Week in Review: August 10, 2016

by Patrick Drown

Australia’s Online Census Victim of Possible Cyberattack

The Australian census that is carried out every five years failed to be completed in a timely fashion this year after the Australian government transitioned their census online. The government website used to submit forms for the census was overloaded with traffic in a likely deliberate denial of service attempt from an international source. Australia’s chief statistician David Kalisch told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio that none of the information included in the 2.3 million submitted forms had been stolen from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), though the site had been overloaded. The minister responsible for the survey, Michael McCormack, has balked at calling the incident a "cyberattack," but describes the incident as “an attempt to frustrate the collection of Bureau of Statistics census data.” Qualms about the cybersecurity of the government census website are not the only point of contention in regards to the Australian census this year; many independent senators have boycotted participating in the census because for the first time it was compulsory for Australians to identify themselves in the survey. The breach in the government’s cybersecurity has prompted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's decision to scale back a A$38 billion ($29.2 billion) upgrade of Australia's internet infrastructure.

Pokemon Go Banned From Thai Voting Stations

Pokemon Go has been banned from voting stations in Thailand. The application was just made available in Thailand this past Saturday, and election officials are worried that Pokemon Go players might stumble into one of the 94,000 polling stations across the country this coming Sunday in search of a pokemon. Thailand isn’t the first country to impose some kind of restriction on the game—in recent weeks, the Israeli Defense Force banned use of the app by their soldiers, and Iran blocks access to the game throughout the country. "I suggest to people who play Pokemon Go that if rare Pokemon appear in a polling stations, I ask for your cooperation in not playing the game," Supachai Somcharoen, chairman of the Election Commission, said to reporters.

International Olympics Committee Tightens Control of Olympic Content on Social Media

When the Olympics comes around, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) takes who televises their events and how their events are televised seriously. As in the past, only certain television networks have the rights to televise the events of the Olympics, but this year, the IOC is becoming more protective and aggressive about how content of the Olympics is used on social media. Due to complex global licensing deals, it is technically illegal for any unapproved channel to share videos of the Olympic events, which extends to businesses, brands, and individuals. The IOC even made clear to prohibited news agencies that the “use of Olympic Material transformed into graphic animated formats such as animated GIFs (i.e. GIFV), GFY, WebM, or short video formats such as Vines and others, is expressly prohibited.” Twitter user Luigino Bracci Roa (@Lubrio), who has 40,000 Twitter followers, ran afoul of the IOC’s restrictions earlier this week. Bracci claims that his Twitter account was terminated after the IOC sent a complaint to Twitter about 7 videos of the 2016 Olympic events (each under 90 seconds) posted on his account. The IOC asked Twitter to "immediately and permanently remove the material" from its website, but Twitter terminated Bracci’s account instead of only deleting the videos. Twitter has not made public any statement about Bracci’s account termination.

German Authorities Accuse Facebook of Reluctance to Assist in Criminal Investigations

On Monday, Facebook denied claims from German state authorities that the social media company is reluctant to hand over data requested by the German government to help with criminal investigations. Some regional interior ministers have voiced the idea that new laws need to be introduced to force Facebook to give German authorities data needed in investigations in a more swift manner. When data was requested in criminal investigations, Facebook fulfilled 42 percent of requests from Germany in 2015, but fulfilled 54 percent of requests filed from France and 82 percent from Britain. Facebook stated that most of the unfulfilled requests in Germany were not met because the scope of the data request was too broad. "Along with our points of contact in Law Enforcement we work tirelessly to raise awareness of the correct procedures," a spokesperson from Facebook said this week. Regarding the slew of violent attacks in Bavaria last month, Facebook stated that it was quick to provide "round the clock assistance.” The head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency (BfV), Hans-Georg Maassen, believes that "social networks are an important communication method for jihadists. Therefore, closer cooperation between the security agencies and the operators of social networks is necessary."

US Prepares to Elevate Military Cybersecurity Effort

Last Thursday, President Barack Obama spoke at the Pentagon to emphasize his administration’s plan to elevate the stature of the Pentagon’s Cyber Command. The Obama administration want to emphasize the development of cyber weapons to deter attacks, tackle adversaries, and punish intruders into US cyber networks. The command would become a “unified command,” making it equal to combat branches of military. Last month the Joint Task Force Ares was created to develop digital weapons capable of thwarting the objectives of the Islamic State after the Washington Post reported that Pentagon leaders were frustrated with the slow pace of Cyber Command’s offensive on the Islamic State. The Pentagon is budgeting $35 billion in cyber spending over the next five years, which, along with the planned increased stature of the command, indicates to James Lewis, a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “the maturing of Cyber Command and its own capabilities.”