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Into Infamy: A Marine Sniper’s War – Book Review (UPDATE on Joe Chamblin) November 15, 2017

Posted by Chris Mark in Uncategorized.
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IntoInfamyI know Joe Chamblin. He is a very, very solid man and a truly skilled Sniper.  His ‘conviction’ was felt my most to be BS and the result of a POS Commandant that had never even attended OCS, or Bootcamp…that is right..he was a ‘transfer’ from the Naval Academy. Finally, some degree of justice was given!  Joe’s conviction was ‘overturned’. Unfortunately, it cost him his career in the USMC but he is getting closer to justice….for those who don’t know..Joe is one of the Marines who famously (not infamously) urinated on dead terrorists…who would not want to do that!?

In 2012 a video was released that showed US Marine Snipers urinating on dead Taliban fighters.  This 30 second video changed the lives of numerous Marines and was met with “outrage” from the Commandant of the Marine Corps as well as the Sgt Major of the Marine Corps (who was also a Sniper). One of those Marines, Sgt. Rob Richards died in 2015.  Into Infamy is book written by the very platoon commander who was also one of those profiled in the video.  Joe Chamblin is a combat veteran US Marine Sniper.  This book does not talk about the event but talks about the tour that these Marines served in Afghanistan. Most people likely cannot imagine the courage, skill and training it takes to operate as a Marine Sniper.  This book is as raw as it gets.  You will understand first hand what these Marines dealt with on a daily basis and the toll it took on them physically, emotionally, and psychologically.   This book gives a first hand account of the violence and carnage of warfare and the atrocities committed by the Taliban.  For those who rush to judgement on these Marines…read this book. I would challenge any reader to honestly believe they may not have done the same thing.  This book is NOT an attempt to justify any actions and doesn’t spend any time on the actual event.  When you read about the war they were fighting it becomes much more real and understandable how the actions could happen.  Overall….4.5 out of 5 stars!  You can buy at www.IntoInfamy.com or on Amazon.com.

HR 4036, the “Hack Back Bill”; Understanding Active & Passive Deterrence and the Escalation of Force Continuum. October 22, 2017

Posted by Chris Mark in cybersecurity, Uncategorized.
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SMallPirI wrote this original post several years ago but it seems to be more relevant now.   As CNN reports HR4036…”…formerly called the Active Cyber Defense Certainty (ACDC) Act and informally called the hack-back bill – was introduced as an amendment to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) last week. Its backers are US Representatives Tom Graves, a Georgia Republican, and Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat.”

This is a bill that is sound in theory and terrible in practice.  According to the Bill, (named ACDC) it would enable a company to take “..active defensive measures..” to access an attacker’s computer.  This is only applicable in the US…Think about this for a minute.  What is the evidence that I was the attacker of company A?  Maybe (quite possibly…almost certainly) a hackers is using my system as a proxy.  So some company can now attack my personal computer?  What happened to “due process”?.  If company X simply believes I am a hacker, they can access my personal data without a court order or any due process.  More profoundly, the issues it raises pose very real and very direct risks to employees of the company who ‘hacks back’.  This, I think, is unacceptable.

Having performed physical security in very real and very dangerous environments, I can personally attest to the fact that physical threats are real and difficult to prevent.  By allowing a ‘hack back’ the company faces a very real risk of escalating the situation from the cyber domain into the physical domain.  There is NO corporate data that is worth risking a human life.

Too often cybersecurity professionals forget that they are SECURITY professionals first and the  same rules of deterrence, escalation of force and other aspects apply.  Given this new Bill,  I felt this was a good time to again discuss deterrence (active and passive) and once again talk about the Escalation of Force Cycle.  So, what is deterrence? (warning…long post)..pic of the author off the cost of Somalia doing anti-piracy operations)

The History of Deterrence Theory:

The concept of deterrence is relatively easy to understand and likely extends to the earliest human activities in which one early human dissuaded another from stealing food by employing the threat of violence against the interloper.  Written examples of deterrence can be attributed as far back as the Peloponnesian War, when Thucydides wrote that there were many conflicts in which one army maneuvered in a manner that convinced the opponent that beginning or escalating a war would not be worth the risk.[1]  In the 4th Century BC, Sun Tzu wrote: “When opponents are unwilling to fight with you, it is because they think it is contrary to their interests, or because you have misled them in to thinking so.”[2]  While most people seem to instinctively understand the concept at the individual level, contemporary deterrence theory was brought to the forefront of political and military affairs during the Second World War with the deployment of nuclear weapons against Nagasaki and Hiroshima.[3]  

The application of deterrence during WWII was the beginning of understanding that an internal value calculus drives human behavior and that behavior could be formally modeled and predicted with some degree of accuracy.  (more…)

Ms. Frederica Wilson; Politicizing our warriors who died…shameful! October 20, 2017

Posted by Chris Mark in Uncategorized.
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wilsonRecently, a Special Forces team was attacked by an estimated 50 ISIS fighters in Niger.  Unfortunately, 4 US Service Members paid the ultimate price and are not coming home.  President Trump made a call to the wife of one of the fallen soldiers.  This has created a very unnecessary political storm.  I have heard numerous pundits comment on President Trump’s comments.

Before I comment further, let me understand the situation.  So the President of the United States (the Commander in Chief) calls the wife of one of his soldiers who died and who happens to be in her car with a US Representative and nobody says: “Mr. President…by the way we are on speaker phone and the Honorable Representative Wilson is in the car.”?  Not doing this certainly smacks of some ulterior motives on behalf of Ms. Wilson.  Who does this?  Nobody…. unless they have ulterior motives.

While Ms. Wilson wears ridiculous hats as part of her persona, she is NOT and NEVER HAS, been in combat.  She is NOT a veteran and, in fact, she has voted numerous times against veterans’ issues.  According to VoteSmart.org:

“…measures that Wilson opposed included a bill that could have ensured that families of four soldiers slain in Afghanistan in 2013 received death and burial benefits. […]

Despite Wilson’s claim to be “committed to honoring our service members, not only with words but with deeds,” she has voted against most bills ensuring continued funding for veteran benefits, including payments to widows of fallen soldiers, the vote-tracking site shows.

She has also opposed measures designed to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In March 2013, Wilson opposed the “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act,” which prevented a government shutdown and provided funds for the U.S. military and the VA.

The bill, which passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law by the Obama administration, provided funding to the military and the VA until the next government shutdown showdown. […]

Later in the year, Wilson again voted against a resolution aimed at ensuring benefits paid to the veterans and their families would not be affected by the government shutdown in October that year. […]

The congresswoman also opposed numerous bills aimed at improving VA services provided the veterans and their families. (FoxNews.com)”

So while Representative Wilson feigns disgust at President Trump actually calling the wife of a slain soldier, she does not appear to actually support veterans.  Acta Non Verba, Ms. Wilson, Actions not Words!

With regard to the point that President Trump said that the soldier…his soldier.  (As the Commander in Chief, this soldier was under the command of President Trump): “Knew what he signed up for…” is irrelevant.  In fact, it is a nod to the bravery of the soldier.  While Representative Wilson goes to great lengths to state that soldiers “…sign up to serve and not to die…” is facile and ignorant.  She has never served and she does not understand.

Many people are taking this supposed comment as an insult or insensitivity on the part of the President…that is, in my opinion, objectively wrong…a warrior…any warrior…knows that their job has the risk of injury or death. It is the warrior ethos that enables that person to do their job in spite of the risk…that young driver in Niger was a true warrior…He KNEW the risks…but he did not cower in the face of the risks…he did his job…that is the true test of courage. As the incomparable Mark Twain said: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear–not absence of fear.”…I say to all four of those killed…”

While you laughingly referred to yourself as a Rock Star in response to General Kelly’s very pointed commentsGeneral Kelly’s very pointed comments, you ma’am are NOT a rock star.  You are a shameless human being and a blight on our system.  (I am starting the clock to see how long it takes someone to call me a racist….par for the course).  Mr. Wilson has already played the race card…. Please contact Ms. Wilson here.

 

 

A Marine Sniper’s Review of Africa Hunt Lodge October 6, 2017

Posted by Chris Mark in Uncategorized.
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AFHL

Kudu_resizeI had always wanted to hunt in Africa.  I had hunted deer and hog as a young man and was a Marine Scout/Sniper for quite a few years.  I had always had a dream of hunting in Africa and hunting plains game.  After my first photo safari in Timbivati, I was fixated on going back to Africa to hunt!

Personally, I don’t have an interest in hunting Lion, Leopard, or other animals but plains games were my passion.  Just not my thing…but…I wanted to hunt plains game.  I was fortunate to have found myself with an opportunity to go in August of 2017.

This blog post is a story of my experience.  If you are against hunting in Africa, I would ask that you read the following article, and this one, and this one, and this one, and finally…this one  before making a judgement.  At the end of the day, game management and controlled hunting is very beneficial to both game species as well as the economy in South Africa.  If you don’t like it..you don’t have to go.

Before I embarked on my hunt, I did research…A LOT of research.  I wanted to ensure that the hunts were fair and I wanted to understand more about how hunting impacted conservation.  Questions like: “What happens to the meat?”; “How are the animals hunted?”; “Are hunting trophies “guaranteed” (not a good thing, BTW)…?” were some of the questions I sought to answer.  Once I was fully satisfied that the journey would be fair, and that the meat would not be wasted, I then looked for an outfitter.

In Africa a hunter must hunt with the Professional Hunter (PH).  A Professional Hunter is a licensed professional hunter that has attended a full year (or more) of school and has passed a number of difficult exams.  The PH is responsible for (in no particular order) 1) hunter safety, 2) finding game 3) ensuring the game is legal, of proper size etc. 4) approving the animal and the shot and 5) saving your rear end if you screw up.  That part is important 😉  Read here for more information about the PH program.

My friend (SF Trained Medic and SARC DocSARC Doc) and I settled on the Africa Hunt Lodge.  Why?  We were able to head to Kerrville, Texas and talk with the folks at Texas Hunt Lodge (a sister company) and meet the team.  Aaron and team spent 2 hours with us answering every question we could ask and showing us their taxidermy shop, hunting lodge and explaining all aspects.  Cool guys…very patient with our badgering questions! 😉

The team was very professional, very polite, and they answered all of our questions.  Once we settled on Africa Hunt Lodge as our outfitter, we had to make arrangements for travel and hunting.  We singed up for a 7 day hunt (with 2 extra days) and a total of six animals each.  We made our flight arrangements about 9 months in advance and were ready for south Africa!.   One thing I want to remind everyone is that you are spending a lot of money hunting…get flights early and PRACTICE at the range…on sticks!…you don’t want to miss!

lodge

Landing in O.R. Tambo International Airport, we made our way to the Police Station in the Airport to retrieve our Rifles.  You are allowed to bring 2 rifles into South Africa although many people simply rent the rifles at the lodge.  It took about 1 full hour to get our rifles through customs and we were met by our PH, Wikus.  We packed up and drove for 3-4 hours to the Limpopo district of South Africa.   We finally arrived at the Africa Hunt Lodge at 11pm or so after a 30 hour trip to South Africa…This is the real Bushveld!  It is thick bush with thorns on every tree, bush, plant, flower (joke) etc.  The tree I learned to watch out for is the Black Thorn Tree.  Yeah, you learn quick why it is named the Black Thorn Tree!  After arriving Wikus was accommodating and said we could ‘sleep in’ until 7am 😉  We loved it!  This is how hunting should be!  By 9am the next morning we were looking for game!

