August 2, 2018 / 3:53 AM / 3 months ago

Southeast Asia seek cybersecurity deal with Russia after series of hacks

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and ASEAN foreign ministers pose for a group photo during the opening ceremony of the 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Singapore August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su

SINGAPORE/MANILA (Reuters) - Southeast Asian nations hope to strike a joint agreement on cybersecurity in coming days with Russia, accused by the United States of meddling in its elections, after a series of high-profile hacks in the region.

The draft of a document seen by Reuters discusses formalizing an agreement with Russia. It is set to be issued by foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the close of meetings underway with other global lawmakers in Singapore.

“We welcome the further strengthening [of] our cooperation in cybersecurity with Russia through the issuance of the statement of ASEAN and Russian foreign ministers on cooperation in the field of cybersecurity,” the draft document said, adding the title would be updated depending on negotiations. It is due to be published on Saturday.

The host of the ASEAN meeting, Singapore, recently suffered its worst ever cyberattack when hackers stole the personal information of about 1.5 million people, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, from a government health database. Earlier this year, Malaysia said it had foiled an attempted cyber heist on its central bank.

Neither country has identified the hackers and neither suggested the involvement of Russia.

U.S. intelligence agencies have said a Russian propaganda arm tried to tamper with the 2016 presidential election by posting and buying ads on Facebook (FB.O). Moscow has denied involvement.

Facebook said on Tuesday it had identified a new co-ordinated political influence campaign to mislead its users and sow dissension among voters ahead of November’s U.S. congressional elections.

Russia last year appointed a dedicated Ambassador to ASEAN based in Jakarta.

Senior officials from ASEAN and Russia met in March in Jakarta for wide-ranging talks on co-operation in political, security and economic fields among others.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato and John Geddie; editing by Neil Fullick

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