Developments in May
Issue no. 18 of the SEEsummary, published on 31 May 2018, by SEEDIG, in collaboration with DiploFoundation and the Geneva Internet Platform. This issue covers Internet governance and digital policy developments and events that occurred in South Eastern Europe and the neighbouring area in May 2018. Contributors: Maja Ćalović, Lianna Galstyan, Andrijana Gavrilović, Loreta Kroj, Olga Kyryliuk, Dajana Mulaj, Dušan Stojičević, Oliana Sula, Sorina Teleanu.
New investments in digital infrastructures in SEE
Telecom and media provider United Group announced plans to invest over EUR 600 million in building local infrastructure, creating jobs and unlocking business opportunities in South Eastern Europe (SEE) over the next five years. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is a minority stakeholder in the United Group and a major investor in SEE with approximately EUR 1 billion of new projects each year. United Group provides services in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. So far, the company has laid over 15 000 km of fibre-optic cable in the region, reaching 1.77 million homes and supporting 50 000 businesses.
Expanding fibre networks in Kosovo*
Authorities in Kosovo* have announced plans for the World Bank to invest into a new project on the expansion of fibre network coverage. The project, expected to be approved by September 2018, has a total cost of EUR 30 million and is to be implemented in two years. It would help expand the optical fibre networks coverage to 95% of Kosovo’s territory (from the current 65%) and reach locations where private operators do not have an economic interest to provide Internet access.
USA to double cyber defence aid to Ukraine
The US State Department announced its plans to double the cyber defence aid to Ukraine to USD 10 million aiming at strengthening the country’s ability to prevent, mitigate, and respond to cyber-attacks. The USA is also helping to secure Ukrainian critical infrastructure. In February 2018, the US House of Representatives empowered the State Department with a task to provide any support needed to secure Ukrainian government networks, in particular those related to critical infrastructures. In addition, the US Army’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative is assisting with the setting up of a cyber operations centre within Ukraine’s defence ministry..
Cybersecurity exercise underlines the importance of multistakeholder cooperation
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Skopje and the Agency for Electronic Communications (AEC) in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia organised a national exercise on handling cyber/information and communications technology (ICT) security incidents. The activity aimed to strengthen multistakeholder cooperation at the national level in combating cybersecurity risks. The focus was placed on detecting the weaknesses of the organisations in addressing cyber-risks and on underlining the importance of defining and implementing cybersecurity measures. The exercise also emphasised the need for cooperation and exchange of information on cybersecurity issues between end-users, communities, private companies, and public institutions.
Romanian Parliament approves cybersecurity law
In Romania, the Parliament approved a law – initiated by the government – on network and information security (NIS). Transposing the EU NIS Directive into national legislation, the law establishes NIS-related obligations for operators of critical services (these operators will be determined by the national CERT and included in a classified national register), as well as for providers of digital services. The Ministry of Communications and Information Society is entrusted with the strategic coordination of NIS activities in terms of public policy and legislative initiatives, while CERT-RO becomes the authority competent at national level for the security of networks and systems which ensure the provision of critical services or of digital services. The government is to adopt a national NIS strategy within six months after the law enters into force.
Possible cyber-attack against Ukraine prevented
The US Justice Department announced that it had seized an Internet domain which was part of the command and control system of the VPNFilter botnet. The botnet consisted of half-million infected computer network routers in at least 54 countries, and it is believed by both Cisco and Ukraine’s leading security agency that the hackers were planning on undertaking a cyber-attack on Ukraine. According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), this botnet was set up by a hacking group variously called APT28, Pawn Storm, Sandworm, Fancy Bear, and the Sofacy Group. The group is believed to be responsible for cyberattacks on numerous governments and sensitive targets such as power grids, the OSCE, and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Cooperation on cybercrime and electronic evidence
The Cybercrime Programme Office of the Council of Europe organised a Regional Meeting on international cooperation on cybercrime and electronic evidence, in Kyiv, Ukraine. The meeting was intended to serve as a platform for national criminal justice authorities to explore possibilities for international cooperation under the Budapest Convention. Attendees were updated on trends and challenges related to international cooperation, assessed their compliance with relevant standards and recommendations, and planned activities to improve their capacities for cooperation on cybercrime and electronic evidence. Around 70 participants joined the discussions, from Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
Cybercrime among the main crimes targeting Romanian entities
The PwC Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey found that cybercrime is one of the top three types of economic crimes reported by Romanian companies, representing 40% of crimes committed against these entities. Cybercrime had the most disruptive effect on business operations in 2016 and 2017, according to Romanian companies that participated in the survey. The study also found that cyber-attacks have targeted two out of three Romanian organisations in 2016 and 2017. Moreover, 37% of the companies reported attacks via phishing and malware.
Azerbaijan to update its e-signature framework
Azerbaijan announced plans to review the national legislation on e-signatures, to comply with the new EU framework in this area. The new legislation will allow mutual recognition of e-signature certificates between Azerbaijan and EU countries. The mutual recognition of e-signature between states was described as a priority for Azerbaijan, which joined the UN Convention on the use of electronic communications in international contracts in March this year, and is conducting negotiations on mutual recognition of e-signature with Iran, Qatar, Turkey and Ukraine. By May 2018, the total number of e-signature certificates issued by the National Certification Authority has exceeded 140 000, more than double compared to the end of 2017.
