Cybersecurity: Amplified And Intensified

Unpacking the tech and gear left in Afghanistan. Escalate, Exfiltrate & Encrypt - Round 5

September 03, 2021 Shiva Maharaj/Eric Taylor/John Wetzel
Cybersecurity: Amplified And Intensified
Unpacking the tech and gear left in Afghanistan. Escalate, Exfiltrate & Encrypt - Round 5
Chapters
Cybersecurity: Amplified And Intensified
Unpacking the tech and gear left in Afghanistan. Escalate, Exfiltrate & Encrypt - Round 5
Sep 03, 2021
Shiva Maharaj/Eric Taylor/John Wetzel

On todays episode we're joined by John Wetzel the Director of Intelligence Solutions at Recorded Future.

We discuss:

  1. Technology and gear left in Afghanistan,
  2. ARM chips and more.


John is an experienced security intelligence leader building strategic, global teams. Hands-on technical leader passionately merging technical, business, product knowledge to achieve strategic business outcomes. Strong communicator for boards of directors and C-suite to practitioners. Previously DOD counterintelligence and compliance officer (NISPOM, ITAR, EAR) with strong relationships to federal law enforcement.

Writer and speaker on cyber threat intelligence applications, insider threat programs at SANS CTI Summit, Kaspersky SAS 2019, Predict host and trainer 2016-2020. Co-author, The Security Intelligence Handbook (available on Amazon).

John Wetzel
https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnawetzel
https://recordedfuture.com
https://twitter.com/johnwetzel

Eric Taylor
https://www.linkedin.com/in/ransomware/
https://twitter.com/barricadecyber
https://www.barricadecyber.com

Shiva Maharaj
https://www.linkedin.com/in/shivamaharaj
https://twitter.com/kontinuummsp
https://www.kontinuum.com/

Show Notes Transcript

On todays episode we're joined by John Wetzel the Director of Intelligence Solutions at Recorded Future.

We discuss:

  1. Technology and gear left in Afghanistan,
  2. ARM chips and more.


John is an experienced security intelligence leader building strategic, global teams. Hands-on technical leader passionately merging technical, business, product knowledge to achieve strategic business outcomes. Strong communicator for boards of directors and C-suite to practitioners. Previously DOD counterintelligence and compliance officer (NISPOM, ITAR, EAR) with strong relationships to federal law enforcement.

Writer and speaker on cyber threat intelligence applications, insider threat programs at SANS CTI Summit, Kaspersky SAS 2019, Predict host and trainer 2016-2020. Co-author, The Security Intelligence Handbook (available on Amazon).

John Wetzel
https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnawetzel
https://recordedfuture.com
https://twitter.com/johnwetzel

Eric Taylor
https://www.linkedin.com/in/ransomware/
https://twitter.com/barricadecyber
https://www.barricadecyber.com

Shiva Maharaj
https://www.linkedin.com/in/shivamaharaj
https://twitter.com/kontinuummsp
https://www.kontinuum.com/

Shiva Maharaj:

Good morning and welcome to another episode of cybersecurity amplified and intensified with your host, Eric Taylor and myself shivah. Today we have john wetzel from recorded future. And I would like to say, all opinions are our personal opinions today and do not represent those of our employers. Erica, let you kick this one off, since we had to make that disclosure.

Eric Taylor:

Jerry, we are going to talk about Afghanistan today in a lot of the tech that's there, although I think,

John Wetzel:

you know, there is kind of play, right? I think with Afghanistan, the you got to remember what the history is there, the US has invested so much time, energy and effort in a country. And it's not just about a military force there anymore. It's not like, you know, this isn't feudal times, where we just go in it's infantry, and then they're there. And then they leave, you have an economic resource, political resource pupil, in the ground contractors, you have cyber resources that we're tied up there, where that becomes like, where you have active warfighting warfighters in an area, that's your first priority, because they're at risk constantly. You take that away, and now you have resources, and nobody wants to lose funding for those resources. So they're gonna pivot somewhere, I think you've seen already a lot of conversation about like, where we pivot to these resources, where are we going to go with, it's clearly going to be Asia, particularly kind of like the Southeast Asia region, where you have a active competition is probably the politically political sciency way to talk about it between India and China, you have China beginning to flex and expand for resources in the South China Sea. And you have handed a lot of, I guess, cyber supported activity that's happening in those regions. And so like, when you think about like Afghanistan, it's like, oh, we're pulling out of there, and it's just going to be, you know, returned to normal. Well, there is no return to normal. That's just this is we have a lot of resources, we have a huge defense budget, you have a lot of nations that are trying to figure out like, where do we direct the energies here? And where are we going to do this? And it's going to be in places where there's active competition going on?

Eric Taylor:

Yeah, I mean, when you pull out, you're creating a massive vacuum. So we know when the President and aurvey is coming out. It's like, Oh, yeah, you're telling me it's not going to take over for a long time? Like, no, you're creating, like I said, a major effing vacuum, that thing is going to get filled in really damn quick. You know, and we had military operations that were handling going out from Afghanistan, for other covert operations, you know, we weren't there just for, you know, deploy democracy in the region, we were, you know, leveraging other, you know, wars or, you know, counter military diligence, or whatever the case is, from Afghanistan. So this is going to make a global effort from a military standpoints a lot harder.

John Wetzel:

Yeah, I think that's a really valid point there you have, you have to remember that us hasn't really pulled completely out of a region in a long time, like we still have presence in, in Iraq. Right. India, we still have presence, we still basis in supply depots and, and, you know, certain islands and bases there you have, you know, it's very rare to see a complete military withdraw, right, like a complete lack of lack of presence and place that I think it's gonna be interesting to see like, where does the US flex logistically, I think that's why you're probably seeing a lot of the military efforts towards, like longer range or over the price and type of weapon systems, right, like, how do we reach out and, and touch globally? from like, very, very long supply lines? And you know, you're absolutely right about the power vacuum, I think it's it's important to say that, while the US military is completely out of Afghanistan, the US is not. And I don't mean to say that, like we're maintaining some kind of hidden resource that I mean, literally, there are US citizens that are still in Afghanistan, some have stayed behind, because they didn't know how to get the rest of their family out. That may not be US citizens. There are some that stayed behind are actively trying to get out right now and kind of being supported by ad hoc networks of professionals trying to supply them information on how to get across borders, where checkpoints are things like that. And they're still us efforts in surrounding countries. or working through what kind of other allies they're with UK and others, like in places like Uzbekistan, trying to say hey, you get across the border here. If you get here we'll work on getting you out to a place of safety and refuge.

