GEOPOLITICAL AND CYBERSECURITY RISK WEEKLY BRIEF 1 JUNE 2021

1 June 2021

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In the Americas, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill which penalises social media companies for barring political candidates from their platforms. Authorities in Alberta, Canada have asked four of the western province’s universities to halt new ties and review existing partnerships linked to China and the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

In Asia, the British Chamber of Commerce (BritCham) said that British businesses see China’s cybersecurity and data restrictions as among the most significant challenges to operating in the country. The US State Department issued a ‘Level 4: Do Not Travel’ advisory, the highest level, cautioning US citizens against travel to Japan because of surging COVID-19 cases ahead of the summer Olympics. 

Multiple news sources have reported that the New Zealand Waikato District Health Board (DHB) was victim to a Zeppelin ransomware attack on 18 May. The organisation is reportedly still suffering the effects of the attack and has not yet been able to restore systems fully. The Waikato DHB has stated it will not engage with the threat actors and will not pay the ransom.

Data from several Japanese government entities was stolen by threat actors who gained access to Fujitsu's ProjectWEB platform-as-a-service. PlatformWEB has since been taken down, and the scope of attacks is being investigated. Impacted organisations include Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism; the country's Cabinet Secretariat; and Narita Airport.

In Europe, Belgium’s interior ministry was the victim of a ‘complex, sophisticated and targeted cyberattack’ that saw possibly China-based intruders gain access to the ministry’s computer system. Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor gave US-based technology firm Google 24 hours to remove what it deems to be prohibited content or face fines.

In the Middle East and Central Asia, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani announced that cryptocurrency mining will be prohibited until 22 September due to its significant power consumption during the summer months where power outages are frequent.  Meanwhile, journalists and activists in Gaza have complained of censorship against social media sites and instant messaging apps amid the recent conflict between Israel and the Hamas rulers of the coastal enclave.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced visa restrictions on former and current Eritrean and Ethiopian government and security officials who Washington considers responsible or complicit in alleged serious human-rights violations and war crimes, or who are undermining the peaceful resolution of conflict in the northern regional state of Tigray.

Multiple vulnerabilities have been disclosed in various Apple products. Three of these issues are reportedly being exploited in the wild by a malware dubbed XCSSET. Applying these latest patches to address issues should be considered a priority for macOS users to avoid being targeted.