[Weekend Briefing] AI Act, space security, Russia’s spying charges

By Dain Oh, The Readable
Mar. 15, 2024 7:25PM GMT+9

“Weekend Briefing” is a weekly newsletter sent to subscribers of The Readable every Friday. Our journalists select important news items from the previous week on topics ranging from privacy to policy development in cybersecurity, all to help you stay abreast of the latest breaking issues. And not only is this provided free of cost to our subscribers, but the briefing contains new content exclusive to subscribers, such as our insightful industrial reports.

Controversies surrounding the European Union’s new legislation on artificial intelligence have ignited heated debates worldwide, drawing clear lines between organizations over issues of privacy and technological progress. In Seoul, South Korean security experts have convened to discuss defense strategies against potential satellite hacking in the escalating realm of cyber warfare. The Russian government has detained a South Korean citizen on espionage charges. TikTok and Meta have removed 22 counterfeit videos of President Yoon Suk-yeol from their platforms, acting in compliance with the directives from the nation’s internet censorship authority. An individual who posted online threats to commit a terrorist act on an airplane has been given a suspended sentence of two years.

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This is Dain Oh reporting from South Korea, and here is your weekend briefing.

1. EU lawmakers stamp approval on landmark AI Act

Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

European Union lawmakers officially approved legislation governing artificial intelligence technologies on Wednesday, marking the initiation of the world’s first comprehensive set of rules for the AI sector within the EU market.

The European Parliament declared that the AI Act received overwhelming support, with 523 members voting in favor of the new regulations. Meanwhile, 46 members opposed it, and 49 abstained from voting. This decision followed a provisional agreement reached last December among the EU’s three main governing bodies—the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission—to address the potential risks associated with rapidly advancing AI technology.

The legislation is poised for its final phase before being progressively implemented over the coming years. The AI Act will initially take effect more than six months after receiving formal endorsement from the European Council, starting with the prohibition of certain AI technologies deemed to pose an unacceptable risk to society. The new regulation categorizes various AI technologies according to their level of risk, from unacceptable to minimal, and bans the use of AI technologies designed to manipulate human behavior, thereby undermining users’ free will. READ MORE

2. Expert warns of major cyberthreat posed by satellite hacking

Ryou Jae-cheol, middle, a professor in the Department of Computer Science & Computer Engineering at Chungnam National University, is delivering a speech at the 8th Cyber National Strategy Forum on Wednesday. Photo by Kuksung Nam, The Readable

On Wednesday, a cybersecurity expert issued a warning that South Korea must increase its vigilance against potential hacking attempts on satellites, highlighting the significant threat these attacks represent to national security.

Ryou Jae-cheol, a professor at the Department of Computer Science & Computer Engineering at Chungnam National University, delivered a speech at the 8th annual Cyber National Security Forum in Seoul, hosted by the Korean Association of Cybersecurity Studies (KACS). During his talk, Ryou explored various hacking techniques capable of jeopardizing satellite operations. He highlighted that, in the most severe cases, these tactics have the potential to enable attackers to seize full control of satellites.

Ryou used the example of drone hacking to illustrate workable malicious tactics and their consequences to satellite security. He explained that bad actors are able to redirect a drone by exploiting the communication channels that occur between an unmanned aerial vehicle and its controller. In addition, a drone can be interfered with directly by targeting the source of its communications: the controller itself. While high-level skills are required to penetrate the satellite’s communication channels, Ryou pointed out that hackers could gain access to the ground station—which acts as the satellite’s controller—using less complex techniques. READ MORE

3. Space expert warns of potential electronic warfare in future North-South Korea conflicts

Choi Seong-hwan, a Specialty Fellow in the Aerospace Business Division at Hanwha Systems and a retiree from the Republic of Korea Air Force, is delivering a speech at the 8th Cyber National Strategy Forum on Wednesday. Photo by Minkyung Shin, The Readable

A South Korean space expert stated on Wednesday that the country will prioritize defending against non-physical attacks, emphasizing the necessity for South Korea to enhance its technological investments to safeguard against North Korea’s satellite jamming tactics.

Choi Seong-hwan, a Specialty Fellow in the Aerospace Business Division at Hanwha Systems and a retiree from the Republic of Korea Air Force, spoke about space electronic warfare and space cybersecurity at the Cyber National Security Forum in Seoul on March 14. There he highlighted that for over 30 years, North Korea has focused on non-physical attacks, a strategy driven by its limited financial resources.