Eric Taylor:

Yeah, the thing that really drives me nuts right now and it literally is pissing me off where I just want to go full on rink or and just start screaming at the top of my lungs and pool. Just have the Bulldog on my ass is the fact you know, with everything that we go through in boot camp, you know, you don't leave people behind. That's one of the main things that we always get taught, no matter what, nobody gets left behind. You know, there's so many US citizens, people with American fucking passports, still trying to get out of that country. And the fact that Biden is like, yeah, nothing to see here. You know, those are mostly just us allies or whatever. Um, We know we have actual fucking citizens, they're crying out. You know, there was just a report yesterday that one of the translators that helped Biden when he was a senator and a couple other senators when they had to make an emergency landing that helped him and his other so the other senators, you know, go to safety, he's been begging Biden in the team to come out, you know, because they're in fear. They're live him his wife and four kids are still there. Not a fucking peep, you know, and now we're seeing on some real, sketchy sites, that there are us allies that are now being executed because of helping and I don't know if that is from the whole door to door knocking, say, hey, do you know anybody who's been helping us? Or if it's the whole biometric security or information that they have now,

Shiva Maharaj:

going back to that biometric thing, john, these are devices. And I'm thinking you got to hope that operational security has been built into the asset management of these devices, right. And they're remotely connecting to a database, the likelihood that anything stored locally, what do you think?

John Wetzel:

Well, I think you're talking about a lot of there's a lot of open questions logistically about like, what got left behind what's there, I think there's a few different elements that have to taking take place there. Number one, you know, what's, what device are we concerned about a biometric device is not anything more than what a camera is, then what a like a printer is right there their peripheral devices that are designed for a single purpose, the actual device itself, like a high device is really just a very fancy scanner, right? Like I've used them before I train them, you literally put your hand on them, and they scan it. By the way, half the time, it doesn't work for a lot of different reasons that you don't think about in the West. But there's so much that well, we think I'll take it I did, I used to do like biometric entry and things like that, for people that were working on basis. And the devices fail a lot. And one of the reasons they fail is because you don't think about people that are working in foreign country don't always have clean hands, right? Are people working in our country may have worked with their hands for very long time, they have built up calluses on the fingertips. So they don't have that same type of like, resolution that you might get from somebody who, you know, like, like us, you get a privileged life of our you know, worse thing that happens is that we type on a keyboard and get a little like, you know, carpal tunnel, right? Like these are still like little things that cause failure over time are one of the challenges. And that's just what the endpoint device itself locally, there is information that does get stored in say, like a local laptop and things like that. That's where you have some local processing that happens, you'll store up local records there. It may not need a cloud based database, because for a lot of different reasons. Number one is when you're in a military engaging fire make you may not have strong internet connectivity. I mean, you I remember talking about a previous show, you're talking about people that have backups that are still working at, you know, dial up connection speeds, right, not just that same thing happens in in conflict regions, especially, but also in regions that you don't have the same type of telecommunications maturity, right. And the third area is like kind of that cloud storage areas where we think you might like massive databases of PII and things like that. Oh, you're right, almost certainly, like once you get to that end point there, that there, we're not leaving that on four countries, they're the middle point, with laptop devices, most of that is likely been secured, where you're talking about, like hardware devices, separate secure databases, anything that's local, they're probably not the actual, like I device, the head scanner, things like that. I don't know, apparently, a lot of those have been left behind. But you need the full chain to really develop and, you know, I guess to a certain extent, weaponize that ability, you also have analysts, you also have to let time, effort, energy and computational power to be able to do those things in a way that I think people who aren't as familiar with like military supply chains, think about like these the weaponization of these things. It's not easy. There's a long chain of these things that that's not to say that it's it's trivial that we left behind equipment and things like that. But I do think there is a cost estimation that goes into play there of what do we leave behind? How is it going to be weaponized versus, you know, what, what do we have to prioritize in other areas to get out? Me personally, I think like definitely, like a weapon system is a lot more worrisome than a endpoint device that needs a lot of other connectivity there. And the other thing that kind of balances there is if I have to choose between your case of M 16. Or getting one more person out of Afghanistan out of the most massive airlift that ever happened in the history of the US. I'm going to choose the human and I think that's just a cost trade off. That's really important to understand that when you are moving that many people which political affiliations aside I think we have to give credit to the military for how much That takes to actually airlift that many people out of a single place. And that shorter period of time as a logistical performance. I'm like, just miracle, it's amazing to do that. Um, I think like, there's trade offs that have to happen, you know,

Shiva Maharaj:

I don't disagree with you there. But I do think that God should do is come out and say, Hey, some of these devices that all these news agencies are running with saying that are now compromised by the Taliban, or whoever, they're worthless, or there's such limited data, just like you explained, john, and we're not getting that. And I think that's causing mass panic stateside. And I'm gonna say two words here, that I think are behind a lot of this. And I'd like to get your thoughts on this, especially coming from recorded future active measures. Do you think they're replay?

John Wetzel:

I think that well have is there's a couple different ways, I guess, my, my one frame would be active measures at play by whom? Russia,

Shiva Maharaj:

so we, I mean, they created it, right, or they're the ones who have PhDs in it.

