Business, Compliance, Cyber Security, Data Breach, Geopolitics, Information Security, Risk Management, Security, Social Media

2018 Year in Review

As 2018 comes to a close, we reflect on those moments throughout the year that defined the times yet to come. For Centry, 2018 was a year that brought us great joys like the opening of our new branch in Mexico City and establishment of the ASIS Ukraine chapter, but also times of mourning after our colleague, Mr. Rachid Boukhari, passed away in June. Above all, it has been a journey, and one we are grateful to undertake for the mark we make on this world.

From our Centry family to yours, we wish our readers love and joy over the holidays, and a happy new year!

In keeping with the tradition of our year’s end articles on Centry Blog, we put together a list of some of our most-read stories from 2018 below.

January

Centry’s GDPR Guide

Our GDPR guide breaks down exactly what the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation was all about. This article was highlighted on TWiT live in an interview with our CTO Dave Ehman!

February

The Next Gold Rush: Renewable Energy

The Renewable Energy industry just might be the next gold rush for businesses and investors alike. This time, we aren’t hiking into the Klondike for gold; individuals and organizations alike are turning their eyes toward the broader world, looking out for opportunities to make good on this booming initiative.

March

Hidden Sanctions Risk: North Korean ties to Africa

The connection between Namibia and North Korea stands as but one example among many similar stories. It began in the 1960s, when several African countries started the struggle for independence from colonialism. During this vulnerable time period, North Korea invested time and money in these revolutions, where the political ties eventually grew into commercial relationships.

April

Human Trafficking in the European Union

Over the course of the past two decades, the European Union has been making an increased effort to understand and address the heinous crime of human trafficking. The most recent publication of statistics from Eurostat concerning registered victims and suspected traffickers revealed that a number of non-EU nationals are trafficked into member states, primarily from Nigeria.

This week’s article on Centry Blog examines just a facet of this deep and complex issue through analyzing Nigerian campus cults, the international response, and global business reponses.

May

Fake Social Media Profiles and What To Do If You Are Being Impersonated Online

False accounts are prevalent across social media, mainly used for phishing purposes. Whether it’s a bot or malicious actor threatening your account, we put together an instructional guide for those moments that you notice you have a seemingly second profile, not of your own making.

June

Supply Chain Security Introductory Guide

Having a secure logistics supply chain can save your company millions in terms of assets and reputation, and here at Centry, we have the know-how to help you. This article serves as an introductory guide to security in the supply chain.

July

Typosquatters

Sometimes fat-finger errors can lead to more than just an autocorrect goof. Some scammers have figured out how to lay traps surrounding these common mistakes.

August

Common Security Dos and Don’ts

Our article on Common Security Dos and Don’ts covers what you and your business can do to prevent costly breaches of data and trust.

September

Golden Visa for sale! Now on special offer for the 1%

In some countries, you can buy your way to citizenship. European passports and Schengen visas are the most desired traveling documents in the world. Not only do they grant the most traveling freedom, they give access to a safe and stable living environment, with free speech, in a market that can fulfill all your needs. Many EU countries have taken advantage of this by offering entry in exchange for investment. This kind of activity is commonly referred to as a Golden Visa Program.

October

5 Basic Digital Privacy Tips for the Average Person

Digital privacy is for everyone. But it’s also a massive topic that can be very easy to get lost in, especially if you’re new to to it. However, you don’t need to be a security expert nor do you need any particular reason to want to bolster your privacy on the internet.

November

What is Social Engineering?

Social engineering is a growing threat to individuals and businesses alike. In this article, we look into what social engineering is, the ways it can manifest, and what you can do to protect yourself.

December

Cyber Security in the Supply Chain

Your company might have a rigorous Cyber Security policy, and thorough training on all its personnel. But what happens when the security vulnerability comes from a trusted source in the Supply Chain?

Security professionals must now consider not only the possible vulnerabilities of their own network, but their supplier’s network, and their supplier’s supplier network, and so on.

We hope you have enjoyed Centry Blog this year. For more content like this, be sure to subscribe and follow us on Twitter @CentryLTD! We will see you in 2019!

Business, Compliance, Geopolitics, Risk Management, Security, Uncategorized

Golden Visa for Sale! Now on special offer for the 1%

European passports and Schengen visas are the most desired traveling documents in the world. Not only do they grant the most traveling freedom, they give access to a safe and stable living environment, with free speech, in a market that can fulfill all your needs.

Many EU countries have taken advantage of this by offering entry in exchange for investment. This kind of activity is commonly referred to as a Golden Visa Program. For the subject countries, they are indeed golden, because they have the potential to bring in billions of capital into the country. Latvia, for example, used the program to stabilize its economy after the financial crisis.

