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Japan, Australia, to bolster cyber-defenses, maybe offensive capacity too

Asia In Brief Australia’s home affairs and cybersecurity minister Clare O’Neill has given the nation a goal of becoming the world’s most cyber secure nation by 2030.

“I believe that is possible. But we need a reset, and a pathway to get there,” the minister said in a speech late last week, in which she described the 2030 goal as the hoped-for outcome of a new cyber security strategy the government will develop.

The minister outlined four goals for that strategy:

  • Bring the whole nation into the fight to protect our citizens and our economy;
  • Strengthen critical infrastructure and government networks;
  • Build sovereign cyber security capabilities, so we can stand on our own two feet;
  • Strengthen our international engagement so Australia can be a global cyber leader, and work in partnership with our Pacific neighbors to lift cyber security across our region.

You want details? Sorry, hard to do right now because the minister also announced the formation of a body to fill in the blanks.

Three eminent Australians with relevant experience will define the strategy, which will be reviewed by former UK National Cyber Security Centre CEO and Oxford University Professor Ciaran Martin.

Japan, meanwhile, is also revising its cyber security strategy according to Nikkei. The Japanese outlet reports that the nation will reorganize its cyber defenses, and implement a policy of pre-emptive attacks when warranted.

– Simon Sharwood

FTX Japan apologizes as returning funds becomes less likely

The Japanese operation of crypto exchange FTX, which collapsed owing retail investors around $8 billion, has advised customers that local authorities have ordered a review of its business that makes the return of their funds unlikely in the short term.

A Friday notice to customers states that a business suspension order has been imposed on the company, ending in March 2023.

The order means all assets must be held pending approval for their dispersal by local authorities.

FTX Japan has also submitted a business improvement plan, but that document is yet to be signed off by local authorities.

The company’s statement apologizes for the inconvenience investors face in being unable to access their funds.

Japan has unusually comprehensive regulations for crypto exchanges, requiring them to keep reserves that should preserve their liquidity. FTX Japan has previously advised investors that it can cover their stakes, but has also advised its systems are inaccessible and that withdrawals are therefore not possible.

– Simon Sharwood

Samsung calls urgent strategy review meetings

Samsung will reportedly revise strategy for its devices and semiconductor businesses, in response to worsening global economic conditions.

South Korean newswire Yonhap reports the meetings will consider how to cope with slowing demand for personal electronics, home appliances, and semiconductors.

Samsung’s operating profit dipped sharply in Q3 2022, with low demand the main reason for the decline.

The meetings will be the first presided over by de facto group leader Lee Jae-Yong since his promotion to company chair in October 2022.

– Simon Sharwood

Court sides with Google in Australian data privacy case

Australia’s Federal Court has dismissed a case brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) case against Google, after finding that the search and ads giant did enough to inform Australian consumers about expanding its use and collection of personal data.

The ACCC alleged that Google did not adequately inform its users that it would be combining Google account data with other activity data not on Google to improve its ads program.

In June of 2016 it issued a notification, and if a Google account user clicked “I agree” the combining of such data went forward.

The court sided with Google and felt the notification combined with changes to the company’s privacy policy were sufficient.

“Google’s conduct came to our attention as a result of our work on the Digital Platforms Inquiry. We took this case because we were concerned that Google was not adequately providing consumers with clear and transparent information about how it collects and uses consumer data,” ACCC acting chair Delia Rickard said.

“We will now carefully consider the judgment,” she added.

IDC predicts AR/VR boom across APAC

Analyst firm International Data Corp (IDC) has predicted augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) spending in the Asia Pacific region will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40.1 percent from 2021 to 2026.

The growth, which would see the industry hit net spending of $14.8 billion by 2026, will be driven by remote meetings, training and collaboration, according to IDC.

Education is the “most promising use case,” said the firm, which predicted that sector as likely to achieve CAGR of 48.1 percent.

Personal use of augmented and virtual reality will also grow.

“The entertainment industry will likely be disrupted the most as virtual entertainment becomes more polarized. The metaverse development will also help improve marketing and digital economy as e-commerce will continue to showcase accelerated growth due to immersive and comprehensive customer experience,” predicted IDC analyst Abhik Sarkar

The services segment of AR/VR products experienced the highest spending share in 2022 at 34.4 percent, followed closely by hardware, and software. The hardware segment is expected to take over the lead by 2026 with an estimated spending of $8.2 billion.

