Geopolitical and Cybersecurity Weekly Brief – 22 February 2021

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This week, the US Senate voted to acquit former President Donald Trump from a single charge of incitement to insurrection related to a deadly mob assault on the US Capitol building on 6 January. Elsewhere in North America, Canada launched a 58-country initiative calling for an end to arbitrary detentions of foreigners in state-to-state relations.

In Asia, Taiwan said that a deal to secure five million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by German firm BioNTech was recently put on hold and that Taiwan’s immunisation programme would probably not start until mid-2021. The UK issued an updated version of its ‘guidance’ on business risk in Hong Kong that appeared to downgrade ties between the territory and its former colonial power. US-based Facebook Inc. blocked access to numerous on-line sites in Australia amid a dispute over whether the company should pay media outlets for the use of content.

A threat group known as MyanmarHackers has disrupted multiple government websites. The hacktivists claim that this is their form of protest against the recent military coup: causing denial of service or defacing government websites. The impact of these attacks, however, is likely to be relatively low. Elsewhere in Asia, a member of South Korea’s intelligence committee claimed that North Korean cyber spies targeted Pfizer to obtain COVID-19 vaccine technology. The allegation was reportedly made at a closed-door briefing of the National Intelligence Service (NIS). It is currently unconfirmed if the attacks were successful.

In Europe, Ukraine’s health minister said the country’s vaccine-buying program was being hampered by ‘dirty information attacks’. Georgia’s ruling Georgia Dream party nominated Irakli Garibashvili as prime minister following the surprise resignation of Giorgi Gakharia.

The French Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) has disclosed information concerning an intrusion campaign targeting the Centreon monitoring software. Centreon’s customers include Airbus, Orange, and the French Ministry of Justice. The company has denied the this was a supply-chain attack, and the incursion has been blamed on the Russian Sandworm APT.

In the Middle East, Egyptian authorities announced plans to reopen its embassy in Tripoli, Libya and resume consulate services in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi. A Lebanese court removed the judge who has been leading the investigation into the August 2020 Beirut port blast in a move that will cause delays.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan continue to rise, threatening security and stability. In Mozambique, the British Editor of English-speaking news outlet Zitamar left the country and is banned from returning for 10 years amid an intensifying crackdown on critics.

Security researchers have uncovered the first malware to target Apple Macbooks and Mac Minis powered by the new ARM CPU (also known as the Apple M1). The malware, known as Pirrit, serves adverts as well as recording browser history without the user’s permission, and masquerades as a legitimate Safari extension called GoSearch22.

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