China issues new rules for online messaging and social media; Russia and South Africa increase dialogue on information security; EU defence ministers hold cyber war game in Tallinn; India reconsiders data privacy.

Chinese delegates at National Peoples Congress

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 Cyberspace Administration of China issued new rules for instant messaging, requiring chat group administrators to take responsibility for content posted online. Service providers of public social media accounts must also follow similar regulations.
  • Russia’s state security body will take on a major role in implementing policy designed to protect critical national infrastructure from cyber attacks. The Federal Security Service will establish and coordinate a system to monitor threats and ensure operators comply with security and reporting requirements.
  • Tom Bossert, the United States Homeland Security Advisor, stated that the United States would enact cross-domain responses to deter cyber attacks on critical infrastructure. He also suggested that the US could follow Israel’s example of creating a ‘virtual iron dome’ to safeguard critical infrastructure from cyber threats.
  • A US Senate appropriations subcommittee approved a spending bill that would prohibit US assistance to governments that contribute to the ‘malicious cyber-intrusion capabilities’ of North Korea.
  • Canada’s communications security agency stated for the first time that it has a ‘rigorous process in place to review and assess software vulnerabilities’.
  • China’s central bank banned initial coin offerings, effectively stopping fundraising for new cryptocurrencies within the country.
  • Spain’s data watchdog fined Facebook over US$1.4 million for violating data protection laws.
  • Turkey announced plans to release a new national cyber security strategy.
  • Following the Supreme Court ruling that individuals have a fundamental right to privacy, India’s minister for law and IT announced the government would develop data protection legislation.
  • Iran’s communications minister said the country will reduce its dependence on Google products.
  • Uganda’s government is launching a campaign against online pornography, which will include developing software that blocks pornographic material.

President Jacob Zuma and President Vladimir Putin

International policy

  • Russia and South Africa agreed to establish a bilateral dialogue on international information security. The agreement stated that the two countries share a common position on the threats posed by ICTs, and will inaugurate a joint approach for responding to threats, advancing relevant international law and implementing research and development projects.
  • The European Commission released a proposal covering common cyber security measures for member states. The Commission recommends cementing the role of the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security as the key cyber security agency, and providing it with more resources to develop policy, implement capacity-building programmes, support research, and establish a cyber security certification scheme.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss bilateral relations, including the need for cooperation on cyber security.
  • European Union defence ministers participated in a cyber war game in Tallinn that involved cyber attacks on an EU naval mission and concurrent information operations on social media.
  • In mid-September EU finance ministers will discuss a proposal to tax multinational technology companies based on where they operate, rather than where they are registered.
  • The US and Kuwait held their second bilateral strategic dialogue, which included discussion of long-term cooperation on cyber threats.
  • Serbia and China agreed to cooperate on security matters, including using new technologies to tackle organised crime and terrorism.
  • Ten ASEAN member states as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea took part in the 2017 iteration of ASEAN’s cyber drill.

Military

  • China is building the largest quantum research facility in the world to support the development of technology that can support the armed forces, such as providing improved code-breaking capabilities and enabling stealth functions of submarines.
  • NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment said the alliance was establishing a cyber defence command. Member states will remain responsible for offensive capabilities.
  • Azerbaijan’s deputy chief of state security requested that civilians cease posting content about the Nagorno–Karabakh conflict on social media as they disclose military tactics.
  • US Army Chief Lt-Gen. Paul Nakasone said the WannaCry ransomware epidemic in May was a ‘seminal’ event for the Pentagon and the military.
  • US Cyber Command standardised training for cyber troops across all military services.

US Air Force pilots

Private sector

  • Facebook disclosed that Russian actors set up about 470 fake accounts and spent over US$100,000 on Facebook ads featuring divisive issues like LGBT rights, gun control and immigration. A spokesperson for the Kremlin denied Moscow’s involvement.
  • Twitter is expected to give testimony on whether the platform was used in a similar way.
  • Google stated it does not have any evidence that its platform was used as part of a Russian propaganda campaign.
  • Facebook hired a former Chinese official to manage government relations and is reportedly setting up an office in Shanghai. Facebook has been blocked in the country since 2009, but was able to launch a standalone app for Chinese users last month.
  • Apple faces an anti-trust case from Chinese app developers who say their apps are unfairly removed from the online Apple Store.
  • Apple’s new operating system will make it harder for law enforcement to extract data from mobile phones.
  • Microsoft offered advice for the forthcoming EU cyber security strategy.

NATIONAL SECURITY

Government breaches

  • South Korea’s foreign ministry reported a sharp rise in the number of cyber attacks from China compared to last year.
  • Sweden’s National Police Chief gave a Canadian company access to personal information about officers.

Critical infrastructure

  • Norway is tightening security measures ahead of parliamentary elections later this month, including manually counting all votes.
  • A review of the software that will be used to count votes in Germany’s upcoming elections found a ‘host of problems and security holes’.
  • Over 50 Madagascan government websites and 4,000 official email accounts have been offline since 21 August due to a strike over unpaid wages at the national e-governance agency.

DIGITAL RIGHTS

  • Internet and mobile services were shut down in Togo in West Africa amid anti-government protests.
  • Internet services were shut down in Rajasthan state, India to ‘check rumours from spreading’.
  • An activist in Palestine was arrested for a Facebook post that called for President Mahmoud Abbas to resign.
  • Authorities in India were criticised for censoring online discussions about the conflict in Kashmir.
  • Up to 143 million US citizens – 44% of the country’s population – have had their personal data stolen due to a breach of credit reporting company Equifax. A group claiming responsibility for the hack threatened to dump the information online if the company doesn’t pay US$2.6 million.
  • A blogger in Kenya was arrested for Facebook posts critical of the government.
  • The website of a pro-democracy organisation in Hong Kong was hacked and made to display pro-China messages. 
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