UK prime minister accuses Russia of cyber-espionage; NATO commits to improving cyber defence; US fears surveillance by Chinese-made CCTVs.

US Navy aircraft carrier

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 final version of the United States defence policy bill for 2018 requires President Donald Trump to develop a national policy for ‘cyberspace, cyber security and cyberwarfare, including the use of offensive cyber capabilities’.
  • United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of carrying out a slate of destabilising activities, including a ‘sustained campaign of cyber-espionage and disruption’.
  • The Spanish government said groups based in Russia interfered in the Catalan independence vote by spreading misinformation on social media platforms. Authorities stopped short of linking the campaign to the Kremlin.
  • A senior Chinese official stated that China will not force foreign technology firms to hand over their source code in order to gain access to the Chinese market. The statement, which came while US President Donald Trump was on a state visit to China, addresses a key concern US firms have about China’s cyber security law.
  • Indonesia will demand that social media platforms, messaging services and search engines improve the way they address and censor obscene images.
  • Singapore’s government will address concerns raised in the public consultation period for its forthcoming cyber security law, before re-introducing the legislation in early 2018.
  • Ukraine’s president signed a law governing cyber security measures for the country. The bill outlines cyber security measures for the country’s critical infrastructure, and dictates that cyber security activities will be lead by the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine.
  • Estonia detained a Russian national alleging the individual was an operative for Russian state intelligence who was planning a cyber attack against Estonian government organisations.
  • Scotland outlined a national action plan to protect government infrastructure from cyber attack.
  • Music streaming services are now available in Iran, although there is speculation about whether this denotes a change in policy or a mistake.
  • India’s Home Ministry formed a new division to tackle cybercrime.
  • Bermuda’s minister for national security stated that cyber security was a priority for the country, and said it was in the process of developing a national cyber security strategy.

International policy

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigations reportedly hacked into computers in Russia, China and Iran during an investigation into child sexual abuse imagery on the dark net, prompting fears that such investigations could lead to misunderstanding and aggressive responses by authorities in those countries.
  • Homeland security ministers from the US and UK discussed bilateral cooperation on countering terrorist use of the internet.
  • After an announcement that the Weimar Human Rights Prize would be awarded to Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur scholar currently serving a life sentence in China, the city of Weimar’s website was targeted by hackers who removed information about Tohti and the prize.
  • The European Commission launched a public consultation on fake news and online disinformation.
  • The European Union is preparing to fine Google for abusing the dominance of its advertising network, AdSense, and breaching anti-trust regulations.

Military

  • NATO Defence Ministers agreed to establish a Cyber Operations Centre to strengthen cyber defence across the alliance and integrate cyber capabilities into NATO operations.
  • Morocco launched its first observation satellite, which will be used for military purposes, surveillance and environmental monitoring.

Social media

Private sector

  • Microsoft’s President Brad Smith renewed his call for a digital Geneva Convention, which would prohibit states from attacking civilian infrastructure. Smith, speaking at a United Nations meeting, also said that political advertising on online media should be regulated.
  • LinkedIn has had some of its activity in China restricted after it failed to comply with new regulations on job postings that require companies to verify the identities of job posters.
  • Facebook launched a controversial pilot scheme in Australia, designed to stop revenge porn being shared on the platform. Users must send Facebook the image so its staff can create an automatic block on other users uploading the picture.
  • Amazon Web Services sold a public cloud computing unit in China to Beijing Sinnet Technology Co Ltd, its Chinese partner, to comply with national laws. While Amazon retains control of the intellectual property of its global services, Sinnet will manage the China-based data storage unit.
  • Twitter suspended its verification process after a prominent white nationalist received a verified badge.
  • Google told the US government it supports regulation of political advertising on online media. Facebook indicated it would support the government’s effort to strengthen rules, but said there was a need for these rules to be flexible. Twitter said it would work with regulators on this issue.
  • Russia’s telecommunications regulator said Twitter has agreed to store personal information relating to Russian users of the platform in Russia by mid-2018. Twitter has not confirmed this change in policy, and a similar agreement was reported in April.
  • Kremlin-sponsored television station RT America registered as a foreign agent in the US.

NATIONAL SECURITY THREATS

Government breaches

  • WikiLeaks published the source code for espionage malware allegedly developed by the US Central Intelligence Agency. WikiLeaks announced a new series of disclosures, ‘Vault 8’, in which it would publish the source code for the tools revealed in the Vault 7 leaks.
  • The UK’s signals intelligence agency is reportedly concerned about the use of Kaspersky Labs products in the UK, after reports about the relationship between the company and Russian intelligence agencies. About 250,000 customers, potentially including government employees, have allegedly downloaded Kaspersky software via an offer from Barclays bank.  
  • Taiwanese officials voiced concerns that China would carry out information operations designed to influence the 2018 election, after a series of hacks against government and political party institutions over the past two years.
  • Surveillance cameras produced in China by a company partially owned by the Chinese government are widely used in the US, including in military bases and embassies, sparking fears that the Chinese government has access to the information collected by the cameras.

Critical infrastructure

  • The FBI and US Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about North Korean cyber activity targeting organisations in the aerospace, telecommunications and finance industries.
  • One of the undersea internet cables connected to Vietnam was broken, the fifth such incident this year.
  • The US Department of Homeland Security remotely penetrated the digital systems of a Boeing 757 in a test.

Strategic investment

  • Chinese technology firm Huawei showed interest in buying the artificial intelligence technology from DARPA’s 2016 Cyber Grand Challenge, which showcased automated cyber attacks and cyber defence.

DIGITAL RIGHTS

  • The Egyptian government is reportedly using the internet to target LGBT citizens. Activities include censoring LGBT people online, surveilling them and seeking to expose their identities.
  • Internet and mobile services were shut down in parts of Kashmir, India following ongoing clashes in the region.
  • The planned shutdown of social media sites in Somaliland is in place and will remain in place until the result of the election is announced.
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