John Wetzel:

So we have seen, I think it's on a lot of different sides there. On one hand, you have seen a lot of influx on social media, from posts from Russia, as well as China as well. And there's probably others involved as well. But those are kind of the two men that you're mainly seeing in big pushes that appear to be kind of taking propaganda advantage of a situation at least they kind of like the immediate value there. We've been doing some digging as well at recorded future. And I'm sure there'll be some reporting that comes out about that. But I don't think that that is a strategic surprise to anyone. You have kind of two different perspectives on it as well, on one hand with China, I think they're looking at like you're thinking about a nation that might be able to actually take advantage of devices, China might actually be that right? Like, I'd be less concerned about Afghanistan holding a high device and learning to maintain a properly managed database, which let's be honest, we all know is his whole thing in and of itself, that has kind of word it has his database is saying, hey, a bunch of free devices, we'll take those off your hands. Um, and so they get an ability kind of focus in a different direction right now, which China is always, you know, looking both first, internally, like, how do we look at our current population? What are we doing there? And then externally, how are we flexing regionally? Russia, on the other hand, I think has a different problem. Russia has a history in Afghanistan, right, like Russia has vested concerns and resources with that, and they've never had like full control, how much are they going to be able to one work with the Taliban, and I think you start seeing some political movement there, where they're already screaming that the US should, and other European countries mainly should not hold Afghanistan to the same human rights standard that that we would like to, which is kind of, you know, a flex in and of itself. I think that you're also seeing Russia, trying to be concerned as well, like there's, you know, they have a history and Afghanistan, they have a history and like a country that's on their periphery there. And how do they look at that? What do they view as be concerning there, because Russia is not a innocent bystander to this stuff, either. They are actively concerned that what's going to happen anywhere in the periphery, and it could be a pain point for them in future years.

Eric Taylor:

So we talk about China, we've talked about some of these other things that the thing that really comes to my mind is China is already doing to Afghanistan, what they've done to South Africa and other parts. And there's, I forget the name of the program, I was trying to look it up on Google, but the name is evading me, the China government essentially leases and sells their infrastructure to third world countries to build up the technology, and their data mining all that stuff. So China's already doing this are already engaging and potentially will start if that deal goes through by the end of the year, China's gonna be standing up. So you have that you have legacy or quote unquote, legacy or somewhat decommission ever a technology that's still there. So China is able to potentially get their hands on and start reverse engineering, our tech I just look at this as a massive honest fucking failure.

Shiva Maharaj:

So I think what you got to realize is a lot of this gear that was left behind john, correct me if I'm wrong here, you can his gear that was given us that term loosely, to the Afghan army. That's a lot of what the Taliban has taken over since they're now in control or seemingly in control, what's the likelihood that the US would leave high level competency gear? Or give high level competency gear to the Afghan army that's on par with what we use internally?

Eric Taylor:

Well, one,

John Wetzel:

I guess depends on how you can What do you consider high caliber competent yet? Right? Um,

Shiva Maharaj:

it communications equipment in a Blackhawk? Yeah, pretty bad, the most up to date of that we're using or is it going to be a generation or two or three behind?

John Wetzel:

that's never gonna be anything that he that networks and networks are systems that we can use to fully compromise it right? Like even when we were in Iraq, like we had a system called Blue Force tracker, which if you use Blue Force tracker, you have things to say about it. But you know that that was not something that was ever given to like Iraqi army, right? Like, there's, there's bridge networks there, because those are logistical systems that I think create two versions of vulnerabilities. One, we don't ever want that system in itself be compromised. Number two, we don't ever want somebody to be able to study, reverse it and use it to like a factor or get into like our network systems. Now, when you think about high competency, you think like, I didn't think we're worried about like, I saw a bunch of people saying, like the number of Humvees and the number of light, no body armor, the number of like, you know, weapons that are being used there. Do you think those are tragedies? I don't like seeing Taliban soldiers with a bunch of US military uniforms US military weapons, and that, to me strikes very close to home of you know, that Bangor center, because I know I have friends I have, you know, units that have, I just play it lightly suffered quite a bit from that. And that just hurts an emotional center. I think strategically, it's less significant. Because you know, they can't be they can't be connected, right? Like anyone who's ever maintained any piece of weaponry in the United States military knows, those systems break, like the n n for rifles are not like the world's most sophisticated things in the world. Like they jam, they get dirt in there. They're really actually painful to keep clean. I used to drive around all the 9987 like 998. And then it was I think it was a 1024 1113. Those are versions of Humvees. And those are really painful to maintain. One because of the things that we've done to that you think of like an up armored Humvee that can survive an IED attack as being the latest, greatest thing? Well, no, you've added on 10,000 pounds of extra weight. And anybody who's ever tried to haul a trailer with, you know, a souped up SUV knows, they're not prepared for that. And they will break down very quickly if you're not like fully trained, and how do I What are all of the lubrication points on a Humvee? You don't think and stuff like that. But those become really important when you're maintaining like complex mechanical systems. On the electrical component side, I think we've done a really good job at making sure that, you know, we've stopped that I don't really, I would probably contest the point that China is going to come in and reverse engineer or even have the kind of have a lot of value at reverse engineering our stuff, because a lot of the devices you get weren't really that sophisticated, most high devices, you can actually get there part of the DLD program called cots, right, it's commercial off the shelf technology. And so, you know, if it was gotten, they've already gotten that, right, like they they've had availability for this. And that was, I think, one of the intents and maybe a non targeted benefit of having that type of commercial off the shelf program with Department of fence where they went out and massively bought whatever devices they could before custom building more things was that it's not as valuable anymore to capture some of those things. You know, I'm, even when you get into sophisticated communication systems, singer's technology, those are the radios that either way, are very old, but use your free copy technology, most of those have been burned and gone through. But even if you happen to capture one, which I'm fairly certain somewhere sounds like somebody has gotten access to one of those, the way that they're networked. And the way they're worked is that they rely on encryption devices that are timely, that worry about, Hey, you know, this rotates every so long period of time. So there's, I think it's like we've instructed a lot of people in network security, there's a lot of layers in defense in depth, the heart compromising the hardware is purposely thought out so that you don't compromise the full integrity of the network, even if a hardware device is lost. But do you think

Eric Taylor:

when you're looking at this from at least what's been publicly the discussed, the lat and what appears to be the lack of frickin planning by our government, the last minute pull out of things where there's been open discussions where some Blackhawks were disabled, but they did get to a mall? Do you think that there was proper due diligence he done in dismantling a lot of this tech to make sure that people can't reverse engineer this stuff? I mean, great takeaway from, you know, generate separation of generation of the technology. I just don't want any of our, even our legacy technology to be able to be reverse engineer and potentially find, you know, a backdoor somewhere. I mean, you know, just suppose I do that, you know, we can, especially when I'm doing the pen test, sometimes we could stumble across a GitHub repo with legacy API's that are still freakin working, you know, so that stuff could have some nuggets of information and that's what I'm really worried about.

