Post by Cristina Varriale, Research Intern at ICSA
The beginning of 2016 has seen several major blows to the threat perceptions of South Korea. On the 6th January, its isolated and precarious neighbour, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) conducted an underground nuclear test. Shortly following this on the 7th February, the DPRK successfully launched a satellite into orbit, testing prohibited dual-use missile launch technologies. While scepticism of exact capabilities persists, the steps between current technologies and a deliverable nuclear tipped missile appear to be reducing. Nevertheless, despite a total of four nuclear tests, numerous missile launches and suggestions of a fifth nuclear test possible, South Korea are not currently countering with their own nuclear weapons programme despite calls from senior politicians. Continue reading
If there was a website where you could buy cocaine, AK47s, tasers, guides to stealing and hacking, or fake American passports, why wouldn’t you be able to buy something worse? What would stop the site from selling you the kit you would need to go nuclear?
Micro Curie Polonium-210 Source from AlphaBay
Since 2014 work has highlighted the problem posed by ecommerce to nuclear [here at ICSA and by our colleagues at project alpha] and biological export control regimes. A wide variety of export controlled items from the Nuclear Suppliers Group lists, that control the goods you would need to build a nuclear weapon, were found to be freely available on ecommerce sites such as Alibaba.com. Significantly, these analyses did not include the darknet markets, notorious platforms used for the exchange of illegal goods.
After Silk Road
Since the takedown of Silk Road 2.0 by the FBI in 2013 darknet markets, sometimes known as cryptomarkets, have continued to operate. Since the death of the Silk Road brand, which was estimated at the time of its closure be making 92,000 USD a month for its operators, no single site has dominated traffic and as of December 2015 there are over 20 filling Silk Road‘s gap in the market. No site currently in operation was online before December 2013, highlighting the nature of the cat-and-mouse game being played out between the markets and the authorities. Analyses of the contents and users of these markets in the past have focused on drugs and conventional criminal activity, such as hacking and fraud, with no analysis yet performed on export controlled equipment and materials. In a recent excellent analysis by another group of colleagues at King’s which took a broad look at darknet content, included work on classifying darknet sites.
Post by Hannah Goozee, Research Intern at ICSA
On 1st April, a new era began for Myanmar. On that day, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), under the presidency of newly inaugurated Htin Kyaw, took power in a country which has only known democracy for 14 of its 1,000 year recorded history. Not only does the country face domestic challenges including rampant internal conflict, corruption and poverty, but Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD will have to navigate the country’s complex relationship with China.