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Monthly archives for June, 2017

Singapore to collaborate with Australia on cybersecurity

Both countries have signed a two-year agreement to cooperate closely on cybersecurity, which will include information exchange, training, and joint exercises focused on critical information infrastructure.

Singapore and Australia have inked an agreement to cooperate closely on cybersecurity, including information sharing, training, and joint exercises to safeguard critical information infrastructure.

The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Friday during the second Singapore-Australia Leaders’ Summit in the city-state, which was witnessed by prime ministers of both nations–Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong and Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull.

The two-year agreement encompassed collaboration across several key areas, including information exchange on cybersecurity incidents and threats, sharing of best practices to drive cybersecurity innovation, and training in relevant skillsets. Both countries also would participate in joint cybersecurity exercises focused on safeguarding critical information infrastructure and partner on regional cyber capacity buildouts.

The initiative would be led by Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency (CSA), which was responsible for the country’s cybersecurity operations, and marked the sixth of such bilateral agreements including India, France, the Netherlands, UK, and US.

Singapore and Australia also would work to promote “voluntary norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace”. To kickstart this, both nations would host an Asean workshop aimed at reducing cyber risks in end-2017.

CSA Chief Executive David Koh said: “Singapore and Australia share close bilateral relations and both countries have a shared vision that cybersecurity is an enabler that supports innovation, economic growth, and social development.

“This MOU shows our commitment to work together to build a secure and resilient cyberspace that will contribute to the progress of both countries,” Koh said.

Turnbull also was in Singapore for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, which gathered defence ministers from across Asia-Pacific to discuss global and regional security issues.

Singapore last October launched the Asean Cyber Capacity Programme in a bid to galavanise the regions efforts in cybersecurity and fund resources, expertise, and training to help nations build up the necessary infrastructure. These would include workshops, seminars, and conferences as well as consultancy efforts in forming national cybersecurity strategies and related legislations.

The Singapore government in March 2017 also announced plans to set up a cybersecurity command centre to combat growing threats and boost skillsets in cyberdefence. Operating under the purview of the defence ministry and Singapore Armed Forces, the new Defence Cyber Organisation would be manned by some 2,600 soldiers operating within divisions overseeing cybersecurity operations, policy and planning, vulnerability assessment, and cyberdefence.

The move came after the defence ministry suffered a security breach that compromised the personal data of 850 national servicemen and employees. The breach involved the ministry’s I-net system, which supported web-connected computer terminals its employees and national servicemen used for personal online communications or internet browsing.

In addition, two Singapore universities last month suffered APT (advanced persistent threat) attacks, during which hackers specifically targeted government and research data.


China’s new cybersecurity law rattles tech giants

But look no further than Russia for some idea of how US companies will be affected.

China’s new cybersecurity law has a lot of people scratching their heads, trying to figure out how it affects their businesses — if at all.

The gist of the law seems simple enough. The law will ban the collection and sale of user’s personal information. Companies operating in China will also have to store their customer’s data on servers in the country (which has been delayed until the end of 2018 to figure out some kinks), and customers will have the right to have their data erased. At the same time, individuals will have to register with their real names on messaging apps and social networks.

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, the new law — approved by the country’s “rubber-stamp” parliament — was introduced in response to the growing threat of cyber-terrorism and hacking, which would replace a large patchwork of different, loosely collected laws.

“Those who violate the provisions and infringe on personal information will face hefty fines,” said the news agency, via Reuters.

But there’s the problem. Nobody seems to know exactly how the law works.

The law is set to go into effect Thursday, but “there’s unfortunately a lot of confusion” about how it work or be enforced, according to Michael Chang, a Nokia executive and vice-president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, speaking to The New York Times.

“We still have a lot of unclarified territory that needs to be addressed as soon as possible,” he said, suggesting Beijing had conveyed “less than half” of the law’s specifics.

Many US and European businesses are already reportedly concerned, according to a letter sent to the Chinese regulator in charge of the law’s enforcement, calling it “fraught with weaknesses.”

That’s because many of the same companies, predominantly data-hungry firms — like software and service providers — are concerned it will prevent Western giants from entering the lucrative Chinese market.

The Chinese regulator denied that was the case, saying the new provisions do “not restrict foreign companies or their technology and products entering the Chinese market,” despite the country’s reduced reliance on Western technologies in the wake of the Edward Snowden disclosures into US mass surveillance. Just as the US has been concerned about Chinese espionage, Beijing has pushed away many US tech giants for fear of US snooping.

But there is some hope. China isn’t the first country to want to rein in its citizens’ data — either for their safety or government surveillance, take your pick.

Russia, last year, introduced a similar law under a similar guise of “preventing terrorism” (read, “increasing surveillance” in a region where speech and expression are already heavily restricted).

Companies operating in the country were told to store Russian citizen data on servers within its borders. Those breaking the rules or refusing to comply would be added to a blacklist.

One such company was LinkedIn, according to several reports, which at the time had six million users in Russia. But many other companies largely acquiesced. Hardware and device makers, like Apple and Lenovo, were among the first to comply — not least because it was easier. And other data-hungry companies, like eBay, Facebook, and Google, took longer to transfer data into the region in order to keep operating — though their current status isn’t known. Some firms, like Spotify, have scrapped plans to enter the country altogether, citing conflict with the rules.

Suffice to say, it’s been a mixed bag of reaction, but on the most part accepted the country’s rules.

While the two sets of cybersecurity laws share similarities, China is a bigger market that most Western companies can’t avoid — even if they have yet to break into the region.

With Russia’s case, even though the rules seemed arbitrary, archaic, and generated legal disquietness, they were at least easy to follow.

Beijing has since tried to defuse complaints and concerns by Western firms over possible disruptions.

But with looming threats of fines and a void where there should be clarity, it’s looking like many multinationals could be in for a bumpy few quarters.


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