from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Cyber Week in Review: July 14, 2017

President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg. Carlos Barria/Reuters

This week: a U.S.-Russia working group on cyber issues, virtual private networks in Russia and China, and Apple's new data center in the Middle Kingdom.

July 13, 2017

President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg. Carlos Barria/Reuters
Blog Post

Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:

1. So is the United States working with Russia on cyber issues or not? Following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of Twenty last weekend, President Donald J. Trump tweeted about “forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit” with Russia in an attempt to mend the relationship. That got a furious response from Congress and the U.S. punditry, which argued that the United States should not be cooperating with a country accused of interfering in its elections, leading President Trump to reverse course. It's unclear whether President Trump's referral to the "unit" was the same as the "working-level group" Secretary of State Tillerson announced last Friday. Establishing a joint U.S.-Russia working group on cyber issues is not a stupid idea, according to CFR Senior Fellow Robert K. Knake. Despite Moscow's election shenanigans, he argues the United States and Russia have a shared interest in hashing out mutually-agreed cyber norms and efforts to de-escalate tensions.

2. You shall not pass! Tools that can circumvent state censorship have come under fire in Russia and China this week. The Russian parliament's lower house--the State Duma--unanimously adopted legislation that would ban virtual private network (VPN) operators and Tor--the popular anonymizing network--if they did not filter websites listed on the country's blacklist. In China, Bloomberg reported that Chinese telecommunications carriers were told to block VPN services on their networks by February 2018. That raised concern in the business community in China, which rely on VPNs to securely connect to their corporate network when working from the road. Chinese academics and software developers also rely on VPNs for their work. In response to the confusion, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology stated that a formal decision had yet been made and that Bloomberg had erred in its reporting.

3. This is what cyber sovereignty looks like. Apple announced it would partner with Guizhou-Cloud Big Data to build its first data center in China to comply with regulations under the cybersecurity law passed last year, and that came into effect last month. The law and it related regulation are widely interpreted in the West as an effort for China to extend its sovereignty over cyberspace by keeping data about Chinese citizens in the country, increasing domestic surveillance, and favoring domestic IT firms over foreign ones, which Chinese officials fear contain back doors that would enable Western espionage. In a statement, Apple claimed the new data center would “improve the speed and reliability of our products and services,” and “no backdoors will be created into any of our systems” for espionage by the Chinese government.

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