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Critical infrastructure

2018

US President Trump signed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act of 2018 into law. The bill redesignates the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The new agency’s responsibilities will include ensuring cybersecurity and critical infrastructure security, coordinating with federal and non-federal entities, and DHS's responsibilities concerning chemical facility antiterrorism standards. It will consist of the Cybersecurity Division, the Infrastructure Security Division, and the Emergency Communications Division.

At the opening of the annual UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF), held at UNESCO premises in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron launched the “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace”, a high-level declaration on developing common principles for securing cyberspace. The Paris Call builds on the WSIS Tunis Agenda’s definition of the ‘respective roles’ of states and other stakeholders. It also resonates with the UN Group of Governmental Experts reaffirmation that international law applies to cyberspace. The declaration invites for support to victims both during peacetime and armed conflict, reaffirms Budapest Convention as the key tool for combating cybercrime, recognises the responsibility of private sector for products security, and calls for broad digital cooperation and capacity-building. It than invites signatories to, among other, prevent damaging general availability or integrity of the public core of the Internet, foreign intervention in electoral processes, ICT-enabled theft of intellectual property for competitive advantage, and non-state actors from ‘hacking-back’. The Paris Call has strong initial support from hundreds of signatories, including leading tech companies and many governments. Yet the USA, Russia, and China are missing. The declaration and its effects will be discussed again during the Paris Peace Forum in 2019, as well as during the IGF 2019 in Berlin.

Two new resolutions on cybersecurity issues have been adopted by the UN First Committee of the General Assembly (GA): one proposed by Russia by a vote of 109 in favour to 45 against, and the other by the USA with 139 in favour to 11 against. The resolution proposed by Russia (A/C.1/73/L.27.Rev.1), which has undergone number of changes since the draft was introduced mid-October, establishes an open-ended working group, to initially convene in June 2019, which will involve all interested states, hold intersessional consultations with business, NGOs and academia, and report to the UN GA in Autumn 2020. The group is mandated to, on a consensus basis, further develop the eleven norms of the 2015 report of the GGE (spelled out again in the resolution, but with certain changes in wording comparing to the GGE report) as well as the role of private sector and civil society, and discuss their implementation; it will also discuss models for ‘regular institutional dialogue with broad participation’ under the UN. The US resolution (A/C.1/73/L.37), underlines the reports of the UN GGE (2010, 2013, and 2015), and calls for the establishment of another GGE, mandated to further study norms, confidence-building measures and capacity-building measures, taking into account effective implementation of those, to report to the UN GA in Autumn 2021. It particularly suggests that the report should contain written national submissions on how international law applies to cyberspace. It also invites UNODA to conduct consultations with regional organisations (namely AU, EU, OAS, OSCE and the ASEAN Regional Forum), and the UN GGE chair to organise two open-ended informal consultative meetings with all the interested states.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of the US have issued a joint statement on combating foreign influence in US elections. The agencies stated that ongoing campaigns by Russia, China and other foreign actors, including Iran, aim to undermine confidence in democratic institutions, and influence public sentiment and government policies. The agencies are concerned that these activities also may try to influence voters in the 2018 and 2020 US elections. According to the agencies, using social media to amplify divisive issues, sponsoring specific content in English-language media like RT and Sputnik, seeding disinformation through sympathetic spokespersons regarding political candidates, and disseminating foreign propaganda, are some of the forms these campaigns can take. There is currently no evidence of a compromise or disruption of the voting infrastructure that would enable adversaries to prevent voting, change vote counts or disrupt the tallying of votes in the midterm elections. The statement points out that the US government is tirelessly working to identify and counter threats to the electoral process, and recommends that the US public, government officials, political candidates and their campaigns follow cybersecurity guidelines and be responsible consumers of information in order to mitigate adversarial efforts.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has published its 2018 DoD Cyber Strategy, which directs DoD to defend forward, shape the day-to-day competition, and prepare for war. According to the document, the DoD will defend forward to disrupt or stop malicious cyber activity at its source and it will preempt, defeat, or deter malicious cyber activity targeting U.S. critical infrastructure. The DoD also aims to shape the day-to-day-competition with USA’s strategic competitors who undermine USA’s stability and prosperity, namely Russia and China. It will also prepare military cyber capabilities to be used in the event of crisis or conflict. Aside from competing and deterring in cyberspace, the strategic approach outlined by the DoD in the document also consists of building a more lethal Joint force, expanding alliances and partnerships, reforming the Department, and cultivating talent.

Microsoft detected and helped the US government block Russian hacking attempts against at least three congressional candidates in 2018, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for customer security and trust Tom Burt said at an Aspen Security Forum. The hackers sought to steal the credentials of candidates’ staffers through phishing attacks which landed them at a fake Microsoft domain. According to Microsoft, the fake domains were registered by Fancy Bear or APT 28, a Russia-linked group of hackers. Microsoft took down the fake domain and worked with the government to ensure none of the staffers was infected by the attack.

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