Plans to bridge the digital divide
Ukrtelecom, Ukraine’s largest telecom operator, has made preliminary estimations for a project aimed at connecting 8 000 villages all over the country to the Internet. The total price of the project equals to UAH 6 billion. Ukrtelecom itself can invest UAH 2.8 billion and is currently looking for national or international donors to contribute an additional UAH 3.2 billion. The project envisions the construction of 8 000 km of fibre-optic lines, and if implemented, it would help to connect 6 million people and reduce the digital gap between cities and villages by four times. Currently, 8.3 million people living in 21 700 villages remain unserved and deprived of access to digital services.
Western Balkans countries expected to agree on reducing roaming fees
According to European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, the electronic communications regulatory authorities in Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia – are expected to sign an agreement in June on the reduction, and, eventually, elimination of roaming fees for electronic communications. The agreement signed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 2014 could be expanded to all Western Balkan countries during a EU-Western Balkan Digital Agenda Summit to be held in June. Once the agreement is concluded, the implementation process is to be monitored and coordinated by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and the regulators from the six countries. Roaming fees are expected to decrease regularly.
Supporting the digital inclusion of seniors
For the fifth consecutive year, Greek non-governmental organisation 50+ Hellas is providing digital literacy training to older people. The programme, run with the support of national telecommunication company COSMOTE and local authorities in Thessaloniki, is aimed at enhancing the digital integration of senior into modern information and communication methods, thus reducing the likelihood of social exclusion and loneliness. Participants will learn to use tablet technologies, Internet, e-mail, and social media, as well as other applications that will make their daily lives more comfortable.
Developing the digital skills of women
In Serbia, around 250 women participated in a programme for re-training and re-qualifying women in ICT. Most of the women who registered for the programme were unemployed, aged 20 to 40, and more than half of them had high qualifications. This data speaks about the labour market needs in Serbia, and provides additional indicators for the continuation of the programme, according to Tatjana Matić, State Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications. The initiative is in line with the Serbian government’s policy to develop the capacities of women ICT specialists and to overcome the gender gap in the digital industry.
Digital transformation for Greek tourism
In Greece, the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the integration of digital technologies in tourism policies to better meet the needs of tourists, citizens, and businesses. The agreement outlines a series of actions to be implemented in four areas: the digital transition of the services provided by the Ministry of Tourism and the Greek National Tourism Organization; the digital upgrading of tourism education; the use of digital tools for the collection and processing of quantitative and qualitative tourism data[ and the creation of a digital ecosystem to promote Greek tourism – with a focus on the multilingual and interactive e-portal Visit Greece.
Taxes for digital currency transactions
Digital currencies are subject to taxation in Azerbaijan, as recently announced by Nijat Imanov, Deputy Director General of the Tax Policy and Strategic Research Department of the Taxes Ministry. According to Imanov, incomes produced by entities will face profit tax, and individuals trading in digital currencies will be liable to income tax. While the position of Azerbaijan’s Central Bank (CBA) concerning digital currencies has been rather conservative, Azerbaijan seems to be supportive of the overall blockchain technology. The CBA itself examined the potential use of blockchain in working with neighbouring countries, such as Georgia and Estonia, and the use of electronic blockchain-based identification in information and payment frameworks. The bank also intends to study future use of the technology in the financial, banking, and public sector services in the country.
Moldova launches its first cryptocurrency exchange
On 11 May 2018, Moldova hosted the World Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Summit Chișinău, during which the country’s first cryptocurrency exchange called Drachmae Market was introduced. The exchange was created at the initiative of the Digital & Distributed Technology Moldova Association, Moldova’s first blockchain association. The platform has eight fiat currencies such as Moldovan Leu, US Dollar, Euro, and ten cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Ethereum. The association received a letter from the National Bank of Moldova which stated that currently Moldova has no legal framework for the cryptocurrency market and this is why no authorisation was needed. The central bank will, however, request the exchange to operate in compliance with existing laws since fiat currency is part of the exchange.
Belarus among the ten most crypto-friendly countries in Europe
Belarus positions itself on the 10th place in a top of European countries which have the friendliest environments for сгурtоcurrencies and blockchain, according to a report published by the blockchain conference BlockShow Europe. According to report, Belarus entered the list because of two reasons. Firstly, the Belarusian government has excluded cryptocurrencies from taxation until 2023, to facilitate the creation of the special economic zone Hi-Tech Park Belarus. Secondly, smart contracts are considered legal documents in the country. Switzerland, Gibraltar, Malta, United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Finland were also listed as the most crypto-friendly countries in Europe.
Economic sanctions resulting in websites being blocked
The President of Ukraine has updated the lists of personal special economic and other sanctions that were first adopted a year ago and targeted mostly at Russian nationals and Russian entities operating in the country. This time the lists include 1 748 individuals and 756 legal entities, which is an increase compared to previous year with 1 228 individuals and 468 legal entities being sanctioned. The effects of these sanctions, it is reported, also include blocking access to certain online resources, including the news portal RIA Novosti and the money transfer service WebMoney.
Cyber Law Conference | 5 May 2018 | Pristina, Kosovo*
The conference was dedicated to discussions on issues related to cybersecurity, cyberspace, and cyberlaw. Among the topics tackled by participants were emerging cybersecurity challenges, the elaboration and implementation of national and international cyber laws, and challenges related to the protection against cybercrime. One of the aims of the conference was to assist the next generation of lawyers in Kosovo* to prepare for the field of cyberlaw.
Istanbul Bosphorus International Conference on Cyberpolitics and Cybersecurity | 11–14 May 2018 | Istanbul, Turkey
Participants in this conference, representing academia, government, the private sector, and civil society stakeholders, got acquainted with the latest innovations and solutions featured by the international cyberpolitics community. The focus was put on problem-solving strategies and solutions for the global cyber-threats in various sectors: politics, finance, transportation, utilities, defence, research and development, manufacturing, telecommunications, health, and government.
Cybersecurity Code | 22 May 2018 | Baku, Azerbaijan
The conference, which gathered experts from Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation, opened with a session on cybersecurity trends, with experts from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Baku, and Kiev, followed by a session on technology, which included reports by various cybersecurity companies. The third session, on cybersecurity management, saw specialists sharing their experience in addressing cybersecurity threats. The event concluded with a session titled Hot 10, where experts and students formulated the key problems of cybersecurity in Azerbaijan and possible ways to address them.
SEEDIG | 23–24 May 2018 | Ljubljana, Slovenia
SEEDIG’s fourth annual meeting was held under the overarching theme Digital transformation and digital society in SEE, and enjoyed the honorary patronage of the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia. Over 100 participants from South Eastern Europe and the neighboring area, as well as beyond the region, discussed challenges and opportunities of digitalisation in SEE. Specific topics tackled included digital skills, digital rights, data protection in the digital economy, data-driven technologies (Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and blockchain), network and platform neutrality, and cybersecurity. All sessions were summarised in key messages.
Digicode 2018 | 30 May 2018 | Yerevan, Armenia
The final stage of the Digicode programming contest for Armenian school children took place at the American University of Armenia. The 54 finalists (out of a total of 300 initial participants) contested in six categories, such as the best game, the best interactive animation and equipment integration, the best algorithm solution, and the best design. The jury noted that, throughout the competition, participants advanced their knowledge and ability to implement innovative technologies.
Digital Transformation Forum / Governance x Watchdogs| 3–4 May 2018 | Bucharest, Romania
The forum explored ways in which digital technologies could contribute to better governance and to the work of media and civil society watchdogs. Participants included government representatives, journalists, civil society experts, and communication professionals from more than 30 countries. Discussions revolved around digital outreach strategies, tools for government transparency and accountability, truth-seeking instruments, e-government programmes, open data, strategic plans for social media, and Internet governance.
International Regulatory Conference 2018 | 15–16 May 2018 | Ohrid, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
The Agency for Electronic Communications of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia hosted the 2018 edition of the annual International Regulatory Conference under the title Time for action. The conference aimed to encourage a set of activities for strengthening cooperation in the work of regulatory bodies in the region. Discussed were case studies from regulatory agencies, Internet neutrality and quality of service, 5G, and cybersecurity.
Point 7.0: Political Accountability and New Technologies | 17–19 May 2018 | Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
At its seventh edition, the conference gathered worldwide practitioners in the field of modern transparency and accountability, to discuss current political affairs and civil society engagement. The event focused on developments in political accountability and technology, including election campaigns, fake news and propaganda, models and tools for hybrid democracy, online security and privacy, and investigative journalism.
ICO SmartTaler 2018 | 26 May | Minsk, Belarus
The conference brought together experts from both Belarus and neighbouring countries to discuss trends in fintech and cryptocurrencies. The audience comprised of small and medium business owners, representatives of the banking sector, founders of blockchain projects, traders and ICT professionals. In the expo-zone, Belarusian and foreign companies presented their designs and projects.
CryptoKonf 2018 | 29–30 May 2018 | Belgrade, Serbia
The event gathered developers, experts, regulatory institutions, investors, academics, policymakers, financial institutions, and enthusiasts, who exchanged views on the latest cryptocurrency-related developments and promoted their work in this area. The two-day conference consisted of four main sections: blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies, fintech, and cryptocurrency compliance.
EuroDIG 2018 | 5–6 June 2018 | Tbilisi, Georgia
SINOG 5.0 | 7–8 June 2018 | Ljubljana, Slovenia
The fourth conference “Intellectual Property and the Internet” |11 June | Belgrade, Serbia
SEE 7/ RIPE NCC Regional Meeting | 18–19 June 2018 | Timișoara, Romania
Security BSides Athens | 23 June 2018 | Athens, Greece
Digital Assembly 2018 | 25–26 June 2018 | Sofia, Bulgaria
Webit.Festival Europe 2018 | 25–27 June 2018 | Sofia, Bulgaria
6th International Workshop on Systems Safety & Security | 28–30 June 2018 | Iași, Romania
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