Visualising the invisible

The latest issue of Wired has a simply schematic map of ‘an invisible but vast war zone’ created by cyberattacks:

Cyberattacks mapped

Every month, it seems, a mammoth cyberattack sponsored by a nation state comes to light. In recent years, more than 20 countries have announced their intent to launch or beef up their offensive cyber capabilities. The result is a burgeoning digital arms race that presents a major threat to the security of our data.

But they are very late to the game (and there are also many internal threats to ‘the security of our data’: think NSA or GCHQ).  In October 2013 Google Ideas in collaboration with Arbor Networks launched an interactive map of daily Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that attempt to make an online service unavailable by overwhelming it with traffic from multiple sources :

Digital attacks 29 September 2015

According to Arbor Networks,

Attackers build networks of infected computers, known as ‘botnets’, by spreading malicious software through emails, websites and social media. Once infected, these machines can be controlled remotely, without their owners’ knowledge, and used like an army to launch an attack against any target. Some botnets are millions of machines strong.  Botnets can generate huge floods of traffic to overwhelm a target. These floods can be generated in multiple ways, such as sending more connection requests than a server can handle, or having computers send the victim huge amounts of random data to use up the target’s bandwidth. Some attacks are so big they can max out a country’s international cable capacity.  Specialized online marketplaces exist to buy and sell botnets or individual DDoS attacks. Using these underground markets, anyone can pay a nominal fee to silence websites they disagree with or disrupt an organization’s online operations. A week-long DDoS attack, capable of taking a small organization offline can cost as little as $150.

I discussed these, and connected them to militarised cyberattacks in ‘The everywhere war’ [DOWNLOADS tab].

The site provides an illuminating typology of attacks – TCP connection attacks that attempt to use up all available connections; Volumetric attacks that use up bandwidth; Fragmentation attacks that send a flood of TCP or UDP fragments to a victim, overwhelming their ability to re-assemble the streams and severely reducing performance; and Application attacks that target applications.

There is also an instructive gallery of major attacks:

Gallery of major attacks

And in 2014 another internet security company, Norse, released a live stream of origins and targets of attack; I’ve pasted a screenshot below but there is also a YouTube video here.

NORSE Digital attacks

The image above — which looks like Missile Command on steroids — shows just a snippet of hacking attempts around the world, the countries from which they originate, and the countries that they are attacking.

In reality, the attackers are hitting what Norse calls honey pots — special traps designed to detect unwanted network intrusions by hackers. It’s important to note that the location an attack comes from isn’t necessarily its true origin, as hackers can make an attack look like it’s coming from one place when it’s really coming from another.

You can find a list of other cyber attack maps at CTF365 here.

Drone Culture

Evolution of GCS

A special issue of Culture Machine on Drone Culture edited by Rob Foley and Dean Lockwood – culling papers from the excellent As above, so below conference at Lincoln last summer – is out now and available on open access here.

As Above, So Below: Triangulating Drone Culture Rob Coley and Dean Lockwood
Drone Metaphysics Benjamin Noys
Provocation: Unmanned Aerial Realtors Alexander Baker
Perspective: The Drone: God’s Eye, Death Machine, Cultural Puzzle Naief Yehya
Dancing to a Tune: The Drone as Political and Historical Assemblage Ramon Bloomberg
Drone Media: Unruly Systems, Radical Empiricism and Camera Consciousness Anthony McCosker
The Control Room: A Media Archaeology Cormac Deane
Drone It Yourself! On the Decentring of ‘Drone Stories’ Maximilian Jablonowski
Provocation: A Prairie Drone Companion Brad Bolman
Perspective: Vague Ideas, Clear Images Eva Parra Iñesta
Educative Power: The Myth of Dronic Violence in a Period of Civil War Mike Neary
Vaporents: Inhuman Orientations Dane Sutherland
Welcome to the Electrocene, an Algorithmic Agarta Dan Mellamphy, Nandita Biswas Mellamphy
Monarch Drone Communiqué Plastique Fantastique

Danse macabre

Patterns of life 3 JPEG

Grégoire Chamayou writes to say that after our conversations in Irvine last year he has worked with an artist friend, Julien Prévieux (who won the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2014) and the Opéra national de Paris to turn his ideas about schematic bodies and patterns of life into a short film: Patterns of Life.

I’ve embedded it below, but if the link doesn’t work you can watch it here or on YouTube here. You will soon see why Anne Buttimer once described Torsten Hågerstrand‘s time-geography diagrams as a danse macabre.  The subtitles are in French but the commentary is in English.

I find the combination of intellectual imagination and performance work absolutely compelling – see my comments on ‘Bodies on the line’ here, for example.

Bombs and books

Among a million and one other things, I’ve returned to my work on the history of bombing for my Reach from the Sky lectures in January.

