Cyber wrap

German Chancellor Angela MerkelThis week the fallout from the leak of classified NSA documents continued, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her outrage at the revelation the US had been tapping her phone for up to ten years, telling reporters that ‘Spying against friends is not acceptable against anyone.’ However, Spiegel Online questioned Merkel’s sincerity, as it emerged that Merkel had resisted the passage of EU-wide data protection framework that would fine companies found to be passing data to intelligence agencies.

US intelligence agencies have continued to justify their activities, and are facing mounting opposition, including from usual ally Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper defended the tapping of world leader’s communications, telling the House of Representatives Intelligence Panel that ‘Leadership intentions is kind of a basic tenet of what we collect and analyse‘. NSA chief General Keith Alexander testified that reports that the NSA collected intelligence on European citizens was ‘Completely false‘, and that much of the data cited as being so was actually provided by European intelligence services to the US.

Some world leaders have been circumspect; New Zealand’s Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman joked that anyone from NSA listening to private New Zealand Government conversations would quickly fall asleep.

However Coleman may have more to worry about than just the NSA listening in, with Chinese telco provider Huawei a major supplier of equipment for NZ’s Ultra-Fast Broadband Network. In Australia, Attorney-General George Brandis has ruled out a review of the previous government’s decision to ban Huawei’s participation in the National Broadband Network (NBN) after he received an updated briefing from ASIO Director‑General David Irvine and Ian McKenzie, Director of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). This came despite an apparent push from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Trade Minister Andrew Robb for a review of the decision, and questions in the Australian Financial Review about why Huawei could not be involved at the edges of the NBN without compromising critical access points. The cost of the ban is likely to have been at the front of Andrew Robb’s mind, considering the statement of Chinese Economic and Commercial Consul Peng Geng in Sydney who warned that the Huawei ban would deter other Chinese companies investing in Australia.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has also sought a briefing on developments regarding Huawei from Irvine and McKenzie, but he may end up receiving the briefing from ASD’s new Director, Dr Paul Taloni. Taloni has been announced as the replacement for the retiring McKenzie, who is departing after six years at the helm of ASD. Taloni, former Chief of Staff to Stephen Smith and Deputy Director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, will take over the reins in November.

Not wanting to let states have all the fun, Microsoft has outlined its Five Principles for Shaping Cyber Security Norms, in the wake of October’s International Conference in Cyberspace in Seoul. It notes that while governments have a role in building confidence and cooperation in cyberspace, many of the measures and policies for effective international cybersecurity practices rely on the private sector.

Post from the ASPI International Cyber Policy Centre. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.