The Next Gold Rush: Renewable Energy

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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.

With all of its natural resources and varying biomes, Africa is a premium location for infrastructure development and investment into renewable energy. With sustainable energy investment set to grow to $57-billion by 2020, it’s clear the gold rush has already begun.

The massive desert that stretches across North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf beyond has incredible potential for solar power. While this might seem like an obvious choice for solar technology, it has not been until recently that factors such as social pressures, oil prices, and technological readiness have combined to create tangible opportunity.

For a long time, one of the major hindrances to solar power was the expense of implementing it, but in recent years we have seen a drastically lowered manufacturing and installation cost– now, unsubsidized solar is as cheap as coal, natural gas, and wind projects.

Just last week, the Government of Canada and IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, formed an initiative to spur renewable energy growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. This program will have the Canadian government contribute $122 million USD, which the ICF will use to kindle private sector investment into renewables, aiming to improve access to affordable and sustainable energy services.

Algeria also has ambitious plans for solar energy, with a proposal for the installations of 13 gigawatts of capacity toward solar power (out of 22 total for renewable energy) by 2030. To put those numbers in conceptual terms, it’s enough power to meet a quarter of domestic energy needs whilst still reserving a significant portion for exports.

Energy exports will face a market barrier as electric storage technology strives to catch up, but in the United States, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a new rule on Thursday that may begin to clear the way. This order’s objective is to enhance competition and promote efficiency in the electric wholesale markets, with the overall effect of greater reliability and cheaper costs. With lowering costs comes the potential for greater investment yet.

Even the oil giant Saudi Arabia has started on the renewables train, with a recent movement to diversify its economy into the sustainable energy industry. By the end of the year, the country aims to invest $7bn into the development of new solar plants and a large wind farm.

However, with big money comes big risk, and the renewables industry certainly is not immune to it. Companies that may be tempted to dip their toes into the booming sector should keep the following things in mind.

Namely, there are reputational and legal risks if an organization’s actions do not line up with their environmental claims. This may incur adverse media content, which could impact the organization’s reputation toward its employees, partners, clients, consumers, and the general public.

Furthermore, companies could be subject to litigations if they violate regional environment regulations. Beyond that, there are the ever-present natural environment risks, which encompasses things like sandstorms blocking out solar farms, as well as regional risks that may include things such as terrorism or other crimes.  

Some of these threats can be mitigated with proper treatment and due diligence. For those, Centry can help! 

For any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us on any of our social media platforms!

 

The Question of Privacy in the Smart-Tech Life

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Smart-technology, wearable or otherwise, is undoubtedly a luxurious convenience. With products ranging from Fitbit for keeping track of your health to voice-activated vehicle consoles to home improvement and more, the market for this tech is seemingly limitless.

So how does this compromise your privacy?

Josh Lifton, CEO of Crowd Supply, said in a TechRepublic article: “…we’re entering this world where everything is catalogued and everything is documented and companies and governments will be making decisions about you as an individual based on your data trail…”

The European Union answered this question by issuing the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which bolsters the rights of individual data privacy, ensuring people have the right to know how, when, and where their personal information is used.

While it might not always be a bad thing for organizations to collect information about you, it’s important that those details don’t fall into the wrong hands.

The main concern among security experts when it comes to smart devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home is the degree to which they’re listening. Obviously, they are listening for the voice-activated commands the user might say. But if you own Alexa and have ever had it interrupt you when you weren’t intentionally speaking to it, you might wonder about what else it’s listening to?

Recently, an array of Bluetooth flaws that affect Android, iOS, and Windows devices were discovered in millions of AI voice-activated assistants, including both the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

The Blueborne Exploit is the name that has been given to the attack that takes advantage of these vulnerabilities, allowing external entities to run malicious code, steal information, and otherwise assume control. What is more threatening about this is that it does not require targets to click any links or fall for any other phishing scams; it can just assume control. Moreso, once an attack seizes one bluetooth device on a network, they can infect any other devices on the same network.

While both companies have since released patches and issued automatic updates for their products, it certainly serves as a cautionary tale to be mindful of what you say and do around these devices.

Wearable smart watches like Fitbit and jogging apps on smartphones run into their own security issues, which readers may have observed recently in the news, after a heat map of jogging and cycling routes released by Strava identified dangerous details of US soldier in war zones in the Middle East.

Overall, as much as it can be a minor inconvenience to do so, it is important that users don’t blindly press ‘accept’ on privacy terms for these apps and gadgets, and instead take the time to review how their information is collected and used. Such insight could lead to foresight that would ensure turning the relevant devices off in situations where that is appropriate.

