European Commission President calls out China for hitting hospitals with cyberattacks | Israeli spyware used to target Moroccan journalist | New taskforce to push cyber security standards

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  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called out China Monday for targeting EU hospitals and health care institutions with cyberattacks during the coronavirus crisis. Politico

  • As NSO Group faced mounting criticism last year that its hacking software was being used illegally against journalists, dissidents and campaigners around the world, the Israeli spyware company unveiled a new policy that it said showed its commitment to human rights. Now an investigation has alleged that another journalist, Omar Radi in Morocco, was targeted with NSO’s Pegasus software and put under surveillance just days after the company made that promise. The Guardian

  • A cross-sector taskforce of experts from the defence, energy, health and financial services sectors has been created to accelerate the adoption of industry cyber security standards across Australia. The taskforce, which held its first meeting on Monday, is the result of an “Australian-first” collaboration between the NSW government, AustCyber and Standards Australia. IT News

ASPI ICPC

Chinese company sanctioned by the US hosted by Victorian government
The Sydney Morning Herald
Danielle Cave, deputy director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre, said given the national security, censorship and human rights concerns, it was "concerning to see a company like iFlytek recently enter the Australian market". Thanks to human rights organisations, research institutes and media there is plenty of information out there to inform government, businesses and universities as they make decisions about which groups to partner with," she said. “This also means excuses are increasingly falling on deaf ears when Australian organisations are forced to explain how they ended up problematic partnerships with, for example, companies accused of censoring speech or of human rights abuses in Xinjiang. "It is vital that Australia continue to progress towards Magnitsky-style human rights legislation and that the public ask questions about the types of organisations Australian businesses, councils and especially government bodies are collaborating with."

Dion Devow's mission to help bridge the gap between Indigenous Australians and IT
ZDNet
On the policy front, Devow is playing his part as the Indigenous engagement specialist with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre. "With me being the first Indigenous Australian to work there is quite a prestige itself, and to be able to influence at the policy level is really, really important," he said. On the question of what he believes is currently holding more Indigenous Australians back from participating in the IT sector, he pins it down to a few barriers, noting it differs for those based in rural and urban Australia. "For people who live in remote areas, it might be access to education, mobile phones, computers, proper internet … [and] within an urban setting it might be similar to my barriers, which was that there were not a lot of Indigenous people in the IT industry, pathways aren't clear for them, and they're not encouraged to pursue it," he said. He added it's this very reason that motivates him to continue to "break down negative stereotypes about Aboriginal people" and lead by example.

Tough cyber security rules loom for business as attacks surge
The Australian Financial Review
The head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre Fergus Hanson said hardware and software vendors and internet service providers would likely have to shoulder the direct cost of increased cyber security requirements, but these would flow through to businesses and eventually their customers. Mr Hanson said Telstra's "Cleaner Pipes" project, which gathers reams of data to block malicious websites, could be a model for other ISPs to follow.

Calls for independent social media body
9 News
Jake Wallis and Thomas Uren, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told a Senate inquiry into foreign interference through social media that the coronavirus pandemic has been used to harness the public's fears, with scams, conspiracy theories and states trying to gain advantage..“The pandemic has created a perfect storm of informational manipulation, with state and non-state actors echoing each other's theories, tactics and techniques," Dr Wallis told the committee hearing on Monday..Dr Wallis says an independent statutory authority is needed to observe and report on how social media platforms are operating, in a bid to reduce harm for citizens. The authority would be granted explicit insight into how content is filtered, blocked, amplified or suppressed..The pair also urged senators to fund independent civil society groups to research malign operations, using transparency as a deterrence measure.

Warning to watch for foreign interference through Facebook
ABC
Dr Jake Wallis is a senior analyst in ASPI's International Cyber Policy Centre. He told ABC NewsRadio's Tracey Holmes the threat to democracy from foreign actors is real.

Australia

New taskforce to push cyber security standards
IT News
A cross-sector taskforce of experts from the defence, energy, health and financial services sectors has been created to accelerate the adoption of industry cyber security standards across Australia. The taskforce, which held its first meeting on Monday, is the result of an “Australian-first” collaboration between the NSW government, AustCyber and Standards Australia.

Tough cyber security rules loom for business as attacks surge
The Australian Financial Review
Tough cyber security rules loom for business as attacks surge Andrew Tillett Businesses will be required to comply with minimum standards of cyber security under a federal government plan to harden the nation's defences of vulnerable computer networks against foreign adversaries and cyber criminals.

Off limits': Australia, US urged to name and shame cyber attackers targeting health research
The Sydney Morning Herald
Australia and the United States have been urged to jointly name and shame state-backed actors looking to steal health research during the coronavirus pandemic, as the Morrison government battles an escalation in cyber attacks on key networks.

The social messaging system helping spread Chinese disinformation campaigns
The Canberra Times
Researchers are calling for more Chinese Australians to be employed in the public service, boosting language skills and ability to track and counter disinformation campaigns from China. Researcher Osmond Chiu and Sydney local councillor Kun Huang said Chinese Australians were the main target of disinformation campaigns from China, which used WeChat, a messaging system used by millions of people in Australia that was very difficult to monitor.

China

Belt and Road means big data and facial recognition, too
The Lowy Interpreter
In far western China, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is both a BRI cornerstone, with three major transit routes intersecting, and a major centre for testing new security technologies. Security is being digitised and automated through large-scale urban surveillance networks, big data, artificial intelligence, facial recognition, biometrics, ubiquitous GPS tracking and smartphone spyware. These Xinjiang digital security technologies are now being exported commercially.

USA

The Voice of America Will Sound Like Trump
The Atlantic
In 2011, Liu and her colleagues created the Open Technology Fund, a low-key but extraordinarily effective program that invents, distributes, and constantly updates technology that allows millions of people to read and listen to information that their governments seek to block, not just in China but around the world. Two-thirds of mobile devices around the world use some piece of OTF-supported technology; billions of people can share ideas in spaces safe from government surveillance.

Andrew Yang is pushing Big Tech to pay users for data
The Verge
@kellymakena
Andrew Yang wants people to get paid for the data they create on big tech platforms like Facebook and Google, and with a new project launching on Monday, he believes he can make it happen. Yang’s Data Dividend Project is a new program tasked with establishing data-as-property rights under privacy laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) all across the country. The program hopes to mobilize over 1 million people by the end of the year, focusing primarily on Californians, and “pave the way for a future in which all Americans can claim their data as a property right and receive payment” if they choose to share their data with platforms.

US government doesn't know how it uses facial recognition in public housing
CNet
@alfredwkng
Lawmakers want to regulate how facial recognition is being used, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development has a significant obstacle: it doesn't keep track of how the surveillance technology can be used on its approximately 1.2 million households.

41 Cities, Many Sources: How False Antifa Rumors Spread Locally
The New York Times
@daveyalba
Claims about the involvement of anti-fascist activists in protests of racism show the many ways false information spreads inside communities online.

The Pacific

CERT Tonga first from Pacific Island Countries to become an Operational Member of APCERT
Internet Society
Tonga’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT Tonga) under the Ministry of MEIDECC is the first from the Pacific Islands region to become an Operational Member of the Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team (APCERT) on April 2, 2020.

Debt threatens Digicel’s Pacific dominance
The Lowy Interpreter
When it comes to mobile networks in the Pacific Islands region, Digicel is dominant. More than 2.6 million subscribers mean its SIM cards power more handsets in the region than any other provider.  

But the telco’s US$7 billion debt has been weighing heavily on its global operations spread across 31 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific. 

Europe

Von der Leyen calls out China for hitting hospitals with cyberattacks
Politico
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called out China Monday for targeting EU hospitals and health care institutions with cyberattacks during the coronavirus crisis.

‘We are not making threats’: US ambassador to NL reconfirms position on Huawei
Dutch News
The US ambassador to the Netherlands has reiterated his country’s opposition to the involvement of Chinese telecoms company Huawei in the Dutch 5G network in an interview with the NRC.

North Africa

Israeli spyware used to target Moroccan journalist, Amnesty claims
The Guardian
As NSO Group faced mounting criticism last year that its hacking software was being used illegally against journalists, dissidents and campaigners around the world, the Israeli spyware company unveiled a new policy that it said showed its commitment to human rights. Now an investigation has alleged that another journalist, Omar Radi in Morocco, was targeted with NSO’s Pegasus software and put under surveillance just days after the company made that promise.

  • Read the Amnesty International report here.

Research

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Strategic Stability and Nuclear Risk, Volume III, South Asian Perspectives
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)
This edited volume is the third in a series of three. The series forms part of a SIPRI project that explores regional perspectives and trends related to the impact that recent advances in artificial intelligence could have on nuclear weapons and doctrines, as well as on strategic stability and nuclear risk. This volume assembles the perspectives of eight experts on South Asia on why and how machine learning and autonomy may become the focus of an arms race among nuclear-armed states. It further explores how the adoption of these technologies may have an impact on their calculation of strategic stability and nuclear risk at the regional and transregional levels.

Events

ASPI Webinar: UN Cyber Negotiations - What they mean for Australian diplomacy
ASPI
ASPI warmly invites you to a webinar on 'UN Cyber Negotiations - What they mean for Australian diplomacy'. Join ASPI’s Bart Hogeveen in conversation with Johanna Weaver, Special Adviser to Australia's Ambassador for Cyber Affairs, on how states can be restrained from conducting, condoning, and sponsoring cyber operations that destabilise international peace and security, and what states can do to encourage a safe, secure and resilient internet ecosystem at home.

US-China technology competition and what it means for Australia
United States Studies Centre
Technology is now the defining element of US-China strategic competition. Australia preserves a deep enmeshment with the United States’ scientific infrastructure, at the same time that it maintains a geopolitical and economic relationship with China. The US-China competition will leave Australia increasingly vulnerable as the US Congress and the Trump administration move to protect Washington’s technological advantage over Beijing.

To discuss these issues, please join us for a webinar event featuring Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security William Greenwalt, CEO of the Cyber Institute at Australian National University Professor Lesley Seebeck, and US Studies Centre Research Fellow and author of the report Tech wars: US-China technology competition and what it means for Australia, Brendan Thomas-Noone in conversation with US Studies Centre Director of Foreign Policy and Defence Ashley Townsend.