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Cyber-espionage

EU Threat Landscape Report: Cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated, targeted and widespread

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On 20 October, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) published its yearly report summarizing the main cyber threats encountered between 2019 and 2020. The report reveals that the attacks are continuously expanding by becoming more sophisticated, targeted, widespread and often undetected, while for the majority of them the motivation is financial. There is also an increase of phishing, spam and targeted attacks in the social media platforms. During the coronavirus pandemic, the cybersecurity of health services was challenged, while the adoption of teleworking regimes, distance learning, interpersonal communication, and teleconferencing also changed the cyberspace.

The EU is taking strong action to strengthen cybersecurity capacities: It will update legislation in the area of cybersecurity, with a new Cybersecurity Strategy coming up by the end of 2020, and is investing in cybersecurity research and capacity building, as well as in raising awareness about new cyber threats and trends, such as through the annual Cybersecurity Month campaign. The ENISA Threat Landscape Report is available here and a press release is available here.

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Taiwan is crucial to the global fight against cybercrime

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Since emerging in late 2019, COVID-19 has evolved into a global pandemic. According to World Health Organization statistics, as of September 30, 2020, there were more than 33.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 1 million related deaths worldwide. Having experienced and fought the SARS epidemic in 2003, Taiwan made advance preparations in the face of COVID-19, conducting early onboard screening of inbound travelers, taking stock of antipandemic supply inventories, and forming a national mask production team, writes Criminal Investigation Bureau Ministry of the Interior Republic of China (Taiwan) Commissioner  Huang Ming-chao. 

The government’s swift response and the Taiwanese people’s cooperation helped effectively contain the spread of the disease. The international community has been putting its resources into fighting COVID-19 in the physical world, yet the cyberworld has also been under attack, and faces major challenges.

The Cyber Attack Trends: 2020 MidYear Report published in August 2020 by Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., a well-known IT security company, pointed out that COVID-19 related phishing and malware attacks increased dramatically from below 5,000 per week in February to over 200,000 in late April. At the same time as COVID-19 has seriously affected people’s lives and safety, cybercrime is undermining national security, business operations, and the security of personal information and property, causing significant damage and losses. Taiwan’s success in containing COVID-19 has won worldwide acclaim.

Faced with cyberthreats and related challenges, Taiwan has actively promoted policies built around the concept that information security is national security. It has bolstered efforts to train IT security specialists and develop the IT security industry and innovative technologies. Taiwan’s national teams are ever present when it comes to disease or cybercrime prevention.

Cybercrime knows no borders; Taiwan seeks cross-border cooperation Nations around the globe are fighting the widely condemned dissemination of child pornography, infringements on intellectual property rights, and the theft of trade secrets. Business email fraud and ransomware have also generated heavy financial losses among enterprises, while cryptocurrencies have become an avenue for criminal transactions and money laundering. Since anyone with online access can connect to any internetenabled device in the world, crime syndicates are exploiting the anonymity and freedom this provides to conceal their identities and engage in illegal activities.

The Taiwanese police force has a special unit for investigating technology crimes comprising professional cybercrime investigators. It has also established a digital forensics laboratory meeting ISO 17025 requirements. Cybercrime knows no borders, so Taiwan hopes to work with the rest of the world in jointly fighting the problem. With state-sponsored hacking rampant, intelligence sharing is essential to Taiwan. In August 2020, the US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Defense released the Malware Analysis Report, identifying a state-sponsored hacking organization that has recently been using a 2008 malware variant known as TAIDOOR to launch attacks.

Numerous Taiwanese government agencies and businesses have previously been subject to such attacks. In a 2012 report on this malware, Trend Micro Inc. observed that all of the victims were from Taiwan, and that the majority were government organizations. Every month, Taiwan’s public sector experiences an extremely high number of cyberattacks from beyond Taiwan’s borders—between 20 and 40 million instances. Being the priority target of state-sponsored attacks, Taiwan has been able to track their sources and methods and the malware used. By sharing intelligence, Taiwan could help other countries avert potential threats and facilitate the establishment of a joint security mechanism to counter state cyberthreat actors. Additionally, given that hackers often use command-and-control servers to set breakpoints and thus evade investigation, international cooperation is essential for piecing together a comprehensive picture of chains of attack. In the fight against cybercrime, Taiwan can help.

In July 2016, an unprecedented hacking infringement occurred in Taiwan when NT$83.27 million was illegally withdrawn from First Commercial Bank ATMs. Within a week, the police had recovered NT$77.48 million of the stolen funds and arrested three members of a hacking syndicate— Andrejs Peregudovs, a Latvian; Mihail Colibaba, a Romanian; and Niklae Penkov, a Moldovan—that had until then remained untouched by the law. The incident drew international attention. In September that same year, a similar ATM heist occurred in Romania. A suspect Babii was believed to be involved in both cases, leading investigators to conclude that the thefts had been committed by the same syndicate. At the invitation of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) visited its office three times to exchange intelligence and evidence. Subsequently, the two entities established Operation TAIEX.