 

The next morning we met in the lodge to eat a great breakfast of eggs, sausage, toast, orange juice and grits.  Then we packed up lunches and met our tracker “Joe”, jumped into the back of the Toyota Hilux (if you have ever been in the Middle East, Africa, or Europe you have seen a Hilux)…and off we went to our first ‘concession’.  In South Africa, all hunting takes place on hunting “Concessions”.  These are basically very, VERY large game farms.  These can range from 2,000 to over 25,000 Acres (from approximately 2 square miles to approximately 40 square miles).  We typically hunted from 4000 – 7000 concessions (6.25 – 11 sqm).

bushveld

The type of hunting is typically “Spot and Stalk”.  In short, you drive in the back of a truck trying to find an animal or heard and, if lucky, you can then jump down and ‘stalk’ the animal and, hopefully, get a shot at the animal.  For those who think this is ‘canned hunting’.  Let me assuage your concerns.  On our first day, we saw some animals but had no opportunity to shoot.  No big deal…This is why it is called “hunting” and not “shooting”.  Sometimes you are the bug…sometimes you are the windshield.

We tracked Zebra for 10 hours one day alone trying to find an opportunity to actually take a shot.  African plains game are very skittish as they are used to running from things like lions, hyena, leopard etc.  They see you?..BOOM!  They are gone…running full speed!  I learned quickly that you have approximately 3 seconds to set and get a shot off or the animals are gone!  This is not hunting Whitetail deer from a blind!

Another thing I learned quickly about African plains animals is that they are TOUGH!  If you take a bad shot, you are tracking that animal for hours until you find him!  This is the role of the tracker and PH.  Finding that single little drop of blood on a blade of grass so you can ensure the animal does not suffer is a role of the PH and tracker.  I still have no idea how they can track like that!  I am a former Marine Sniper and have spent some time in the weeds…these guys are amazing at tracking!  I was humbled by their skills in the bush.

My friend and I had some good success.  We also found ourselves tracking for many hours after we both wounded animals and had to ensure we did the ethical and compassionate thing to do.  A decent shot on a Blesbok ended up with a four hour tracking exercise with my friend finally taking the last shot from shooting sticks at nearly 200 yards.  For me, a very large, very tough old Gemsbok Cow took 4 hours of tracking through the bush and thorns before she was finally taken.  This is real hunting!  Joe the tracker was yelling at me: “Chris!  You must run faster!  We must keep up with her!”…my next trip…I am going to work out more! 😉

Hunting at a hunting lodge typically consists of getting up early (5:30-6 am).  You then meet in the lodge to eat a hearty breakfast.  You grab a prepacked lunch that is filled with sandwiches, drinks, snacks etc..plenty of food then you head out in the truck.  You find the concession on which you are hunting that day and you start “spot and stalk” hunting.  You normally (unless you are tracking or stalking an animal) stop for a bit to each lunch about noon-is then are hunting again until dark.  Once it is dark, you drive back to the lodge and sit around the fire talking about the day.  Dinner is served (Kudu steak, Springbok chops are not uncommon!) and then back before the fire until you are ready to collapse in bed!  This is not a ‘photo safari’ experience.  It is a true hunting lodge.  No TVs in the room, no swimming pool.  You are there to hunt.

firelodge

Hunting with a real PH is an amazing experience.  As a former Marine Sniper I consider myself a decent shot and OK in the bush compared to most.  Compared to an experienced PH in South Africa?  Yeah…I had nothing on Wikus’ skills!  That guy knew every tree, bush, animal, fish, bug, snake, etc. He knew their movements and their behavior.  I peppered him with questions and he knew it all.  Stalking animals?  Unbelievable how he moved in the bush.  He could spot a single horn in the bush from 100 yards because of the ‘shine’ on the horn.  He wore shorts every day and came out of the bush bleeding every day due to the thorns.  My hunting buddy tried shorts one day…ONE DAY 😉  I was truly humbled by Wikus’ expertise and field craft.  These guys know their business.  Military experience counts for little in that world.  These guys are real pros….

billwikus

As far as rifles, I brought a Tikka T3x in .30 – 06 and a Mossberg Patriot in .375 Ruger (which broke so was not used).  My friend brought a Sako in .270 Winchester and a Ruger M77 in .416 Ruger.  The .30 – 06 and .270 was perfect for almost all of the animals.  The only animal that we really needed the .416 was the Blue Wildebeest as those guys are very tough!  My friend also used the .416 on a Warthog but the .270 would have been fine.  A good .30 or .338 is probably good for most plains games.  I would recommend a 2 x 10 scope although in the Bushveld many seem to use too much magnification and it creates challenges finding the game quickly.  Remember…3 seconds and they are GONE!

