Monthly Archives: July 2021

Grieving Parents of Murdered Mexican Students on List of Suspected Targets of Military-Grade Israeli Spyware

When their children were killed or abducted, the parents of Ayotzinapa relentlessly petitioned their government for truth and justice. But even as they placed their hopes in the federal government, it may have targeted them for invasive surveillance.
By Lilia Saul, Pavla Holcova, and Marlen Castro – Cristina Bautista grew up working in the corn fields of a dusty village high in the mountains of Mexico’s Guerrero state. For most of her life she’s survived by selling whatever she can scrounge up: bread, pozole, little trinkets made of palm leaves.

She counts herself lucky that her house is made of concrete and not corrugated metal or wood planks, a feat she pulled off only after a stint working in Connecticut.

She’s not wealthy, powerful, or famous. Even within Mexico, she’s one of the poorest of the poor. But her own government may have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars putting her under one of the most intensive forms of surveillance in the world, targeting her cell phone for hacking with powerful Israeli spyware.

What was so threatening about Bautista?

Nothing but the fact that she’s a victim. She and several dozen other grief-stricken parents have spent years demanding to know what happened to their children, 43 students at a rural teacher’s college who were abducted in 2014 after a bloody encounter with police in Iguala, a town in Mexico’s southwest. more>

EU to counter cyber threats

By Kostis Geropoulos – Europe needs to be the driving force in securing infrastructure of core services against hybrid attacks, including ransomware, and work with NATO to build a resilient cyber defense, European Parliament Vice President Marcel Kolaja, a Czech software engineer, told New Europe in an exclusive interview.

“The cyber strategy of the European Commission also underlines the importance of international cooperation and the Commission plans to work with partners around the world. But, of course, we need to focus on those who share our values of democracy and rule of law and human rights because even though this is a global issue, of course, cooperation with corrupt regimes does not really bring you much,” Kolaja said in an interview, following the Prague European Summit. “So, I think in that sense our natural partner of the European Union is basically NATO where there is already a cooperation ongoing through a technical arrangement on cyber defense,” the Czech MEP added.

Kolaja, who engages in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) of the European Parliament, reminded that currently the Network Information Security Directive is being updated. “I’m a shadow rapporteur of an opinion in the IMCO committee for that and this Directive basically lays down rules for member states to adopt national cybersecurity strategies, to designate competent national authorities so that the critical infrastructure can be resilient against all sorts of attacks. Of course, ransomware is one of them. It foresees cybersecurity risk management and reporting obligations for critical infrastructure and for critical entities,” Kolaja told New Europe, adding that the legislative proposal strengthens security requirements for the companies by imposing a risk management approach and providing a minimum list of basic security elements that have to be applied. more>

Updates from Ciena

No network left behind: How network as a sensor delivers full network visibility
The mission must continue – and that means networks must be up and secure, no matter what. Now more than ever before, networks can provide visibility at every layer, so agencies can identify and respond to service interruptions immediately. Network-as-a-sensor capabilities enable this deep awareness.
By Steve Alexander and George Holland – When we talk about network as a sensor, it’s really about using the network as a mechanism to pull information about the customer experience. It’s a way to provide deep insights about the current and future performance of the network without needing a set of external devices to gather that data. In the past, this would have required bolting lots of sensors and firewalls and other products onto the network. Now agencies can gain insights with the network elements themselves.

Networks continue to rapidly grow in capacity, complexity, and flexibility, and the historical approach of bolting sensors on doesn’t really scale in terms of cost or manpower to operate the network. And it’s hard for bolted-on equipment to evolve with the network. Having sensor capabilities built-in means, the network itself can grow and provide the visibility necessary to support future mission capabilities in government.

Network as a sensor helps agencies address several priorities. First, they want to converge the layers of the network for better visibility, all the way down to the fiber.

Second, agencies are taking cybersecurity much, much more seriously. To Steve’s point, they’re just not looking to strap on some firewalls or intrusion detection prevention systems. They want the network to actually become a sensor and eventually an enforcer that is capable of protecting itself. more>


Pegasus scandal involves over 10 countries and targets thousands via smartphones

By Otmar Lahodynsky – EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has expressed ‘great concern; over reports that sophisticated spy software was used worldwide against journalists and politicians, most notably in the EU n Hungary.

“If this is the case, it is totally unacceptable and a violation of all the values and rules we have in the EU regarding media freedom,” she said at a press conference on July 19 in Prague, adding “Media freedom is a fundamental principle of the EU.”

