At a glance.
- Clean Network's new lines of effort.
- Rewards for Justice offers up to $10 million for info on election hackers.
- Australia's Cyber Security Strategy 2020 is out.
The US Clean Network program has five new "lines of effort."
US Secretary of State Pompeo has announced five new "lines of effort" under the US Clean Network program. These include "Clean Carrier" (aimed at disconnecting untrustworthy carriers from US telecommunications networks), "Clean Store" (which would remove untrusted applications from US mobile app stores), "Clean Apps" (intended to prevent untrusted smartphone manufacturers from pre-installing trusted apps in their own app stores), "Clean Cloud" (which would keep US personal data and intellectual property out of adversaries' cloud services), and "Clean Cable" (which would ensure that undersea cables aren't compromised by hostile intelligence services).
All these measures are directed at China, and the Secretary’s published announcement is quite explicit in this respect. The Secretary of State has invited friendly nations to participate in these lines of effort.
CISA's Malware Analysis Report (AR20-216A) on China's Taidoor remote access Trojan, has also elicited comment. Bill Conner, CEO of SonicWall, commented on the economic implications of Chinese hacking:
“Right now, the stakes are as high as the political tensions that continue to climb between the U.S. and China. Malware has long since been a weapon of choice for nation-states and this method will increasingly become relied upon as military retaliation, economic crisis/opportunity and opposition to sanctions take on a different form.
"Malware and ransomware attacks of this nature underscore the fact that we are living in an era where nation-state attacks don’t necessarily aim to wreak direct havoc. Breaching an organization for the sole purpose of compromising personal information or gaining intellectual property puts governments and civilians at risk in an incredibly vulnerable way.
"Economic challenges, such as the current healthcare crisis and the competition amongst countries for a vaccine to solve it, certainly ensures that stealth-like attacks backed by military hackers will be on the rise. Their mission is to obtain information that could change the trajectory of their current economic state and global status.
"U.S. government alerts like the one issued Monday seem to be coming at a more frequent pace, signaling a rise in cyber warfare and the critical need for enterprise, government agencies and those at the helm of critical infrastructure systems to move swiftly and efficiently to understand their current security risks and implement a layered approach for maximum protection.”
Rewards for Justice turns to election interference.
The US State Department is also offering bounties of up to $10 million under its Rewards for Justice program "for information leading to the identification or location of any person who works with or for a foreign government for the purpose of interfering with U.S. elections through certain illegal cyber activities."
The tone of the announcement suggests more interest in hackers than influencers. The text says, “Persons engaged in certain malicious cyber operations targeting election or campaign infrastructure may be subject to prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, which criminalizes unauthorized computer intrusions and other forms of fraud related to computers. Among other offenses, the statute prohibits unauthorized accessing of computers to obtain information and transmit it to unauthorized recipients.” The measure would therefore seem directed more against doxing than trolling, although one imagines that a hot tip on a troll farm in St. Petersburg or Shenzhen would receive at least a hearing.
The offer has particular resonance given Fancy Bear’s exercise in publishing the contents of Democratic Party emails in 2016, and, more recently, the conclusion British authorities have reached that one of the Bears was rooting through cabinet email accounts during the UK’s last general election.
Australia's Cyber Security Strategy 2020.
Australia’s new cybersecurity strategy is out. It represents a shift toward what others have called a “whole-of-nation” approach, with much initial emphasis placed not only on federal responsibilities, and on what can be done by state and territorial governments, but also on the contributions the government hopes to encourage and enable for private organizations and individuals. Thus the document contains a great deal about information sharing, resilience, and recovery.
There’s also evidence that Australia is interested in moving toward a more assertive posture in cyberspace, with an explicit reservation of a right of retaliation within the context of international norms. “Australia will continue to encourage the international community to act responsibly online, including by complying with existing international law, domestic law and norms of responsible state behaviour,” the document says. It adds, “The Australian Government will ensure that Australia is not seen as a soft target and will continue to publicly call out countries when it is in our interests to do so. The Australian Government will match its public statements with action through a range of targeted and decisive responses against unacceptable intrusions or activity in line with Australia’s statement of principles on cyber deterrence: We work to actively prevent cyber attacks, minimise damage, and respond to malicious cyber activity directed against our national interests. We deny and deter, while balancing the risk of escalation. Our actions are lawful and aligned with the values we seek to uphold, and will therefore be proportionate, always contextual, and collaborative.”
One interesting sidelight is the strategy’s awareness of the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened awareness of just how the national life (social, economic, and political) has come to depend on connection through cyberspace.