35 North Korean cyberattacks; Russia’s nuclear accident; Ebola’s now curable; B-2 over Kansas; And a bit more.

Nearly three dozen North Korean cyberattacks appear to have hit South Korea, India, Bangladesh, Chile and 13 other countries, the Associated Press reports today off an analysis by UN experts regarding Pyongyang hackers’ efforts to “illegally raise money for weapons of mass destruction programs.” 

This follows a report last week alleging “North Korea illegally acquired as much as $2 billion from its increasingly sophisticated cyber activities against financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges… The experts said they are investigating the reported attacks as attempted violations of U.N. sanctions, which the panel monitors.”

Some notable examples of North Korean cyber prowess: 

  • “hackers in one unnamed country accessed the infrastructure managing its entire ATM system and installed malware modifying the way transactions are processed. As a result, it forced 10,000 cash distributions to individuals working for or on behalf of North Korea ‘across more than 20 countries in five hours.’”
  • And in Chile, North Korean hackers used social engineering via “LinkedIn to offer a job to an employee of the Chilean interbank network Redbanc, which connects the ATMs of all the country’s banks.” More shady activity where that came from, here

By the way: America’s next Ambassador to Russia — since John Huntsman announced last week he’s stepping down — could be the guy who’s supposed to be talking with North Korea, Stephen Biegun, Reuters reports this morning, following up on Vox’s initial report on the possible Biegun nomination on Friday. 


From Defense One

Trump’s Thin Skin Is Hurting US National Security // David A. Graham, The Atlantic: The president’s aides are reluctant even to broach the dangers of white racist violence and electoral interference with him.

State Dept. IG: Hiring Freeze Hurt Border Security, Counterterrorism, and Other Priorities // Eric Katz, Government Executive: Imposed by Rex Tillerson soon after Trump took office, the 16-month freeze crushed morale and hindered operations, the inspector general found.

US Plans Face Recognition on ‘All Passenger Applications’ // Jack Corrigan, Nextgov: Customs and Border Protection is pressing ahead despite a recent backlash to federal law enforcement’s use of such technology.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not a D Brief subscriber, sign up here. On this day in 1961, the building of the Berlin Wall commenced as an attempt to curb Western influence in Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe. 


Russia’s nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed missile blew up in testing, Trump says. It took Putin’s government five days to explain the mysterious yet quite unmistakable radiation that suddenly emanated from Russia’s northwestern corner. But after lies and dissembling, the truth appears to have come out.
Last Thursday, a prototype of Putin’s promised new missile accidentally exploded on its barge-mounted launch pad. Seven Russians are confirmed to have died so far, reports Ars Technica, writing off Russian news reports.
What’s more, “The Burevestnik (which NATO reports under the name of SSC-X-9 “Skyfall”) has been undergoing testing at Nyonoksa, in Russia’s far-northern Arkhangelsk Oblast, since at least January of this year.”
The reax from Russian scientists: We’re not stopping until we build this new nuclear weapon. Or, as Reuters reports from Moscow: “The best tribute to [the deceased nuclear experts from Thursday’s accident] will be our continued work on new models of weapons, which will definitely be carried out to the end,” said Alexei Likhachev, chief of state nuclear agency Rosatom. 

Was the MARSOC Raider killed in Iraq this weekend shot by friendly fire? The Defense Department is looking into that allegation, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, two days after the DoD announced the death of Gunnery Sgt. Scott Koppenhafer during combat operations in northern Iraq. “Officials now are investigating whether he was accidentally struck by Iraqi or U.S. forces,” the Journal’s Nancy Youssef writes. Not a lot more just yet; but you can read on, here, or at Task & Purpose, here.   

Combatant commanders have lots of high-priority projects. But now more than a dozen of those new projects are in jeopardy after a recent decision by Mike Griffin, the Pentagon’s chief technology officer, to cancel “plans to produce detailed spending justifications for high-priority projects sought by combatant commanders,” Tony Bertuca reported Monday (behind a paywall) for Inside Defense.
Happening today: Mike Griffin delivers a speech entitled, “Ensuring U.S. Technological Superiority,” at 11 a.m. EDT at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. Details and livestream link, here

Apropos of nothing: Watch a B-2 drop dummy bombs on a range in Kansas. The Aviationist shared the nearly 90-second video from August 3, here.

ICYMI: The U.S. deficit is soaring. Ten months into fiscal 2019, the federal government has spent $866.8 billion more than it has taken in, Bloomberg reports. That’s far more than 2018’s total deficit of $779 billion, which was the largest in six years. 
Among the causes: “Republican tax cuts, increased federal spending and an aging population.”
So what? It could ultimately affect defense spending and other future budget negotiations. Read more, here.

What does John Bolton want with an obscure Moroccan independence movement? To disable a $50 million UN operation there, for one thing, the Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissembaum reported Monday. But more than that UN mission, Bolton has a history with this part of the world. “As a State Department official, he helped write the original 1991 U.N. deal that ended the fighting between Morocco and the Polisario Front. A few years later, he teamed up with former Secretary of State James Baker in a fruitless, four-year effort to reach a deal for a vote on whether Western Sahara should be part of Morocco.”
Now, Bolton is working toward the month of October, “when the peacekeeping mandate expires.” Bolton and U.S. officials threatened to block a renewal of that $50 million mission “if the U.N. can’t make progress on the political track.” Meanwhile, “Officials on all sides worry that the Trump administration pressure could backfire,” and a renewal of violence could result. Read on, here

Newsflash: Ebola is now curable. New studies conducted amid a year-long outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo show that “an antiviral drug called remdesivir or one of three drugs that use monoclonal antibodies” have shown remarkable effectiveness at fighting the disease, which has historically killed more than half of the people who contract it. Wired has more, here.

The more you know: Election security edition. “A third of all local election jurisdictions [are] using voting machines that are at least a decade old, despite recommendations they be replaced after 10 years,” AP writes off a new analysis today (PDF) from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.
And against advice, there are at least eight states where voters will be using paperless voting machines in 2020: Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Mississippi, Texas and Tennessee. Read over a few more recommendations from the full report, here

The more you know: Election information operations edition. For Trump and the GOP, stoking differences between Americans is good politics, the Washington Post reports as the president’s re-election campaign “dials up culture wars in [a] divisive play for 2020 votes.”
The short story: “The president is following much the same strategy that he pursued in 2016 — inserting himself into the issues his supporters are already discussing, and using blunt us-against-them language without regard to nuance or political correctness.”
Some examples of Trump binaries include “the coasts versus mid-America,” one adviser told the Post. “It’s people who drive Teslas versus people who drive John Deere tractors. And it’s being fanned by [the] dueling cable networks” of Fox and One America versus virtually everyone else.
The down side: Trump has apparently chosen to reject “the traditional presidential role of national healer and bipartisan problem-solver,” from Democrats’ POV. But for many in the GOP, that rejection of the traditional is music to their ears. Read on, here

Air Force Chief Goldfein is tracking the service’s suicide problem, and admits solutions appear to be dreadfully elusive, U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman reported Monday off his recent interview with Gen. David Goldfein. 

And finally today: For our LEGO fans out there,Behold a 75 Square Feet Marine Corps Air Station Entirely Made of LEGO Bricks.” David Cenciotti of The Aviationist sends in a belated July dispatch from Santa Clara, Calif., via YouTuber Paul Thomas. 
Thomas built a diorama “inspired by Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms but it’s (obviously) not a replica: it is a fictional representation of a U.S. Marine Corps base with aircraft and vehicles that you could find at an MCAS.” It comes in at 10 x 7.5 feet and took about 6 months to complete.
(Replica) Aircraft involved: F-35Bs, MV-22 Ospreys, CH-53Es and AH-1Z Vipers. Find Thomas explaining his work over on his YouTube channel, here.

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