October 2020

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The links below are organised by the month in which they are published


2020 AIPIO Awards Now Open

The Annual Awards Scheme is comprised of awards in five categories: Publication Award; Individual Award, Organisation Award, Young Intelligence Professional Award, and Innovation in Intelligence Award. 

The AIPIO Board will only issue awards where nominations are of the highest standard and there will only be one award for each category.

There is still time to submit nominations, with the closing date extended to this Friday 16th October.

► For more information and nomination forms: About the Scheme

AIPIO Intelligence 2020 – Virtual Conference 
Tuesday 24 – Wednesday 25 November 2020

The conference includes a range of featured national and international speakers as well as industry professionals and leaders addressing the conference theme ‘Intelligence Professionals in the 21st Century’ and sub-themes People, Practice and Technology. 

Keynote Speakers include: 

Jamie Belinne, Assistant Dean, University of Houston 

Suzanne Wilson Heckenberg, President, The Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) 

Other key program highlights include Tuesday Trivia and Awards, The Inaugural Great AIPIO Annual Debate, and access to specialised student and Young Intelligence Professional sessions. 

For more information and to explore the Invited Speakers participating at this year’s event please visit the AIPIO National Events website 

Registrations for the Conference include access to the live stream of the conference sessions and digital exhibition as well as on demand access to all conference sessions post event. 

To register for Intelligence 2020 Conference click the link below

Should you have any difficulties with registering for either event, please contact AIPIOevents@wiseconnections.com.au

► To register go to: https://www.aipionationalevents.asn.au/registration

AIPIO Round Table 2 Summary

The AIPIO Round Table 2 breakfast event was held on 21 October 2020. The series event, new to 2020 is a key component of AIPIO’s Thought Leadership Program.

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► Click here to purchase the AIPIO Round Table 2 Video on AIPIO's Event Shop



IAFS 2023 | 20 - 24 Nov 2023

‘Forensic Science 2020 - Where to from here?’ 23rd Triennial Meeting of the International Association of Forensic Sciences (IAFS 2023)

Topic: Forensic Science 2020 - Where to from here?

Start Date: 20 November 2023

End Date: 24 November 2023

Venue: International Convention Centre, Sydney

Website: iafs2020.com.au



Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence – Third Edn. 

With Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence, Katherine Hibbs Pherson and Randolph H. Pherson have updated their highly regarded, easy-to-use handbook for developing core critical thinking skills and analytic techniques. This indispensable text is framed around 20 key questions that all analysts must ask themselves as they prepare to conduct research, generate hypotheses, evaluate sources of information, draft papers, and ultimately present analysis, including: How do I get started? Where is the information I need? What is my argument? How do I convey my message effectively? 

The Third Edition includes suggested best practices for dealing with digital disinformation, politicization, and AI. Drawing upon their years of teaching and analytic experience, Pherson and Pherson provide a useful introduction to skills that are essential within the intelligence community.

 Read more


Spies, Spin and the Fourth Estate: British Intelligence and the Media 1st Edition

Combining his expertise as a national security correspondent and research academic, Paul Lashmar reveals how and why the media became more critical in its reporting of the Secret State. 

He explores a series of major case studies including Snowden, WikiLeaks, Spycatcher, rendition and torture, and MI5’s vetting of the BBC – most of which he reported on as they happened. 

He discusses the issues that news coverage raises for democracy and gives you a deeper understanding of how intelligence and the media function, interact and fit into structures of power and knowledge.

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How Spies Think: Ten Lessons in Intelligence

From the former director of GCHQ, learn the methodology used by the British intelligence agencies to reach judgements, establish the right level of confidence and act decisively.

Intelligence officers discern the truth. They gather information - often contradictory or incomplete - and, with it, they build the most accurate possible image of the world. With the stakes at their absolute highest, they must then decide what to do.

In everyday life, you are faced with contradictory, incomplete information, too. Reading the news on social media, figuring out the next step in your career, or trying to discover if gossip about a friend is legitimate, you are building an image of the world and making decisions about it.

Looking through the eyes of one of Britain's most senior ex-intelligence officers, Professor Sir David Omand, How Spies Think shows how the big decisions in your life will be easier to make when you apply the same frameworks used by British intelligence.


FBI training Australian police officers to catch out foreign spies

The FBI has been training Australian Federal Police officers in how to catch foreign spies as a specialist unit set up to counter foreign interference and espionage becomes due for expansion.

AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw revealed he had asked FBI director Chris Wray for help in training officers in the new unit, which has 65 officers.

Security and law enforcement agencies do not discuss which countries are the biggest offenders in foreign interference, but Chinese nationals are believed to be a major target of the joint AFP-ASIO Foreign Interference Task Force.

► Read the full story

Top Intelligence Official Releases Unverified, Previously Rejected Russia Information

The disclosure appeared to be aimed at helping President Trump benefit politically, and intelligence agencies were said to object to its release.

President Trump’s top intelligence official on Tuesday released unverified information about the 2016 campaign that appeared to be a bid to help Mr. Trump politically and was said to be disclosed over the objections of career intelligence officials who were concerned that the material could be Russian disinformation.

The disclosures were the latest by John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence and previously an outspoken congressional ally of the president, that highlighted information that helped Mr. Trump but that critics have called distortions.

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'There is no upside' for UK's national security after Brexit, former head of MI5 says

There is no “security upside” to Brexit and the best the government can hope to do is minimise its negative impact, the former head of MI5 has said.

Lord Jonathan Evans, who was director-general of the Security Service from 2007 to 2013, said it was “absolutely vital” to remain ties with Europol and European Union (EU) countries.

“I find it very hard to see any security upside from Brexit. It seems to me that our task is to minimise the downside," he told a debate held by the Policy Exchange think-tank in London.

► Read more here

Norwegian man found guilty of spying on Russian nuclear submarines jailed for 14 years

A Norwegian man has been found guilty in Moscow of spying on Russian nuclear submarines and sentenced to 14 years in a high-security jail

Frode Berg, 63, who used to work as a guard on the Norwegian-Russian border, admitted acting as a courier for his country’s intelligence services but denied spying.

The verdict could strain relations between Moscow and its Nato-member neighbour, which have deteriorated in the past five years.

In a trial behind closed doors, prosecutors said Berg was caught with documents he had received from an employee of a military facility who was shadowed by Russian intelligence.

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Home Affairs intelligence section role a mystery to departing NIC spy chief Nick Warner

Outgoing spy chief Nick Warner has raised questions over the role of an intelligence section in the Department of Home Affairs, and suggested some intelligence agencies need better oversight.

The Home Affairs Intelligence Division, which answers directly to department secretary Mike Pezzullo, is part of the National Intelligence Community (NIC), which Mr Warner heads as Office of National Intelligence (ONI) director-general.

But Mr Warner, who will retire in December, said it was unclear to him what the “specific functions of that entity” were.

“You’ll have to ask Home Affairs that question,” he told Senate estimates.

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Dissidents of the Turkish government are living in fear in Canada

Turkey’s long arm and espionage activities against dissidents living in exile in Canada has become a growing concern. As revealed in a startling recent news report, 15 Turkish-Canadians have been targeted by the Turkish government within the scope of a “terrorism” investigation.

Needless to say, the term “terrorist” has become a commonly applied label in Turkey describing almost all opponents of the Turkish government, in and out of the country. Turkey’s operations in Canada have an impact that goes beyond its immediate targets. Such planned and organized espionage activities could pose a danger to public safety.

In the last several years, the Turkish state engaged in a three-phase campaign abroad to silence its own citizens who are critical of the government. 

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United States charges six Russian intelligence operatives with hacking

The United States Department of Justice has unsealed charges against six members of Russia’s military intelligence agency for allegedly engaging in worldwide computer hacking against several countries. 

According to the US government, the six Russian operatives were instrumental in some of the most destructive and costly cyber-attacks that have taken place worldwide in the past five years.

The indictment alleges that the six Russian intelligence operatives were members of a hacker group named “Sandworm Team” and “Voodoo Bear” by cybersecurity experts. In reality, however, they were —and probably still are— employees of Unit 74455 of the Russian Armed Forces’ Main Intelligence Directorate, known as GRU.

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Philippine military says no risk from China-backed towers

The Philippine military chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay has said there is virtually no risk that towers and communications equipment to be put up in military camps by a China-backed telecom firm can be used for espionage.

He said installing the towers and equipment of Dito Telecommunity Corp., a Philippine firm in which Beijing’s China Telecom has a 40% financial stake, in camps would allow the military to better monitor its operations.

