Cyber Week in Review: February 3, 2023
The Netherlands will sign on to U.S. microchip controls
The Netherlands will sign on to U.S. microchip controls first enacted in October 2022, according to a report from Bloomberg. Dutch officials flew to Washington, D.C. last week to meet with U.S. officials and iron out an agreement. Details on implementation have not been finalized and will likely take months to emerge. The United States imposed the controls in October 2022 in order to restrict the ability of Chinese semiconductor firms to import equipment and designs as well as hire experienced engineers. Dutch participation is essential to the success of the controls since ASML, headquartered in Veldhoven, is the only company capable of manufacturing the extreme ultraviolet lithography machines necessary for the production of the most advanced chips. Japan, another critical partner in any semiconductor restrictions, had previously agreed to join the U.S. controls in December 2022.
Google issues report on Dragonbridge influence campaign
Google’s Threat Analysis Group released a follow-up report on China’s Dragonbridge influence campaign. Mandiant originally detected the campaign in June 2022, detailing the operation’s efforts to mobilize protests against a $120 million contract between the Department of Defense and Lynas Rare Earths Ltd to process rare earth metals in Texas. TAG’s report found that most activity by Dragonbridge was sloppy and often achieved little to no engagement with real viewers. For example, 80 percent of all videos created by Dragonbridge received less than 100 views. However, the researchers cautioned that Dragonbridge has begun to improve its content and future information operations could be more damaging.
Abraham Accords expanded to encompass cybersecurity
The United States, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Israel announced a formal expansion to the Abraham Accords on Tuesday. The accords, which were signed in 2020, normalized relations among Israel and a number of nations in the region. The expansion to the agreement will involve increased information sharing on cybersecurity threats, as well as the potential for joint cyber exercises. The agreement will address several common challenges in cyberspace, according to Rob Silvers, Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans, including ransomware, cybercrime, and the rising threat of Iran. In response to the announcement, some critics have raised human rights concerns, citing the misuses of Pegasus and other spyware developed by Israeli firms in targeting activists, dissidents, journalists, and opposition politicians by some of the participating countries.
Biden administration may stop granting export licenses for Huawei
The U.S. Department of Commerce has reportedly begun notifying companies that it will stop granting export licenses to American suppliers providing components to Huawei. The Trump administration imposed export controls on Huawei in 2019 which banned American firms from buying Huawei’s equipment, but firms like Qualcomm and Intel were allowed to continue supplying Huawei with components for smart phones and other telecommunications equipment. The new controls, if undertaken, would amount to a near-total ban on the sale of U.S.-made products to Huawei. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded to the reports and accused the United States of “generalizing the concept of national security, abusing state power without [a] bottom line, and unreasonably suppressing Chinese companies.”
U.S. and India partner on strategic technology and industrial defense initiative
On Tuesday, senior officials from the United States and India held the first meeting of the Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) initiative. This partnership will focus on elevating defense innovation and technology cooperation between government agencies, businesses, and academic institutions. In the meeting, the two countries discussed the establishment of “innovation bridges” in key sectors and identified biotechnology, advanced materials, and rare earth processing technology as fields for future cooperation. In a statement to the press, Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, acknowledged “the backdrop of geopolitical competition with China,” as a dimension of the ongoing partnership between the United States and India.