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In Absence of Rules, Cyber Terrorists Attack Nations

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The systematic crash of the computer systems of banks and TV broadcasters in South Korea — reportedly the result of an attack that was widely speculated to have been launched by North Korea — raises questions about what international laws, if any, govern the new and unexplored area of cyberwarfare.

“The answer is there’s nothing and there’s everything,” said Michael Schmitt, professor and chairman of the international law department at the U.S. Naval War College.

Schmitt, who was asked by the NATO Co-operative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence to look into these issues, chaired a three-year project that brought together 20 academics and practitioners from around the world.

 CBC, the leading Canadian media reported that the culmination of their efforts was the recently published Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare.

“If you’re looking for cyber specific law, a law that says ‘a cyberattack that causes these consequences in an armed attack to which you can respond,’ you will find nothing,” he said. “But it was our unanimous consensus among the group of experts that the existing international law applies to cyberspace and to cyberweapons.”

This means that, as international law permits a country to defend itself and retaliate if attacked by conventional weapons, a country that is the victim of a cyberattack that causes damage or death, may also retaliate, either through cyberwarfare or conventional weapons.

“Hack into a control system of a dam and release waters downstream. Those waters are going to cause significant damage, physical damage, people will drown. In my mind that’s clearly an armed attack,” Schmitt said.

 “And if someone did that to Canada, you could resort to force, not only cyber but armed force to defend yourself.”

Other examples of cyberwarfare that are grounds for retaliation by force could include hacking into a water treatment plant and causing chemicals to flow into the water, thereby poisoning the population, hacking into air traffic control systems and causing planes to crash, or hacking into a hospital and changing people’s blood type, causing harm to patients

But the attack on South Korea, if in fact North Korea was responsible, is different, Schmitt said.

 The attack is certainly a violation of South Korea’s sovereignty and a violation of international law, he said, but not grounds for the use of force in response.

“We would call that a below the threshold operation that certainly would permit a response from South Korea but the response could not include armed force,” Schmitt said.

The retaliatory options for South Korea would include countermeasures. These are actions that can be taken by the aggrieved state that would normally be unlawful under international law but are considered acceptable because the aggressor state violated international law first.

“If state A attacks state B’s banking system, state B may then respond proportionally against state A’s banking system to compel state A to knock it off,” Schmitt said.

His group also looked at issues surrounding cyberattacks on civilians. Under international law and the principle of distinction, when on the battlefield, operations may only be directed against military objects and combatants and not civilians.

“We asked the question ‘when is a cyber operation a forbidden attack?’ There are all sorts of things you can do in cyberspace against civilians during an armed conflict that doesn’t physically harm them and doesn’t injure them,” he said. For example, erasing personal data or messing with their banking records.

“What we said is that this is a very hard question. Not unanimous, but the majority said that an attack, in the law of war, means you physically harm someone, you break something, you cause physical damage or you interfere in the functionality of an object such that it needs to be actually repaired.”

Ashley Deeks, an associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and an expert in international law, said many of the scenarios are case by case.

“Even in the kinetic world, there is no real definition of what an armed attack is,” she said, adding that states look to past practices.

For example, the Stuxnet computer virus, reportedly launched by the U.S. that attacked and destroyed hundreds of centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Iran, raised these issues.

“I guess I would just characterize it as the closest thing we’ve seen to a cyber action that produces real world effects, not dissimilar from what a kinetic attack would do. But I’m not prepared to say it was an armed attack.”

That’s why a lot of people are starting to devote a lot of attention to cyberwarfare and trying to sort out where the lines are, Deeks said.

“There are a lot of question marks. If you took out a banking system, and it caused massive instability in the country … that could be construed as an armed attack by some states. But it’s really an open question,” she said.

“There would be other states that say, ‘No, unless people die, things blow up, not an armed attack. We want to set a high threshold.’ Others say, ‘That ‘s crazy. You want to start deterring these things. You want to call lower level things armed attacks.”

However, Schmitt said he believes all these thresholds will evolve over the next decade.

“I anticipate that we’ll see a lot of thresholds coming down that will allow states to respond more vibrantly to cyber attacks that might not be possible under the law as we found it.”

 


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Join Inlaks Live TechTalk Edition on Hyosung’s Revolutionary MV 100 ATM Model

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Inlaks, the leading Information Technology Systems Integrator specialised in the deployment of highly scalable ICT Infrastructure solutions, will on Monday September 28, deploy the second edition of its virtual thought leadership segment called “TechTalk”.

Techtalk which was formerly a pre-recorded segment hosted on the organisations YouTube channel has now transitioned into a live virtual event across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The virtual edition kicked off in August 2020 with a segment on Financial Crime Mitigation, honing in on the superiority of Temenos Financial Crime Mitigation Solution with Emmanuel Orororo, Sales Manager, Financial Business, Inlaks.

The 2nd edition of Tech Talk promises to offer the same measure of insights as it dives into the world of Automated Teller Machines (ATM) with a focus on MoniValue 100, a revolutionary ATM solution by Hyosung TNS. The MoniValue 100 is especially adapted to the present times as it is a cardless, contactless and changeless solution.