“We don’t see any security risk, it’s very low and we find it better that they are inside because we could have unannounced inspections. We could inspect them at midnight,” Gapay told reporters in a video news conference.

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The General Intelligence Division: J. Edgar Hoover and the Critical Juncture of 1919

Zachary Selden (2020), The General Intelligence Division: J. Edgar Hoover and the Critical Juncture of 1919, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, DOI: 10.1080/08850607.2020.1807455

Zachary Selden is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. He was previously the Deputy Secretary General for Policy at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Parliamentary Assembly and Director of its Defense and Security Committee. Prior to that posting, he was the International Affairs Analyst in the National Security Division of the Congressional Budget Office. 

► Access the article here


Updated NIC accountability chart 

Adding detail on the Defence Intelligence Group and the remit of the Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI) 

► View it here

U.S. Election 2020: How to Spot (and Fight) Misinformation

It is 2020, and the stakes are huge for the internet and American democracy. The web is increasingly becoming a vehicle to sow confusion on how, when, and where to vote. A recent ProPublica examination of the top 50 Facebook posts pertaining to mail-in voting found more than half contained false or misleading information.

► Find out more here

Soviet Active Measures in the West and the Developing World

An anonymous and undated report circulated to NATO in Autumn 1981 giving a concise overview of the use and techniques of Soviet Active Measures.

A forgery purporting to be an official U.S. Government document appears in a West European country. In a developing country, false rumours are spread of U.S. involvement in a coup attempt. A clandestine radio station beams anti-Western broadcasts into Iran. A Western firm is warned that its commercial ties with the Soviet Union will suffer if it also sells equipment to China.

What is the thread which links together these seemingly unrelated activities? They are all examples of “active measures” carried out by the Soviet Union in a large-scale campaign to complement its traditional diplomacy and weaken governments which are not subservient to direction from Moscow.

► Read more here

Thinking outside the box – Data Breaches

You can see that often when companies within the OSINT and intelligence field look into assessment of an organization’s or an individual’s data breach or compromise history, in most cases these companies focus on the data breach itself. Meaning that they are not looking into the important details, the passwords. 

Before diving into the analytical part of a password analysis, and how we can use this information for enriching our online investigation scope and findings. 

Let’s first understand the real meaning behind passwords…

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ENISA Threat Landscape 2020: Cyber Attacks Becoming More Sophisticated, Targeted, Widespread and Undetected

Threat landscape maps Malware standing strong as #1 Cyber Threat in the EU, with an increase in Phishing, Identity Theft, Ransomware; Monetisation holding its place as cyber criminals’ top motivation; and the COVID-19 environment fuelling attacks on homes, businesses, governments and critical infrastructure.

The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA), with the support of the European Commission, EU Member States and the CTI Stakeholders Group, has published the 8th annual ENISA Threat Landscape (ETL) 2020 report, identifying and evaluating the top cyber threats for the period January 2019-April 2020.

This year’s publication is divided into 22 different reports, available in pdf form and ebook form. The combined report lists the major change from the 2018 threat landscape as the COVID-19-led transformation of the digital environment. During the pandemic, cyber criminals have been seen advancing their capabilities, adapting quickly and targeting relevant victim groups more effectively.

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China's 5 Steps for Recruiting Spies

Cases of Americans allegedly recruited to spy on China’s behalf follow a basic pattern.

Beware of Chinese spies offering laptops, women, or educational stipends—and especially watch out for odd LinkedIn requests.

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Interference 2020 - Foreign Interference Attribution Tracker

A Project of the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) of the Atlantic Council, The DFRLab's Foreign Interference Attribution Tracker (FIAT) is an interactive, open-source database that captures allegations of foreign interference relevant to the 2020 election. 

This tool assesses the credibility, bias, evidence, transparency, and impact of each claim. 

Explore by scrolling through the timeline and map below. Hover over a circle to see details about a particular case.

► Learn more here

‘ANC Spy Bible’: a real-life South African thriller, but too much left unsaid

Thirty-five years ago – and five years before the unbanning of the African National Congress (ANC) and other anti-apartheid organisations and the release of political prisoners including Nelson Mandela – a security policeman carrying a batch of documents walked into the optometry practice of a young South African in Durban on the west coast of the country. 

He was offering his services to the then-banned ANC. The young man he’d approached was Moe Shaik. Over the next six years ‘The Nightingale’ fed Shaik with vital intelligence that helped keep the ANC’s underground activities against the apartheid government alive. 