Many believe that hunting in South Africa is cost prohibitive.  While it is not inexpensive, it is not prohibitively so.  It about the same price to fly to South Africa and hunt for 7 days and take 4 animals (including Kudu) as it is to head to Texas and shoot a single Gemsbok.  All in a hunter can get a 7 day hunt which includes 4 animals (Kudu, Impala, Warthog, and Zebra) and a flight for approximately $6,500.  While this does not include gratuities and shipping/mounting of trophies it does include all lodging and three great meals a day and all your drinks.  For a lifetime experience or bucket list it is not prohibitively expensive.

My review?  If you are looking for a hunting outfitter in South Africa I cannot recommend Africa Hunt Lodge highly enough.  Ewald Ras(the owner) and Wikus (the PH) are true pros. Ewald is a gracious host and manages a great camp. I personally like tough people, and I like tough countries..this picture exemplifies my own experience hunting in South Africa!..great, tough people! (for all the ladies looking at this pic…this is Wors Rall and not me ;))

WorsRall

If you are going are going to spend your money hunting, you want to ensure you get a great experience and great value.  I cannot speak to other outfitters but I can speak to Africa Hunt Lodge.  My own experience was top shelf!  When hunting you want to be put on the game!…Wikus was incredible!  He was super competitive and while he was not the hunter actually shooting…he was focused and got frustrated when he could not get us on game when he wanted….that is the type of PH you want!  You want someone who loves the game of hunting (hunting is finding, tracking and getting ready for the shot…not actually shooting)…He loves the hunt!.  Ewald and his team were awesome.  Great food every night and great company.  If you want to hunt “easy” they are OK with that…you want to really “HUNT”? they love that!…either way…they were great hosts and it was a bucket list experience. I give Africa Hunt Lodge 5+ stars for their service and their program!!!

Equifax’s History of Hacks and Music Majors September 19, 2017

Posted by Chris Mark in Data Breach, Uncategorized.
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EquifaxMain.pngLet me get this out there first.  People are making a lot of noise about Equifax’s (no former) CISO (Susan Maulden) being a Music Major in college.  So what?  Information Security really has only been a ‘profession’ since about 1998 or so.  I know MANY CSOs and CISOs that do not have technical degrees.  While I am currently working on a Doctorate in CyberSecurity my undergrad was political science and I have an MBA.  I think I am a fairly capable security professional.  I think Equifax threw Ms. Maulden under the bus by trying to scrub her information from the Internet.  Given her prior employment (First Data, SunTrust, etc.) I cannot imagine she would have been given such a role without the requisite experience or knowledge.   Until we know more...harping on her college major is simply fishing and projecting blame in the wrong area.  What we do know is that Equifax has a history of being breached and has apparently done little to stem the flow of information being stolen.

Next…in keeping with Equifax’s proclivity for telling half truths while selling their own stock, it looks like there was a breach the March prior to the one in July (announced in September 2017).  That particular hack included employee tax records.  No doubt those execs who dumped their stock were also unaware of that breach (cough, cough).

Interestingly, Equifax provided a cryptic statement that reads: “The criminal hacking that was discovered on July 29 did not affect the customer databases hosted by the Equifax business unit that was the subject of the March event,” ..using my powers of reading comprehension it appears that they are saying that the July 29th “hacking” did not affect the SAME “customer databases” (plural) that were hacked in March.  So are we to assume that in both cases customer data was compromised?  According to Brian Krebs, well known security expert and researcher, the answer appears to be ‘yes’.

Adding to the fun, according to Forbes: “In one case, it had to change its ways following a class action lawsuit over an alleged lapse in security. That suit related to a May 2016 incident in which Equifax’s W-2 Express website had suffered an attack that resulted in the leak of 430,000 names, addresses, social security numbers and other personal information of retail firm Kroger. Lawyers for the class action plaintiffs argued Equifax had “wilfully ignored known weaknesses in its data security, including prior hacks into its information systems.”

I am sure we will continue to learn more about this breach and others.  Stay tuned!

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