Germany braced for Russian interference in September elections; re-election of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta overturned by Supreme Court; North Korea’s nuclear test expunged from Chinese social media.

Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel

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 Department of Justice threatened to force technology companies to give law enforcement access to encrypted communications.
  • An official working group in Russia criticised the Ministry of Communications’ draft order that lays out what data internet service providers must provide to the federal security service.
  • Poland’s Ministry of Digital Affairs is drafting legislation expected to put in place content controls for social media platforms.
  • Norway is securing IT systems to prevent vote tampering, ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections on 11 September.
  • The Republic of Macedonia fined a person €400 (nearly US$500) for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Facebook, marking the first use of the country’s lèse majesté laws since independence.
  • Hungary’s interior ministry accepted recommendations on new surveillance legislation from the national data protection authority.
  • Kazakhstan’s minister for communications denied that the government had blocked social networking sites in the country after people reported issues accessing WhatsApp and Instagram in early September.
  • Vietnam’s President Trần Đại Quang called for tougher control of information online, referring to dissidents’ attempts to ‘undermine the prestige of the leaders of the party and the state’.
  • Venezuela’s national assembly drafted legislation to regulate content posted on websites and social media platforms.
  • Malawi’s communications regulator and national police force signed a memorandum of agreement promising closer anti-cybercrime cooperation between the two organisations.
  • Botswana’s defence and security minister announced that a cybercrime bill was ready to be passed through parliament.

International policy

  • Denmark and Sweden launched a partnership to counter Russian information operations.
  • China and Tajikistan agreed on a programme of strategic cooperation in law enforcement and security, including intelligence sharing on terrorism, extremism, and cybercrime.
  • At a meeting of foreign ministers from Nordic and Baltic states and the United Kingdom, Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs stated that Russian disinformation campaigns pose a significant challenge to the US and its allies.
  • At the BRICS summit in Xiamen, China, leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa pledged to ‘advocate the establishment of internationally applicable rules for security of ICT infrastructure, data protection and the internet’.

Ukrainian marine during Rapid Trident 2014

Military

  • Ukraine will hold a series of strategic command and control exercises and host NATO’s Rapid Trident exercise this month. These drills will overlap with the Russian–Belarusian Zapad 2017 exercises, which are expected to include information warfare components.

Private sector

  • The European Court of Justice requested a lower court reconsider an anti-trust fine imposed on Intel.
  • Facebook announced it would prevent fake news pages from buying advertisements on its platform.

NATIONAL SECURITY

Government breaches

  • Kaspersky Lab, a cyber security firm that US officials have accused of cooperating with Russian intelligence agencies, published a report on cyber espionage activities emanating from Russia. The hacking group – codenamed WhiteBear – appears to be a subset of the well-documented Turla group. WhiteBear’s activity has targeted European embassies, defence companies, and government institutions for over a year.
  • Cyber security researchers also linked a separate cyber espionage campaign to Turla group.
  • A German government official stated that her website had been hit with thousands of cyber attacks, the majority of which came from Russian IP addresses. German security agencies are  reportedly bracing for Russian-backed interventions in the lead up to the country’s parliamentary elections.
  • Security firm FireEye reported that a Chinese cyber espionage campaign against government and corporate institutions in Vietnam has increased in intensity in recent weeks. A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry denied the allegations.
  • WikiLeaks published documents allegedly related to a CIA project called Angelfire.
  • The Shadow Brokers promised to release more National Security Agency exploits as part of their monthly subscription service.
  • The telecommunications authority of the United Arab Emirates stated that governmental and non-governmental organisations in the country had faced nearly 300 cyber attacks in the first half of 2017.
  • Government websites in Myanmar were defaced by hackers critical of the country’s treatment of its Muslim minority.

Kenyan crowd

Critical infrastructure

  • Symantec published a report on Dragonfly 2.0 (also known as ‘Energetic Bear’), a state-sponsored cyber espionage actor that has been carrying out a campaign against energy companies in the US and Europe since December 2015. The report stated that in some cases, the attacks have gained access to core operational control systems that would enable hackers to cause energy blackouts.
  • Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the result of the country’s re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta, stating the electoral commission had committed ‘irregularities and illegalities’.
  • US media reported that states are being denied the funding required to ensure that voting equipment and processes are adequately protected from cyber interference.
  • Universities in the United Kingdom are increasingly targeted by hackers attempting to steal research.

DIGITAL RIGHTS

  • Two United Nations rapporteurs issued a statement on Egypt’s internet restrictions, arguing that the government’s move to block approximately 130 sites infringes on freedom of expression.
  • China reportedly blocked Sina Weibo users from searching for content related to hydrogen bombs, following North Korea’s recent nuclear test.
  • Researchers identified new espionage malware targeting mobile phones. The campaign appears to be linked to an earlier deployment of malware on devices used by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong in 2014.
  • Palestinian authorities arrested a human rights activist after he posted comments on Facebook condemning the arrest of a journalist who criticised the country’s leaders.
  • The European Court of Human Rights ruled that a Romanian man should not have been fired from his job for sending private messages while at work, limiting the right of companies to monitor their employees’ communications without notifying them in advance.
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