Gavin Evans reviews The ANC Spy Bible, Shaik’s story of this relationship – and its sour aftermath in the grubby politics of post-apartheid South Africa.

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Transforming the Australian intelligence community: mapping change, impact and challenges

Patrick F. Walsh

9/11 produced significant changes to the US intelligence community, while in contrast the attacks resulted in incremental changes in the Australian intelligence community (AIC). Fast forward to 2017 however, this article examines how the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review has created the momentum for significant change in the AIC; and what challenges may arise from reform initiatives flowing from the review.

While assessing the full impact of the current reform agenda will take years, this article assesses key changes made so far (2017 to October 2020) and if they are resulting in a more effective, coordinated, and integrated intelligence community.

► Read the full article here

AIPIO member Associate Professor Patrick F Walsh is an Associate Professor Intelligence & Security Studies, Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security Charles Sturt University. He is also a Honorary Visiting Fellow,  Department of History, Politics and International Relations at the University of Leicester.  

He has a new book due for release in November 2020

Walsh, P. (2021). Intelligence Leadership and Governance. London: Routledge

Intelligence, Biosecurity and Bioterrorism (Palgrave Macmillan UK)


The Mystery of the Immaculate Concussion

He was a senior CIA official tasked with getting tough on Russia. Then, one night in Moscow, Marc Polymeropoulos's life changed forever. He says he was hit with a mysterious weapon, joining dozens of American diplomats and spies who believe they’ve been targeted with this secret device all over the world—and even at home, on U.S. soil. Now, as a CIA investigation points the blame at Russia, the victims are left wondering why so little is being done by the Trump administration.

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Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds

In 1975, researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented with pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones.

Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times. Others discovered that they were hopeless. They identified the real note in only ten instances.

As is often the case with psychological studies, the whole setup was a put-on. Though half the notes were indeed genuine—they’d been obtained from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office—the scores were fictitious. The students who’d been told they were almost always right were, on average, no more discerning than those who had been told they were mostly wrong.

In the second phase of the study, the deception was revealed.

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The Nevernight Connection

China and other foreign governments are using professional networking social media sites to target people with U.S. government security clearances. 

Foreign intelligence services may use fake profiles, seemingly benign requests, the promise of lucrative payouts, and other tactics to try to gain non-public and classified information for their benefit. 

The FBI urges everyone—especially those who hold (or have held) security clearances—to be cautious when approached by individuals online regarding career opportunities.

The Nevernight Connection is inspired by the case of former CIA officer Kevin Mallory and details the fictional account of a former U.S. Intelligence Community official who was targeted by China via a fake profile on a professional networking site and recruited to turn over classified information before being arrested. 

Through this film, The FBI and the National Counterintelligence and Security Centre seek to raise awareness of this issue and help individuals in the private sector, academic and research communities, and other U.S. government agencies guard against this threat.

► See more here

The 8 Best Spy Movies on Netflix Right Now

Are you looking for something good to watch on Netflix? It is a common concern in our digital age. The streaming service has hours upon hours of content available at the click of a button, but it seems impossible to narrow down what you want to watch. 

It is certainly a fine problem to have, but a problem, nonetheless. But you are in luck, especially if you are looking for fun spy movies to watch.

► See the list here


A Call to Spy review – meticulous depiction of female war-time agents

Exploring the cultural sexism meted out to women during the second world war, this drama based on real people avoids cliché. 

‘Make sure they’re pretty,” a bespectacled Special Operations Executive wonk tells Vera Atkins, the Romanian born “spymistress” (played by Stana Katic) charged with building a network of French-speaking female undercover operatives in the early days of the second world war. 

Written by Sarah Megan Thomas and directed by Lydia Dean Pilcher, this is a righteously conceived drama designed to highlight the smothering sexism that greeted women’s contributions to the war effort, in particular anything that smacked of ambition above lowly clerical grades.

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Evidence Project

Forensics Tools Catalogue - an index of tools for computer forensics and investigations 

► Access it here

OSINT Tools and Resources Handbook

The 2020 edition of our OSINT Tools and Resources Handbook is now online and can be downloaded here.

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The subjects, thoughts, opinions, and information made available in AIPIO Acumen reflect the author’s views, not those of the AIPIO.