from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Cyber Week in Review: October 16, 2015

CFR Net Politics Cyber
CFR Net Politics Cyber

October 16, 2015 4:00 pm (EST)

CFR Net Politics Cyber
CFR Net Politics Cyber
Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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

  • Citizen Lab released a report identifying thirty-two countries whose governments are most likely using FinFisher, a commercial spyware suite used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies that is criticized by human rights advocates. By querying FinFisher “anonymizing proxies” to identify the location of master servers, the lab found more servers than ever previously detected. Based on the lab’s findings, the governments of Angola, Egypt, Gabon, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, and Venezuela are all suspected of using FinFisher software. Many of the countries listed in the FinFisher report also appear in Citizen Lab’s 2014 report of countries likely to be using rival Hacking Team spyware.
  • As Congress signals that it may be ready to reform the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), California Governor Jerry Brown has signed the state’s own electronic communications privacy law. The new legislation requires state law enforcement personnel to obtain a search warrant to access Californians’ electronic communications, including metadata and location data, which are generally not afforded the same protections as text messages and e-mails in other states or at the federal level. The law has widespread and bipartisan support in the state and could provide a basis for future privacy legislation. Meanwhile, the federal ECPA continues to enable law enforcement to retrieve electronic communications more than 180 days old without a warrant.
  • The White House announced that Obama administration "is not seeking legislation at this time” to create backdoors for law enforcement to access encrypted data stored on smartphones and other digital devices. Although many have lauded President Obama’s decision as a victory for Apple, Google, and privacy advocates, the decision could easily be reversed by the next president in 2017.
  • According to Bloomberg, Russian cyberattacks are on the rise, and the Kremlin’s “newly bellicose behavior in cyberspace” mirrors its increasingly aggressive military campaigns in Ukraine and Syria. Over the last year, Russian-based hackers are believed to have breached targets as varied as the Polish stock market, the French TV network TV5 Monde, a German steel plant, the New York Times, and the U.S. House of Representatives, occasionally leaving false trails and once even wreaking physical destruction. While Chinese cyber activity traditionally gets the most attention in the press, Russian cyber activity is often seen stealthier and harder to detect.