National security wrap

Image courtesy of Flickr user Kent MacElwee.

The Beat

Financial crime targets Oz superannuation

AUSTRAC has just released a risk assessment on Australia’s trillion dollar (PDF) superannuation sector. The key findings show that fraud is the overwhelmingly predominant crime, and is often enabled via cybercrime. AUSTRAC’s  recommendations (PDF) urge super funds to bolster internal controls against financial crime and to increase their suspicious matter reporting. AUSTRAC estimates that financial crime costs Australians some $8.6 billion a year.

In related news, last Friday ASIC revealed that it’s rolling out artificial intelligence—‘supervised learning algorithms’—to catch criminals in the financial services sector. ASIC’s new digital capability will analyse company announcements and trading patterns, aiming to detect suspicious market activity that reveals insider trading.

Cyberheist hits UK bank

Cybercriminals made off with £2.5 million from 9,000 Tesco Bank customers last week. Bank officials reacted quickly by guaranteeing full repayment to affected customers. Although banks routinely contend with cyber threats, this unprecedented heist saw cybercriminals directly withdraw funds from accounts, constituting the ‘first mass hacking of accounts at a western bank’. UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has pledged that the UK will do more to tackle financial crime, which she described a ‘national security threat’.

CT Scan

Global Terrorism Index

The Institute for Economics & Peace released its Global Terrorism Index 2016 on Wednesday. The report shows that 2015 saw a record number of countries experience their highest levels of terrorism in the past 16 years (despite 10% fewer total deaths than 2014, the deadliest year on record). The report attributes that largely to the expansion of ISIL affiliates across the globe. But the report notes that ‘terrorism is a highly concentrated form of violence’, with 72% of deaths from terrorism occurring in only five countries, ‘Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria’, and that 74% were attributable to only four groups, ‘ISIL, Boko Haram, the Taliban and al-Qa’ida’.

Terrorism in the age of Trump

With Donald Trump securing the presidency last week, pundits have begun to unpack what it means for US national security policy. Trump’s been big on ‘defeating ISIS’ and focusing the military on the counterterrorism mission. On the campaign trail the President-elect also made some controversial comments about the use of torture. The Atlantic’s Siddhartha Mahanta sat down with former FBI officer Ali Soufan to discuss ‘torture and counterterrorism in the age of Trump’. Soufan cites concerns about the impact on CT cooperation with security partners in the Middle East of Trump’s vitriolic campaign, as well as the loss of trust within the American Muslim community.

Control orders pass Senate

Controversial amendments to Australia’s counterterror laws were passed by the Senate last week. The amendments lower the age which existing control order regimes can be applied from 16 to 14.


Northern triangle gets its triforce

Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are teaming up to launch a new militarised tri-national border force. The organisation will operate along 600km of shared borders between the three countries, and will seek to tackle organised crime in Central America’s infamous Northern Triangle. Among the initiatives is a centralised warrant system that will enable security forces to apprehend gang members who cross borders after committing crimes. Cities in the Northern Triangle are some of the most dangerous in the world, with homicide rates and refugee emigration skyrocketing in recent years.

EU border controls prolonged

The EU has agreed to allow five Schengen Area member states (Germany, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Norway) to extend their temporary border controls for another three months. On the prospect of returning to unrestricted travel, Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák commented that ‘Although we are not there yet, the situation is improving’. But that assessment on Europe’s border woes might be optimistic, as a recent WSJ article notes that the EU’s struggling to reform its migration laws to incorporate border security checks for European-born jihadists returning from the Middle East.

First Responder

Climate change in the age of Trump

Australia ratified the Paris Climate Agreement last Thursday. After last week’s US election, analysts are concerned that Trump’s presidency could be disastrous for climate policy, citing the incoming Administration’s stated desire to withdraw from the Agreement. Trump already appears to be heading in a worrying direction, with sources claiming he’s selected Myron Ebell as head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s transition. Ebell’s a high profile figure on energy policy and has a track record of questioning climate change and its impact. There’s some cause for optimism though. Brookings’ Nathan Hultman explains that, while Trump has bashed the Paris Accords, reversing the majority of regulatory policies already put in place would require a lengthy legal process, and that ‘failure to enforce would invite additional lawsuits’.

Designing resilience

The Georgetown Climate Center has released its latest report, Rebuilding with Resilience: Lessons from the Rebuild By Design Competition After Hurricane Sandy (PDF). The report assesses six infrastructure projects designed to ‘make our communities more resilient to future climate impacts and other environmental changes, as well as to social and economic stressors’. Financial constraints were often an issue, and the report recommends designing projects to be ‘progressively implemented over time as funds become available or as the impacts of climate change become more severe’.