Our weekly digest of the world's cyber security news.

© Getty Images/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/Staff

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

  • US Senator John McCain stated that the Vault7 leak may lead to a re-evaluation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is due to expire at the end of 2017.
  • Rob Joyce has been confirmed as White House Cyber Coordinator. Joyce has worked at NSA for 25 years, most recently as head of the Tailored Access Operations unit.
  • The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded BAE Systems a US$8.6 million contract to aid in restoring power to the electric grid in the event of a cyber attack.
  • The Malaysian National Security Council has been called on to improve ‘cyber security’ for the general election, after an official in the prime minister’s office referred to the threat posed by ‘baseless allegations and misinformation in cyberspace’ and alleged that the opposition used social media to spread false information.
  • South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning said it is preparing for possible attacks from North Korea during annual South Korea–US joint military exercises that began this month; the government cyber crisis alert has been set at three out of five. 
  • Singapore proposed amendments to the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act to strengthen the ability to prosecute cybercriminals. If accepted, the amendments would criminalise trading in stolen personal information, the buying and selling of malware that facilitates illegal hacking as cybercrimes emanating from overseas that cause ‘serious harm’ to Singapore.
  • Pakistan’s Minister of State for Information said it would use cybercrime and defamation laws to take actions against chairman Imran Khan of the political party Pakistan Tehreek-i-insaf.
  • Chile’s Attorney General’s office signed a collaboration agreement with Microsoft for consulting on technological tools and methods for combating cybercrime.
  • Poland’s Digital Affairs Ministry has released a draft cyber security strategy. SC Magazine reports that the strategy seeks to improve the government’s ability to respond to cyber attacks, in part by implementing new legislation.

International policy

  • The FBI has placed a US$3 million bounty on Russian cybercriminal Evgeniy M. Bogachev. US authorities allege that the Russian government is aware of his behaviour and has ‘piggybacked’ on his exploits for the benefit of intelligence gathering.
  • The US Justice Department has charged four defendants, two of whom are officials in the Russian security service, for the 2014 Yahoo data breach.
  • In the lead up to the election in the Netherlands, several websites – including publicly funded voting guides and the site of the NL Times – were hit with DDoS attacks. Hackers also hijacked Twitter accounts to spread pro-Erdogan and anti-Dutch messages. These incidents are linked to the dispute between the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey over the latter’s right to hold pro-referendum rallies for Turkish expatriates living in the Netherlands and Germany.
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in 2016 NATO experts handled an average of 500 cyber incidents per month, a 60% increase compared to 2015.
  • Representatives from the European Commission attended a meeting with other European stakeholders and key US internet companies, the topic was removing terrorist content online.
  • A report by Trend Micro and INTERPOL on cybercrime in West Africa finds that poverty and unemployment levels are the major drivers of this trend, and projects that cybercriminals will increasingly interact with underground markets to purchase more sophisticated tools.

Military

  • Canada has confirmed that the troops it will deploy to Latvia in June will include cyber troops with a defensive mandate and the capacity to counter information operations.
  • Poland’s draft cyber security strategy also highlights the need for new regulations to cover the ‘producing, handling, acquiring [and use of] special tools … to perform military activities in cyber-space’. The strategy states the armed forces will invest in cyber defence capabilities.

© Getty Images/NurPhoto/Contributor

NATIONAL SECURITY

Government breaches

  • The CIA and FBI are cooperating on an investigation of WikiLeaks’ publication of documents detailing CIA activities and tools. A set of documents related to UMBRAGE group have been used as evidence for claims that the CIA recycles code from foreign states in ‘false-flag’ operations, casting doubt on the US intelligence community’s assertion that Russia was behind the DNC hack last year. Others have pointed to questions about WikiLeaks’ motivation and have argued that copying code is not unusual for hackers as it can save time and money.
  • China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called on the US to stop wiretapping, surveillance, espionage and cyber attacks against China and other countries in response to the Vault7 documents.
  • Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves spoke at the US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russian hacking and propaganda efforts to undermine NATO and the EU, stating ‘this will be the main battlefield over the next year’. 

 Critical infrastructure

  • The UK’s GCHQ warned of the Russian cyber threat to UK political parties, and is working to educate political leaders on risk management.
  • RAND Corporation released a report on zero-day vulnerabilities, finding that only 5.7% of stockpiled vulnerabilities would be publicly disclosed by another entity within a year.
  • Malaysian media reported that the country is preparing for possible cyber attacks from North Korea after the murder of Kim Jong-un’s brother.
  • South Korea’s Financial Services Commission warned of an increased need to improve cyber security for the country’s financial networks citing recent North Korean military provocations, the THAAD deployment, and President Park’s impeachment.
  • MTN Business South Africa said African banks and telecommunications companies are seeking collaboration and partnerships to handle malware threats to the mobile banking sector.

DIGITAL RIGHTS

  • An Amnesty International report found that in Azerbaijan, a ‘government-sponsored’ cyber attack targeted human-rights activists, journalists and political dissidents using email and Facebook.
  • A joint declaration from ‘leading monitors of freedom of expression’ states that government efforts to tackle disinformation could lead to censorship or suppression. The declaration outlines principles that should be applied to ensure that human rights are protected in this context.
  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers launched a project that will ‘articulate accountability and clarity around how algorithms target, assess and influence users and stakeholders of autonomous or intelligent systems.’
  • Facebook announced new policies for Facebook and Instagram that prohibit developers using data from these platforms to construct tools that are used for surveillance.
  • A member of the Digital Society of Zimbabwe said the organisation has raised concerns with the government over the proposed Cyber Crime Bill and violations to the right to privacy.

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