John Wetzel:

Yeah, and I think like, that's always a concern like, you know, with with something like a Black Hawk or It's hard for me to say that name out loud because like when I was in Iraq we affectionately are on affectionately called them crash ox. But, like, think about that, I think about the full stream of that technology. On one hand, it's mechanical system, it's not new, it's been around for a while. The mechanical system I'm less concerned about than I am about, like electronic warfare systems that are on there, like radios that are out there, most of those have been removed, and you don't have to worry about like electronic warfare gets in a little bit more interesting way to talk about frequency blocking and the types of defensive measures those things have on them. Um, those are the probably the systems that I'd be most critically concerned about the mechanical systems, I'm guessing and this is just a sheer gas would be the ones that probably the last things that you disable on it, because they can take a little bit of time, I do think that there's kind of two different areas that I probably would prefer and speaking, like, mainly concerned with what happens with a system. The first one is, is the reverse engineering, the technology, less so about, like innovation, and more so about, you know, weaknesses and target it right? Like, oh, hey, we looked at this structurally, if you hit it here, as opposed to here, maybe there's an advantage towards that. And those to me, like, you know, there's slight value that's gained and an awful lot of effort and energy that's taxed in there. And they may not, they may have been able to discover those earlier on, right? Like, you can look at blueprints and diagrams and get a pretty good understanding of like what it is. And we know that China has been very active and being able to study those, you know, being able to acquire through economic espionage programs, a lot of that technology. The other thing that I think is interesting is the kind of the funneling of that infrastructure later out. Like, let's take a black hockey, break it down. Some of it might be I talked technology, some of it might not be, but it might not be the electronics that I'm really concerned about. It's the repair and maintenance of those programs over time. And I think about that in terms of countries that we have embargoed that maybe we're helping giving them a new supply of stuff that they need to just maintain old fleets. So like, if you look at a country like Iran, for example, I'm gonna bring it this back that nanoscan. But like you look at a country like Iran, Iran has had a lot of legacy us stuff. Again, a lot of it was acquired from the US back in the 70s. It needed to maintain and upgrade those things. And over time, they managed to get like some of it. But like a rat got so desperate at one point, they would actually buy up trash from like, depots, or at least attempt to buy trash of depots, especially airplane depots in West us, because they wanted to get it shipped over to around so they could sort through it find the parts to be able to maintain their own like the aircraft there. I worried about stuff like that, like let's say there's countries that we didn't want to do business with no longer do business with that have, like, you know, Blackhawk helicopters they need to maintain and they can't do that. So some of them are not being serviced, now they have a brand new supply depot of stuff that they might be able to get to supply them, again, is that I think that's a by the way very likely to happen. But strategically, is that the worst thing in the world counterbalance against other things? I don't know, I'm not paid to think at that level. But I do think it's that, to me, those kinds of tragedies are where it happens. They're like, again, I don't want to see a US Weapon System ever used against the US, period. But I think like if you look at the history of that, that's just how technology and warfare happens. I mean, you want to talk about a weapon system that they never wanted to see spread as far as output globe as they did is probably when you look at the classic example of Russian, the AK 47. Right? Like that's everywhere. There's nowhere that Russia ever got into combat ever, that they weren't getting shot at by their own, either weapons, or fun story of counterfeits of their weapons at the Chinese. So

Shiva Maharaj:

Chinese New counterfeit weapons, what are you talking about? What happens? It's not like AMD, sorry, the arm chips in China right now.

Eric Taylor:

So shivah had to do something that I don't know if that really got fully answered. So now I want to definitely circle back because another side of me really does think that this may be a counter military until just a ploy. So you know, when, you know, Obama was president, they did the whole gun running and everything for Mexico just to help track and find where the guns ended up and truck cartels and all that. But part of me does want to think that maybe some of this stuff was left behind in a somewhat operational state to see, okay, what the hell does the Taliban actually do with this shit? Because, well, a lot of people said, you know, this Taliban is not the same Taliban from 911. Right? So it's a it's a different organization, they have a different mindset. So, you know, we do have bases close enough that I'm sure there's drones flying over there all the time, just keeping an eye on shit. But do you think this could be you know, the US government just doing their own own this thing on the Taliban gaming until that way, that's why these things were left behind.

John Wetzel:

Maybe, right, like, I mean, that certainly, this is where you go in one of those areas, I know just enough to be dangerous. So let me just say this. I think like, you know, there's always operational considerations at play, right. Um, I think one of the things It's unique, though, is that you're absolutely right. This isn't the Taliban that we had in 911. And even that one, I think, you know, that one was probably one more of a consolidated hole where you've already seen, I think probably the clearest example is the bombing at the suicide bombing at HK, AIA, that resulted in 30 American deaths, and hundreds of the casualties there, that was almost immediately condemned by the Taliban itself. And I'm not saying they're good guys in the larger picture. Sure, I'm saying that shows that there's this fractionalization that's happened there where the Taliban, even of their own accord don't view themselves as the most extreme element in their in their own caucus, right. Number two, they view themselves as trying to want to portray something else on the larger world stage, we don't yet know what that is, we're very cautious about being anywhere near optimistic, especially given their Operational history and given their their tendencies towards certain types of behaviors, human rights violations, but the Taliban of 911 vehemently hated the net, one of the first things they did is came in there and took everything down. We haven't seen that kind of activity, yet, we've seen that they actually have their own website, right. Um, you have the Taliban that used to be kind of this ruling governing type of thing and had a very clear vision of society. And we don't necessarily see exactly what that is anymore. I think they're gonna have a lot of internal problems and struggles as they continue on, in figuring out like, exactly who do we partner with, like they may not love. Yet remember, on either side, they have Iran on one side of Russia interfering and the other and they have history with that. And they have tried out the other side. So I think they're, they're very cautiously feeling out, like what happens there. They weren't not conciliatory towards the US as well. They laid down very hard lines. But at the other hand there, you have to remember in the end stages of the pull up the Taliban were one providing security for HK AIA, whether you have you can have like opinions on whether you think that was real security if they let people in and other things. But on paper, they were doing that they were communicating with US military commanders on the ground there. Those were things that were actually happening on. So I think that shows like they were at least somewhat conciliatory towards, like, what does this look like? How do we maintain order and structure here? So it'll be interesting to see what happens. I think the final thing to that point of like, what kind of intelligence gathered is us need? I think you ultimately have this question of, they're not a closed country, right, like Afghanistan, and the Taliban haven't yet, you know, decided exactly what they want to do, we don't see that they're going full on like North Korea, like, let's cut ourselves completely off from the world. So that always leaves open this possibility of like, what exactly are they gonna try and do? How are they actually going to structure things? How are they actually going to bring things and partner, it may not be a partnership, and may not be things that we in the US view in the in the best and brightest light here, and even the citizens Afghanistan are terrified. And I don't want to trivialize that. But I think it'll be interesting to see exactly what happens there. And that opens up, obviously, intelligence opportunities there for it to be, you know, at least understood if not exploited.

Shiva Maharaj:

You know, one thing I do want to say is, if we alienate the Taliban, they are just going to gravitate towards people who oppose us, whether that's China, whether that's Russia, regardless of what China and Russia are doing to them. So it's in our best interest to have a discourse with them to be a part of how they want to rebuild, or at least not interfere to that degree. At least that's what I think one of those days keep your enemies close. But your enemies closer. Yeah, well, but just don't don't don't push them towards your enemies. And then I think that's really the basis of what any type of collaboration would be. And CNBC ran a story that the Pentagon stated exactly what john said, Taliban was helping with the evacuation app or effort keeping order, whatever that means to whomever. And the reason I brought up active measures before as I think we are as a country, and really interesting place where it's easy to divide the left from the right. And people forget that. Yeah, you could be on the left, you can be on the right, but you're still on American. And I think that should be the overarching thing that governs us. Always. That's my two cents.

John Wetzel:

Yeah. And I think internationally, it plays even more important role there. Like Eric, to your point, I kind of in my mind, I guess in my fiercest you know, alcohol field like anger sessions, I do want there to be something approaching like pots Romana, right like it, you know, pop hermana was this idea that in the Roman Empire, and even that it had challenges. But in the Roman Empire, a Roman citizen could literally walk anywhere. And all they would have to say is that I'm a Roman citizen, and nobody would touch that because they knew that if you kill one Roman citizen, you risk bringing the entire threat of the Roman Empire down on you. Um, I you know, I, I like that. I like that idea. But even in in Roman times, that that had its own challenges there. Um, and You know, I think in the geopolitical climate that we're in, in order to really secure an American nation, you have to think about, like, how do we work inside of this international international space, particularly in regions or countries that we may not entirely agree with? And I think that's really hard to note very politically charged environment where we want countries to 100% fall in line with what American view of democracy is, and how do we do that, and we want countries to like 100%, fall in line with what the American view of like human rights are, and like, you know, vehemently go after nations that aren't? Well, I, I get that, and I want that as well. But you also have to bring that into realities. And if you look at the past history of us, operated globally, there's been a lot of challenges where we've had been forced to choose between kind of two evils in which do you work with, but how do you work that and partner with that in a way that's below active conflict, to try and figure out how do we how do we make this work so that the whole of the US is actually maintained? And I think sometimes that does mean that we have to make deals with the devil in places, like, you know, like Afghanistan or with other countries that made borders. I mean, you gotta remember, countries that border that much influence there are strategically important. I always think about like Azerbaijan, you have Europe on one hand, you have Iran, the other you have Russia on the other, those are really strategically important countries that maybe we don't think enough about when you're thinking about, like, Great Russia has oil or natural gas, where are they putting that pipeline for that through

Shiva Maharaj:

journey?

John Wetzel:

You know, moving networks through how are they doing that?

Shiva Maharaj:

Germany around the Ukraine. But let's not talk about that, because that makes too much sense to talk about right. You know, one thing I'd like to pivot to and you know, this is not in line with the Afghanistan thing is China and the arm chips. I don't know if you're right up on that. JOHN, you wanted to discuss that?

John Wetzel:

Now as well educated on as I probably should be? You I guess like, which which area that do you want to take on

Shiva Maharaj:

Nortel part two. And for those of you that don't know about that highway or Huawei, as they call it, basically reverse engineered Nortel gear and started producing it on their own selling it, we think comp all I think compromised its other countries and were able to get in. But on a low level, a Chinese firm took over 51% of the company that have ARM Holdings, which controls the IP for the chips that most everything is based off of. And they just spun it out into their own company and took over the IP. Am I off base on that?

John Wetzel:

I believe that's correct. Yeah.

Shiva Maharaj:

Yeah. So now, again, China is in control, or a Chinese company is in control of IP for stuff we use, and they can pretty sure come around, put a tax on it or royalty charge on there, depending on how its structured. And that could potentially compromise our ability to manufacture chips, even if we want to do domestically.

John Wetzel:

So chip manufacturer is a whole whole world there, by the way, talk about the pivot arm to, to like, you know, semiconductor processing, and foundries like that's, that was masterful, I preach it that

Shiva Maharaj:

we try to

John Wetzel:

harbor manufacturing is a whole thing. And by that I mean, like when you're talking about semiconductors, you're talking about like, I think people, if you're not as familiar with semiconductor manufacturing, you may just think like, Oh, hey, these are just things that come out like B. Or maybe you just need to put that much thought into it. But I guess there's a couple things. One, there's two basic types of chips you have on FPGAs. And then you have a six chips on a six are like custom made the printed that's like what it's inside of your iPhone. And then you have that BGA is which are field programmable gate arrays. And those are kind of like a I don't know, it's like a Toyota like a Chevy chassis that they put into like 18 different cars, right, you can build a lot of different things on that for a lot of different purposes. Right? on when you're talking about how chips are made. Number one, the vast majority of them are made over in, I guess I'll just roughly put Asia around it. But on China, Taiwan, some are manufactured now in Vietnam and others, you know, some Asian, like mainly over in that in that region of the space that has, there's a lot of history, there's a lot of politics, Islamic economics that go into why that exists. But the majority of them are made over there. That doesn't mean that there is no chip manufacturing capability in United States. There are still companies that do you know, substantial business in that they just don't necessarily do it in the volume. And it doesn't end up in as many consumer products as the volume of semiconductors that are manufactured over in Asia. You saw some of that with like, there's some I'm not gonna name names, but there's like large manufacturers in Taiwan that due to COVID ended up not being able to produce much there's large centers in China. I think there was one if I remember correctly, I could be getting this one wrong. I think there was a semi conductor plant somewhere near the Wu Han and China. I was heavily Effective, Derek COVID had to shut down. And then it caused, you know, massive supply chain disruptions, you know, around the same like level of supply chain disruptions, apparently one boat getting stuck in a canal and HFT cars. But like, that's a whole other thing.

