Geopolitical and Cybersecurity Weekly Brief – 19 April 2021

In the Americas, leftist and conservative candidates are set for a presidential run-off in June. In Ecuador, the run-off presidential election saw conservative former banker Guillermo Lasso elected, enhancing prospects for foreign investment.

The US NSA, FBI, and CISA have issued an advisory regarding the Russian foreign intelligence service (also called SVR) targeting five publicly known vulnerabilities to compromise networks in the US and those of its allies. The NSA also publicly blamed the SVR for the SolarWinds compromise, the first time the US has done so.

In Asia, the US government announced that the remaining US troops deployed in Afghanistan would be withdrawn by 11 September 2021 in a move that will likely result in an escalation in the conflict as the Taliban seeks to resume control over the country. Tokyo approved a plan to release over one million tonnes of contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, prompting widespread opposition.

In Europe, the head of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) said that fake offers of 1.1 billion doses of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to EU governments were in currently in the market. Credential harvesting and intelligence gathering attacks against the global COVID-19 response effort continue. The scope of the campaign has expanded to include key organisations involved in the transportation, warehousing, storage, and distribution of vaccines.

Foreign ministers representing G7 countries have told Russia to ‘de-escalate’ tensions along its border with Ukraine and ‘cease its provocations’, expressing deep concern over the build of Russian military forces near the Ukrainian border and in Crimea.

In the Middle East and Central Asia, tensions between Iran and Israel are growing. Iran announced it will enrich uranium at 60 per cent purity and an Israeli-owned cargo ship was attacked off the coast of the UAE. An incident at the Natanz nuclear enrichment site in Iran on 11 April, impacting electricity distribution at the facility, was initially referred to as an accident, but has now been called a ‘terrorist’ act, by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Meanwhile, the EU issued sanctions against eight individuals and three entities in Iran for human rights abuses.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, pressure for international intervention in Mozambique’s Capo Delgado province is mounting amid a rising number of casualties from the 24 March Palma attack. In Somalia, the political impasse is deepening as legislative chambers disagree over the presidential term.

This week was April’s Patch Tuesday when major firms release patches for vulnerabilities affecting their products. Microsoft, Siemens, SAP, Adobe, and many others released updates for many of their tools. Updating these should be seen as a priority.

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