Cyber wrap
18 Mar 2014|

Welcome to the cyber wrap for another week. Just to mix things up, we’ll be coming to you each Tuesday for the next little while. Now for an update on all things cyber:

Offensive cyber campaigns continued to be waged by patriotic hackers and other forces in Russia and Ukraine in the lead up to the Crimean referendum last weekend. On Thursday, an unidentified Ukrainian network was rocked by a powerful Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack traced to Russia, that was said to be 32 times larger than the most significant attack directed toward Georgia in the 2008 Russia–Georgia war. NATO was also faced with a DDoS attack that saw several of its websites taken down. Hackers from Ukraine said to be aggrieved by alleged NATO interference in Ukrainian affairs later claimed responsibility.

The big news was out of America this week where the US Department of Commerce (DoC) set the stage to relinquish its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the LA-based not-for-profit that controls internet domain names and IP numbers. The National Telecommunications & Information Administration, an agency of DoC, has requested a proposal for the new stewardship of ICANN be developed at a meeting of global stakeholders in Singapore next week. This announcement is sure to have a significant impact on the global internet governance debate, and particularly on the NETmundial conference slated for Brazil next month, which will seek to address perceived US dominance in this space. We’ll be kicking off a series of blog posts on this decision and other internet governance issues starting on The Strategist this Thursday. In the meantime, ICPC International Fellow Samir Saran has highlighted some meta-trends affecting the internet governance debate in India and internationally.

Western politicians are responding to the sentiment of their constituents as Snowden’s revelations continue to whet the public appetite for reform in the area of personal data management. The European Parliament has voted in favour of data protection reforms built around consumer consent and control including ‘the right to be forgotten’. The reforms would see a sole arbiter enforce pan-European data protection laws on all companies doing businesses across the EU regardless of where they are based. In the States, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger has proposed that US phone records be held by phone companies rather than the NSA, whose analysts would have to seek a court order to be granted access. While Ruppersberger has been a staunch defender of the NSA, his plan effectively echoes part of the surveillance reforms announced by President Obama in January, an exercise that Ruppersberger sees as necessary to regain public confidence in the intelligence agency.

The confirmation process for the next NSA and US Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) boss Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers got underway in Washington last week. As confirmations go, the first day was far from bruising, with commentators noting his mastery of ‘the NSA’s ability to pay lip-service to transparency, while publicly saying very little’. When it came to American cyber capabilities, Rogers was more forthcoming, stating that all major combat commands in the United States military will soon be complemented by dedicated offensive cyber forces. Current double-hatted chief General Keith Alexander followed up the next day with testimony that CYBERCOM is likely to be elevated to the status of a full combatant command citing its growth under parent US Strategic Command since 2010.

Finally, the ICPC wishes a happy birthday to the Internet! It has been 25 years since Tim Berners-Lee wrote his first proposal for what would become the World Wide Web, which at the time his boss deemed ‘vague but exciting’. Berners-Lee used the anniversary to call for a digital bill of rights in every country, highlighting his desire  for the openness, security and neutrality of the Internet to be strengthened. Find out more information on the Web We Want campaign here.

David Lang is an intern at ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre.