Threats To The Homeland

TSA issues security warning about vehicle-ramming threat
The Transportation Security Administration has issued a new security alert, warning the nation’s trucking companies and their drivers about the use of stolen trucks as low-tech methods of attack.

The six-page report focuses on the current threat landscape and points out that from 2014 to date, terrorists have carried out 17 known vehicle-ramming attacks worldwide, resulting in 173 fatalities and 667 injuries.

The TSA defines vehicle-ramming as a form of attack in which a perpetrator deliberately aims a motor vehicle at a target with the intent to inflict fatal injuries or significant property damage by striking with concussive force.

The report shares indicators that may suggest terrorists are planning a vehicle-ramming attack and lists countermeasures that can be taken with a focus on situational awareness. One of the messages contained in the report is the reinforcement to drivers, staff and passengers of the importance of the “See Something, Say Something” campaign.

The report suggests drivers and staff who remain alert to potential threats and report suspicious activities to appropriate authorities are the most effective means of detecting acts of terrorism by a commercial vehicle.

The report also states that no community, large or small, rural or urban, is immune to attacks of this kind by organized or “lone wolf” terrorists. TSA recommends that the trucking and bus industries take an active role in protecting their businesses and communities from this potential threat.

ISIS developing bombs capable of evading airport detection
U.S. intelligence now believes that ISIS and other terror groups are developing new methods of constructing laptop bombs intended to evade airport security.

Additionally concerning are intelligence reports which indicate the terror group may have acquired low-level airport security technology that they can use to test their new inventions.

Such intelligence played a large role in the Trump administration’s decision to prohibit travelers from certain countries from bringing a laptop to the United States.

Right now, the laptop ban affects eight countries in the Middle East and Africa that were chosen due to an increased threat level. This latest revelation has some people concerned that the ban may not be strict enough.

“As a matter of policy, we do not publicly discuss specific intelligence information. However, evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in electronics,” said the Department of Homeland Security.

Ransomware Expands Its Targets
Ransomware attacks have become a billion-dollar business for cybercriminals and are on the rise for individuals and institutions alike. Attackers already use ransomware to extort money from hospitals and corporations that need to regain control of their systems quickly, and the more success attackers have, the more they are willing to invest in development of new techniques. Ransomware attacks on financial firms have already been rising, and attackers may be emboldened to take on large banks and central financial institutions.

The Mara Salvatrucha*, or MS13, is perhaps the most notorious street gang in the Western Hemisphere. The gang’s reach now extends from Central American through Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Their activities have helped make the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras) the most violent place in the world that is not at war. In October 2012, the US Department of the Treasury labeled the group a “transnational criminal organization,” the first such designation for a U.S. street gang.

Known for providing hitmen to various cartels, the brutal, largely illegal immigrant-filled MS-13 street gang has become a major focus of the U.S. Department of Justice. With the discovery of mutilated bodies of four young men in a public park on Long Island, a new and more deadly profile of MS-13 has emerged.

At the heart of that profile are newcomers from Central America eager to make their mark within an immigrant gang already known for its code of brutality and its weapon of choice, the machete.

They represent a small but dangerous cohort among the thousands of young people who, according to federal statistics, have illegally entered the United States unaccompanied by adults since 2015.

These newcomers have found a niche in MS-13 in communities across the U.S. — replacing those who have been arrested — and are focused on proving themselves to be even more violent than established gang members.

Experts say MS-13 is distinguishable among gangs in that its hallmark is not to shake down store owners or to protect drug-dealing operations. Instead, members commit violence for its own sake, in large part as a way to carve out and control the turf they consider theirs, purging it of rival gang members and others perceived as having disrespected MS-13.

According to the latest FBI threat assessment, communities across the U.S. are likely to see an uptick in violent crime, though for now, it is expected to be concentrated in gang territory.

* The Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13 was initially made up of refugees from El Salvador, which is where the name comes from: “mara” is a Central American term for gang; “salva” refers to El Salvador; “trucha,” which means “trout” in English, is a slang term for “clever” or “sharp.” The number 13 refers to the position M occupies in the alphabet.

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