Japanese partnership furthers circular economy … in space

Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced last week it has started conceptualizing a satellite refueling service with private Japanese orbital debris removal company, Astroscale.

JAXA said the project will spend one year exploring concepts for a fuel delivery service in space, which it reckons will make space activities in general more sustainable.

Crowded low-Earth orbits are full of debris, which has become a hazard to spacecraft occupying those orbits. JAXA is arguing for a space-based circular economy realized through on-orbit services that remove debris and extend the life of existing satellites through repair, refueling, and reuse. The service could reduce costs for satellite operators by extending missions and reducing launches, said the announcement. It also could prove to be a necessary and lucrative service if rules are introduced to reduce the amount of time equipment can sit up in space following mission completion.

Astroscale managing director Miki Ito said the company plans to make the on-orbit services “a routine basic infrastructure service.”

Rendezvous and docking satellites have existed for a number of years. Automated uncrewed spacecraft docking first emerged in 1967, thanks to Russia’s Kosmos 186 and 188. Japan had a successful go at uncrewed automated docking in 1997 with ETS-VII.

In 2007, DARPA and NASA launched Orbital Express – a demonstration satellite designed as “a safe and cost-effective approach to autonomously service satellites in orbit.” NASA also launched equipment for its Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) in both 2011 and 2013 with the goal of increasing in-space rocket propellant transfer technology.

India’s twin spacecraft SPADEX is planned to launch in Q3 2024. Its scope includes, among several objectives, in-space satellite servicing.

Astroscale has completed its own demonstration, called ELSA-d, which uses magnetic capture. That experience is set to inform the tech used in the new project.

In other news …

Our regional coverage from last week included news that Foxconn is investing $500 million in India to expand its manufacturing presence on the subcontinent – including a venture to make semiconductors that takes advantage of generous government subsidies. Meanwhile, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of India’s Tata Group, has told Nikkei his company will also foray into semiconductors. The USA dismissed its case against Huawei CFO and chair Wanzhuo Meng on grounds that she had complied with a deferred prosecution agreement. Allegations that Meng had violated US sanctions against Iran through her business dealings led to Meng’s Canadian arrest on an extradition request from US authorities. China’s Telecommunication Terminal Industry Forum Association (TAF) issued a new set of regulations, including one that places rules on when motion sensors can trigger smartphones to display ads or open websites.

The Canadian branch of Amnesty International pinned a cyber attack that took the org offline for three weeks on a Chinese state-sponsored actor. Taiwan and Maryland enacted bans on the use of TikTok on state-owned devices, following South Dakota’s decision to do the same last week. Nebraska, South Carolina and Texas soon followed in the TikTok ban for state-sponsored devices and Indiana filed two lawsuits against the company for knowingly creating harm on minors and providing sensitive and personal data to Beijing. FTX Japan announced that, unlike platform users in other countries, it would let investors withdraw funds. However, the platform was in a state of general functional failure that prevented users from being able to log on and do so. Ever the opportunist, North Korea has used Seoul’s Halloween day tragedy to exploit a zero-day flaw in Internet Explorer with an embedded document titled “221031 Seoul Yongsan Itaewon accident response situation (06:00).docx”. Google’s Threat Analysis Group spotted the flaw – CVE-2022-41128, an RCE bug in the JScript9 scripting language engine – and Microsoft fixed it in November 2022’s patch dump.

North Korea has found a novel way to fund the development of its missiles and nuclear weapons: send out its IT professionals to freelance, warned South Korea. Meanwhile South Korean electronics-maker Samsung is teaming up with domestic internet search giant Naver to develop AI chips for hyperscale computing. Popular South Korean web giant Kakao has finally developed an operational resilience resources and processes plan, after twelve years in operation with tens of millions of users.

Construction has begun on the Square Kilometer Array Observatory in both South Africa and Australia. New Zealand’s Privacy Commission has hinted it may open an investigation into local managed services provider Mercury IT, which serves many government agencies and businesses and has been hit by ransomware. Meanwhile, a separate cyber attack all-but-crippled the government of South Pacific nation Vanuatu for three weeks. Australia’s Federal Court fined Uber AU$21 million ($14 million) for engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct. The ridesharing app’s naughty behavior included misleading users by estimating competing taxi cabs at higher rates than were actual, and issuing warnings of cancellation fees that did not exist. ®