from Net Politics

Cyber Week in Review: June 14, 2019

People attend a rally in support of demonstrators protesting against proposed extradition bill with China, in Hong Kong, China, June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

This week: POTUS muddies the water on Huawei; G20 taxes big tech; Bolton and offensive cyber; Zuckerberg deepfake; and China disrupts Telegram

June 13, 2019

People attend a rally in support of demonstrators protesting against proposed extradition bill with China, in Hong Kong, China, June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
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Could a Trade Deal Mean the End of the Huawei Ban? In the UK, Huawei’s global cybersecurity and privacy officer, John Suffolk, appeared at a hearing with Parliament to reassure British leaders that Huawei operates independently from the Chinese government. Suffolk told MPs that “No laws in China obligate us to work with the Chinese government on anything whatsoever” (and became a Weibo star in China). Britain, facing continued pressure from the United States to ban Huawei,  is still grappling with what role it will allow the Chinese telecom company to play in the country’s 5G infrastructure.

The U.S. position became slightly less clear when President Trump stated that Huawei’s status in the United States could be negotiable if China decides to make a trade deal. This comes in opposition to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s assertion that the concerns regarding Huawei are related to national security. The president’s comments undermine U.S. efforts to convince others that the Chinese telecom company represents a legitimate security risk. Meanwhile, Huawei applied for a trademark for its own operating system and cancelled the launch of a new laptop in the wake of U.S. Commerce Department restrictions on the company.

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Big Tech to Face Big Taxes After G20 Agreement: Digital companies will reportedly have to pay higher taxes as the world’s financial leaders have agreed on a draft communique for a set of new tax rules.The plan will close a loophole that Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other large tech firms use to register profits in low-tax countries regardless of the location of the end customer. “Global tax rules should still aim to tax businesses based on where they create value, not just on where they make sales,” said U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond. Britain and France have been among the strongest supporters of the new proposals. Countries like Ireland which have lured multinationals with low corporate tax rates would probably lose out.

Cyber Offense Against Cyber Spies? National Security Advisor John Bolton made waves Tuesday when he appeared to suggest that offensive cyber operations would be used to counter cyber commercial espionage against U.S. companies. Bolton told an audience at a Wall Street Journal event “We thought the response in cyberspace against electoral meddling was the highest priority last year, and so that’s what we focused on. But we’re now opening the aperture, broadening the areas we’re prepared to act in.” While some analysts have worried that the Trump administration's more assertive cyber strategy, defined by forward defense and persistent engagement, could be escalatory or alienate allies, it appears as if Bolton was referring not just to counter cyber operations but to a wide range of tools such as sanctions and indictments that could be used to deter potential attackers.

Fake Zuckerberg Video: A deepfake video of Mark Zuckerberg was posted to Instagram with the Facebook CEO seemingly discussing a malicious plan to control billions of people’s data. The British artists Bill Posters and Daniel Howe posted the video in response to Facebook’s refusal to take down a doctored video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which amassed millions of views. Facebook refused to take down the Zuckerberg video, stating that removing it was against their policies, and that they will filter it from recommended pages, treating it the same as the Pelosi video. AI researchers are struggling to keep pace with the development of deepfakes, and they are beginning to show up in campaigns around the world. For instance, a viral clip in Malaysia, which appears to show a man confessing to have sex with a minister, is also thought to be a deepfake.

China DDoSes the Hong Kong Protests: Telegram, a secure messaging app, was reportedly disrupted by an attack from a network of computers in China. Telegram is being used by activists in Hong Kong who are protesting a new bill that would allow extradition to the mainland. Groups on the platform exchanging information about the protests range in size from hundreds to tens of thousands. A similar attack on Telegram happened four years ago as Chinese human rights lawyers were unexpectedly arrested in large numbers. Hong Kong police have supposedly learned how to control and disrupt digital protests from their Chinese counterparts, and reportedly went on a study tour of Xinjiang to learn more about surveillance.   

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