Archive for February, 2013


Private report details extent of China’s vast cyber espionage program

February 27, 2013

The Mandiant Corporation has released a reportdetailing the extent of China’s cyber espionage program – including theft of data from nearly 150 entities, most of them in the US.  The report identifies the most active Chinese cyber threat as APT1 and makes a compelling case that this is a unit of the People’s Liberation Army.  You can find the full report at the link above or the summary (highlights reprinted below) here.

  • APT1 is believed to be the 2nd Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff Department’s (GSD) 3rd Department, which is most commonly known by its Military Unit Cover Designator (MUCD) as Unit 61398.
  • APT1 has systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations.
  • APT1 focuses on compromising organizations across a broad range of industries in English-speaking countries.
  • APT1 maintains an extensive infrastructure of computer systems around the world.
  • In over 97% of the 1,905 times Mandiant observed APT1 intruders connecting to their attack infrastructure, APT1 used IP addresses registered in Shanghai and systems set to use the Simplified Chinese language.
  • The size of APT1’s infrastructure implies a large organization with at least dozens, but potentially hundreds of human operators.
  • In an effort to underscore that there are actual individuals behind the keyboard, Mandiant is revealing three personas that are associated with APT1 activity.
  • Mandiant is releasing more than 3,000 indicators to bolster defenses against APT1 operations.

IER estimates $14.4 Trillion oil & gas addition to economy over 4 decades

February 25, 2013

The Congressional Budget Office recently released a study on the financial impact of extending oil and gas leases on federal lands.  However, that study was limited to lease revenues only.  The Institute for Energy Research has conducted a full “nose to tail” analysis of the economic impacts of an aggressive leasing structure, and has found a significant long term financial benefits:  Tens of billions of tax dollars annually for both Federal and State governments; millions of new jobs, and a possible total addition of $14.4 trillion to the national gross domestic product.

We have the resources to fuel a second American Century, if we can find the will to maximize them.



The Shale Age: A contrarian view

February 22, 2013

I have been writing about an era of fossil fuel abundance – which I call the Shale Age for – several years now.  I am a technological positivist and I am sure that the technical breakthroughs that will allow us to profitably utilize the vast carbon resources beneath our feet will continue apace.  However, not everyone agrees.  The Post Carbon Institute has an ideological need to see a stillborn Shale Age, but their analysis is worth reading (link opens to a pdf)


The Geopolitics of Islam

February 21, 2013

I am tending to personal matters today, but I did want to link this pointer to a recent post from the blog Diplomacy Status Quo on the Geopolitics of Islam

Islam at its height

Islam at its height


Geopolitical flashpoint: Scarborough Shoal

February 20, 2013

Scarborough Shoal is rocky outcropping in the South China Sea that is not even visible at high tide.  It sits within the Filipino exclusive economic zone as established by UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas), but China claims sovereignty over the rocks as an “historic cultural fact.”

The waters surrounding Scarborough Shoal are thought to be rich with oil and gas deposits, but they would be an object of contention even if this was not the case.   Despite its position as  the second largest nation on the Eurasian land mass, China is nonetheless highly dependent on maritime traffic for its economic health.  It’s export based economy ships most of its products by sea, and at the same time it imports most of its raw materials by the same routes.  Most of those shipping routes move through the South China Sea, and establishing dominance over that body of water is a pressing matter of national security for China.    China is years, perhaps decades, from being able to dominate its sea approaches  militarily, so it must pursue its geopolitical goals by other means.  It’s legal claims and attempts at intimidating its smaller neighbors are the convenient weapons at hand.

A detailed background on the history of Scarborough Shoal and the conflicting claims of sovereignty can be found here.



Gallium Nitride and the death of a young American in Singapore

February 19, 2013

Fascinating (and long) article from the Financial Times about the death of US engineer Shane Todd in Singapore.  Todd was an expert in gallium nitride applications and was working on a joint venture between a Singaporean research institute and a major Chinese industrial concern.  Gallium nitride is an advanced semiconductor material with both commercial and (perhaps especially) military applications.  In the weeks before his death, Todd, the son of a US Navy aviator, had expressed concern that his work with the Chinese side of the partnership was compromising US security interests.   Then, just before he was set to return to the US, Todd was found dead of an apparent suicide.  But, his friends and family are not so sure.

Read the whole thing.


The Top Ten Emerging Technologies of 2013

February 15, 2013

This list was compiled by the World Economic Forum, and at least half of them are related to energy production or efficiency:

1.  OnLine Electric Vehicles (OLEVs)

4.  Energy Efficient Water Purification

5.  Carbon Dioxide Conversion and Use

9.  Organic Electronics and Photovoltaics

10.  Fourth-Generation Reactors and Nuclear Waste Recycling

Personally, I think that #5 should be #1, but the WEF has the real game changer wrong there.  They think it is photosynthetic bacteria, but I believe that the Olah plant in Iceland will prove that the production of methanol from CO2 is commercially viable, enhancing the energy return on fossil fuels while at the same time reducing their environmental impact.