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Security Brief: NORTHCOM Week of March 7, 2022

Updated: Mar 30

Week of Monday, March 7, 2022 | Issue 02

Jan García, Maria Ruehl, Zachary Itterman, NORTHCOM Team

Alessandra Ciffo, Editor



Banner against the Freedom Convoy misinformation last month in Toronto.[1]



Date: March 8, 2022

Location: Canada

Parties involved: Canadian Government; Canadian President Justin Trudeau; US Government; US President Joe Biden; Freedom Convoy Members; Russian President Vladimir Putin; Russian Government; Ukraine

The event: The “Freedom Convoy,” a Canadian group protesting against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions, has started spreading misinformation on online forums about the Russia-Ukraine issue, decrying Western intervention in the conflict and expressing support for Russia. Members of the Freedom Convoy presented without context a photo of a mall in Ukraine with the swastika symbol, justifying Russian President Putin’s military intervention to de-nazify Ukraine.[2]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The Freedom Convoy is very likely seeking to destabilize both the Canadian and American governments by spreading misinformation on the Ukraine conflict, questioning their sanctions against Russia, and supporting President Putin’s military actions. The Freedom Convoy forums are very likely to increase the spread of misinformation through Canadian citizens who will likely develop distrust in their government, likely influencing voting decisions. This misinformation spread online, especially the narrative around the Ukraine conflict, will likely bias the view of reality, causing Canadians’ distrust of national official information sources and likely affecting their credibility.

  • The Freedom Convoy Telegram channels will likely spread worldwide biased statements, such as US bioweapons manufactured in Ukraine, likely affecting the US international credibility. Different countries, especially those who still have a neutral position in the Ukrainian conflict like Mexico, will likely consider these statements and re-evaluate their relations with the US. These countries will likely reduce the import of US goods and services and reconsider Russian President Putin’s military actions. Russia will likely benefit from this situation, increasing its political power in the international scenario.


Date: March 8, 2022

Location: McLean, Virginia, USA

Parties involved: US Government; Iranian Government; US Intelligence Community; Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI); Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

The event: The ODNI published a series of threat assessments warning the US Intelligence Community of Iranian nuclear and cyber threats. The threat assessments show that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and increasing Iranian cyber capabilities.[3] The extent of Iran’s cyber capabilities is currently unknown, and at present, Iran has not fully developed a nuclear weapon.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The past Iran-US tense relationship will very likely lead Iran to reduce the US’s access to its oil reserves. If Iran reduces selling oil to the US, it will very likely lead the US to increase national oil production, likely raising the national oil prices. Increased national oil prices will very likely affect the US income, reducing national consumption due to the citizens' afforded inability. A weakened US economy will likely limit the administration’s trading budget to address global trade, such as net exports.

  • Iran is likely considering investing more funds in its cyber capabilities to use them against the US as a retaliation to the assassination strike against Soleimani. The rise of Iranian cyber capabilities will very likely lead to Iranian cyberattacks targeting the US government networks to obtain US classified information and use them against the US, likely threatening its national security and safety. Iran could very likely use malicious software variants like malware, ransomware, and spyware, to hack and attack US federal systems, which would likely further threaten CISA from securing national and international classified information.


Date: March 10, 2022

Location: Mexico

Parties involved: The Jalisco New Generation Cartel; The Sinaloa Cartel; Colombian Organized Crime Groups; United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime; Mexican Government; Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador; Member of the Control Board Raul Martin del Campo

The event: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report said the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel are turning to the internet, bitcoin, and e-commerce to launder money and sell drugs. Mexican cartels are expected to launder approximately 25 billion USD a year, avoiding conventional money-laundering controls and maintaining anonymity, protection, and speed of online money transactions. Cartels can also use virtual accounts to buy a series of small amounts of bitcoin online to obscure the origin of the money.[5]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The money-laundering anonymity on online transactions will almost certainly enable the actions of Mexican cartels to occur without detection, limiting the ability of law enforcement to detect and prevent criminal activities. The speed of online transactions will likely challenge law enforcement investigations in promptly detecting cartels operations, likely allowing cartels to strengthen their illicit trafficking. The funds raised through money laundering online will likely cause an increase in corruption, organized crime, violence, and poverty lines in Mexico. If the Mexican government and law enforcement do not use counter-response efforts and operations proper to this threat, cartels operations will likely continue to increase.

  • Using online platforms to conduct drug dealing can likely threaten societal health due to their easy access, likely increasing the number of drug consumers, and likely affecting those countering the drug crisis. Drug dealing online will likely increase the chances of buying impure drugs, such as those laced with fentanyl, as the consumer will likely not be aware of what they are receiving. The health services will likely see an increase in inpatient admissions of drug-related illnesses, with an even chance of services becoming overloaded.

  • The exploitation of the internet for drug dealing is very likely to enable cartels operations to reach a larger customer base, likely increasing profits and opening to international illicit trade, paying partners globally. Cartels will likely expand their reach and operations into other illegal trades and markets, such as sex and weapons trafficking, likely growing their influence and becoming a challenge for law enforcement agencies to counter respond to these threats.

________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1] Counter Protest by michael_swan licensed under Creative Commons

[2] ‘Freedom convoy’ forums find new focus: disinformation about Russia-Ukraine war, Global News, March 2022, https://globalnews.ca/news/8659667/ukraine-russia-convoy-misinformation-conspiracy/

[3] U.S. intelligence shows Iran threats on U.S. soil, but Blinken and Schiff say this shouldn't derail new nuclear deal, CBS News, March 2022, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/iran-threats-pompeo-nuclear-deal/

[4] Annual Threat Assessment Of The U.S. Intelligence Community, Office of The Director of National Intelligence, February 2022, https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/ATA-2022-Unclassified-Report.pdf

[5] Mexican cartels turn to bitcoin, internet, e-commerce, ABC News, March 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/mexican-cartels-turn-bitcoin-internet-commerce-83367341

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