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

2018 World Economic Forum Highlights

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Each year, world leaders, economic experts, industry leaders, celebrities, and other keynote speakers gather to meet in Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum. The official program lasts for five days and features more than four hundred sessions, which center discussion around key issues of global relevance, such as globalization, markets, international conflict, environmental issues, etc.

As of today, January 26th, the 2018 forum just wrapped up.

With the immense volume of information, it can be difficult to get a handle on everything that was discussed. As such, we’ve put together some of the big bullet points here for your leisure:

  • India’s Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, listed his three greatest threats to civilization: terrorism, climate change, and reactionary backlash to globalization.
  • The German Chancellor, Ms. Angela Merkel, stated that global multilateralism has come under threat, as populist movements sweep through countries.
    • Upon this point, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, voiced his enduring support for Europe, stating that France would not succeed without greater European success.
    • Although Brexit may come to mind on the point of Ms. Merkel’s statement of deteriorating multilateralism, the UK Prime Minister – Ms. Theresa May assured attendees of Davos that the United Kingdom would remain an advocate of global trade, with plans for bilateral deals with countries worldwide.
  • United States President, Mr. Donald Trump, discussed the state of the US economy, saying that “America First does not mean America alone,” in the context of the thought that as the United States grows, so too will the rest of the world.
  • Alibaba founder Jack Ma spoke about the IQ of love – a subject that we have discussed previously on Centry Blog.
  • The International Monetary Fund raised its forecasts for global crown in 2018 and 2019 to 3.9%, in the wake of the impact of the recent US tax reforms. These new estimates are 0.2 percentage points higher than the IMF’s previous projections in autumn of 2017.
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai emphasized the importance of artificial intelligence, saying that despite the risks, the potential benefits of it could not be overlooked.
  • China’s three big movements for the future, as outlined by Mr. Liu He, will be: alleviating poverty, preventing major financial risks, and reducing pollution.

In light of the Davos forum, the WEF released this year’s risk report, outlining ten significant risks in terms of likelihood and impact. See Figure 1 below.

It should be noted that within the top 5, just behind natural disasters, the threat of cyberattacks and data breaches pose a remarkable risk to individuals and organizations worldwide. For an additional perspective on the landscape of geopolitics on the cyber field, be sure to read our article on how Cyber is the New Cold War, written by Centry CTO Dave Ehman.

For more content like this, follow @CentryLTD and @CentryCyber on Twitter!

Centry Blog: 2017 in Review

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As of this month, Centry Blog has been in production for one year!

Over this period of time, we have published weekly entries on a variety of subjects ranging from Cyber Security, informational security, data breaches, social media, phishing, history, to geopolitics and more.

In honor of that, we’ve put together a list of some of our most-read articles written over the course of 2017:

JANUARY

Website Creation. These were the earliest days of setting up Centry Blog and refining its look before publishing content for our readers.

FEBRUARY

The Value of Secure Logistics Supply Chains 

What is the cost of unsecured supply chains? Is it a price your organization is willing to pay? Learn more about common ways supply chain security can be compromised, and how to address the issue.

MARCH

Spies in History: The Story of Elizabeth Bentley

Elizabeth Bentley was a Soviet spy in the United States between 1935-1945, until she famously defected from the USSR and gave testimony before the House Committee, wherein she named more than eighty associates in her network– some of whom held positions in the government of the United States. Her story was but one in the mounting tensions after World War II that began to pave the path to the Cold War, but her impact certainly was remarkable.

APRIL

When Due Diligence Fails

When does mediocre effort become detrimental? In due diligence, there are three certain ways: insufficient information, lack of verification, and disregarding red flags. Let this article be a lesson in what not to do, and learn from the mistakes of real world examples.

MAY

Spies in History: Virginia Hall, The Most Dangerous Allied Agent in France

Another installment in the Spies in History series, this article reviewed the story of Virginia Hall, a little known hero of World War II. Among other achievements, Virginia Hall was responsible for helping to organize, fund, supply and arm the French resistance during Nazi occupation.

JUNE

Hook, Line, and Sinker: Phishing on Social Media

Phishing attempts have grown to be tailored around their individual social media platforms. This article illustrates these attempts across various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, and gives tips on how to identify scams.

JULY

A Quick Guide to Anti-Corruption and Bribery

Bribery and corruption are significant issues that entrepreneurs and businesses may encounter worldwide. Violators of anticorruption laws and regulations may face the possibility of financial sanctions, crippling fines, and massive reputational damage. When companies are caught in corruption or bribery, it is usually not a quiet settlement, rather their story becomes a cautionary tale for all others…

AUGUST

Are Your Phones Protected?

In the Cyber era, companies have been investing heavily into their data infrastructure, protecting information vaults, CRM databases and critical production management systems. But when is the last time someone took a look at the customer service center IP phone server? How about the phone bills accumulated by the desktop phones of the call center or personal office phones? Those same phones might be still on your desk, but you have not used them in months or even years.

SEPTEMBER

When VPNs Go Wrong

VPNs have become widespread over the past few years as their users have expanded from businesses utilizing them for information security to individuals seeking out ways to bolster their privacy or obscure their location. The issue that arises from growing individual use is that there are more opportunities to be scammed, and some people with VPNs for personal use may not be able to distinguish between a reputable service and a charismatic, albeit malicious scam. Read on for some red flags to look out for when considering a VPN service!

OCTOBER

Travel Risk Management

Most of the time, trips carry on as expected with maybe a small hiccup in conveniences here or there. But what happens when things go really wrong? Any number of situations could arise with permanent consequences – do you or your organization have a plan for this? This article answers some of those questions by outlining key risks to consider before traveling.

NOVEMBER

Unraveling the Equifax Data Breach

The Equifax Data Breach dominated headlines for weeks after news of it first came out. This article examines how it happened, what went wrong in the aftermath, and what people affected by it can do.

DECEMBER

When is ‘State-Owned’ a Red Flag?

One of the things that we screen for in our risk assessments is the connection of the subject to a politically exposed entity. This basically refers to any individual or company that has connections to the government of a country or other public office. For someone unfamiliar with screening processes and typical red flags, you might ask – when does political exposure or state ownership become a red flag?

 

 

 

Cryptocurrencies & Sanctions

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Bitcoin has seen its value skyrocket in the past few weeks, and some cyber analysts are beginning to worry that the digital cryptocurrency is primed for exploitation by countries looking to dodge sanctions.

Bitcoin is but one of many cryptocurrencies backed by encrypted blockchain technology that allows users to conceal their identities when buying or selling the currency. This offers a level of anonymity that has been perceived as hitherto limited to cash transactions. Consequently, cryptocurrencies may offer a means for criminals and sanctioned entities to conduct business beyond the global financial system.

Furthermore, the anonymity available in bitcoin transactions makes it challenging for international authorities to prove that money has been transferred by sanctioned entities.

Nonetheless, we have seen stories crop up surrounding North Korea’s use of the currency to dodge UN sanctions. According to FireEye, North Korean state-backed hackers have been increasing attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea to steal Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It’s expected that North Korea’s hold of the digital currency will continue to increase in the wake of tightening sanctions.

Keeping in mind that FireEye’s article was originally published in September, it was stated that they observed North Korean actors target at least three South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges since May 2017. When taken into consideration in combination with the ties between North Korean operators and a compromised Bitcoin news site in 2016, as well as the use of a cryptocurrency miner, we begin to see the potential interest that the nation has in Bitcoin, among other cryptocurrencies.

Furthermore, Bloomberg recently published a report suggesting that Russia may utilize cryptocurrencies to work around increasing sanctions.

However, there are still quite a few obstacles in the way of using Bitcoin for large-scale transfers, as cashing out of the system is complicated. Regulators keep a close watch on the transfer of virtual currencies into cash, and anything that operates in dollars would be subject to US regulation.

Moreso, there’s simply the issue that there is a limited quantity of the cryptocurrency available. The total market capitalization of Bitcoin seems to be around $280 billion, which, while it is a lot of money, is but a drop in the bucket of true global wealth.

For more content like this, follow @CentryLTD and @CentryCyber on Twitter! 

When is ‘State-Owned’ a Red Flag?

One of the things that we screen for in our risk assessments is the connection of the subject to a politically exposed entity. This basically refers to any individual or company that has connections to the government of a country or other public office. For someone unfamiliar with screening processes and typical red flags, you might ask – when does political exposure or state ownership become a red flag?

The short answer is that state-owned corporate groups are linked to sensitive geopolitical spheres and carry with them the potential for many prominent international sanctions.

To get more in depth, the issue with state ownership can be a multi-faceted one. Usually, it’s not a problem. When it does present an issue, it’s because of the political exposure – where an individual or entity with prominent public function is at higher risk for bribery and corruption. In that case, determining the level of risk is up to the country in question.

Russia has had its state-owned companies sanctioned by the West. Whilst proper screening will yield entities that have been sanctioned, the connections between these and potential business partners may not always be so cut and dry. Say you are a tech company supplying technology that has been sanctioned from being imported to Russia. Over the course of business, you may find out that the new customer you were about to supply that tech to has a reliance on a separate customer that is state-owned. In that case, your company would need to evaluate the connections of your prospective customer to ensure that there are no liabilities present.

For a macro perspective, there is also the issue of planning global ventures to navigate geopolitics and risky relations. These situations must take into consideration regional tensions, such as that between the Middle East and Israel.

The issue of lobbying is one that should be considered as well, because a state-owned or backed company may attempt to influence your business to rise to the occasion. Whilst in some cases, state-backing can be a boon, danger could arise from discrete or unknown political exposure. If something is “off the radar”, it could mean that there is something to hide.

In many areas of the world, it’s impossible to do business with important state-owned entities without at least having gratitude payments involved. It’s also very common in some countries to have a former high ranking Politically Exposed Person (PEP) or government official connected to a state-owned company, where the PEP’s own companies on the side are taking advantage of the state-owned one. It’s even possible for these individuals to continue to benefit from this type of action even when they are no longer directly in the state-owned company.

Overall, there is no one-size-fits-all casting for state-owned or politically exposed entities as a whole, as it is all dependent on the laws and geopolitical context of each unique situation. That said, we hope this article has provided you with some perspective on how investigators may draw evidence-based conclusions regarding entities with political connections.

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

 

D-Day and the United States: History as a Tool for Cultural Understanding

In order to have a modern understanding of the nations in this world, it is important to consider how they remember their history, as these recollections are often used as a lesson, an honor, or a cultural reinforcement.

In his article about the importance of remembering the past, William Cronon expressed that “… if the past is the place from which we have come, then memory and history are the tools we use for recollecting that place so we can know who and where we are.” This sentiment is also true of nationhood and the representation of the values that form a collective identity. In the context of the United States, there are only a handful of events in history outside of the War for Independence itself that are as uniquely defining of American culture and ideals as the Normandy Landings of June 6, 1944.

The example of struggle and sacrifice in the D-Day operation invited a memory about: a) the triumph of the tenacity of freedom against tyranny, and b) the importance of success found in perseverance. These two themes are very common in American ideology and literature, and this narrative is evident in public memory of D-Day over the course of the twentieth century to the present.

The attribution of specific meanings and grand themes to D-day illustrated how the public and the community of the nation, in the words of Michael Dolski, “…draw of the past to validate the present and chart a course for the future…” Because D-Day was such a huge event, it was more or less guaranteed to be significant in public remembrance, as it was a heavily televised day with several photographers and filmmakers following the troops ashore. It is clear that most of those involved in D-day were aware that they were living history. This is especially significant because the word of veterans became gospel of what had occurred on that day. Historian Christopher Clausen suggests that no matter how hard academics push their own studies, the narrative given by the eye witness will always trump the scholarly article because they add a level of humanity to something that would otherwise be so foreign and so horrible that it would be completely un-relatable to most people. Legends and popular narratives are born from eye witness stories and the need for people to weave an event into a powerful story to be able to cope with the trauma of what happened. This is clear on D-Day, which experienced extremely high casualty rates and intense combat that, in some cases, lasted for hours.

By remembering D-day as a highly important moment to preserve liberty, soldiers were able to justify the incredible loss and chaos to themselves. Therefore, the remembrance of D-day as a narrative of the triumph of liberators became a way for Americans to reinforce their cultural image. Since it was so widespread and influenced so many people, many countries remember D-Day differently. Where it is a tale of the triumph of liberty for America, it is a lesson about the value of peace to Britain, and different yet still to Germany.

Collective memory is a powerful tool for uniting people who might otherwise have nothing in common or no interest in each other. Historian David Thelen suggests that collective memory allows individuals to validate their own experiences and feelings about it by measuring it up to the expressions of the public. It enables them to reinterpret their memories and decide which experiences are worth remembering and which ought to be forgotten.  This is especially evident in the representation of D-Day in the media, where the director’s vision of an event gets passed along to the audience and is consumed easily and widely by many people who may not have an inclination to get a second opinion on the media’s interpretation. William Cronon suggests that American common identity is inexorably linked to its famous moments in history; we see a part of ourselves in George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and the soldiers who fought to preserve freedom on D-Day.

Operation Overlord – the codename for the Battle of Normandy – was an incredibly complicated plan that included intricate naval and aerial support plans, bombardment, and airborne assaults in addition to the mass amphibious assault that took place on the Normandy shores. At this point, amphibious assault was not exactly a normal method of accomplishing invasions, so that facet of it was notable in and of itself. By 1944, many soldiers both on Allied and Axis sides were experienced combatants who were likely completely exhausted from their time in the war, or new conscripts ready to prove their glory. Although D-Day was only the initial stage of the operation as a whole, it still represented an extreme challenge because of the weather, the question of supplies, and its amphibious nature. Because Overlord was such a far-reaching plan, Allied forces had to demonstrate significant cooperation and intricate planning in relative secrecy to successfully launch an operation that required a ‘tremendous level of ingenuity’, as the Historian Michael Dolski suggests.

On top of that weight, it was understood by everyone going into D-day that the success of the operation as a whole depended entirely on this one day. Each of the landing beaches were put into the responsibility of the Allied powers respectively, with Utah Beach and Omaha Beach under the jurisdiction of the United States. American soldiers on Omaha Beach were the ‘first wave’ of the assault and suffered a huge barrage of attack from a replenished German deployment. It acquired the nickname ‘Bloody Omaha’ because it had the highest number of casualties, most of whom arrived in the 1st company from Bedford, VA. Since it was such a difficult challenge, it is easy to see how the foundation for a story about heroism and triumph against all odds could take shape. If we consider this in the context that several American stories and myths employ a narrative about success found in determination, perseverance, and hard work, it is clear how D-Day and its collective remembrance has become such a defining moment in American society.

The construction of D-day’s remembrance in public memory began on D-day itself when President Roosevelt issued a prayer for the success of the operation over the radio in America, and Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech to the soldiers. These two influential voices laid the framework on top of the foundation to establish the narrative of D-Day that we know today. In his prayer for the soldiers, Roosevelt calls upon God to bless the American soldiers who “…have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity …. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again …” (FDR) These words alone are clear enough in their representation of the values of American society. The cause moved from one to defeat tyranny to preserve the sanctity of humanity as a whole. In another part of the speech, Roosevelt begged God to allow Americans as a whole to illustrate renewed faith to Him by means of great sacrifice. The divine focus of this speech, coupled with the emphasis on tenacity and sacrifice are consistent with most grand American stories. Even the revolution is remembered with these tenets in mind.

This narrative is consistent with Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech, which reinforced the divine role of the soldiers as it described the moments preceding D-Day as the moments prior to embarking “upon the Great Crusade.” Dwight D. Eisenhower deviated a little from Roosevelt’s prayer by attributing nobility and value to the Allied cooperation necessary to make this feat possible. However, that is more likely due to the different audiences than actual intent to forge a story. Where Roosevelt spoke to the American public, Eisenhower spoke to and of an amalgam of troops made up of several Allied powers.

Years later, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s grandson, David, wrote on the memory of his grandfather. In his article, David Eisenhower emphasizes that his grandfather was just an ordinary American man from the Midwest with a family, who reached success simply through working hard. He suggests that his grandfather knew that the war was a defining period in his life, and that future generations would look back carefully on a time where “civilization itself” hung precariously in the balance. David Eisenhower’s own memory of the event reflects the public construction; the significance of the day was attached to the preservation of democracy, freedom, and human values that were championed by the Allies. He suggests that it is remembered as an impressive feat that no other belligerent in World War II could have achieved, and for twentieth century America, it was a decisive moment of renewal and affirmation of everything that people call positive about the United States, such as civil rights, technology, moon landings, and what not. In short, it made Americans proud to be Americans.

Today, June 6 serves as a reminder of the ability of world powers to cooperate efficiently toward a singular goal, and an opportunity to reflect on the positive values of American ideology. 2014 was the seventieth anniversary of D-Day and it is remembered still with honor for the tremendous sacrifice to a noble cause. Maia de la Baume’s article “On the 70th Anniversary, the Memories of D-Day Are Replayed at Normandy” found in the New York Times describes new effort put forward by the public to reenact the landings and how it impacts veterans. The annual commemoration in 2014 was significant because it included several world leaders meeting while tensions over Russian actions in Ukraine have been deteriorating those relationships. Mr. Obama called the invasion “the most powerful manifestation of America’s commitment to human freedom” which illustrates the remaining presence and power of D-Day to affirm Western ideals, especially in times of high tension and disturbance in the realm of international relations.

This article was written by Kristina Weber, Content Supervisor of Centry Ltd.

Sources

  • De La Baume, Maia and Alissa J. Rubin. “On 70th Anniversary, the Memories of D-Day Are Replayed at Normandy” June 6, 2014. New York Times.