Weekly Roundup 28 March, 2022
On Tuesday, the authentication platform Okta reported that its servers had been breached, potentially imperiling thousands of customers. The company, which describes itself as the “identity provider of the internet”, stated that a third-party contractor’s computer was accessed by the hacking group Lapsus$ for a five day period in January 2021. Although Okta assured customers that corrective action would not be needed from their end, cybersecurity experts advised users of the platform to "be very vigilant right now."
Lapsus$, who are likely based in South America, is relatively new to the burgeoning ransmoreware industry and are attempting to make a name for themselves, law enforcement officials say. Earlier this year, the group took credit for leaking proprietary information from US chip manufacturer Nvidia as a publicity stunt to raise their profile. Seven Lapsus$ members connected to the Okta hack were arrested in London on March 24th, all of whom were between the ages of 16-21.
Russian Invasion of Ukraine
- Following the Kremlin’s crackdown on freedom of expression in Russia in order to control the Ukraine war narrative, and the wave of platforms blocked in the country, the use of VPNs has skyrocketed. This trend peaked on the 14th of March, when the number of VPNs installed in Russia reached 11,253% more than the average number of installations.
- Meta has had its day in Russian court. After a rapid series of increasing restrictions on platforms and Meta’s decision to allow calls for violence against the Russian invasion in Ukraine, Facebook and Instagram have been declared extremist groups by the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow.
- Nonprofit organizations are working in coordination with tech companies to provide cybersecurity and other aid to Ukrainians in need. Tech to the Rescue, a Polish NGO, has pivoted from its domestic work to facilitate this effort, connecting Ukrainian nonprofits with pro bono IT companies.
- Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet network, which Elon Musk sent to Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion and fear of communications networks being targeted, has become an essential tool in the war. Essential for reconnaissance, communications, and locating targets, in addition to civilian uses. However, there is a concern that connecting to the system will allow Russian forces to pinpoint users’ locations.
Gender and Inclusion
- African women face strong barriers to participation in global virtual conferences, even those focused on women’s rights. The UN Commission on the Status of Women has failed to include and incorporate the specific needs and voices of African women to the point that it was necessary to set up an African Commission on the Status of Women. Memory Kachambwa explores how to improve inclusion in virtual conferences.
- BBC News has filed a complaint with the United Nations against the online violence women in its Persian office face. Many of the women journalists in the office have stopped using social media in response to horrific and relentless attacks.
Global Tech Policy
- Brazil’s Supreme Court has suspended access to Telegram in the country in response to the platform’s noncompliance with the court’s laws and orders on misinformation leading up to the October election. Telegram has released a statement asking for more time to comply and blaming communication failures for its lack of previous response. This represents a huge step forward in Telegram’s misinformation policy and cooperation with democratic institutions.
- US President Biden has issued a statement warning that intelligence suggests that Russia is strongly considering turning to cyberattacks against the United States. As such, the administration has released a fact sheet, directed at US businesses, delineating basic advice to prepare for such an attack, including both short term and long term actions.
- A wave of anti-establishment politics is sweeping across Latin America, bringing with it a series of younger undemocratic leaders with the ability to combine non-traditional communications skills, such as disinformation, with traditional authoritarian tactics, such as threatening and spying on journalists and opponents.
- Sudanese resistance committees are local organizations crucial to organizing protests against military rule in Sudan. They rely on social media platforms for this coordination, but Advox has determined that coordinated inauthentic behavior attacks originating in Egypt are targeting these groups, using Facebook’s algorithm to hide important posts and undermine their work.
- While the field of artificial intelligence suffers from global inequities, with the Global South vastly underrepresented, there is hope that the technology will eventually contribute to deconstructing power imbalances and promoting democratic values.
- The Crisis Intervention Team in Bucks County, Pennsylvania is using virtual reality simulators to teach police de-escalation tactics, by allowing them to practice responding to scenarios including domestic violence, suicide attempts, and calls involving people with Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses.