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Southeast Asian Governments ‘Celebrate’ World Press Freedom Day

According to an open letter to Facebook from 10 free expression and human rights organizations in Vietnam, the social networking behemoth has been blocking access to content on the request of the Vietnamese government.

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Press
United Nations Special Rapporteur David Kaye speaks to the media about the situation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Turkey, in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. " The space for critical voices, academics, journalists, lawyers and others in civil society has been under threat," Kaye said.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici). RFA

Governments and state media in Southeast Asia touted improving media liberty on World Press Freedom Day Friday, but critics were swift to point out limits on expression and the jailing of many journalists across the region.

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression David Kaye said in a statement that celebration alone to mark the day would be an insufficient way to observe a day created by the UN General Assembly in 1993 to assess the state of press freedom worldwide, defend the media from attacks on independence and pay tribute to journalists who have died in the line of duty.

“Autocrats and demagogues too often denigrate the press, with dire consequences for safety, for democracy, and for the public’s right to know,” Kaye said in the statement.

“Today more than ever, we need not just generic celebrations, but concrete steps to improve press freedom worldwide,” he said.

The UN statement highlighted the case of two Reuters reporters in Myanmar, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who last month were denied their final appeals and must serve the remainder of their seven-year-sentences.

They were arrested in December 2017 while pursuing a story about the massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslims during a brutal military-led crackdown in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Authorities detained them shortly after two policemen with whom they had dinner in Yangon handed them state documents related to the atrocities, in what was widely viewed as a police setup.

The statement indicated that press freedom in many parts of Asia is severely lacking, including in China where “basic rights to seek, receive and impart information hardly exist.”

The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.”

Cambodia

UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, currently in the midst of an 11-day visit to the country, posted her thoughts about the state of press freedom under Hun Sen’s regime.

“I am concerned that Cambodia has slipped further one point to 143 over the last year, after falling 10 points from 132 the previous year in the Reporters without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedoms Index,” she wrote.

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If we need to speak out or want to know what’s going on, we use Facebook. We can’t’ rely on state TV, radio or newspapers because it’s too slow, inaccurate and restricted,” said the citizen. Pixabay

She also gave advice to Cambodia’s government on ways to improve.

“I encourage the Government to provide the space for a free media, both offline and online, including through the adoption and implementation of the draft Law on Access to Information,” she wrote.

“I also repeat my encouragement to lift the charges against the two former RFA journalists,” she added, referring to Uon Chhin and Yeang Socheameta, who were arrested in November 2017 on suspicion of continuing to provide news about Cambodia to RFA after the U.S.-funded media outlet closed its office in Cambodia that September.

Cambodia’s fall one spot in the RSF index to 143, was matched by those of neighbor Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar, which each fell one step. In a year-on-year comparison for 2018, Laos fell one spot from 170 to 171, Vietnam fell one spot from 175 to 176, and Myanmar fell one spot from 137 to 138.

Meas Sophoan, a spokesman for the country’s Ministry of Information told RFA’s Khmer Service that Information Minister Khieu Kanharith held a press conference to mark the day where he said that press freedom is getting better each day within the kingdom.

The spokesman added that broadcast and print media are on the rise, and the country is showing how it respects human rights and press freedom, offering the press conference itself as an indication that press freedom is important to the regime.

But Long Kimmaryta, a journalist for a bilingual newspaper in Phnom Penh disagreed, saying that reporters and the press must now self-censor, after the government arrested reporters.

She said writing criticism about the government is risky in the current climate.

“If we were to write positive stories about the government, then sources within the government are happier to talk to us,” she said, adding that journalists in Cambodia can only write stories if they feel their safety isn’t threatened.

Laos

Meanwhile in neighboring Laos, the deputy editor of the government-published Vientiane Times told RFA’s Lao Service, “I think we have all kinds of freedoms because we have media laws guaranteeing those freedoms, including the freedom to write news and freedom of expression.”

“We want to improve and upgrade our reporters’ knowledge and skills and we also need to diversify the way we [source] content for our news stories,” said Deputy Editor Phonekeo Vorlakoun.

“Of course, as reporters, we want to respond to the needs of our people,” he said.

The deputy editor’s comments were contradicted by a local reporter stationed in Sanamxay district, Attapeu province who is covering the lasting damage caused by last year’s disaster at a nearby dam which claimed the lives of hundreds and has been described as Laos’ worst flooding in decades.

“All news stories, even those on technical matters, must be approved by the leadership of the district and the province before we can publish anything,” said the reporter.

An official of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism agreed with the reporter saying, “The government will never force us to do anything, or order us how to do this or that, but if they say we can’t publish the story, we can’t publish it.”

