One of my favorite podcasts is Reply All, which covers cyber issues in a creative and clever manner. The hosts recently had an interview (“Decoders,” episode #62) with New York Times’ journalist Rukmini Callimachi, as well as Runa Sandvik, the director of bureau security at this newspaper. In essence, Callimachi discovered a new means that ISIS had adopted to communicate, called Truecrypt. Messages are written in this code, then uploaded to files on a website. For all their sophistication and technical knowledge, however, ISIS also proved to be vulnerable to basic errors, such as failing to check the location of the server by examining its web address. …
Author Malcom Gladwell has a new podcast titled “Revisionist History,” which had a recent episode titled “Saigon: 1965.” The podcast tells the story of the Rand Corporation’s efforts to collect intelligence on North Vietnamese morale through interviews with captured soldiers and guerrillas. In particular, it examines the history of three people deeply involved in the program, who brought their own biases and beliefs to the data that they collected. Gladwell’s point in telling this story is that often the challenge is not to collect the information, but rather to interpret it accurately. Each of the three people had access to an overwhelming amount of information. Still, their vision of the war was shaped less by the the interviews themselves, than by their own biases. In an age of big data, NSA and cyber-espionage, the challenge of how to correctly interpret overwhelming amounts of data remains critical to global intelligence services.
Shawn Smallman, 2016