First up this week, Australia’s mandatory data-retention scheme is inching closer to reality. The National Security Committee of Cabinet reportedly signed off on laws that will compel internet service providers to keep customer data for two years. Apart from counter-terrorism (new counter-terrorism measures (PDF) were announced yesterday), Tony Abbott said on ABC Radio this morning that data storage could also be used to fight ‘general’ crimes.
Major telcos have raised concerns about consumers being slugged with extra fees as service providers pass on the cost of compliance to their customers—a kind of ‘surveillance tax’. Australia’s second largest Internet Service Provider, iiNet, last week told (PDF) a Senate committee hearing on the comprehensive revision of Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 that it’s uncomfortable with mandatory data-retention regimes turning commercial companies into ‘unwilling agents of the state’.
On the research front, Assistant Minister for Defence Stuart Robert met with Dr Reginald Brothers from the US Department of Homeland Security last week to discuss cybersecurity cooperation and national security research. ‘The discussions with the US delegation have proved very valuable in informing our national security science and technology effort’ Robert said. For a bit of context, in 2006, Australia and the US signed (PDF) a Treaty on Cooperation in Science and Technology (PDF), which extended and amended an earlier agreement in 1968.
In Gaza, hacktivist group Anonymous continues to protest Israel’s military incursion by taking down a number of government sites, including those run by Mossad and the Israel Defense Forces. On Monday, the @AnonymousGlobo Twitter account announced ‘Yes, why not a cyberwar?’ while simultaneously releasing usernames and passwords for Israeli routers. The intensity of distributed denial of service attacks usually fluctuates in response to significant events on the ground, but they rarely have a lasting impact. Even though attacks haven’t translated into major political costs to the Israeli government, that hasn’t deterred cyber attacks, and both the low barriers to entry and the cloak of anonymity mean they’re likely to continue.
Meanwhile Russia has brought Crimea more firmly into the fold this week. According to Renesys, a company that monitors Internet traffic, Crimean internet service providers have started sending traffic through Russia on a new underwater Internet cable across the Kerch Strait. On the strategic level, Doug Madory for Renesys wrote that ‘there is no turning back now in the process of Russia’s infrastructure consolidation’, and its growing control of Crimea. At the operational level, Leo Mirani in an article on Quartz said that ‘creating a domestic connection ensures security from snoopers and makes it faster for Crimean internet users to access content hosted in Russia.’
Japan’s 2014 Defence White Paper—released on Tuesday—is available online in English, and has a good overview of trends occurring in cyberspace (Chapter 2, Section 5). More broadly, ABC’s North Asia correspondent Matthew Carney says the paper expresses ‘strong concern about China’s military build-up and its assertive moves in both the East and South China seas’.
What is the best means to protect data, and is it legal to ‘actively’ protect it? Jessica Woodall explores the ‘legislative waters surrounding hacking back’ here on The Strategist. On the ABC, Nawaf Bitar argues that advanced cyber attackers necessitate an active defence, and ‘the days of the castle and moat strategy, where companies invest heavily in large security stacks to block perimeter attacks should be long gone.’
The lead article in the current edition of Survival, ‘Cyberwarfare and Sino-American crisis instability’, explores how cyberwar would play out in an armed conflict between the great powers. The article addresses a debate around whether the prospect of cyber warfare, to which the US and China are increasingly committed, makes one side, or both, more inclined to strike first. In the end, ‘the fear of war is trumped by fear of losing’ write Gompert and Libicki. Also on cyberwar, Jason Healey says on DefenseNews that ‘the Internet is a fierce domain and conflicts are common between nations. But deterrence has kept a lid on the worst.’
Simon Hansen is an intern in ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre. Image courtesy of Flickr user Jacob Davis.