Global cyber intrusion activity has soared in 2021| Brussels faces test of its will to tackle Big Tech | National Cyber Director says US needs to become harder target for cyber attacks
The volume of cyber intrusion activity globally soared in the first half of 2021 compared with the same period last year, according to Accenture's Cyber Investigations, Forensics & Response midyear update. The triple-digit increase (125%) was driven primarily by web shell activity, which is the use of small pieces of malicious code to gain remote access and control, targeted ransomware and extortion operations and supply chain intrusions, the company said. Tech Republic
The wrangling between Brussels and Big Tech has taken a notable step up over the past year amid rising European concerns over how the likes of Google and Facebook use their dominant market positions. While the administration of US president Joe Biden is now bracing itself to step up scrutiny of tech companies, EU regulators have been taking a harder line against the Silicon Valley giants over the past year by launching antitrust probes. Financial Times
How do you strengthen an entire nation’s cyber defenses? That’s the task facing the United States’ inaugural National Cyber Director Chris Inglis, who joined the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative—part of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security—and GeoTech Center to talk about his priorities in his new White House role. They include fostering resilience and boosting collaboration to make the United States “a much harder target” for adversaries. “We can do that in the near-term,” Inglis said, “even without demonstrative, substantive changes in the underlying technology.” Atlantic Council
How online investigators pieced together the events of the Beirut blast
Just after the explosion at Beirut’s port on August 4, 2020, eyewitness videos began to pour into social networks. The videos were indispensable to clarify what exactly happened in the Lebanese capital, allowing online investigators to look into the causes of the blast before any official explanations were released. Researcher Nathan Ruser, examined amateur images that claimed the blast was caused by a missile attack. Ruser was able to show that the supposed “missile” was just a bird flying over the explosion site.
Global cyber intrusion activity jumped 125% in the first half of 2021
The volume of cyber intrusion activity globally soared in the first half of 2021 compared with the same period last year, according to Accenture's Cyber Investigations, Forensics & Response midyear update. The triple-digit increase (125%) was driven primarily by web shell activity, which is the use of small pieces of malicious code to gain remote access and control, targeted ransomware and extortion operations and supply chain intrusions, the company said.
Global industry united in concern about nation-state cyberattacks
Attacks on information and communications technology infrastructure are becoming more common, as the recent spike in ransomware attacks affecting supply chains and the integrity of core information infrastructure has demonstrated. In fact, according to numerous reports, 2020 was a record-breaking year for cybercrime. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported a 69% increase in submissions to its hotline last year. The UK experienced a 31% increase in cybercrime from May to June 2020, a trend replicated globally.
Microsoft Exchange was used to hack diplomats long before 2021 cyber attack
Late last year, researchers at the Los Angeles-based cybersecurity company Resecurity stumbled across a massive trove of stolen data while investigating the hack of an Italian retailer. Squirreled away on a cloud storage platform were five gigabytes of data that had been stolen during the previous three and half years from foreign ministries and energy companies by hacking their on-premises Microsoft Exchange servers. In all, Resecurity researchers found documents and emails from six foreign ministries and eight energy companies in the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe.
Defence Data Strategy 2021-2023
Australian Government Department of Defence
The world is experiencing rapid digitisation and growth in the creation of data. The increasing connection of services to the internet is exposing vulnerabilities in global supply chains, a potential precursor to conventional conflict. Emerging technologies, highly dependent on data, are being rapidly translated into weapons systems. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomous unmanned weaponry, are shrinking decision time and improving weapon precision and lethality.
Australian vaccination certificates easy to forge
An online security firm specialising in identity protection has warned that the federal government‘s digital Covid vaccination certificates will be easy to forge without better security. Trax Print chief technology officer Robert Ablinger said cyber criminals were capable of forging a QR code verification system if that were adopted.