An international research network of more than 18 media led by the French non-profit organization Forbidden Stories has uncovered a worldwide network of wiretaps targeting politicians, journalists and lawyers. According to the report, those who were victims of the hack were located in more than 10 countries, including – Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Mexico and India. They were spied on with the help of the Pegasus spyware that was designed by the Israeli company, NSO Group.

The spying was done via smartphones, whose vulnerabilities made it possible to listen in on telephone calls, as well as through SMS and chat messages. The most prominent victim in the EU was French President Emmanuel Macron, who was intercepted by Morocco’s secret service via at least one of his official mobile phones. This has already caused a veritable crisis in bilateral relations. Furthermore, the government of Saudi Arabia is believed to have wiretapped the entourage of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in Istanbul in 2018, both before and after the murder. In India, according to the British newspaper The Guardian, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rival Rahul Gandhi was also placed under Pegasus’ surveillance. more>

Only a fully digital Europe can keep up with China and the US

By Ludovic Lassauce – While Europe’s vaccination campaigns are only just getting into full swing, the global race towards post-Covid economic recovery is already underway – and as usual, the European Union is lagging behind. While the European Commission estimates the Eurozone will need another year to return to pre-pandemic growth levels, a surging US economy has reclaimed its former mantle as the engine of global economic activity, while China’s record 18.3% growth rate in the first quarter shows Beijing is well on its way to making up for 2020’s losses.

With his characteristic bluntness, France’s economy minister Bruno Le Maire laid out the stakes of the moment when he asked his EU counterparts this month whether they “want to play in the first league” or otherwise “lag behind China and the US.” While trillions of dollars in stimulus spending have already buoyed the US economy, Europe is still months away from disbursing the €750 billion in recovery funds it promised last year. Commission officials like Paolo Gentiloni and European finance ministers like Le Maire are thus rightly concerned that a simple ‘return to normal’ won’t be enough to keep Europe competitive in the post-pandemic global economy.

Digital silver linings

And yet, as EU leaders prepare to debate the terms of the post-COVID recovery with their new US counterpart at this month’s G7 summit, they can take heart in the progress Europe has made towards a fully digital economy in the midst of a public health catastrophe. Faced with an urgent necessity, European economies made years’ worth of progress in digitalization in mere months. Some of Europe’s least digitalized countries, such as Greece, were able to move the majority of their services online practically overnight, using the pandemic to overcome inertia in the span of just a few weeks.

By insisting EU members allocate a minimum of 20% of their shares of the EU recovery package to digital investment, Brussels has sent a clear message to European governments that their chronic failure to implement future-minded reforms and invest in the latest generation of digital technologies, exemplified by 5G, is no longer tenable. Even if China and the US enjoy an advantage in pure growth, the EU’s “green and digital” approach to the recovery can still shape the global conversation – but only if the EU’s national governments get serious about implementing the digital pledges they have signed up for. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Booth Staff – Celebrating a Momentous Achievement
Here at Booth, we’d like to congratulate the Class of 2021 on the time, dedication, and perseverance they devoted to complete their MBAs and PhDs amid a uniquely challenging year. In honor of this momentous achievement, we invited a few of our brand new alumni to reflect on their experience at Booth and what they’ll miss most as they embark on the next chapter of their personal and professional journeys.

Alex Brewer, ’21 A graduate of the Full-Time MBA Program, Alex Brewer will move to Los Angeles after graduation to work as an associate brand manager for Johnson & Johnson on their skincare and beauty brands.

John and William Swee, ’21 John and William Swee graduated from the Evening and Full-Time MBA programs, respectively, as Wallman Scholars, Booth’s high honors distinction. John also received the part-time programs’ Award for Finance. The brothers are both partners at boutique investment firms and aspire to continue building their respective firms using the skills they honed at Booth.

Anne Tong, ’21 Anne Tong is graduating from the Full-Time MBA Program. After graduation, she plans to move to Seattle, where she’ll serve as an associate brand manager for Nestle’s Starbucks and Chameleon Cold Brew brands. more>

US Military Places a Bet on LEO for Space Security

Over the next two years, the Defense Department will launch the first of hundreds of small satellites populating Low Earth Orbit, that can directly link to and benefit from the megaconstellations being built by SpaceX, Telesat, and other commercial vendors. Its level of success could radically change the military satellite industry.
By Vivienne Machi – U.S. Defense Department agencies are working with a who’s-who of military contractors, commercial satellite operators, and technology companies to finally demonstrate the feasibility of a proliferated constellation of satellites in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).

The concept of using hundreds of small satellites spread out across that orbit to perform communications, missile warning, and other military missions, has been discussed for years. But it was often dismissed as a pipe dream due to the immense launch cost projections, and size, weight, and power constraints required to operate and maintain capabilities in Low-Earth Orbit.

