North Korea steals warship blueprint from South; Cyber attacks an act of war, according to EU draft paper; New York Times now available on dark web.

North Korean guard

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

  • The United States announced a new set of sanctions on 39 Russian entities, partly in response to Russian cyber attacks and intrusions.
  • The US is developing a new national cyber security strategy.
  • An official announced the US will release more information about North Korea’s cyber tactics and infrastructure in an effort to increase resilience to state hackers.
  • New regulation has entered into effect in Russia, requiring providers of virtual private networks to block access to censored websites.
  • China’s internet authority issued two regulations targeted at online news providers. The Cyberspace Administration of China is mandating new training for ‘online media employees’ and a risk assessment for the use of new media technologies.
  • A coordinated network of Twitter bots posted content that was critical of Chinese dissident Guo Wengui. Chinese security services attempted to apprehend Guo in New York City last week, kicking off a diplomatic dispute.
  • The ongoing investigation into the involvement of South Korea’s cyber command in online propaganda found the organisation had written and hosted pro-government content on a purpose-built news site.
  • Israeli officials are concerned about the possibility of fake news, political leaks and denial-of-service attacks disrupting the country’s upcoming general election.
  • Qatar appears to have blocked citizens from accessing video and voice calling service Skype.

International policy

  • European Union governments have reportedly drafted a position paper on cyber attacks, stating that such attacks can be considered acts of war, justifying the use of conventional force in response.
  • Russia and China discussed establishing a shared cyber defence system to protect critical infrastructure.
  • Australia and Israel moved to strengthen bilateral cooperation on cyber security.

Military

  • Kazakhstan’s new military doctrine outlines government plans to establish cyber security groups within the armed forces and to improve training in cyber defence.
  • The US Marines are standing up forward-deployed defensive cyber teams, charged with protecting networks on deployment.
  • The Australian Armed Forces is sending additional troops to the Philippines to support counter-terrorism operations, including countering Islamic State propaganda.
  • The Indian army is planning to recruit female cyber troops.

Women officers in Indian Army

Private sector

  • Facebook, Twitter and Google provided testimony to US officials about the role their platforms played in Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Among the reports from the hearing was an estimate from Facebook that up to 126 million Americans saw Russian propaganda from a content farm on the platform. The companies all declined to say they would support proposed legislation to increase transparency about political advertising online, but did announce new policies to tackle the issue.
  • Twitter announced a raft of measures, including a new initiative to give users greater visibility into who funds adverts, labelling political adverts, and banning Russian media companies RT and Sputnik from advertising on the site. The company also revealed it had been overestimating the number of monthly active users on the platform since 2014, including automated accounts along with genuine accounts.
  • Facebook announced it would authenticate advertisers before they can purchase adverts and maintain a searchable archive of adverts and who they targeted.
  • Google announced a partnership with the International Fact-Checking Network to help identify fake news.
  • The New York Times established a site on the dark web. Readers in countries where the newspaper’s website is censored – notably China – will be able to use a special browser to view the site.
  • Academic publisher Springer Nature agreed to censor articles covering sensitive topics, including Tiananmen Square, Tibet and the cultural revolution, from appearing in China.
  • Online discussion forum Reddit updated its rules on violent content and removed threads titled ‘National Socialism’, ‘Nazis’ and ‘Far Right’.
  • US cyber security software company McAfee stated it would no longer allow foreign governments to conduct reviews of the source code of its products, after concerns that the reviews could help states find vulnerabilities in widely-used software to exploit in cyber attacks.

NATIONAL SECURITY THREATS

Government breaches

  • Canada’s intelligence agency said that government networks face approximately 50 cyber attacks from nation-state actors each week, with at least one of these being successful.
  • A report from the Czech Republic’s military intelligence agency found that cyber-enabled espionage against government and defence targets was growing.
  • Personal information relating to thousands of Australian government employees was exposed by an unknown third-party contractor.

Critical infrastructure

  • The WannaCry ransomware attack on the United Kingdom’s health service was preventable, according to a report by the National Audit Office. The UK’s security minister attributed the attack to North Korea.
  • A lawmaker in South Korea stated that North Korean government hackers had stolen information about warships and submarines from a South Korean shipbuilding company.

DIGITAL RIGHTS

  • Two political activists were arrested in Pakistan for posting ‘objectionable and disgraceful material’ on social media.
  • A Palestinian was arrested by Israeli police after a message he posted on Facebook was misinterpreted as violent by the translation algorithm, prompting Facebook to alert the authorities.
Back to content list

armed conflict database

Armed Conflict Database

A regularly updated IISS online resource providing detailed information on more than 70 conflicts worldwide.