Navigation systems of US vessels feared to be under attack; Ukraine prepares for another cyber security breach on Independence Day; India heightens protection against Chinese involvement in critical infrastructure.

Remote control station in USS John S McCain

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 initiated a formal investigation into Chinese laws and policies that harm US intellectual property rights and technology development.
  • The US Senate’s Intelligence Authorization Act requests the Director of National Intelligence to develop a strategy to tackle Russian interference in US elections, and orders the Department of Homeland Security to deliver a report on foreign interference during the 2016 presidential campaign.
  • US Senators have sponsored a bill that seeks to regulate cyber security for the internet of things.
  • Russia’s communications ministry proposed limiting foreign ownership of internet exchange points in the country.
  • In Hangzhou, China authorities adopted a plan to establish a cyber court that would accept filings electronically and handle internet and e-commerce cases. 
  • A spokesperson for the United Kingdom’s criminal prosecuting agency stated that prosecutors will seek harsher penalties for hate crimes committed on social media.
  • Iran is under pressure to set up its own internet domain registrar after a company announced it would no longer register sites ending in common top level domains for Iranian nationals because of international sanctions against the country.
  • Lawmakers in the Philippines urged national law enforcement and military agencies to strengthen their cooperation with social network companies.
  • Somalia’s senate passed a new telecommunications law.

International policy

  • Cyber security companies called on the US government to promote standards-based cyber security norms in trade negotiations, including the North American Free Trade Agreement.
  • The second India–Japan Cyber Dialogue was held in New Delhi. Both sides agreed that existing international law should apply in cyberspace and advocated for the promotion of norms of behaviour.
  • A Canadian man charged with hacking into Yahoo! on the orders of Russia’s Federal Security Service is being extradited to the US.
  • The Colombian congress will debate a bill proposing that the country signs on to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime.
  • Vietnam and Thailand agreed to strengthen cooperation on cybercrime.
  • Indonesia’s minister for security said his country will work with Singapore to strengthen cyber security.
  • The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s ministerial meeting included a discussion on countering terrorist use of the internet.

Guided missile destroyer USS John S McCain

Military

  • A series of US Navy collisions has led experts to question the cyber security of electronic guidance systems used by ships. Admiral John Richardson said there is no indication that a cyber intrusion affected the incident involving USS John S. McCain, but that a review would consider all possible causes. In late June the US Maritime Administration warned of possible GPS interference affecting ships in the Black Sea, and North Korea has previously been accused of disrupting the navigation systems used by South Korean vessels.
  • US Cyber Command was elevated to a unified combatant command by President Donald Trump. Secretary of Defense James Mattis will advise on whether a long-discussed plan to split USCYBERCOM from the National Security Agency will go ahead.
  • A full-time US Army National Guard unit of 138 cyber specialists was mobilised. Task Force Echo will support US Cyber Command to carry out cyberspace operations against adversaries.
  • North Korea’s state newspaper accused Japan of building a cyber attack capability after Japan’s Ministry of Defense announced it is considering increasing the size of its cyber defence unit.
  • The US Army South and the Brazilian army discussed cyber issues in army-to-army talks.

Private sector

  • Following violent far-right rallies in Charlottesville, several technology companies have limited their services from being used by neo-Nazi groups. PayPal announced it would stop processing transactions for groups advocating racist views. GoDaddy and Google stopped providing domain services to far-right site The Daily Stormer. Chat service Discord shut down a white supremacy group’s sever. Spotify removed white supremacist content from its music streaming service. The CEO of Cloudflare, a cyber security firm that withdrew its services from The Daily Stormer, pointed to the worrying ability of a few giant networks to control what’s online.
  • Neo-Nazi groups are reportedly migrating to popular Russian social network VKontake to evade censorship. VKontakte’s spokesperson stated that the platform censors incitements of cruelty and violence.
  • Medium is reportedly blocking content by a Qatar-based author from readers in Saudi Arabia.
  • As part of a broader effort to remove extremist content from the platform, YouTube has removed videos documenting human rights violations in Syria.
  • Facebook is testing a feature that shows users customised links to news of interest.

Independence Square in Kiey, Ukraine

NATIONAL SECURITY

Government breaches

  • Ukraine’s security service warned of another large-scale cyber attack targeting government institutions and companies on the country’s Independence Day.

Critical infrastructure

  • Ukraine’s central bank alerted the country’s financial sector to new malware targeting the banking sector, which suggests a future cyber attack is likely.
  • Sinopec, a Chinese oil and gas producer, has taken some regional offices offline after a ‘malicious ransom software’ was found on 21 machines.
  • The Russian Federation Security Council stated that the ‘ubiquitous use’ of foreign IT and telecommunication products in the country damages information security, and the country must transition to indigenous technology.
  • The FBI is reportedly warning US companies in the energy and technology sectors of the risks of using Kaspersky Lab products. The White house cyber security coordinator also stated in a broadcast interview that the general public should refrain from using Kaspersky software.
  • Pakistan’s telecommunications agency reported the country suffered a loss of over US$9 million due to disruption in internet services following fault in undersea cable.

Strategic investment

  • India tightened rules for multinational companies entering its energy and telecoms sector, favouring local firms for power transmission contracts. Officials stated the policy is designed to limit the involvement of Chinese firms in critical infrastructure.  
  • Following Australia’s security concerns about connecting an undersea cable from the Solomon Islands to Australia, it has been reported that Huawei – which was contracted to install the cable – paid a US$5 million political donation to the island state’s government.

DIGITAL RIGHTS

  • The website of Reporters Without Borders was blocked by Egyptian authorities.
  • An internet outage in Darjeeling, India has now been in place for over two months.
  • More than four million residents of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area have been without internet access for over a year.
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