Secret History of the Blitz

I’ve long admired Joshua Levine‘s work, and his Secret History of the Blitz is thoroughly impressive.  Many others have picked their way across the bomb-sites before, of course, but there are genuinely novel insights to be found amidst the rubble and Levine is an excellent (and wonderfully literate) collector.

2015 is the 75th anniversary of the the Blitz of 1940-41. It is one of the most iconic periods in modern British history – and one of the most misunderstood. The ‘Blitz spirit’ is celebrated by some, whereas others dismiss it as a myth. Joshua Levine’s thrilling biography rejects the tired arguments and reveals the human truth: the Blitz was a time of extremes of experience and behaviour. People were pulling together and helping strangers, but they were also breaking rules and exploiting each other. Life during wartime, the author reveals, was complex and messy and real.

From the first page readers will discover a different story to the one they thought they knew – from the sacrifices made by ordinary people to a sudden surge in the popularity of nightclubs; from secret criminal trials at the Old Bailey to a Columbine-style murder in an Oxford college. There were new working opportunities for women and the appearance of unfamiliar cultures: whilst prayers were offered up in a south London mosque, Jamaican sailors were struggling to cross the country. Unlikely friendships were fostered and surprising sexualities explored – these years saw a boom in prostitution and even the emergence of a popular weekly magazine for fetishists. On the darker side, racketeers and spivs made money out of the chaos, and looters prowled the night to prey on bomb victims.

From the lack of cheese to the decreased suicide rate, this astonishing and entertaining book takes the true pulse of a ‘blitzed nation’. And it shows how social change during this time led to political change – which in turn has built the Britain we know today.

You can find good reviews from the Independent here and from the Telegraph here.

Le gouvernement du ciel

Very different in reach and tone (but also impressively literate), and in many ways much closer to some of the themes I want to address in Cambridge in January,  is Thomas Hippler‘s Le gouvernment du ciel: histoire globale des bombardements aériens.  Readers interested in these things will surely know his remarkable account of Giulio Douhet,  Bombing the People: Giulio Douhet and the Foundations of Air-Power Strategy, 1884–1939; the new book picks up from the last chapter of the previous one in many ways.

Here is the Contents List:

Prologue

The earth, the sea and the sky

Towards perpetual peace

The colonial matrix

Civilisation, cosmopolitanism and democracy

The people and the populace

Philosophy of the bomb

Making and unmaking a people

Under the nuclear shield, ‘revolutionary war’

World governance and perpetual war

As you can perhaps divine from the chapter titles, this is at once an attempt to write a global history of the twentieth century through diagnostic episodes in bombing’s bleak history and a discussion of the political formations that aerial violence both presupposed and installed.

Chamayou:Hippert

I stumbled upon a fascinating conversation between Thomas and Grégoire Chamayou (above) and since I provided a detailed commentary on Théorie du drone for those who can’t read French (you can access the full set here: scroll down for the links) I’ll try to do the same for Le gouvernment du ciel in the weeks ahead (and I’ll include some snippets from that extended conversation).

I don’t think my commentaries have been superceded by the publication of the translation, Theory of the drone, so I’m hoping the same will be true if there is an English version of Le gouvernment du ciel (though I can’t find any sign of one yet).

‘The superpower’s dilemma’

I’m on the magical island of Sicily for the 9th Pan-European Conference on International Relations: Worlds of Violence (you can find abstracts and even some papers here though presumably not for ever).

I’ve never been to one of these things before, not even the ISA (though I must do something about that) so there’s a  learning curve – not only about IR but about how people in a different field who all seem to know one another comport themselves (or don’t).  There are lots of geographers here too, though Philippe Le Billon and Simon Springer, who organised a series of sessions on Geographies of Violence, never made it (fortunately not felled by violence).

I’m giving what I hope is more or less the final version of ‘Angry Eyes‘ (updates here and here) on the Uruzgan drone strike so I’ve been attending several sessions on drones to see what other analysts have been up to beyond the range of my targeting sensors trained on ssrn and Academia [This is perhaps the place to say I don’t post anything on either platform, since all my texts are available on this website under DOWNLOADS: but maybe I should?].

web-syria-drone-epa

Yesterday Lisa Hajjar spoke on ‘Drone warfare and the superpower’s dilemma‘.  She explains the title like this:

The United States has been in a continuous—or, at least, uninterrupted—state of armed conflict since 2001, and there is no end in sight. The strategies and technologies, as well as the locales of engagement and designated enemies of this “’global’ war on terror” have changed considerably over the past fourteen years. Nevertheless, the US government still relies on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress on 14 September 2001 (three days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks), as the legal authority to bomb people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, in Iraq since the occupation (the 2003 invasion was authorized under a different AUMF), in Libya since 2012, and most recently in Syria. This expanding conflict is not actually the same in any empirical sense, but the 2001 AUMF continues to be relied on because of the plasticity of the label of terrorism and the fact that the war against it has neither been won nor lost. This ability to continue fighting without losing and the inability to stop without winning could be described as “the superpower’s dilemma.”

‘The most significant change over the course of the “war on terror”’, she continues, ‘is the escalating use of armed drones (unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs) to target geographically diffuse and unconventional enemies.’

My analysis highlights three main issues: 1) why drone strikes for targeted killing have superseded capture and combat in US counter-terrorism strategy; 2) how officials explain and justify the strategic logic of remote killing; and 3) why drones seem to provide a technological answer to the superpower dilemma of how the United States can continue to “stay in the fight” without a significant commitment of “boots on the ground.” The conclusion is that bombing operations and aerial campaigns are incapable of achieving the declared security goals that their use aims to serve. On the contrary, drone warfare has been an important factor in the continuation of the “war on terror.”

My ability to report all this is not down to phenomenal powers of recall or a crash course in shorthand: you can read the full essay in two parts at Jadaliyya here and here.

(If you wonder about the image above, by the way, you can find the answer to its symbolic significance here and here).

_85425907_raf_strike_grab_976

Meanwhile, other states are operating drones too – notably over Iraq and Syria – including Russia (more here and here) and the UK (see here and read here).  I’m keeping my eyes on those developments too, but right now it’s Angry Eyes that holds my attention (not least because it reminds us that military drones are used for far more than targeted killing).  There are discussants for my own presentation, so I’ve prepared a paper summarising the argument and conclusions in lieu of a real paper – the long-form version is still in preparation – and I’ll post that soon.  But now I must away to think myself into my part….

Continuing catastrophes

VP-AlHaq-GazaVillages

At a time when the plight of refugees from the wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and elsewhere is – at last – commanding the attention of a global audience, it’s important not to forget other refugees: including those from Palestine.  Al-Haq, which co-sponsored the infographic above, explains:

August 26, 2015 marked the first anniversary of Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip, during which 2,219 Palestinians were killed. However, a large part of the story is left untold. Over half of those killed were refugees who were displaced from their homes in Yafa, Salama, Isdud, and many other villages and towns, as a result of and following the Nakba [‘catastrophe’] in 1948. The majority of those killed lived in refugee camps in the Gaza Strip within a 30 mile (50 km) radius of their homes of origin. A total of 1,236 refugees were killed during the 2014 offensive, including at least 309 children.

This infographic visually represents the untold story of Gaza’s refugees. Created by Visualizing Palestine in collaboration with four Palestinian human rights organizations, Al-Haq, the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, the Palestine Centre for Human Rights, and Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights, who launched a joint campaign to document Israel’s attacks during the 2014 offensive against the Gaza Strip.

For Palestinian refugees, the Nakba did not end in 1948, as they have experienced a continued denial of justice. There are 1.3 million refugees residing in Gaza who are spread over eight refugee camps, making up almost three quarters of the total population of the Gaza Stip. Refugees residing in Gaza have faced multiple consequent internal displacements due to Israeli policies, including Israel’s three military offensives against Gaza over the last six years. Israel’s deadly military operations, as well as its eight-year closure of Gaza have had devastating effects on the entire population in Gaza. While all Palestinians in Gaza endure harsh living conditions, including irregular electricity and water supplies, these issues are even more acute in the refugee camps.

You can find the data and other notes on the visualization here.  And if you are wondering about my title, here is Joseph Massad writing in 2008 on ‘Resisting the Nakba‘:

[T]here is much at stake in all of this, in rendering the Nakba an event of the past, a fact on the ground that one cannot but accept, admit, and finally transcend; indeed that in order to move forward, one must leave the Nakba behind. Some have even suggested that if Israel acknowledges and apologizes for the Nakba, the Palestinians would forgive and forget, and the effects of the Nakba would be relegated to historical commemorations, not unlike the one we are having this year.

In my view, the Nakba is none of these things, and the attempt to make this year [2008] the 60th anniversary of the Nakba’s life and death is a grave error. The Nakba is in fact much older than 60 years and it is still with us, pulsating with life and coursing through history by piling up more calamities upon the Palestinian people…  Much as the world would like to present Palestinians as living in a post-Nakba period, I insist that we live thoroughly in Nakba times. What we are doing this year is not an act of commemorating but an act of witnessing the ongoing Nakba that continues to destroy Palestine and the Palestinians. I submit, therefore, that this year is not the 60th anniversary of the Nakba at all, but rather one more year of enduring its brutality; that the history of the Nakba has never been a history of the past but decidedly a history of the present.