At a glance.
- Does patriotic hacking violate the UN’s norms of cyber conduct?
- Taiwan trains civilians to prepare for Chinese cyber warfare.
- Two DHS agencies focus on cybersecurity.
Does patriotic hacking violate the UN’s norms of cyber conduct?
Lawfare discusses the use of Ukrainian “patriotic hackers” to defend against Russian cyber aggression, and what the move says about the United Nations’ cyber norms. In March of last year, the member governments of the UN agreed upon eleven cyber norms, non-legally binding commitments of cyber conduct approved in an Open-Ended Working Group report that included all UN members.
Lawfare posits that Ukraine’s use of patriotic hacking, with clear encouragement from state officials, undermines these cyber norms. Just days after the Russian invasion, Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov used social media to publicize the formation of an “IT Army,” a crowd-sourced hacking force that would be given operational instructions via Telegram. Soon after, the hackers carried out an attack on the Moscow Stock Exchange’s official website, and Federov publicly applauded their actions.
Though not completely or continuously guided directly by the Ukrainian government, the group is openly supported by that government, and exists in a gray area that some argue might be inconsistent with the UN’s cyber norms on civilian participation in war.
An alternative analogy might be, not so much with hacktivists or financially motivated gangs, but with irregular partisans or military auxiliaries. But, as researcher Stefan Soesanto explains, such patriotic hackers form a “hybrid construct that is neither civilian nor military, neither public nor private, neither local nor international, and neither lawful nor unlawful.”
Taiwan trains civilians to prepare for Chinese cyber warfare.
Kuma Academy, a newly established Tawainese company that provides cyber defense training to civilians in order to prepare for the hybrid warfare that could result from a Chinese military assault, has just received a $20 million cash infusion from semiconductor tycoon Robert Tsao. Axios explains that the academy’s goal is to provide military training for three million individuals over three years, including courses on fighting disinformation, and open-source intelligence gathering (OSINT) classes led by hacker volunteers.
Though there are Taiwanese hackers already skilled in OSINT, they need to increase their numbers to have any hope of holding their own in a cyberwar with the Chinese. Puma Shen, co-founder of Kuma Academy stated, "Even with all these hackers, if they are voluntarily doing something during the war, it won’t be enough. We want to expand." Ukrainians have used OSINT to fight Russian disinformation, and Kuma Academy is studying their tactics to determine what works. Ho Cheng-hui, another Kuma Academy cofounder, stated, "War is, at its most basic nature, a contest of wills. The two sides use a variety of methods to try to force the other to obey its will. Armed conflict is only one form of modern warfare."
In this case the analogies might be with civil defense, or citizen journalism.
Two DHS agencies focus on cybersecurity.
They have other missions as well, but both the Coast Guard and the Secret Service have cybersecurity responsibilities, too.
A report released this week from American watchdog the Government Accountability Office (GAO) states that the US Coast Guard needs to increase its cyberspace workforce in order to defend its IT systems and data against cyberthreats. According to the report, Nextgov.com explains, the marine transportation system suffered over five hundred cyberattacks in 2020, with each data breach costing, on average, $3.9 million. In 2015 the Coast Guard established cyberspace as an operational domain, but as of September 2021, the agency had only around 4,500 authorized cyberspace workforce positions, and about 9% were vacant. What’s more, the GAO found that the Coast Guard was not using its Manpower Requirements Determination, a rubric intended to help assess mission staffing and skills needs, on a large portion of its cyber workforce, and that the agency has fully implemented only seven out of twelve recommended recruitment, retention, and training leading practices. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which houses the Coast Guard, has agreed with the recommendations set out by GAO in the report, which include creating a strategic workforce plan, using data from the Cyber Mission Specialist rating to inform its workforce planning, and establishing recruitment effectiveness metrics.
ClearanceJobs takes a look at the cybersecurity activities of another component of the DHS, the Secret Service. While the Secret Service is most famous for providing protection for US presidents, it actually started as an arm of the Treasury Department, working to police counterfeit currency operations. Those duties expanded to include identity theft cases and telemarketing fraud, and now the agency’s cyber investigation units play a key role in fighting transnational financial crime. The Secret Service’s most wanted fugitive list currently features criminals who have targeted financial institutions, payment processing systems, and securities firms through hacking/criminal enterprise schemes.