from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Cyber Week in Review: March 16, 2018

REUTERS/Toby Melville

This week: CFIUS strikes again; the U.K. considers going on the cyber offensive; U.S. officials call out Russia for targeting energy grid; Facebook is implicated in Myanmar's Rohingya crisis. 

March 16, 2018

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

1) No deal. President Donald Trump, acting on the recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), blocked Broadcom’s attempt to acquire U.S. semiconductor giant Qualcomm this week. This is the second time Trump has blocked an international acquisition on national security grounds in the past several months—and only the fifth time a U.S. president has done so in CFIUS’s nearly thirty year history. Both interventions come amid intensifying U.S.-Chinese competition over technology. In the case of Broadcom, U.S. officials worried that the Singapore-based company’s “private-equity-style” would lead the company to gut Qualcomm’s research and development budget for 5G technologies, leaving “an opening for China to expand its influence on the 5G standard-setting process.”

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2) Hit them where it hurts. A cyberattack is among the measures that the United Kingdom is reportedly considering in response to Russia’s attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in London last week. The U.K. has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation and might target the bank accounts of Russian oligarchs parking their assets in London. 10 Downing Street is also considering cyber reprisal, according to several unnamed sources. That’d mark a notable shift for the U.K., which has primarily focused on shoring up its cyber defenses rather than offensive action. Chatham House’s Beyza Unal believes such an attack is unlikely but suggests that the UK could target the country’s media outlets or propaganda apparatus if it decided to flex its cyber muscles.

3) Because one headline about Russia is not enough. U.S. officials disclosed this week that Russian hackers have been targeting multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including the energy grid, nuclear plants, water facilities, and more. DHS and the FBI called the attacks a “multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors” that have used malware and spear phishing to gain access to critical infrastructure, allowing hackers to disrupt or shut off power plants and other critical facilities at will. The disclosure, which is the first major U.S. attribution of Russian actors targeting U.S. critical energy infrastructure, coincides with a decision by the U.S. Treasury Department to impose sanctions on a range of entities and individual believed to have played a role in the 2016 election interference.

4) “Facebook has turned into a beast.” The U.N. independent experts investigating possible genocide against the Rohingya in Myanmar called out Facebook in a report this week. The investigators said Facebook played “a determining role” in the killings through spreading hate speech on its platform. “I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended,” one investigator said. The charge puts Facebook in a sensitive position as it grapples with the fact that connecting people makes the company responsible for what people decide to share. Facebook is so dominant in Myanmar that to many people Facebook is the internet itself.  A Facebook spokeswoman said that the company takes the situation incredibly seriously and has been working to develop counter-speech campaigns and offers translated safety resources.

More on:

Russia

United States

Cybersecurity

Infrastructure

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