Choi noted that North Korea is actively engaging in testing and deploying three distinct types of satellite jamming attacks: Global Positioning System (GPS) jamming, radio jamming, and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) jamming. He emphasized that SAR jamming, in particular, represents the most potent and unique method of attack, according to his expert analysis. READ MORE

4. South Korean detained in Russia on charges of espionage

Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

The Russian state news agency, TASS, reported on Tuesday that the Russian government has detained a South Korean citizen on charges of alleged espionage.

According to the report, law enforcement officials have disclosed that the 53-year-old South Korean man, identified by the surname ‘Baek,’ acquired information deemed by Russian authorities to be state secrets by presenting himself as a writer on an online messaging platform. These authorities added that Baek intended to relay these secrets to foreign intelligence services. Further details regarding the nature of the sensitive information and the specific foreign agencies involved were not disclosed by law enforcement, according to the TASS report.

The Russian state news agency noted that this arrest of a South Korean citizen by the Russian government on espionage charges represents an unprecedented event, being the first time a South Korean national has been detained in Russia over such accusations. The individual was arrested earlier this year in Vladivostok, a far-eastern Russian city near the North Korean border. Although the specific date of the arrest remains unspecified, it was reported that the South Korean was transferred to Moscow in February. READ MORE

5. TikTok and Meta delete fake video of South Korean president

Designed by Daeun Lee, The Readable

TikTok and Meta, the parent company of Instagram, removed a manipulated video of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol from their platforms following a request from the country’s internet censorship body. The request was made over concerns that the video could mislead viewers.

The Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC) announced on Monday that the fabricated video of the South Korean president had been removed from the popular video-sharing platform TikTok and Meta’s Instagram. Although the KCSC could not specify the exact date of the videos’ removal, they noted that the deletions were identified through an internal search.

On February 23, following a request from the South Korean police to delete the objectionable content, the KCSC convened an emergency meeting. This censorship body arrived at a decision to block access to 22 instances of manipulated content. The creator in question is alleged to have edited various clips of the president from his 2022 presidential campaign, altering the original sentences, albeit without employing deepfake technology. For example, the manipulated videos changed the president’s statement from “For a lifetime, I have been executing laws against those who cause torment to South Korean citizens,” to “I have been executing laws to torment South Korean citizens.” READ MORE

6. Aircraft terror hoax in South Korea receives justice

Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

A South Korean individual who issued threats online to commit a terrorist act on an airplane has been handed a suspended prison sentence. The court found the defendant guilty, citing the significant waste of police resources and the creation of social unrest triggered by the offense.

On February 28, the Suwon District Court delivered a verdict for a suspect charged with obstruction of official duties through fraudulent means and intimidation. The indictment came from the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office. The court sentenced the individual to 10 months in prison but suspended the sentence for two years. Additionally, the court mandated 120 hours of community service for the convicted individual.

On December 22 last year, the defendant accessed the live chat feature on the online streaming platform “Afreeca TV.” Under an anonymous nickname, he posted a message that read, “Hello, I am an airplane terrorist. I will commit a terrorist act on the 10 o’clock flight.” This comment signaled an intention to execute a terrorist act on a flight scheduled to depart from Jeju Airport at 10 p.m. that same day. READ MORE

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The cover image of this article was designed by Daeun Lee. This article was copyedited by Arthur Gregory Willers.

Dain Oh is a distinguished journalist based in South Korea, recognized for her exceptional contributions to the field. As the founder and editor-in-chief of The Readable, she has demonstrated her expertise in leading media outlets to success. Prior to establishing The Readable, Dain was a journalist for The Electronic Times, a prestigious IT newspaper in Korea. During her tenure, she extensively covered the cybersecurity industry, delivering groundbreaking reports. Her work included exclusive stories, such as the revelation of incident response information sharing by the National Intelligence Service. These accomplishments led to her receiving the Journalist of the Year Award in 2021 by the Korea Institute of Information Security and Cryptology, a well-deserved accolade bestowed upon her through a unanimous decision. Dain has been invited to speak at several global conferences, including the APEC Women in STEM Principles and Actions, which was funded by the U.S. State Department. Additionally, she is an active member of the Asian American Journalists Association, further exhibiting her commitment to journalism.