According Transparency International, such programs have been in existence since the 1980s, and currently at least 12 EU Member States are offering them. Usually the reward is a residence permit, however Cyprus and Malta offer a fast track to citizenship should the customer invest enough money, and Portugal offers the citizenship option after a six year waiting period.

While the controls in most European countries should prevent individuals who are sanctioned by the EU from obtaining citizenship, many individuals took advantage of Golden Visa programs prior to implementation of the current international sanctions. It is a complicated matter for a nation to try to implement sanctions on its own citizens and capital that is invested within the country.

Most of these programs are legitimate, but the way they are set up invites abuse. Real estate is one of the easiest ways to launder dirty money, and these programs are taken advantage of all over the place.  

Some of the Golden Visa and Golden Passport programs are complex and might involve long red tapes and waiting periods. Of course, sometimes a suitable facilitation payment can fix that…

Latvia Golden Visa Program

The Latvian Golden Visa Scheme was heavily criticized. From 2010 to 2014, Latvia offered it at a discount price of EUR 71,150 if invested in countryside real-estate. The price for living in Riga was doubled to a value of EUR 142,300. As you can see, this could very easily be taken advantage of by someone looking to spend dirty money.

The number of people who took up this offer increased substantially  in 2014, the same year that Russia annexed Crimea. Almost 90% of the visa applicants came from Russia and countries that were formerly in the Soviet Union.  Thus, a program that had originally been intended for economic development and brought wealth to Latvia in the previous years had become embroiled in political significance.GV-by-Year

Picture 1: Latvian Golden Visas per year (Source)

The negative effects of the program eventually convinced the Latvian Administration to dismantle the discount in 2014. The greatest risk of these visa programs was spying, according to the deputy head of the Latvian Security Police in a 2017 parliamentary committee hearing. Then, of course, there was the risk to the economy, since many applicants were unable to prove the legality of their money. Although the program has since been dismantled, the effects of it and risks introduced by it will be felt for years to come.

Hungarian Golden Visa Program

Another interesting notorious golden visa program was the one in Hungary.

The Hungarian Golden Visa program was slightly different than in Latvia. Instead of it being based on investment in real estate, applicants had to buy a state bond from one of eight companies that had solitary rights to sell them on the behalf of the government. These bonds, which totaled up to EUR 300 000, were not inexpensive.

The results of this program were remarkable. The eight companies were able to earn about USD 600 million – and that’s a conservative estimate – over the course of the years that this program was running from 2013 to 2017. (OCCRP May 16, 2018)

The program ended in 2017 after criticism concerning the integrity of the eight bondseller companies. They were pretty mysterious – most were registered in offshore tax havens and it wasn’t completely clear who exactly profited from the sales.  

An investigation conducted by g7.hu and Transparency International Hungary uncovered the way these companies worked. Basically, companies would be assigned to territories around the world and allowed monopolies to sell the bonds under the program. But the way these companies were assigned required inside knowledge and connections – it wasn’t like it was a public tender. They had to have known about it separately since it was never advertised. Per the law, all the applicants were meant to be listed on the Hungarian Economic Committee’s agenda, but this was not always the case.

Although the Golden Visa program in Hungary has since been shut down, there are some rumors that a new ‘golden’ immigration program may be coming. Direkt36 reported that this new program was advertised by a Hong Kong based company on the Chinese platform WeChat. This new program now more closely resembles Latvia’s program, where applicants are required to invest a value of EUR 78 000 into Hungarian real estate.

Case Study: Who buys the visas? 

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Picture 2: Screenshot of Mr. Bogolyubov from The Times

Mr. Gennadiy Bogolyubov, the Cypriot, the Israeli, the Brit, the Ukrainian

Main Source: EveningStandard 11 Sep 2018

Mr. Gennadiy Bogolyubov is a popular face in the oligarch edition of the Bold and the Beautiful. He and his business partner, Mr. Igor Kolomoisky, are some of the best customers for UK lawyers – the costs alone for the litigation with their rival Mr. Viktor Pinchuk was estimated to be over GBP 50 million. The allegations and adverse reputation of the duo include alleged murders, violent takeovers and other accusations of mafia-style activities.

The two partners were very successful in post-Soviet era privatizations. Allegedly, the hasty privatization of a national bank in Ukraine to PrivatBank enabled the duo and their associates to empty out the bank’s capitalization with a decade long fraudulent loan scam.

To protect taxpayers’ interest and due to demands from Ukraine government’s external financiers (i.e. USA) PrivatBank was re-nationalized in 2016. “When Ukraine’s finance minister went to oversee the nationalization of the country’s biggest bank in December 2016, he took with him a team of bankers—and a security detail of special-forces operatives” (Wsj.com April 6, 2018).

Amongst Mr. Bogolyubov’s hobbies are philanthropy, which he practices through Bogolyubov Foundation.

Golden Visa United Kingdom Tier 1 Investor Visa (2009)

Cyprus Golden Citizenship (2016)

Nationalities Ukraine, Cyprus, Israel, United Kingdom
Current Residence Switzerland
Net Worth Unknown, was Ukraine’s #3 richest in 2010 (Kievpost)
Frozen Assets At least USD 2.6 Billion, shared with Mr. Igor Kolomoisky
Costs to Ukrainian Taxpayers USD 6 Billion to recapitalize Privatbank
Close Business Partner Mr. Igor Kolomoisky, who, according to a quote from the British Court, has taken over companies “at gunpoint” in Ukraine. Mr. Kolomoisky is a former governor and listed as an inactive PEP (Politically Exposed Person) per Dow Jones
Other Associates Mr. Alexander Zhukov, father of Roman Abramovich’s girlfriend
Powerful Enemies Mr. Viktor Pinchuk
London Real Estate GBP 62.5 Million home

GBP 20 Million house

Eaton Place Mansion

GBP 173 Million office block

Table 1. Mr. Gennadiy Bogolyubov’s Connections

This article was co-written by Oskar Savolainen and Kristina Weber of Centry Ltd. For more content like this, be sure to subscribe to Centry Blog for articles related to the security and risk industries.

Business, Geopolitics, Risk Management, Security, Social Media, Uncategorized

What to Pack in a Grab-Bag

One of the ways that you can prepare yourself for an emergency is to stock a grab-bag. That is, a bag containing a handful of supplies that could make all the difference in recovering after an emergency, whether it’s a natural disaster or hostile threat.  The idea is that you need only to take this single bag with you as you respond to a crisis, ensuring that you have what you need for immediate survival following the contingency.

The exact necessities that you pack will be impacted by your geographical location and the regional-specific risks therein, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

Information & Documentation

This should include your passport and/or visa, and any other important documents related to your identity. This is especially important if you are travelling abroad, particularly if the contingency requires you to leave the country. Even if it is for a home-emergency, being able to have at least a couple identifying documents will assist you in the recovery of other important documents after the fact.

Food & Water

A stock of high energy, non-perishable food items and as much water as you can feasibly carry.

Communications

A spare mobile phone with a charger.

Health & Safety

Basic first aid kit and any essential medications that you may require day-to-day.

Other

Some other items to include in your grab bag are money, a change of clothing, candles, matches, a flashlight/torch, and spare batteries.

Keep in mind that the general advised contents of this grab bag address the needs of the average individual whether they are at home or traveling. Family and/or group kits will vary, especially if there are pets involved. 

If you have any questions or would like expanded detail of this, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@centry.global! Remember to subscribe for weekly updates on Centry Blog, and follow us on Twitter @CentryLTD for more content like this.

Business, Geopolitics, history, Risk Management, Uncategorized

A Quick Look: South China Sea Disputes

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The South China Sea is a critically important trade route of the world, with an estimated $5-trillion worth of goods passing through yearly, which amounts to about 30% of global maritime trade. In addition to that, there are vast oil and natural gas reserves under the sea, and it is the site of lucrative fishing grounds, providing the main source of animal protein for the densely populated southeast Asia.

For all of its resources and strategic value, the South China Sea is highly contentious. Several sovereign states all have varying claims over different sectors of the waterway and the islands therein, whereas non-claimant states advocate for the South China Sea to remain international waters.

These maritime and territorial disputes are complex and sprawling in their nature. To better grasp the greater picture of the situation, we’ve broken it down into a few sections.

The Claimants

The prime areas of contention in the South China Sea include the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, and various boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin. Each claimant nation wants something specific, and they all have their individual justifications for what they want. The main players in the territorial disputes have been China, Taiwan, Vietnam, The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.

551px-South_China_Sea_claims_map
Image 1. South China Sea Claims

China depicts its claims to the South China Sea using the map of the nine-dash line, a vague demarcation line that was inspired by a December 1947 then-Republic of China (1912-1949) map with eleven segments. After the Communist Party of China formed the PRC, the claim was amended to the “nine-dash line” that we know today. The U-shape of it can be observed in Image 1 above.

Taiwan (ROC) also uses the 1947 map it as a basis for their own claim to the contested waters, because it was published before the PRC was established. Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba Island, is the largest isle of the Spratly group and it remains steadfastly in Taiwan’s control. As one of the world’s biggest seafood exporters, Taiwan’s interests in the region are connected to fishing and oil.