But thanks to recent, rapid technology advancements in the commercial sector, that pipe dream is now becoming a reality, and many former skeptics have come along for the ride.

When Derek Tournear was a program manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) 10 to 15 years ago, he was unconvinced that small satellites operating together in a constellation could be powerful enough to enable those crucial missions.

Now, as the director of the DoD’s Space Development Agency (SDA), Tournear is a little over a year away from launching the initial satellites for the U.S. military’s first proliferated LEO constellation, which will eventually include layers of hundreds of sensors. “I’ve completely changed my tune,” he says. more>

Is Your Portfolio Positioned for These Three Megatrends?

Increased consumer spending, an expanding digital economy and an emerging class of millennial investors could power stocks in the years ahead. Learn how you can prepare.
By Daniel Skelly – While investors often focus on daily headlines about the post-pandemic reopening and economic recovery, it’s important to step back and think about the longer-term impact of COVD-19. For investors, the question is not always what it means for the stock market next week, next month or even next year, but what are the implications over the next two to three years?

My team at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management sees three megatrends for investors to watch in the years ahead—and they are bullish for stocks:

1. A Surge in Consumer Spending

Perhaps the most immediate driver of both economic growth and stock prices is a continuation of strong consumer spending, thanks to additional fiscal stimulus hitting the wallets of lower-income U.S. consumers. The vaccine rollout and resulting reopening of the U.S. economy could also drive further spending on a variety of services, especially from higher-end consumers. Indeed, in June, Ellen Zentner, Morgan Stanley’s chief U.S. economist, forecast this year’s GDP growth at 7.1% as rising labor income boosts the buying power of U.S. households and excess saving remains an important cushion.

Conditions today contrast with 2008, when the housing market was the epicenter of the financial crisis. This time around, most consumers are not dealing with high debt or defaults, and banks remain financially strong and ready to lend to both business and individual borrowers. That could help drive faster economic growth.

Consumer Savings Hit Historic Highs

Many American consumers socked away cash during the pandemic, pushing the savings rate from 7.2% in December 2019 to a record high of 33.7% in April 2020. more>

Restoring the manufacturing base in the US is the key to our prosperity

By Tom Conway – Eager to capitalize on opportunities in the dynamic renewable energy field, the manufacturing company Rotek secured incentives, hired additional workers and successfully launched production of the huge metal rings that keep wind turbines spinning.

But the boom quickly faded. The Aurora, Ohio, plant struggled to compete with unfairly traded, foreign-made products and ended up eliminating many of the jobs it created just a couple of years before.

Ensuring future prosperity will require not only stimulating a manufacturing resurgence but also stabilizing long-term markets for domestically produced goods and raw materials.

Fortunately, President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan provides an unprecedented opportunity to do exactly that.

The plan calls for historic investments in American infrastructure, including roads and bridges, schools and airports, locks and dams, water-treatment systems, communications networks, the electric grid and renewable energy projects, like the wind farms that workers at Rotek strived to supply. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Moving from cash preservation to cash excellence for the next normal
Companies can build on their initial response to the pandemic to elevate their cash-management capabilities.
By Christian Grube, Sun-You Park, and Jakob Rüden – When the COVID-19 crisis began to affect companies worldwide, the preliminary response of CEOs and CFOs was all about survival: freeing up cash and resources to keep the lights on and the doors open. The liquidity crisis triggered by the sharp disruption in economic activities prompted organizations to rush toward cash and liquidity to keep operations going.

Some industries were hit harder by the pandemic than others: aerospace, travel, oil and gas, and retail experienced a sharp drop in demand for their services and products, as well as restrictions on their operations. As the economic fallout from the pandemic hit their balance sheets, many companies quickly took drastic measures to preserve cash, such as significant cuts on capital expenditure, dividend cuts, reductions in external spending, and temporary plant closures. Governments responded by setting up large stimulus programs that included measures to improve companies’ liquidity and cash flows—for example, postponing the collection of government-related fees.

One silver lining to the crisis is that it revealed the critical importance of cash excellence—a set of best practices that enable prudent cash and liquidity management. In extraordinary times, extra cash can prevent a company from going bankrupt. Now, several months into the crisis, executives have a rare window of opportunity to build the current focus on cash into long-term cash excellence. Executives can focus on strengthening the cash culture across their organizations, changing underlying systems and mindsets, and implementing no-regrets moves to embed cash excellence into ongoing operations.

Building a strong cash culture across people, structure, and process dimensions

CFOs can use today’s short-term crisis in cash preservation as an opportunity to focus on sustainable cash excellence, supported by a strong cash culture from top to bottom. more>