US, UK say Russia targets Internet hardware for espionage

Washington and London jointly accused the Russian government of maliciously targeting global Internet equipment for political and economic espionage. (Shutterstock)
Updated 17 April 2018
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US, UK say Russia targets Internet hardware for espionage

  • A joint statement by the US Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the UK’s National Cyber Security Center said the main targets include “government and private-sector organizations”
  • Australia also admonished Russia and accused Kremlin-backed hackers of cyberattacks on hundreds of Australian companies last year

Washington and London on Monday jointly accused the Russian government of maliciously targeting global Internet equipment for political and economic espionage.
The two governments said the Russian operations, which allegedly involve planting malware on Internet routers and other equipment, could also lay the foundation for future offensive cyberattacks.
A joint statement by the US Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the UK’s National Cyber Security Center said the main targets include “government and private-sector organizations,” as well as providers of “critical infrastructure” and Internet service providers.
“Victims were identified through a coordinated series of actions between US and international partners,” according to a companion technical alert issued by the US Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT). Both nations have “high confidence” in the finding of Russian-sponsored cyber-meddling, which the alert said has been reported by multiple sources since 2015.
Australia also admonished Russia and accused Kremlin-backed hackers of cyberattacks on hundreds of Australian companies last year.
Respected US cybersecurity researcher Jake Williams said it was difficult for him to understand the motivation for Monday’s alert given that “the activity has been ongoing for some time.”
“Calling the Russians out on this hardly makes much sense unless there’s some other agenda (most likely political),” Williams, the president of Rendition Infosec, added via text message.
Routers direct data traffic across the Internet. US-CERT said the compromised routers can be exploited for “man-in-the-middle” spoofing attacks, in which communications are intercepted by a seemingly trusted device that has actually been infiltrated by an attacker.
“The current state of US network devices — coupled with a Russian government campaign to exploit these devices — threatens the safety, security, and economic well-being of the United States,” the alert stated. An email message seeking comment from the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., received no response.
US-CERT urged affected companies, and public sector organizations and even people who use routers in home offices to take action to harden poorly-secured devices. But its alert cited only one specific product: Cisco’s Smart Install software.
Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne told reporterse about 400 Australian companies were targeted in the Russian attacks, but there was no “exploitation of significance.” The country’s cybersecurity minister, Angus Taylor, said. “This attempt by Russia is a sharp reminder that Australian businesses and individuals are constantly targeted by malicious state and non-state actors.”
On March 15, US-CERT issued a similar alert saying the FBI and DHS had determined that Russian government “cyber actors” had sought to infiltrate US agencies as well as “organizations in the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.” It said Russian agents had obtained “remote access” to energy sector networks and obtained information on industrial control systems.
Experts have stressed that the March 15 bulletin did not mean Russia had obtained access to systems that control critical infrastructure such as the power grid. But Russia does have history in this regard, as many security experts blame it for several cyber-sabotage attacks on Ukraine’s power grid.


ASEAN may be forced to choose between US, China: Cambodia PM’s son

Updated 21 November 2018
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ASEAN may be forced to choose between US, China: Cambodia PM’s son

  • Cambodia has become an unlikely staging ground for geopolitical influence in Asia
  • The economic ripples of the trade spat between China and the US could destabilize global supply chain links in Southeast Asia

BANGKOK: Southeast Asian nations may soon have to “choose sides” between the US and China in their ongoing trade war, the political heir to Cambodia’s strongman ruler Hun Sen warned Wednesday in rare public comments.
Impoverished Cambodia has become an unlikely staging ground for geopolitical influence in Asia.
In recent years it has turned into a key China ally, heading off criticism of the superpower over its claims to disputed seas in exchange for billions of dollars in investment and loans.
While China has cozied up to Cambodia, the United States and the European Union have admonished Hun Sen, the nation’s ruler for 33 years, for his increasingly authoritarian rule.
In a rare speech outside of his country, his son, Hun Many warned the US-China trade spat may create lasting divisions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“Perhaps one day ASEAN would have to choose between US or China,” Hun Many said in Bangkok.
“How would we see the trade war spill or expanded in other areas? Surely it will pressure individual members of ASEAN or ASEAN as a whole to choose sides.”
The economic ripples of the trade spat between China and the US could destabilize global supply chain links in Southeast Asia, while a slump in Chinese spending would impact its trading partners.
Cambodia’s strongman Hun Sen has welcomed Chinese investment to pump-prime his country’s economy.
At the same time, he has accused the US of trying to foment revolution in Cambodia by supporting his critics.
Both the US and EU decried the July elections, which were held without a credible opposition and gave Hun Sen another term in power.
When asked which of the superpowers Cambodia would side with, the Australian-educated Hun Many demurred.
“At the end of the day, it depends on those who are involved to take a more responsible approach for their decisions that affects the entire world,” he said.
Earlier this week, Hun Sen swatted away concerns that Beijing will construct a naval base off the southwest coast of Cambodia, which would provide ready access to the disputed South China Sea.
Beijing claims most of the flashpoint area, infuriating the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan who all have competing claims to its islands and potentially resource-rich waters.
Hun Many, who described himself as a “proud son,” is widely believed to be in the running to one day replace his father.
His elder brother, Manit, is the head of a military intelligence unit while Manet, the oldest, was promoted in September to the chief of joint staff of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces as well as the commander of the infantry army headquarters.
But Many brushed aside the notion.
“It is way too soon to say that I am in the next generation of leaders,” he said.