Join this virtual event live by logging on to any of the social media pages below on Monday, 28th September 2020. YouTube: Inlaks, Facebook: InlaksNg, Twitter: Inlaks, Instagram: InlaksNg

Inlaks is a leading system integrator in Sub-Saharan Africa. The company partners with leading OEMs in the technology industry to provide world-class information technology solutions that exceed the needs of its customers.

Over the years, Inlaks has built a reputation as the foremost ICT and Infrastructure Solutions Provider, helping customers effectively seize new market and service opportunities.

With an impressive customer base that includes six Central Banks in West Africa, 18 of the 24 banks in Nigeria and other major customers in the West African region, Inlaks has become the dominant Information Technology Company in Africa.

Inlaks’ customers cut across various segments including Banking, Telecommunication, Oil/Gas, Power, Utilities and the Distribution sectors of the economy. For more information, please visit www.inlaks.com


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Millions of Cyber Attacks Launched on Nigeria, Others- Reports

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There were 3.8 million malware attacks and 16.8 million Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUA) detections over a 7-month period in Nigeria, according to Kaspersky security solutions.

Millions of Cyber Attacks Launched on Nigeria, Others- Reports

Elsewhere in South Africa, there were almost 10 million malware attacks and a staggering 43 million PUA detections, showing the growing desperation of the attacks.

The company reported on 28 million malware attacks in 2020 and 102 million detections of potentially unwanted programs (pornware, adware etc.) accounted for by the beginning of August 2020.

These numbers show that it’s not only the malware that attacks users but also the “grey zone” programmes that grow in popularity and disturb their experiences, while users might not even know it is there.

Potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) are programmes that are usually not considered to be malicious by themselves.

However, they are generally influencing user experience in a negative way. For instance, adware fills user device with ads; aggressive monetising software propagates unrequested paid offers; downloaders may download even more various applications on the device, sometimes malicious ones.

calculating interim results of threat landscape activity in African countries, Kaspersky researchers noticed that PUAs attack users almost four times more often than traditional malware.

They also eventually reach more users: for instance, while in South Africa, the malware would attack 415,000 users in 7-months of 2020, the figure for PUA would be 736,000.

“The reason why ‘grey zone’ software is growing in popularity is that it is harder to notice at first and that if the programme is detected, its creators won’t be considered to be cybercriminals. The problem with them is that users are not always aware they consented to the installation of such programmes on their device and that in some cases, such programmes are exploited or used as a disguise for malware downloads,” said Denis Parinov, a security researcher at Kaspersky.

By taking a closer look at PUA, it becomes apparent that they are not only more widespread but also more potent than traditional malware.

Evaluating results over the same 7-month period in Nigeria, there were 3.8 million malware attacks and 16.8 million PUA detections – which is four times as much.

Kenyan and South African threat landscapes have been more intense. In South Africa, there were almost 10 million malware attacks and a staggering 43 million PUA detections.

Kenyan users faced even more malware attacks – around 14 million, and 41 million PUA appearances, Kaspersky said.


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Tech Giants Strike Deal with Advertisers over Hate Speech

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Web giants including Facebook have struck a deal with advertisers on how to identify harmful content such as hate speech, after an impasse over the issue which led to boycotts of the platform.

Tech Giants Strike Deal with Advertisers over Hate Speech

The agreement — which also included Twitter and YouTube — laid out for the first time a common set of definitions for hateful statements online.

In July, hundreds of advertisers including big-name consumer brands suspended advertising with Facebook as part of the #StopHateForProfit campaign, saying the social-media titan should do more to stamp out hatred and misinformation on its platform.

And earlier this month a group of celebrities — including Kim Kardashian, Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry — stopped using Facebook and Instagram for 24 hours, to push a similar message.

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) said in a statement Wednesday: “Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, in collaboration with marketers and agencies through the Global Alliance for Responsible Media have agreed to adopt a common set of definitions for hate speech and other harmful content and to collaborate with a view to monitoring industry efforts to improve in this critical area.”

The alliance was founded by the WFA and includes other major trade bodies.

According to the WFA, key areas of agreement included applying the alliance’s common definitions of harmful content; developing reporting standards for such content; establishing independent oversight; and rolling out tools for keeping advertisements away from harmful content.

The WFA said that properly defining online hate speech would remove the current problem of different platforms using their own definitions, which it said made it difficult for companies to decide where to put their ads.

“As funders of the online ecosystem, advertisers have a critical role to play in driving positive change and we are pleased to have reached agreement with the platforms on an action plan and timeline in order to make the necessary improvements,” said Stephan Loerke, chief executive of the WFA.

Luis Di Como, executive vice-president of global media at Unilever, a major advertiser, sounded a note of cautious optimism.

He said: “The issues within the online ecosystem are complicated, and whilst change doesn’t happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction.”

Speaking in July, Facebook’s founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said he remained adamant that the company did not want hate speech on the social network.

On Wednesday, the company’s vice-president for global marketing solutions, Carolyn Everson, said the agreement gave all parties “a unified language to move forward on the fight against hate online.”

 


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