Beijing’s ‘Great Firewall’ ahead of communist party congress; US military targets North Korean hackers; Russia offers internet lifeline to North Korea.

Chinese President Xi Jinping

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.

POLICY

National law and policy

  • United States President Donald Trump reportedly signed a directive on measures to be taken against North Korea. US Cyber Command was charged with disrupting internet access of North Korean hackers within the state’s intelligence service.
  • Authorities in Beijing announced the city would establish its own internet firewall to ‘attack all forms of political rumour and harmful messages’ ahead of the country’s 19th Communist Party Congress.
  • A hacking group linked to China allegedly stole documents related to dissident businessman Guo Wengui from a US-based law firm, Interpol and a Hong Kong bank. Guo also had his Facebook page deleted and suggested this was due to pressure from Beijing.
  • Russia’s state security service is requesting that messaging app Telegram turn over its encryption keys. This follows a similar move made by Iran last week.
  • Germany’s hate speech law has been enacted, meaning social media companies can be fined up to US$58 million for failing to remove incendiary content.
  • Australia unveiled its new International Cyber Engagement Strategy, a key component of the country’s national cyber security plan launched in early 2016.
  • Australia’s signals intelligence agency is recruiting offensive and defensive cyber specialists.
  • The investigation into interference by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service in the country’s 2012 presidential election revealed that South Korean cyber command secretly monitored domestic online activity for then-president Park Geun-hye after she was elected.
  • South Korea followed China in banning initial coin offerings, the fundraising model for new cryptocurrencies. Seoul will also closely regulate the trading of virtual currencies.
  • India established a committee under the National Security Council Secretariat to develop international cyber norms.

International policy

  • The European Court of Justice was asked to rule on whether Facebook and other tech companies are able to transfer user data from the EU to the US, given the higher standard of data protection that EU citizens are afforded.
  • China and the US are holding the first iteration of a new law enforcement and cyber security dialogue from 3–6 October.
  • The US and Ukraine held their first bilateral cyber dialogue in Kiev.
  • China and Serbia agreed to strengthen cooperation in high-tech industries and improve cross-border data flows between the two countries.
  • A Russian telecommunications company provided North Korea with a new internet connection.

Military

  • The US Department of Defense’s forthcoming cyber deterrence strategy is close to delivery, according to testimony given to Congress.
  • The French defence ministry is reportedly seeking to ban the use of Kaspersky Lab products.
  • The US Air Force is accelerating the development of its Cyber Mission Platform, which will enable the operation, management and delivery of cyber tools and weapons.
  • The US Army held Cyber Blitz, an exercise focused on the integration of cyber and electromagnetic activities.

US and Republic of Korea air forces

Private sector

  • The US House and Senate intelligence committees will both hold open hearings inviting Facebook, Google and Twitter to give testimony on Russian interference in the US presidential election.
  • Twitter found and deleted 200 Russian-linked accounts.
  • Facebook is hiring 1,000 staff to review adverts on the platform. The company also stated that Russian advertising on the platform was seen by up to 10 million users.
  • Chinese social media platform Weibo is recruiting 1,000 content supervisors who will be responsible for censoring posts. Weibo was one of the three firms fined by China’s internet regulator last week.
  • Chinese search engine Baidu added a ‘rumour’ tag that will be used to distinguish fake news.
  • Apple released its latest transparency report, showing the company received a record number of national security requests from the US in the first half of 2017. Google’s transparency report also showed US government requests reached a six-year high in the same period.
  • Kenyan telecommunications firm Safaricom was accused by presidential candidate Raila Odinga of failing to transmit election results from polling stations to the central election servers. Safaricom denies the allegations.
  • Chinese drone manufacturer DJI Technologies enabled a local data mode for its devices, after the US and Australian militaries halted use of its drones due to concerns about data privacy.

NATIONAL SECURITY THREATS

Government breaches

  • It was revealed that Hewlett Packard Enterprise submitted to a source code review by Russia’s technical and export control body in 2016. The review of a sensitive cyber defence system that is widely used in the US military and private sector has raised security concerns.
  • Following recent coverage about White House officials using personal email accounts to conduct government business, it was reported that the National Security Agency had briefed officials about the vulnerabilities associated with personal devices.
  • Websites belonging to Denmark’s central bank and the Prime Minister’s Office were targeted with denial-of-service attacks in retribution for a minister sharing a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad.

Critical infrastructure

  • Security researchers alleged a hacking group linked to the Chinese government was responsible for hacking UK software developer Piriform and planting malware on its popular file cleaning programme. The group appears to have targeted a small number of multinational organisations, leading to suggestions that the activity was geared towards intellectual property theft.

Strategic investment

  • The Committee on Foreign Investment in the US blocked Chinese company NavInfo from buying a stake in HERE Technologies, a mapping company.

DIGITAL RIGHTS

  • Bangladesh banned the sale of SIM cards to Rohingya refugees, citing security concerns. Bangladesh already requires citizens to provide a biometric identity card before buying SIM cards, but refugees will likely have to wait months until these can be issued.
  • Cameroon’s government blocked social media access in Anglophone regions in response to protests.
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