Under this plan, the CIB provided key evidence retrieved from suspects’ mobile phones to Europol, which sieved through the evidence and identified the suspected mastermind, known as Dennys, who was then based in Spain. This led to his arrest by Europol and the Spanish police, putting an end to the hacking syndicate.

To crack down on hacking syndicates, Europol invited Taiwan’s CIB to jointly form Operation TAIEX. The fight against cybercrime requires international cooperation, and Taiwan must work together with other countries. Taiwan can help these other countries, and is willing to share its experiences so as to make cyberspace safer and realize a truly borderless internet. I ask that you support Taiwan’s participation in the annual INTERPOL General Assembly as an Observer, as well as INTERPOL meetings, mechanisms, and training activities. By voicing your backing for Taiwan in international forums, you can play a critical role in advancing Taiwan’s objective of taking part in international organizations in a pragmatic and meaningful manner. In the fight against cybercrime, Taiwan can help!

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Cyber-espionage

EU countries test their ability to co-operate in the event of cyber attacks

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EU member states, the EU Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and the European Commission have met to test and assess their co-operation capabilities and resilience in the event of a cybersecurity crisis. The exercise, organized by the Netherlands with the support of ENISA, is a key milestone towards the completion of  relevant operating procedures. The latter are developed in the framework of the NIS Co-operation Group, under the leadership of France and Italy, and aim for more coordinated information sharing and incident response among EU cybersecurity authorities.

Furthermore, member states, with the support of ENISA, launched today the Cyber Crisis Liaison Organization Network (CyCLONe) aimed at facilitating cooperation in case of disruptive cyber incidents.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “The new Cyber Crisis Liaison Organization Network indicates once again an excellent cooperation between the member states and the EU institutions in ensuring that our networks and critical systems are cyber secure. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and we should work collectively in preparing and implementing rapid emergency response plans, for example in case of a large-scale cyber incident or crisis.”

ENISA Executive Director Juhan Lepassaar added: "Cyber crises have no borders. The EU Agency for Cybersecurity is committed to support the Union in its response to cyber incidents. It is important that the national cybersecurity agencies come together to coordinate decision-making at all levels. The CyCLONe group addresses this missing link.”

The CyCLONe Network will ensure that information flows more efficiently among different cybersecurity structures in the member states and will allow to better coordinate national response strategies and impact assessments. Moreover, the exercise organized follows up on the Commission's recommendation on a Coordinated Response to Large Scale Cybersecurity Incidents and Crises (Blueprint) that was adopted in 2017.

More information is available in this ENISA press release. More information on the EU cybersecurity strategy can be found in these Q&A and this brochure.

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Cyber-espionage

Commission launches #Women4Cyber - A registry of talents in the field of cybersecurity

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On 7 July the Commission, together with the Women4Cyber initiative of the European Cybersecurity Organization (ECSO) launched the first online registry of European women in cybersecurity that will connect expert groups, businesses and policy makers to talents in the field.

The registry is an open, user-friendly database of women that have expertise in cybersecurity, aiming to address the growing demand for cybersecurity professionals in Europe and the related shortage of talents in the field. Its launch follows the European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience that the Commission presented on 1 July 2020.

A Europe Fit for the Digital Age Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said:  “Cybersecurity is everyone's business. Women bring experience, perspectives and values into the development of digital solutions. It is important to both enrich the discussion and make the cyberspace more secure.”

Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas  said: “The cybersecurity field is suffering a massive skills shortage. This talent shortage is exacerbated by the lack of female representation in the field. The updated Skills Agenda adopted by the Commission last week aims to close such gaps. A diverse cybersecurity workforce will certainly contribute to more innovative and robust cybersecurity. The registry launched today will be a useful tool to promote women cybersecurity professionals and create a more diverse and inclusive cybersecurity ecosystem.”

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “Over the years we have been promoting various successful initiatives aimed at increasing training in digital skills, notably in the cybersecurity field. Every cyber team needs to combine various skills combining data science, analytics and communication. The registry is a tool aimed at achieving better gender balance in the cybersecurity workforce.”

The registry, which outlines diverse profiles and maps various areas of expertise, is accessible to everyone and will be updated regularly. More information about the Women4Cyber initiative is available here, about the Commission Cybersecurity strategy here and you can join the Women4Cyber registry by clicking here

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