The week in news - November 30
Amid an ongoing crippling scandal, South Korean President Park Geun-hye has announced her willingness to resign, should the National Assembly settle on a transition plan. Political opponents and large swathes of the public have called for Park’s impeachment, and reject her offer of resignation as a thinly veiled attempt to avoid impeachment. Park, whose presidential tenure would see her through to February 2018, has come under fire in recent months, with large-scale protests calling for her dismissal. The accusations surround Park’s relationship with Choi Soon-sil, a close friend and trusted advisor who prosecutors say was made privy to confidential and classified information. Choi stands accused of extortion in relation to several ‘chaebol’ businesses to donate large sums of money to charitable organisations and businesses that she maintained a controlling interest in.
The campaign for outgoing President Barack Obama to pardon Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee turned whistleblower, has received new support from former members of the Church committee, an investigatory body active in the 1970s. Members of the committee signed a letter to Obama that detailed the ways in which Snowden’s leaks led to positive congressional change, and reminded the current administration of the government’s history of leniency toward secrecy violations. According to the Guardian, the committee themselves released information detailing how six former presidents violated secrecy laws during their respective tenures. They join the ranks of Snowden’s current supporters, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Tim Berners Lee, founder of the World Wide Web, who have both called for his pardoning.
A cyber attack launched on Deutsche Telekom routers affected over one million customers on Sunday and Monday. While attempts were made to interfere with German government systems, reports confirm that they were unsuccessful. Similar routers are used by Eir in Ireland and Vodafone in the United Kingdom. Neither firm have confirmed a compromise, though both have stated their understanding of the susceptibility of their systems. Bruno Kahl, head of the German foreign intelligence service (BND) has pointed the finger at a Russian state actor, though Chancellor Angela Merkel announced there was, as of yet, no information on the attack.
In a Reuters Special Report released this week, a tin mine in Wa, a self-proclaimed autonomous region in Myanmar known to be controlled by the United Wa State Army was the subject of journalistic investigation. Chinese controlled firms that purchase tin from the Man Maw mine are known to indirectly sell the metals to large American conglomerates, including Apple, Tiffany & Co., and Starbucks. The use of these materials, however, may find these companies in violation of sanction laws in the United States. While there is a current reliance on an audit program designed by the Conflict Free Resourcing Initiative, the report highlights the need for greater due diligence practices for firms with international interests.
Companies in Hong Kong and Mainland China have seen a stark increase in cyber risk, according to a recent survey by PwC. Between 2014 and 2016, of the companies surveyed, the number of incidents reportedly soared 969 per cent. The numbers are particularly startling given the comparative reduction in cyber attacks elsewhere in the world. Cyber consultants at PwC attribute an increased presence of the Internet of Things and its contribution to a lack of cyber awareness. Other notable statistics from the survey demonstrate a 7.6 percentage drop in cyber security budgets in China, while elsewhere in the world budgets remained comparatively stable.