PwC Australia is on a cyber security hiring spree
PwC Australia is set to hire 100 cyber security staff over next year on top of the recent addition of 110 people. The news comes as PwC Australia appointed a new cyber security and digital trust partner in Garry Bentlin, who was formerly TransGrid's chief information security officer (CISO).
China’s exports of sophisticated tech products grew despite US-China trade war tariffs, Harvard study shows
South China Morning Post
The technological level of China’s exports increased through the trade war with the United States, according to a new ranking, which predicts the Chinese economy will grow faster than India’s over the next decade.
Mass resignations at scientific journal over ethically fraught China genetics papers
Eight members of the editorial board of a scientific journal have resigned after it published a slew of controversial papers that critics fear could be used for DNA profiling and persecution of ethnic minorities in China. The journal, Molecular Genetics & Genomic Medicine, is the latest to be caught up in controversy involving ethically fraught research.
Read our report: “Genomic Surveillance: Inside China’s DNA dragnet”
How a fake network pushes pro-China propaganda
A sprawling network of more than 350 fake social media profiles is pushing pro-China narratives and attempting to discredit those seen as opponents of China's government, according to a new study. The aim is to delegitimise the West and boost China's influence and image overseas, the report by the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR) suggests.
Read ASPI's strategist piece '#StopAsianHate: Chinese diaspora targeted by CCP disinformation campaign'
Beijing Shuns Ericsson, Nokia as the West Curbs Huawei
The Wall Street Journal
The U.S. and many of its allies have restricted the use of 5G cellular equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Now Beijing is doing the same to Huawei’s Western rivals. China Mobile Ltd. , a government-owned wireless carrier that is the world’s biggest by subscribers, awarded in July 5.4% of its latest 5G-equipment tenders to non-Chinese suppliers, down from 11% in its previous round in 2020.
ByteDance rival Kuaishou is shutting down controversial app Zynn
Kuaishou Technology, a Chinese firm perceived as a ByteDance rival by many, said on Wednesday it will shut down its controversial short video app Zynn later this month. The app was only available in the U.S. The firm, which last month said it had amassed 1 billion monthly active users, didn’t offer an explanation for why it was shutting down the app, which was mired in controversy ever since it launched in May last year.
National Cyber Director Chris Inglis: We need to become a ‘harder target’ for our adversaries
How do you strengthen an entire nation’s cyber defenses? That’s the task facing the United States’ inaugural National Cyber Director Chris Inglis, who joined the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative—part of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security—and GeoTech Center to talk about his priorities in his new White House role. They include fostering resilience and boosting collaboration to make the United States “a much harder target” for adversaries. “We can do that in the near-term,” Inglis said, “even without demonstrative, substantive changes in the underlying technology.”
The U.S. and China Must Rule Out an All-Out Cyberwar
The National Interest
If the United States wants to gain control of cyberspace it must set up formal, high-level dialogue channels with more than just our traditional like-minded allies—starting with China and Russia.
NYU researchers speak out after Facebook disables their accounts
On Tuesday, Facebook suspended the accounts, apps and pages of several New York University researchers who have been using scraping tools to better understand political ads and disinformation on Facebook. The tools were the subject of a long-running standoff between the social network, which claimed scraping violates its terms of service, and the researchers, who argued that more digital advertising transparency is essential to understanding and protecting elections. Bloomberg first reported on the suspensions.
Facebook is reportedly trying to analyze encrypted data without deciphering it
Facebook is reportedly looking into analyzing the content of encrypted data without having to decrypt it. The company is recruiting artificial intelligence researchers to study the matter, according to The Information. Their research could pave the way for Facebook to target ads based on encrypted WhatsApp messages. Facebook could also use the findings to encrypt user data without affecting its ad targeting approaches.
White House cyber chief backs new federal bureau to track threats
National Cyber Director Chris Inglis on Monday made the case for establishing an office within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to track and analyze cybersecurity incidents in order to ensure the nation has an early warning system to understand adversary efforts to target U.S. organizations.
Cryptocurrency reporting requirement in infrastructure bill sees potential changes
U.S. lawmakers are moving forward with a revised version of an idea that aims to gather data about cryptocurrency transactions in a way meant to curb tax cheats. Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) joined by colleagues Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have filed an amendment seeking to put to rest some of the cryptocurrency industry’s concerns about a sweeping new $1 trillion infrastructure package Congress is set to vote on this week.
Biden Administration Issues Memo Focused on Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity
The National Law Review
Following a series of major ransomware attacks, including against Colonial Pipeline, which provides the East Coast with 45 percent of its gasoline, jet fuel and diesel, President Biden issued a National Security Memorandum (“the Memorandum”) last week intent on improving cybersecurity for critical infrastructure systems. The Memorandum comes in follow up to the Biden Administration’s Executive Order issued immediately following the Colonial Pipeline Cyberattack back in May, entitled “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity” (EO).
Experts are split on whether the relationship between ethical hackers and government has improved
The Washington Post
Cyber experts are about evenly split on whether the often-complicated relationship between the government and ethical hackers has improved in the past two years. Those years included the launch of a slew of programs inviting ethical hackers to search for bugs in government computer systems and a landmark Supreme Court ruling limiting when prosecutors can bring cases against security researchers that violate tech products’ narrow terms of service.
Some Cyber Experts Want to Investigate Hacks Like Plane Crashes
The Wall Street Journal
President Biden in May ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create a public-private board to investigate major hacks but offered few details on how the initiative would work. Some security wonks say the administration should look to transportation disasters for clues. Scott Shackelford, chair of Indiana University Bloomington’s cybersecurity program, is among a group of academics who have advocated for a separate agency outside of DHS to dissect hacks the way the National Transportation Safety Board does plane crashes and other transit accidents. While he applauded Mr. Biden’s executive order for taking a step toward the idea, he fears it could stall as criminal hacking groups target more U.S. businesses.
CenturyLink selling copper network in 20 states instead of installing fiber
CenturyLink is selling large portions of its copper network in 20 states to a private-equity firm, letting the telco pull out of rural areas where it doesn't plan to install fiber-to-the-home technology. CenturyLink agreed to sell the networks for $7.5 billion to Apollo Funds, a private-equity fund operated by Apollo Global Management. Apollo will also take $1.4 billion of debt off CenturyLink's hands.
Read our report "Weaponised deep fakes - National security and democracy"
GOI in final stage of formulating National Cyber Security strategy
At a time when the Pegasus snooping controversy is creating ripples across the country, with Oppositions demanding an answer from the Modi government, the Union minister of state for Defence, today informed the Parliament that the government is in the final stages of formulating the National Cyber Security strategy.
UK MoD turns to hackers to help secure digital assets
The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has concluded it’s first-ever bug bounty challenge with security platform HackerOne, building on its commitment to develop a culture of collaboration around cyber security.Bug bounty programmes, whereby hackers report real-world security vulnerabilities to affected organisations in return for monetary compensation, are used throughout the industry as a way of incentivising security research.
Brussels faces test of its will to tackle Big Tech
The wrangling between Brussels and Big Tech has taken a notable step up over the past year amid rising European concerns over how the likes of Google and Facebook use their dominant market positions. While the administration of US president Joe Biden is now bracing itself to step up scrutiny of tech companies, EU regulators have been taking a harder line against the Silicon Valley giants over the past year by launching antitrust probes.
Facebook Acquisition Review Shows EU’s New Antitrust Power
The Wall Street Journal
Facebook Inc. has hit a new obstacle in Europe in its planned takeover of a small New York-based startup, showing how antitrust muscle-flexing is increasingly affecting deals an ocean away. With a new interpretation of an old law, European Union competition regulators have given themselves sweeping authority to review merger cases that previously would have escaped their notice, sparking outcry from companies and their lawyers that the change will cause confusion in deal-making.
France Cracked Down on Google’s Ad Tech. What’s Next?