A citizen of Vientiane gave insight on how the people gain access to reliable news in the country.

“If we need to speak out or want to know what’s going on, we use Facebook. We can’t’ rely on state TV, radio or newspapers because it’s too slow, inaccurate and restricted,” said the citizen.

Facebook
The letter said that Vietnam’s 64 million Facebook users use Facebook as their primary news source, citing the absence of independent media within the country. VOA

Facebook in Vietnam

But Facebook has also been the target of criticism, particularly for bowing to the whims of governments looking to restrict the public’s access to information, such as in Vietnam.

According to an open letter to Facebook from 10 free expression and human rights organizations in Vietnam, the social networking behemoth has been blocking access to content on the request of the Vietnamese government.

The letter said that Vietnam’s 64 million Facebook users use Facebook as their primary news source, citing the absence of independent media within the country.

“On January 1, a restrictive “cybersecurity” law went into effect in Vietnam but the desire of Vietnamese to stay connected and build community has not changed,” said the rights groups in the letter, signed by Reporters Without Borders, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, Viet Tan and other groups.

“The Vietnamese government may want foreign companies to set up local data servers, censor content, and turn over private user data — but it’s up to Facebook to ultimately decide whether it will uphold human rights or not,” they said.

The letter cited Facebook as saying that blocked content was based on “local legal restrictions,” but urged the company and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg to not become “complicit in the human rights violations of authoritarian governments such as Vietnam’s.”

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Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur,  “States must move beyond words, beyond resolutions and take immediate and sustainable action to ensure safety of journalists, the independence of the media, the plurality of voices.”

“That is the challenge of the coming year: translating celebration into action, stigmatizing and penalizing those that attack journalism, and devoting resources to the great project of media freedom.” (RFA)

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VandaTheGod: Researchers Identify Super Hacker With 4,820 Records of Hacked Websites

VandaTheGod is said to hack governments, corporations and individuals

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VandaTheGod
A super hacker with the name of VandaTheGod was identified by researchers. Pixabay

A super hacker by the name of VandaTheGod who hacked governments, corporations and individuals alike since 2013 has been linked with high certainty to a specific Brazilian individual from the city of Uberlandia.

Researchers at Isreali cybersecurity firm Check Point said they have relayed the findings to law enforcement agencies to enable them to take further action, adding that adding the social media activities on profiles associated with VandaTheGod came to a halt towards the end of 2019.

Since 2013, many official websites belonging to governments worldwide were hacked and defaced by an attacker who self-identified as ‘VandaTheGod.’

The hacker targeted governments in numerous countries, including: Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Thailand, Vietnam, and New Zealand.

“Many of the messages left on the defaced websites implied that the attacks were motivated by anti-government sentiment, and were carried out to combat social injustices that the hacker believed were a direct result of government corruption,” Check Point said on Thursday.

VandaTheGod didn’t just go after government websites, but also launched attacks against public figures, universities, and even hospitals.

VandaTheGod
Super hacker VandaTheGod had a personal goal to hack 5,000 websites. Pixabay

In one case, the attacker claimed to have access to the medical records of 1 million patients from New Zealand, which were offered for sale for just $200.

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“Most of VandaTheGod’s attacks against governments were politically motivated, but a closer look at some of tweets shows the attacker also trying to achieve a personal goal: hacking a total of 5,000 websites,” said researchers.

The goal was nearly reached, as there are currently 4,820 records of hacked websites linked to VandaTheGod.

“VandaTheGod has proven with numerous successful attacks against reputable websites, that hacktivism often crosses a line into further criminal activity, such as credentials and payment-card theft,” said Check Point. (IANS)

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New Regulation Policies Emerge To Safeguard Businesses From Hackers

Companies are recognizing the need for additional investment, not just in tooling and process development, but in terms of a lack of cyber talent, from cyber governance and risk strategy to configuration and maintenance

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Cyber Crime
According to the KPMG report, in Asia, specifically, we've seen new regulations around cyber security where they've actually used the word "cyber". Pixabay

As cybercriminals pose new challenges to legitimate businesses, countries across the world will see increased regulation on a variety of topics from a variety of regulators in 2020 and beyond, a new report has stressed.

According to the KPMG report, in Asia, specifically, we’ve seen new regulations around cyber security where they’ve actually used the word “cyber.” Previously, the regulations in that region used the word “technology,” which had an IT connotation.

“The increased precision is a welcome development. With so many countries having issued rules to comply with certain elements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), or their own privacy laws, we’re seeing — especially with larger multinational companies — the creation of new, proactive data management departments,” noted the report titled “All hands on deck: Key cyber security considerations for 2020”.

Businesses are looking to master data analytics as a discipline and understand not only where the data is located across the organization, but also who owns it, what’s being done with it, and, perhaps most critically, what rights and permissions users have in relation to that data.

“Successful ongoing cyber resilience will require the strategic alignment of cyber strategies with incident response, business continuity and disaster recovery planning. We’ve got to involve the entire enterprise — from front office to back,’ stressed Akhilesh Tuteja, Global Cyber Security Co-Leader, KPMG International.

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Companies need to think differently about how to protect their competitive advantage and develop new models with a goal of becoming and remaining cyber secure. Cyber security professionals need to demonstrate they can protect the heart of the transformed business with an agility of thought and action that recognises the pace and speed at which cybercriminals operate.

The report picked six key cyber considerations that will shape the way people approach security in 2020: Aligning business goals with security needs; digital trust and consumer authentication; the evolving security team; the next wave of regulation; cloud transformation and resilience; and automating the security function.

Companies are recognizing the need for additional investment, not just in tooling and process development, but in terms of a lack of cyber talent, from cyber governance and risk strategy to configuration and maintenance.

“There’s still a large gap in this space, and, unfortunately, many companies hire IT professionals who lack cyber security perspective in relation to the regulatory environment. The result is advice that is often ineffective or well intentioned, but misunderstood or inadequately implemented by management and the board,” the findings showed.

Cyber Security
As cybercriminals pose new challenges to legitimate businesses, countries across the world will see increased regulation on a variety of topics from a variety of regulators in 2020 and beyond, a new report has stressed. Pixabay

Companies are encouraged to shift their focus from systems and technology to information.
“Pinpoint what it is that makes you competitive in the market. It could be intellectual property, or your supply chain, or your pricing power. Whatever it is, that’s what you need to protect from a cybersecurity perspective,’ the report elaborated.

Ascertain what Artificial Intelligence (AI) is able to handle and what truly requires the nuance of human thought. Challenge yourself to automate the basic controls in your security environment. Shoot for at least 50 percent.

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“Finally, advocate for cyber security to be a prominent feature in the organization’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda to demonstrate your comprehensive view of cyber security governance and ability to handle a broad array of incidents,” the report mentioned. (IANS)

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Most Organisations Experience Cyber Threats During Coronavirus Pandemic: Checkpoint Survey

Cybercriminals will always seek to capitalise on the latest trends to try and boost the success rates of attacks, and the coronavirus pandemic has created a perfect storm of a global news event together with dramatic changes in working practices and the technologies used by organisations

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Cyber Threat
In phishing attacks, a bad actor steals sensitive information by tricking people to open an email, instant message, or text message containing malicious links or attachments. Pixabay

 Most organisations have seen a rise in security threats and attacks during the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey by cybersecurity firm Check Point said on Tuesday.

While 71 per cent of those IT and security professionals who were surveyed reported an increase in security threats or attacks, 61 per cent of respondents said they were concerned about security risks of changes made to enable remote work.

Phishing attempts (55 per cent) and websites claiming helpful information on coronavirus (32 per cent) have emerged as the leading threats to the organisations, the respondents said. In phishing attacks, a bad actor steals sensitive information by tricking people to open an email, instant message, or text message containing malicious links or attachments.

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The findings showed that the rapid changes to enterprise working practices, and broader concerns about the pandemic, are both being exploited by cybercriminals as they step up their attacks, generating a raft of new challenges for security professionals.

“Cybercriminals will always seek to capitalise on the latest trends to try and boost the success rates of attacks, and the coronavirus pandemic has created a perfect storm of a global news event together with dramatic changes in working practices and the technologies used by organisations,” said Rafi Kretchmer Check Point’s Head of Product Marketing.

Cybersecurity
Most organisations have seen a rise in security threats and attacks during the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey by cybersecurity firm Check Point said on Tuesday. Pixabay

“This has meant a significant increase in the attack surface of many organizations, which is compromising their security postures. To ensure security and business continuity in this rapidly evolving situation, organizations need to protect themselves with a holistic, end-to-end security architecture,” Kretchmer added.

The survey was conducted in a bid to examine the severity of impact coronavirus has had on enterprise security. It involved 411 IT and security professions — all from organisations over 500 people. As many enterprises rely on Zoom to facilitate their employees working from home, Check Point recently saw a spike in the number of “Zoom” domains registered and spotted malicious “Zoom” files targeting people working from home.

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Check Point documented 1,700 new “Zoom” domains registered since the advent of pandemic, 25 per cent of which were registered in the past week days, and has deemed 70 domains as suspicious. (IANS)