The Least Sexy Threat in the US Worldwide Threat Assessment
Earlier this week, the US intelligence community concluded in its Worldwide Threat Assessment report that: “China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea increasingly use cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines […] to disrupt critical infrastructure.” The report cites China and Russia as the greatest source of cyber threats and warns that “China has the ability to launch cyber attacks that cause localized, temporary disruptive effects on critical infrastructure—such as disruption of a natural gas pipeline for days to weeks”. According to the report, Russian cyberattacks could easily disrupt critical, national infrastructure like electrical distribution networks. In fact, the intelligence community believes the Kremlin has already begun mapping critical US infrastructure as well as “staging cyber attack assets to allow it to disrupt or damage US civilian and military infrastructure during a crisis.” The report also outlines threats posed by emerging 5G networks if “US data flows across foreign-produced equipment and foreign-controlled networks”. One threat the assessment is missing? POTUS.
Earlier this week, the European Medicines Agency, the EU’s drug regulator, updated EU trade associations on Brexit preparedness activities. The European agency, like many others, is relocating, and many London staff have already left for Amsterdam. A Brexit deal is still a long way off, and labs across Europe, the UK, and Ireland have begun bracing for the effects of a no-deal exit. Experts have already warned that “regular” Brexit could have outsized effects on scientific research and development. The Royal Society warns in a “Brexit “no-deal” factsheet” that a no-deal exit would jeopardize talent acquisition and retention; foreign investment and research funding; and future regulatory alignment. In the event of a no-deal exit, the UK would immediately leave other important regulatory bodies like the European Atomic Energy Community, Euratom. At stake are current projects and future ones as well as the ability to shape global research agendas. Many projects that are based in the UK but funded through the EU would suddenly be in jeopardy. UK pharmaceutical firms warn that Brexit and the resultant brain-drain would impact R&D. Medical researchers say that the exit will affect both medical researchers and patients seeking cutting edge treatment and clinical trials. Well, when the UK runs out of funds, scientists, and rubber gloves, at least it will be easy to quarantine since it’s an island.
Japan Olympics Hack
Japan is launching the latest Olympic sport: hacking. Starting next week (and continuing for the next 5 years), Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) will begin hacking ordinary citizens’ IoT (Internet of Things) devices–including webcams, routers, and bluetooth lightbulbs. According to Japan’s only public broadcaster, NHK World, Japanese lawmakers approved the plan to allow state-backed hackers to randomly break into up to 200 million devices. The law gives NICT 5 years to gain access to IoT devices and to issue formal warnings to device owners. Japanese communications ministry officials claim the initiative is an attempt to improve the island nation’s cybersecurity ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Critics warn that it could result in an invasion of privacy, and in the worst case it could actually expose innocent individuals if their data is stored and then hacked. Maybe Japan should consider launching an Olympic sport that sparks joy, instead. Like kondo-ing.
The great thing about cryptocurrency is that you can’t steal it
Since bitcoin created its first ledger more than ten years ago, over $1.7 billion worth of cryptocurrencies have been stolen—$1 billion of which is believed to have been stolen last year alone by just two hacker groups. Through a complex series of scams like SIM Swapping, Crypto Dusting, and Crypto Robbing Ransomware, the groups steal and then launder the stolen cryptocurrency. Hackers typically use several digital wallets to conceal their identity and then initiate a series of thousands of transfers before converting the digital currency into fiat currency. Finance industry leaders like JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon have publicly called cryptocurrencies fraudulent, and analysts warn that many cryptocurrency exchanges lack basic regulatory oversight. And, in addition to fraud, cryptocurrencies like Ethereum face steep technical issues: so far they haven’t been able to upgrade because doing so would expose funds. But who cares? Cryptocurrency isn’t real, right? Not so fast. Law enforcement officials point out that cryptocurrencies have been used extensively on the dark web to fund activities like human trafficking, identity theft, and arranging hits.