Germany sets up new cyber spook agency; Saudi Arabia lifts ban on internet calling apps; Facebook silences Rohingya refugees by deleting accounts.

Deputy Crown Price of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud

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 Senate passed a defence spending bill that included a number of cyber-related amendments, including banning the use of Kaspersky Lab products in the federal government, blocking telecommunication companies that enable North Korean cyber attacks from working with the Pentagon, and improving the military’s recruitment of cyber reservists.
  • US President Donald Trump stated that governments must ‘cut off’ the internet in response to a terror incident in London.
  • The US sanctioned seven Iranian citizens for their role in a series of cyber attacks against the US financial sector between 2011 and 2013.
  • Russia’s telecoms watchdog blocked Compromat.Ru, a website that publishes compromising information about officials, reportedly for copyright violations.
  • China announced it would set up a national database and require telecom firms, internet companies and domain name providers to share information relating to cyber threats.
  • China is stepping up programmes to educate the public on cyber security measures.
  • China ordered bitcoin exchanges in Shanghai and Beijing to close down.
  • The United Kingdom published a draft of forthcoming data protection legislation.
  • Germany established a new cyber security agency, ZITiS, to centralise mass surveillance efforts. The agency has a US$12 million budget for the first year, and will have 120 staff, rising to 400 by 2022.
  • Australia will launch its first International Cyber Engagement Strategy in early October.
  • Australia approved AU$75 million (US$59m) in funding for its signals intelligence agency, enabling the organisation to update aging infrastructure.
  • Singapore’s cyber security bill will be tabled in 2018, rather than later this year as originally expected.
  • India’s IT ministry released new rules governing internet shutdowns, which must now be directed by high-level officials.
  • Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on internet calling apps – including Skype and WhatsApp – in a move designed to boost the growth of e-commerce.
  • Uganda’s communications regulator released new rules to govern social media.

International policy

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation on cyber security. Steps will include Israel providing training on countering cybercrime.
  • Ministers from Kazakhstan and France discussed deepening the existing strategic partnership in space and defence, noting the potential for cooperation on cyber security issues.
  • Japan and Singapore signed a memorandum of cooperation on cyber security, which includes establishing regular policy dialogues, improving bilateral information exchange and strengthening regional capacity building efforts.
  • The first annual review of Privacy Shield, the UK–US data sharing agreement, is underway.
  • An Australian official stated that a shift away from the norms of behaviour in cyberspace agreed on by a United Nations expert group in 2015 would be ‘dangerous’.
  • Estonia publicly offered support to India to counter cyber attacks, including setting up training exercises and providing technical resources.
  • Singapore contributed SG$1.5 million (US$1.1m) to cyber security training for ASEAN member states.

US Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team

Military

  • The US Army National Guard’s first cyber unit – the 91st Cyber Brigade – was activated.

Private sector

  • Snapchat blocked Al Jazeera’s channel in Saudi Arabia to comply with local laws.
  • Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Labs, will testify in front of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on 27 September on the topic of his company’s products and cooperation with the Russian government.

NATIONAL SECURITY

Government breaches

  • WikiLeaks published over 200 documents about the Russian government’s surveillance system, SORM. Experts have raised doubts about the significance and provenance of the documents, given allegations that WikiLeaks works in partnership with the Russian government.
  • The Swiss defence ministry announced it was targeted in July with malware similar to that used by Turla group, a suspected Russian-linked hacking group.
  • Senior Scottish officials have accused China of a carrying out a brute force attack against the IT accounts of parliamentarians in August.
  • The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore released a report on cyber attacks in 2016, which stated that an unnamed government agency was the victim of a state-sponsored cyber attack, and that several sectors of critical national infrastructure were affected by ransomware.

Critical infrastructure

  • Dmitri Alperovitch, the chief technical officer for CrowdStrike, stated that North Korea has the ability to carry out cyber attacks against the US financial sector.

Strategic investment

  • President Trump upheld the recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States that Chinese private equity firm Canyon Bridge should be prevented from acquiring Lattice Semiconductor Corp.

Rohingya refugees in Balukhali camp

DIGITAL RIGHTS

  • Israel’s attorney-general’s office has been censoring content on social media without the required legal authority, according to a minority rights organisation.
  • A court in Pakistan has sentenced an individual to death for sending a WhatsApp message insulting Islam to a friend. In a separate incident, four individuals were indicted for sharing blasphemous content on social media.
  • A legal opinion commissioned by opponents of Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan found that the arrest of 75,000 Turkish citizens who had downloaded an encrypted messaging app violated their human rights.
  • Facebook is reportedly taking down accounts documenting Rohingya ethnic cleansing, after a concerted effort by trolls to report such accounts.
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