon-United Technologies Merger? // Marcus Weisgerber: After an analyst said Obama-era opposition to consolidation had dissipated, Trump appeared to signal the opposite.

Space Force’ Shrinks in House Proposal // Katie Bo Williams, Defense One: A bipartisan amendment would trim several generals from the new space-focused component.

Save This One Piece of the INF Treaty // Greg Thielmann: Preserving the ballistic-missile ban would reduce the danger of leaving the treaty — and light a path to its replacement.

CBP Says Traveler, License Plate Pictures Stolen in ‘Malicious Cyber-Attack’ // Jack Corrigan via NextGov: The breach happened at one of the agency’s subcontractors, officials said. CBP wouldn’t name the subcontractor nor disclose the number of images stolen.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson. Thanks for reading! Subscribe here. On this day in 323 BCE, Alexander the Great is believed to have passed away in what is now Iraq. Among quite a few other places, the Afghan city of Kandahar was named for Alexander. More on his legacy from National Geographic, here.


Remember when the half-brother of North Korea’s leader was assassinated in Malaysia two years ago? The Wall Street Journal now reports that half-brother was a CIA informant, according to “a person knowledgeable about the matter.”
The man in question: Kim Jong Nam, and he “was killed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia in February 2017, when two women smeared his face with the nerve agent VX,” the Journal’s Warren P. Strobel writes. “Murder charges were dropped against the women earlier this year,” AP adds in its roll-up of Strobel’s reporting. “They had been accused of colluding with four North Koreans who prosecutors said had fled the country the day of the attack.”
Known-knowns about KJN: Former U.S. officials told Strobel that “Mr. Kim—who resided mainly in the Chinese enclave of Macau—was almost certainly in contact with security services of other countries, particularly China’s."
Bigger picture: "News of the CIA’s relationship with Kim Jong Nam comes as nuclear diplomacy between the U.S. and North Korea is at a standstill… The fact that the CIA held meetings with the North Korean leader’s exiled half brother illustrates the lengths U.S. intelligence will go to gather information about the hermetic country." More here.

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. To mark the occasion, North Korea’s state-run media has some trash talk about the current U.S. approach toward denuclearization. “The arrogant and unilateral U.S. policy will never work on the DPRK, which values sovereignty,” Reuters reports off a KCNA broadcast today.
Recall that Singapore yielded a four-point joint statement from President Trump and dictator Kim Jong-un:

  1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.–DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
  2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018, Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
  4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Like last week, North Korea again said today that the four-point agreement “is in danger of being a blank sheet of paper because the U.S. is turning a blind eye to its implementation.”

New Zealand wants five new C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from Lockheed Martin at an estimated cost of $659.5 million, Reuters reports today. The selection means Lockheed’s offer bests comparable ones from Airbus SE and Embraer SA. Tiny bit more, here.

In case you missed one of the dominant messages out of the proposed UTC-Raytheon merger, the Wall Street Journal reminds us (emphasis added) that the deal “caps two years of deal making in an industry that is reorganizing in anticipation of slower growth in Pentagon spending and new priorities such as space systems and hypersonic missiles.”
How this merger is believed to assist ahead of an economic downturn (for defense spending): by “creat[ing] cost savings that will lower prices” for systems like the F-35 “and allow for investments in updated capabilities.”
Said former SecDef Chuck Hagel to the Journal: “The concern I have, from a defense and security standpoint, is you’re having to rely on fewer and fewer options and companies.” Tiny bit more, here.

Coming Wednesday, maybe: an announcement on an increased U.S. troop presence in Poland beyond the roughly 4,000 stationed there presently, AP reported Monday in a very short report.

And finally today: The U.S. military was training Turkish pilots to fly the F-35 in the skies over Arizona. That has stopped now (last week, actually), and it stopped sooner than expected, Reuters’ Phil Stewart reported Monday.
If you’re just tuning in, at the heart of the matter is Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system that “poses a threat to the Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 stealthy fighters, which Turkey also plans to buy. Washington says Ankara cannot have both.”
Said a Pentagon spox to Reuters: “Without a change in Turkish policy, we will continue to work closely with our Turkish ally on winding down their participation in the F-35 program.”
Meantime, “Turkey seems to be moving ahead with the S-400 purchase, regardless of the U.S. warnings…Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on May 22 that Turkish military personnel were receiving training in Russia to use the S-400, and that Russian personnel may go to Turkey.” A bit more, here.


By Ben Watson // Ben Watson is news editor for Defense One. He previously worked for NPR's “All Things Considered” and “Here and Now” in Washington, D.C. Watson served for five years in the U.S. Army, where he was an award-winning combat cameraman and media advisor for southern Afghanistan's special operations command during the 2010-11 surge.

June 11, 2019

https://www.defenseone.com/news/2019/06/the-d-brief-june-11-2019/157620/