The French Competition Agency has hit Google with $855 million in fines this year. The money is meaningless—but the changes could be profound.
Italy's ERG says only minor disruption from cyber breach
Italian renewable energy group ERG said on Wednesday a cybersecurity breach had caused only minor disruption to its information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, adding all its plants were working properly.
A Tech Firm Has Blocked Some Governments From Using Its Spyware Over Misuse Claims
Israeli spyware company NSO Group has temporarily blocked several government clients around the world from using its technology as the company investigates their possible misuse, a company employee told NPR on Thursday. The suspensions are in response to an investigation by the Pegasus Project, a consortium of media outlets that reported the company's Pegasus spyware was linked to hacks and potential surveillance of telephones of people including journalists, human rights activists and heads of state.
How social media became a deadly trap for a minority group in Pakistan
Rest of World
If you’re one of four million Ahmadis in Pakistan, posting on Facebook can mean exposing yourself to danger.
Venture capital undermines human rights, defines future of technology
The future of technology is determined by a handful of venture capitalists. The world’s 10 leading venture capital firms have, together, invested over $150 billion in technology startups. The venture capitalists who run these firms decide which startups today will develop the new platforms and technologies that will shape our lives tomorrow.
Double Standards in Social Media Content Moderation
Brennan Center for Justice
@AngelSDiaz_ Laura Hecht-Felella
Social media plays an important role in building community and connecting people with the wider world. At the same time, the private rules that govern access to this service can result in divergent experiences across different populations. While social media companies dress their content moderation policies in the language of human rights, their actions are largely driven by business priorities, the threat of government regulation, and outside pressure from the public and the mainstream media.
Events & Podcasts
Addressing the ransomware threat: Cyber expert Jonathan Levin on "Intelligence Matters"
In this episode of Intelligence Matters, host Michael Morell speaks with Jonathan Levin, a thought leader on cryptocurrencies and the Chief Strategy Officer at Chainalysis, a leading anti-money laundering firm. Morell and Levin discuss the growing, global threat from ransomware and how criminal gangs’ tactics have evolved to target a variety of vulnerable sectors. Levin also explains how cryptocurrencies and blockchain work, and how both can help investigators trace the origins of illicit financial activity.
ICPC Deputy Director – 12 month parental leave cover
ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) is currently recruiting for a one-year parental leave cover for its Deputy Director position. This is an exceptional opportunity for a talented and experienced individual to contribute to the work of Australia's leading think-tank on cyber, information, technology and other national security issues in a unique leadership role.
ICPC Senior Analyst & Program Manager
ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) potentially has an outstanding opportunity for a proactive, efficient and talented senior analyst & program manager to join its centre..We are looking for a senior individual with a minimum of 10-15 years of demonstrated relevant work experience who possesses excellent project management, stakeholder engagement and staff management skills. They must also possess strong knowledge - either as a generalist or a specialist - of some of the topics ICPC works across, and feel comfortable engaging with politicians, senior policymakers, business representatives and preferably also the media.
ICPC Senior Analyst or Analyst - China
ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) has a unique opportunity for exceptional and experienced China-focused senior analysts or analysts to join its centre. This role will focus on original research and analysis centred around the (growing) range of topics which our ICPC China team work on. Our China team produces some of the most impactful and well-read policy-relevant research in the world, with our experts often being called upon by politicians, governments, corporates and civil society actors to provide briefings and advice. Analysts usually have at least 5 years, often 7-10 years’ of work experience. Senior analysts usually have a minimum of 15 years relevant work experience and, in addition to research, they take on a leadership role in the centre and tend to be involved in staff and project management, fundraising and stakeholder engagement.
Research Program Manager, Jigsaw
Jigsaw is focused on helping users confront threats in the face of conflict, instability, or repression. While today such users represent a fraction of the Internet community, in the future they will comprise the majority of Internet users. One of our stated goals is to try and end online repressive censorship within a decade, using initiatives like Project Shield, a service to protect at-risk websites from attacks that threaten free expression.