Shiva Maharaj:

I don't think that was an accident.

John Wetzel:

But when we're talking about, you know, supply chain security, I think there's a couple elements at play here. Number one, it's really, really, really, really hard to figure out whether or not somebody put an implant into hardware chip, like it's just really hard part of that is just how they're manufactured. You have layers of, of chips, like what you look at on the surface has like a bunch of connectors and stuff like that, there's actually several layers of connectors that go into manufacturer and ship, like the wafer itself has multiple layers that are that are printed on, and then another layer on top. And at the latest prototype, another layer is put on top. So the little transistors and things that you may have played around with from Radio Shack, there's actually a lot more like complicated system below that, that make these kind of hard to figure out once they're glued together, you can't peel off. So like, you know, is there secret traces. And there, there are other things that that we need to be concerned about. Number two, they're still at the high end, flipping over the other side, that are still this program called trusted foundry in the United States, which are basically firms that can still manufacture semiconductor chips, they don't do it nearly as cost efficiently as other places. But for very, very critical, sensitive applications. We go to that company, they're, you know, they have a lot of security protocols, they print out a lifetime buy of that chip for some company, and then those that are like we have a lot more confidence that, hey, this is everything that we need for that these are guaranteed or like or as much as the US government can say like, hey, we've done this. And then the US government comes in and basically buys out the full lifetime supply of that in my lifetime. I don't mean like, hey, this will last as long as this device and it says, hey, how many of these are we going to need for service repair for anything over the course of the next 30 years? Let's buy that many have been printed off at one time. And then you know, that company can go on manufacturing, whatever else they have. That problem is shrunk over the years because the number of semiconductor companies in the United States has shrunk as well. I think that's where you start getting into like supply chain concerns, like why what happens there? How are we going to get back what's going out there? Um, and there's also no like problem with IP there because they are, you know, going into really, really sensitive applications.

Shiva Maharaj:

But IP, the arm chips, if China controls that and shuts us off or throttles loss, what do you think the economic challenges would be?

John Wetzel:

I think that's, if that happens are going to be economic consequences are going to be devastating. But they're going to be devastating for all of us. And I think that's that's the one thing there there was always there's always been this overlying concern amongst circles of like, what happens if China calls back all of its us debt does all the like us debt, like the treasury bills and other things,

Shiva Maharaj:

values, their their holdings in their assets, where I see the weaponization of IP is if we begin to move production of these chips away from China, I think that's when China's gonna flex and say, Hey, guys, hold up. We own the IP. If you want to produce here, you're gonna have to pay a higher licensing fee. If you produce it in China, and we get your foreign exchange, then it's the status quo.

John Wetzel:

Yeah, but how does that work? Right? Like, like, how does that work? Hey, let's see an administration comes in and says you're no longer going to be producing semiconductor chips in China,

Shiva Maharaj:

just like almost happened last year? Well, last administration,

John Wetzel:

you have a wide, wide, wide net, is because basically every major company, which by the way, gives lots of money to every political party always come in and says, If you do this, we are you're destroying our business, right? You're absolutely destroying our business, because we do not have viable places to get these chips. We just don't exist. I do think like, you know, I don't want to trivialize the fact that, you know, these moves happen that China has continually like some of them are through things like the digital road initiative, which Eric you might have been toggled to before either digital road, or digital Silk Road initiative or things like United workfront where they tried to expand power there. I think this is another extension of that. I don't love that any one nation controls that much of a particular IP or product. That being said, the products have been out there, the manufacturing is what I'm concerned about. Because the manufacturing can say, Hey, you know, let's lead in to continue to supply but let's add in a little, you know, that's always been the major concern for God, let's add a little bit of our extra stuff so that we can tell what you're doing or we have an ability to weaken it so that maybe we can get into it later. Um, but I think like large scale moves like that cannot move things like that I don't see as likely because they're just it's it would be pyrrhic war, right. It literally hurts. It destroys us and it destroys them and destroys kind of the world economy. It does a lot of things that

Shiva Maharaj:

I think it destroys us more because we are we have the moral high ground and we go after them for IP infringement and all this other stuff. So if they say hey, we own the IP, the kind of making us to be hypocrites. Not that anyone cares, quite honest. What

John Wetzel:

did they? What are they going to? Do they have to go after that sound like the companies in the US are the ones that are the only ones that do it right? Like we also have, you'd have to enforce that globally, right? You'd have to go after Europe, you'd have to go after any of these other like substantial manufacturers. And ultimately, you might have like, they tried to unit unilaterally enforce it on a single country, you might have an organization like WTO come in and be like, yeah, they don't have to comply by that. And then basically, it's kind of like a speed limit in in traffic, right? Like a speed limit may be posted. But it nobody follows that does that is that really the speed limit, then? No,

Shiva Maharaj:

true. But then it puts us off center on what we say we do. Right? As

John Wetzel:

we're offset, or what we say.

Shiva Maharaj:

The other implication here is an ad and read up on this much is Alibaba, one of the board seats now belongs to the Chinese party. Are you familiar with that?

John Wetzel:

I mean, that's been kind of every Chinese, most companies. The fact that US government does not actively hold board seats on most of its major, like companies is a thing that's really unique around the world. It's a really, really unique around the world. Russia has joint stock companies where the Russian government owns like part of it. And then that's like a civilian group owns over China, we actively assume because their structure is so often stated, it's really hard. Like once you get to the top, if you ever want to just go down an absolute rabbit hole, try to find out what the board of directors of Tencent looks like trying to find out what the board of directors on any Chinese based company looks like any rapidly goes down a rabbit hole of we don't really know, their leadership gets so off, you skated there, and who owns what shares and how their control because the act of assumption is that the Chinese government owns like half of every company there anyhow, or at least signaled a substantial stake in a lot of these organizations.

