Cyber Command Documents Detail Campaign to Counter ISIS in Cyberspace
On January 21, 2020, the National Security Archive released six U.S. Cyber Command documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, which shed light on “Operation Glowing Symphony,” the campaign to counter ISIS in cyberspace. According to the newly released documents, Glowing Symphony was the most complex offensive cyberspace operation that Cyber Command has conducted to date and successfully disrupted ISIS’ media presence online. The success of the operation prompted Cyber Command to authorize interviews with U.S. media outlets and incorporate its lessons into its official doctrine. Cyber Command states that it will conduct more frequent and widely-scoped operations throughout the global internet infrastructure in the future. Though the documents are substantially redacted, they present a rare look at the U.S. military’s use of cyber weapons.
Conflicting Arguments Surround the Alleged Hacking of Jeff Bezos’ Phone
On Wednesday, independent experts for the UN Human Rights Council reported that a WhatsApp account belonging to Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, in 2018 sent spyware enabling surveillance of The Washington Post owner and Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, and called for an investigation by the United States into Saudi Arabia’s activities. The allegations against bin Salman are consistent with instances of Saudi targeting of rivals, dissidents, and human rights activists. However, cybersecurity experts have questioned a report by FTI Consulting that argues bin Salman was behind the hacking of Bezos’ phone, and even doubt that it was actually infected with spyware at all, as no known malware strains were found during the report’s forensic analysis. Experts criticize the report for being incomplete, and question why FTI did not jailbreak Bezos’ phone in order to examine the root file system for malware. According to Vladimir Katalov, CEO of iOS forensics firm Elcomsoft, “Looks like [the] experts were not qualified enough.” The story of the alleged hacking of Bezos’ phone is expected to continue to play out as more information emerges.
Suzhou Uses Facial Recognition to Shame Pajama Wearers
On Monday, the urban management department of Suzhou sparked outrage online when it published surveillance photos taken by street cameras of local residents wearing pajamas in public, along with parts of their names, government identification numbers, and the locations where their “uncivilized behavior” had taken place. Chinese netizens used the social media platform Weibo to criticize the local government’s use of facial recognition technology to shame citizens and violate their privacy. Government officials quickly apologized and removed the posts from the urban management department’s website, explaining afterwards that they initially implemented the measure because Suzhou was competing in the “National Civilized City” competition. The use of facial recognition software in China has become widespread and receives attention for its use in profiling ethnic minorities. This incident in Suzhou is a rare example of Chinese citizens successfully pushing back against how the government uses the technology.
Tech Companies Volunteer Cybersecurity Expertise to Presidential Campaigns
Nearly a dozen tech companies said that it was their civic duty to provide free or reduced-cost cybersecurity services to U.S. presidential campaigns. Due to budget constraints, campaigns often struggle to adopt adequate cybersecurity measures, and many believe that the investment they require would be better spent on voter outreach. Given that Russian hackers stole emails from John Podesta, chairman of Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, there is reason to believe candidates will again be targeted in 2020. There are also benefits for tech companies when they help presidential campaigns. Not only do they receive visibility for their services, but they also gain access to possible future clients.
Pentagon Intervenes on Huawei
The U.S. Department of Commerce has withdrawn proposed regulations making it harder for U.S. companies to sell to Huawei following objections from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), as well as the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The DOD is concerned that if U.S. companies can’t sell their products to Huawei, they will lose a source of revenue, which would deprive them of funding for research and development needed to maintain a U.S. technological edge. The Treasury Department objected because it wanted Secretary Steven Mnuchin to have an opportunity to weigh in on the decision. Despite the delay of the proposed regulations, the U.S. company Qualcomm, a major chipmaker, has been unable to receive a license from the U.S. government to sell its technology to Huawei. Qualcomm earns 65 percent of its revenue from China, and its shipments of mobile station modems fell 22 percent, or by $43 million, in the second quarter of 2019 because of its inability to sell to Huawei. Meanwhile, China has been working to develop its own indigenous chipmaking industry, which could cause Qualcomm to lose business that it has with other Chinese companies, aside from Huawei, like Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi.