Trump squeezed on signing sanctions on Russia; UK and Australia distrustful of Huawei; Putin tightens grip on VPN; Beijing spies on Uighurs in China.

Vladimir Putin. Credit: Flickr/bildredaktion

By Harriet Ellis, Research Analyst and Administrative Assistant, Future Conflict and Cyber Security, and Samantha Hoffman, Research Consultant, Future Conflict and Cyber Security and Defence and Military Analysis.

GOVERNMENT

National law and policy

  • The United States House of Representatives passed a bill to apply new sanctions against key Russian officials for their interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The bill included a provision requiring Congress’ approval to remove these measures. Despite President Trump’s concerns, the White House has signalled that the president will sign the legislation.
  • The US House Appropriations Committee approved a spending measure that would provide about US$1.8 billion for a Department of Homeland Security cyber unit.
  • The Obama administration’s plan to counter a possible cyber attack on election day was leaked. The plan allowed for the deployment of law enforcement and military forces if a ‘significant incident’ took place, and stated that Russian hackers had infiltrated the electoral systems of Florida and New Mexico.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to pass a law banning the use of VPN services in the country.
  • Russia’s Federation Council approved new legislation that mandates all critical information infrastructures be monitored and their cyber security defences reported.
  • The United Kingdom will invest £14.5 million in a new cyber security innovation centre.
  • The UK’s Department for International Trade granted a license to allow the export of surveillance technology to Turkey.
  • Ukraine’s security agency reportedly dismantled fibre optic cables that connected the country and Crimea. The move follows allegations that an internet provider operating in Ukraine was routing internet traffic through Crimea in the interests of the Russian government.
  • China issued a new national development plan for artificial intelligence.
  • South Korean media reported that the country’s foreign ministry will sign a contract with an external agency to develop a 2018–2022 cyber security road map.
  • Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called for the government to consider regulating social media.
  • Qatari websites and television channels, which have been blocked in Saudi Arabia since early June, were briefly unblocked. An official stated that this was due to a technical glitch.

International policy

  • The US Department of Justice announced the shutdown of AlphaBay and Hansa, darknet marketplaces that trafficked illegal narcotics, firearms and malware. The operation involved authorities in Thailand, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Lithuania, Canada, the UK, as well as officers from Europol.
  • The legal battle between Google and France on whether the tech company must enforce the ‘right to be forgotten’ globally has been referred to the European Court of Justice. A ruling against Google would require the company to expunge search results globally, rather than within national borders.
  • Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said it will expand cooperation with France in ‘civil society security and countering cybercrime’.
  • The US and Japan issued a joint statement following the conclusion of the fifth Japan–US Cyber Dialogue.
  • The Cyberspace Administration of China said the 2017 World Internet Conference would be held in Wuzhen in early December.

Jordan's Minister of Foreign Affairs visits NATO

Military

  • Chinese researchers announced they have successfully demonstrated quantum key distribution over 53km, breaking the previous record of 10km.
  • South Korean media reported that the defence ministry is considering reform measures for its Cyber Command and the Defence Security Command.
  • NATO partnered with the Jordanian Armed Forces to establish a computer emergency response team.
  • The US Army opened a cyber analytics lab, which gives partners in industry and government access to real-time, sensitive data.

Private sector

  • Microsoft’s lawsuit against Fancy Bear has enabled the company to take control of 70 different command-and-control servers used by the hacking group, as many of the domain names registered infringe on the company’s trademarks.
  • Insurer Lloyd’s of London and cyber-risk modelling firm Cyence reported that a major disruption to cloud services could cause losses of US$53 billion, most of which are currently uninsured.

NATIONAL SECURITY

Government breaches

  • The BBC reported that the June cyber attack against the UK Parliament may have affected 77 people who sent personal information to a House of Commons select committee.
  • Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven confirmed that the government had exposed military secrets and information of individuals in witness protection to foreign entities without security clearance.

Critical infrastructure

  • Azerbaijan’s state security agency announced that the network of a major bank in the country has been breached, enabling cybercriminals to steal over US$2 million.
  • US homeland security issued an alert about ‘CrashOverride’, the malware used to take down Ukraine’s power grid.
  • Wired magazine suggested that the recent upset on the Nasdaq, which saw stock prices of Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and others reset to US$123.47, may have been a state-sponsored cyber attack.

Strategic investment

  • Australian foreign intelligence reportedly warned the Solomon Islands that it may refuse to connect a 4,000km undersea cable from the country to Sydney because of security fears over Huawei’s involvement.
  • An annual report from the UK’s Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre said the risk to national security posed by the use of Huawei products in the UK’s critical infrastructure have been sufficiently mitigated. 

Uigurs in Xinjiang, China

DIGITAL RIGHTS

  • The Chinese government is reportedly forcing citizens in the Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang to install spyware on their mobile phones. The ‘Clean Internet’ app monitors stored content, blocks certain websites and apps, and sends data to a government server.
  • The Cyberspace Administration of China gave a list of ‘immediate cleaning and rectification’ orders to top technology firms including Tencent Holdings Ltd., Baidu Inc. and Sohu.Com Inc.
  • The internet shutdown in Darjeeling, India has been extended until 4 August.
  • A Kyrgyzstan court blocked the US-based Internet Archive (archive.org), due to ‘extremist content’. 
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