Shiva Maharaj:

But don't you think that changes the game when they outright they outright say, Hey, we're on this board right now? And I think that's more for them to flex their power on the jack Maas?

John Wetzel:

Yeah, I think it's I think it's less about us. And it's more about that, right? I think it's less about, I think China makes a public move like that less, because they're like, we want to show us that we can do it. I think it's more so like, Hey, you guys are in our country, you get too far out of line, this is what we start doing in very publicly, this is what we start doing.

Shiva Maharaj:

You know, earlier, you mentioned Vietnam, and I, in another pivot, sorry. But I've been noticing a lot of manufacturing go there. But more importantly, a lot of foreign investment. Is that something that recorded future tracks or not really.

John Wetzel:

So over the past year, we've written a number of reports that are kind of mapping out and looking at principally folks from China and an investment in in engagement, I guess you can call about, okay, mapping the soft power there. And we're not the only ones that do this. There's a lot of other organizations that have been done really, really good work at kind of tracking, like things like, you know, digital Silk Road initiative, where's China spending money? How are they flexing it? And like, Where are these foreign money going? Um, I think it starts, it's not just limited to Vietnam is not just limited to areas like, you know, early on the call, we were talking about, like, areas in the Caribbean, right? I think like, people generally in the United States don't appreciate exactly how much foreign money particularly like let's just say at Chinese money, sometimes Russian money. Russia is a little slower at this, but kind of been very aggressive at sending out a lot of foreign money in terms of loans, in terms of business deals, in terms of least infrastructure, whether it's telecommunications devices and other things, to areas where it wants to make substantial investments. And they have been particularly heavy at doing that in areas where they think that they can flex influence in the future. Places like Vietnam. Yeah, there they've done. I've seen some of the same things that are happening there that they do very, very actively in places like Sub Saharan Africa, even in South America, there's a lot of infrastructure over there. So I don't think it's, it's certainly not something that's new. It's certainly something that is concerning for the long term ramifications. But it's kind of hard to grasp when you think about terms of like, you know, what, what's immediate, right? Like, it doesn't have an immediate grasp the very long term, it's like a 20 year play, but it ends up with a lot of power being consolidated in certain countries.

Shiva Maharaj:

But don't you think that's our biggest problem? We play the short game while they have been playing the long game, and it's really coming home to roost now,

John Wetzel:

I don't know if it's our biggest problem. I certainly think I certainly think that's one of the strategic challenges of the form of government that we've chosen is that particularly in a increasingly fractured society, or viewpoint society where people are increasingly connected, push towards margins of beliefs, and more importantly, push towards believing that their marginal view is The view there is no there's no middle ground, there's no compromise because that can affect your integrity is that then you when you do have changeover in forms of government, it happens on a on a tempo like we're really changed over everyone says like we change over government every four years No, no, no, we change over an executive every four years we change over our government every two, which means that realistically,

Shiva Maharaj:

I think we get on any government cycle, I think we get eight months of governing and the rest is campaign. And we're going up against you know, this, these are the pollutants who are in power for 10 2030 years. And it's really hard to keep focus when it's a new government or it's a new mix.

John Wetzel:

I think that that becomes one of the challenges, especially when you look at massive administration turnover. And when I say massive administration turnover is the way the US government is really built is that there's a couple different trenches, you're trying to separate our operational layer responsibilities and long term planning away from top level prioritization and executive leadership. And the way it's designed and functionally worked for a long time, up until right around, you could you could argue that Trump administration was really one of the first ones to really get in there. But it probably happened, though, like there was a lot of leading points up to before that was that you have kind of like a group of operators a group of people that are director level in administration's that don't turn over, they're not political appointees. And that is a lot of your, when you consider it like the called se s or Senior Executive Service inside of government, si s and intelligence service and things like that. These are civilians who have kind of they started off as a GS scale, they rose up, they got to an executive level, they are the directors of agencies, they are the directors of like, all of the organizations, you might think of it or be affiliated with government. above them set the political appointees, people that are there's cabinet level Secretary sub cabinet level secretaries. So the thought processes that you can change over a secretary of defense can change over and under Secretary of Defense, but the people that are actually doing the real work and planning below them are are staying in place. And they're the ones that structure. Now, administration prior to administration, 20 years ago, I didn't want to get in politics, I don't want to start getting off administration. But some have come in there and said, Hey, this service has gotten old, we need to clear them out. Or we need to minimize them or we need to do other things that for good and bad reasons. And then you have others that have come in and saying, Hey, we need to flex and put people in these admitted in these FCS corps because they're the people that are actually doing incision and writing things that I think as you started seeing administration's feeling more comfortable with figuring out like, hey, how do we minimize our how do we get our people into this, this operational Corps, then you start thinking about like, how are we starting to get more short term thinking baked into a structure that becomes a little bit more concerning a little harder to maneuver? Right. Right.

Shiva Maharaj:

Eric, anything you want to add in nob?

Eric Taylor:

John's been just this been hammering the good points, man. There's a lot to digest and take and stuff like that. It's always great to have john on here just to like, lobby up the question and feedback, I just soak it all up, man, it's awesome.

Shiva Maharaj:

One thing I do want to request a recorded future is guys to do something on on this topic, we discuss about the tech left behind, because I just think there you guys have a much broader reach than we do for now. We will overtake you one day? Probably not. But whatever is that I think there's a lot of misinformation out there that is creating more even more disharmony amongst us in the US. And I feel like someone should take a stand and say, let's really assess all the news out there fake real, whatever, and help people understand what was left behind and the type of impact it could make.