Vietnam’s claim over the Paracel and Spratly islands was first established in a White Paper issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1974, with historical evidence as a basis for the claims. It has been a vocal opponent of China’s historical claim over the South China Sea, asserting that China had never claimed sovereignty over the islands before the 1940s, whereas Vietnam had actively ruled over both the Paracel and the Spratly Islands since the 17th Century.

However, tensions between China and Vietnam have been de-escalating ahead of agreements to resolve their disputes. In April 2018, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave an announcement that China and Vietnam are moving toward a settlement agreement on the status of their claims in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has historically cited its geographical proximity to the Spratly Islands as the main basis of its claim to the Scarborough Shoal, however its President Rodrigo Duterte has avoided aggressive rhetoric on the issue, saying that he “will not impose anything on China.”

This came after the July 2016 international arbitration that ruled China could not legally claim most of the South China Sea – including a rebuke of the nation’s manmade islands. Although China is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it refused to accept the court’s authority on this case.

Malaysia has claimed seven islands in the Spratly group, of which two are also claimed by Vietnam and one by the Philippines. Thus, it has occupied the remaining four and constructed mini-naval stations to reinforce its claim.

Brunei by contrast is sometimes referred to as a “silent claimant” of the South China Sea, however it first asserted rights shortly after gaining independence from Britain in 1984. Its principal interests revolve around the development of offshore oil and natural gas fields – both within its EEZ and outside of its territorial waters. Its claim is on Louisa Reef, which is on its continental shelf, however the Louisa Reef is also part of the Spratly islands, a feature claimed by both China and Vietnam.

Recently, Indonesia ramped up the territorial disputes by renaming the northernmost waters of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea to the North Natuna Sea, despite China’s claims to the area.  Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, suggested that the renaming of the waterway helped to make it “sound more Indonesian.” It has increasingly conducted aggressive posturing in the area, including a military buildup on nearby Natuna Islands and deployment of naval warships.

For decades, Indonesia’s official policy has maintained that it is not party to any territorial disputes with China on the South China Sea, yet in 2016, the two countries had three maritime skirmishes, including warning shots and a situation where Indonesian warships seized a Chinese fishing boat and its crew.

China’s Manmade Islands

In recent years, China has been building various ports, runways, and radar facilities on manmade islands throughout the South China Sea. CSIS Satellite images from 2016 depict large anti-aircraft guns and weapons systems as well.

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Picture 2. CSIS Satellite image

These man-made islands have been constructed by dredging sand on to reefs in an effort to boost China’s claim to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China had previously committed to not militarizing the islands, however the CSIS imagery suggests otherwise. Nonetheless, the PRC government maintains that the islands are for maritime safety and civilian purposes.

The Situation at Present

On April 11th, 2018, the Chinese navy began a 3-day drill near its main submarine base in what analysts described as a message to other nations in the area that it was capable of defending its territorial and maritime interests. This display came right as an American strike group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, conducted its own exercises in the South China Sea. The United States maintains that the South China Sea is international water, and therefore the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea should determine sovereignty in the area.

These exercises additionally overlapped with a week-long series of live-fire drills involving the aircraft carrier Liaoning, near the venue for the BOAO Forum for Asia. On the sidelines of the forum, senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said that all the surrounding countries were concerned by the military exercises in the region. This area is significant because it has several underwater channels and straits that could allow China’s submarine fleet to break through the United States’ first and second island chain blockades. Although the location for these specific demonstrations was in a less sensitive area than the South China Sea, it nonetheless served as a means for China to illustrate its military might to the other claimants involved in the disputes.

PRC President Xi Jinping presided over the Chinese navy’s largest military display on April 12th, 2018. The state broadcaster, China Central Television, showed footage of Xi boarding the destroyer Changsha before sailing to an unspecified location in the South China Sea to watch the procession. China’s armed forces are in the middle of a modernization program, and the subsequent military buildup has seemingly unnerved its neighbors, particularly due to the increasing assertiveness on the territorial disputes of the South China Sea.

China intended on holding live-fire military drills in the Taiwan Straits on April 18th, however, it was reported that the drill scaled down in an effort to reduce tensions. The Taiwanese military similarly cancelled a scheduled cannon drill.

The probability of South China Sea disputes leading to an outbreak of hostilities is unlikely, however since China has continued to pursue its territorial and maritime claims, the potential for escalating small-scale skirmishes cannot be ruled out. Furthermore, any escalations in the trade corridor may have an impact on the global economy, particularly if sanctions become involved.

This article was written by Kristina Weber of Centry Ltd. For more content like this, follow @CentryLTD on Twitter!