John Wetzel:

Yeah, I think it's, it's one of the things that I've been kind of trying to piece together for a little bit is a clear assessment of really what what is involved with Afghanistan, like, what do we have to look for there? Like, what's actually going on there? Um, I think there's a couple different levels. Again, politically, geopolitically. It's, it's, it's the right move to pull resources back, I probably would have argued that we should have done it, you know, to Eric's point, a very different way. But, you know, getting those resources out and figuring out how do we actually do it in a way that is structurally sound is, is critical, because we need to be focusing on other regions of the world right now. Particularly, I would say, Southeast Asia, and the kind of boiling pot that the South China Sea has become is important. And when you look at and of Russian influence, in particular, the everyone talks about Ukraine, but I worry about places like Estonia and I worry about like Russian infrastructure in like natural gas pipeline flexing, right, like with Germany and other areas there. I think those are those are critically important and figuring out like how do we deal with those regions of the world is going to become like the next prior station. They're, like, get below that operationally. I think that Um, you know, Afghanistan was was a time suck. It was, you know, you're you're sacrificing American lives and you know made like many veterans, I have asked myself the question of like, what do we do I have to fall back on the default answer of we did things that were important over there to try and keep conflict over there and away from the United States. I think there's counter arguments to that, which are, I think, any one understands as much as a veteran. Does, who's, you know, been? Didn't these conflict regions been second there and thinking about like, I, yeah, it kept conflict over there. But then you pair, you know, conflict, you hear, like a politician say that statements like, Oh, you know, that's not really an effective measure of power anymore. Logically, that may be true. But then why did I go over there and serve and do things right. And those are hard statements that and then, you know, the, I think at the bottom layer, you really do have this challenge of the various human struggle, there are people that are still going to be trying to get out of Afghanistan for a while, what is going to actually happen on the ground, there's a lot of uncertainty with what the government is doing. You know, I've heard anecdotal tales of individuals getting stopped on pathways at checkpoints as they're trying to make their way out of the country. Going through that having their phone pull out of pocket going through calling up numbers on there. Somebody who speaks English answer the phone, that person gets shot, right. Like that's, those are horrific tales. There's a human a very real human cost there that we have to think about. And what does that look like, for not just the people that are struggling to get out, but the people that are struggling to rebuild a lot of countries around the world, they're going to have this influx of refugees, United States included that they have no infrastructure, they may not have networks there, how are they going to get? What are they going to do in two years when their basic attempts and tax to get a big crowd search inspiring, where they're gonna go? How are they going to do it, I'm able to get an education system. So I think there's this responsibility there at a very human level to figure out like, what are we going to do? How are we going to operate? And how are we going to maintain a sense of connection with this place that we spent the last 20 years in whether you can argue about how we get in there, what we did, how we didn't get and get out? It's a very real place that has a lot of weight for many, many of us now. I

Eric Taylor:

really think like you've said, but I think we're not back on our heels a little bit. No, I don't think we're standings meal. Mood strong, they're really have a clear path going forward. Because it was really a political stance, where a hell or high water we will be out this date, in damn the consequences. So that's just my opinion, though. But

Shiva Maharaj:

I think we can come back from it, though. I think we're strong enough.

Eric Taylor:

There's not a question about coming back from for me, or learning from it. Sorry,

Shiva Maharaj:

maybe that's the better term?

Eric Taylor:

I don't know. I mean, jeez, I'm there. I'm not going to go down that path. Because we're going to go into massive different pivot that I'm sure john does not want to go down today. But I'm just saying, Look at the last the history of what's been happening in the country for the past couple years, I don't think many people really learn from history anymore. Like we used to,

Shiva Maharaj:

oh, there's too much information out there. Information is still accessible. And there's too many versions of the same

Eric Taylor:

topic out there. They're the two mini versions and good,

Shiva Maharaj:

real vague and everything in between. So for whoever's listening, just buyer intelligence from recorded future, call it a day, they're always right, sometimes.

John Wetzel:

7% of the time, we're right every time.

Shiva Maharaj:

There you go.

Eric Taylor:

So our clock is a broken clock is right twice a day. Right.

Shiva Maharaj:

With that, I'd like to talk sorry, gotcha.

John Wetzel:

Yeah, I just gonna say, Yeah, I really do. I really do appreciate the being able to come on and talk. And I think it's, you know, Eric, I feel Yeah, there's, there's a lot of things that, personally, I will say, I'm still trying to like, unwrap in my mind about like, you know, what happened? What do what's, what's the value and worth? And, you know, I think those are ever enduring struggles for everyone, particularly for veterans, particularly for veterans right now. And so I feel, you

Eric Taylor:

know, the the biggest thing, even from, you know, a veteran standpoint, if people if somebody would just come out and just openly answer questions, and if it's classified, or is part of operational, you know, integrity, just say, because of ongoing, you know, operations, we're not allowed to answer that question right now. Perfect. Got it. You've clearly stated you've got something going on, I'm okay with that. But the fact that somebody is not coming out and you know, doing the quote, unquote, I plead the fifth amendment because you know, we got crap going on is really discerning you, it's really putting way more questions, at least in my mind, and I think a lot of other people's minds, especially veterans, like what the fuck is going on? And why is nobody answering questions? Oh,

Shiva Maharaj:

some of that could be upset, Eric. They don't want to admit something's going on. But I think in the, in the case of the stuff that was behind the attack the gear someone from God or the governor should come and say, This is why we're not worried about it. Because there's a lot of disinformation around that stuff right now. So

Eric Taylor:

you always go back to, you know, any sort of, you know, I don't want to do Vegas pivot, but you know, if you're in an active shooter situation, or you've got some sort of crime situation going on, the police will simply say, we cannot comment because of an active investigation in airbase okay with that, why can we not do that with this? This is my question,

Shiva Maharaj:

hey, we'll find out in 15 years when things get unclassified. And they can write the story they want.

Eric Taylor:

And we'll have 13 different versions of that chip, but

John Wetzel:

then it'll be a history book, which to Eric's point I don't know somebody's gonna read

Shiva Maharaj:

Wait, we did we win because only with the winners get to write history

John Wetzel:

either winners anymore. See, we can go off we can

Shiva Maharaj:

participate. Everyone.

Eric Taylor:

Well, john would get this Are we allowed to salute like this? Or do we have to start saluting like this? The people who don't know you know, people who have never lost a war show the Paul our show their forehand in a salute. If you've lost a war, you show your palm in the salute. So but I did

Shiva Maharaj:

not know that already. with that. I would like to thank john for coming on today. And it's always fun having you on and getting to learn from you, Eric. Anything else?

Eric Taylor:

Nope. That's it for now. Thanks for so much for tuning in everybody. Again. Thanks to john, if you have made it to the end of this podcast. Thank you so much for putting up with a really, really long version of it. We really hope you enjoyed it. Please go to amplified and intensified.com spread the word. Tell us about the tell. Tell us tell about us to your friends and if I could talk this thing through really great until next time, y'all. Take care