Cyber Warfare

Concerns are especially acute in wake of Russian influence in 2016

Mercury News
Date: August 7, 2020
By: Deb Reichmann and Eric Tucker | Associated Press

File photo: The latest intelligence assessment reflects concerns to varying degrees about China, Russia and Iran, warning that hostile foreign actors may seek to compromise election infrastructure and interfere with the voting process.

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence officials believe that Russia is using a variety of measures to denigrate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden ahead of the November election and that individuals linked to the Kremlin are boosting President Donald Trump’s reelection bid, the country’s counterintelligence chief said Friday.

U.S. officials also believe that China does not want Trump to win a second term and that Beijing has accelerated its criticism of the president and its efforts to shape American opinion and public policy.

The statement from William Evanina comes amid criticism from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional Democrats that the intelligence community has been withholding from the public specific intelligence information about the threat of foreign election interference in the upcoming election.

On Russia, U.S. intelligence officials assess that it is working to “denigrate” Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia “establishment” among his supporters, Evanina said. He said that would track Moscow’s criticism of Biden when he was vice president for his role in Ukraine policies and his support of opposition to President Vladimir Putin inside Russia.

The latest intelligence assessment reflects concerns to varying degrees about China, Russia and Iran, warning that hostile foreign actors may seek to compromise election infrastructure and interfere with the voting process.

Those concerns are especially acute following a wide-ranging effort by Russia to interfere in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf through both the hacking of Democratic emails and a covert social media campaign aimed at sowing discord among U.S. voters.

“Many foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements; covert influence efforts are rarer,” said Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence Security Center. “We are primarily concerned about the ongoing and potential activity by China, Russia and Iran.”

China views Trump as “unpredictable” and does not want to see him win reelection, Evanina said. China has been expanding its influence efforts ahead of the November election in an effort to shape U.S. policy and pressure political figures it sees as against Beijing, he said.

“Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action, its public rhetoric over the past few months has grown increasingly critical of the current administration’s COVID-19 response, closure of China’s Houston consulate and actions on other issues,” he wrote.    [FULL  STORY]

Swarms of accounts are amplifying Beijing’s brash new messaging as the country tries to shape the global narrative about the coronavirus and much else.

The New York Times
Date: June 8, 2020
By: Raymond Zhong, Aaron Krolik, Paul Mozur, Ronen Bergman and Edward Wong

As the Trump administration lashes out at China over a range of grievances, Beijing’s top diplomats and representatives are using the president’s favorite online megaphone — Twitter — to slap back with a pugnaciousness that is best described as Trumpian.

Behind China’s combative new messengers, a murky hallelujah chorus of sympathetic accounts has emerged to repost them and cheer them on. Many are new to the platform. Some do little else but amplify the Beijing line.

No doubt some of these accounts are run by patriotic, tech-savvy Chinese people who get around their government’s ban on Twitter and other Western platforms. But an analysis by The New York Times found that many of the accounts behaved with a single-mindedness that could suggest a coordinated campaign of the type that nation states have carried out on Twitter in the past.

Of the roughly 4,600 accounts that reposted China’s leading envoys and state-run news outlets during a recent week, many acted suspiciously, The Times found. One in six tweeted with extremely high frequency despite having few followers, as if they were being used as loudspeakers, not as sharing platforms.    [FULL  STORY]

The People’s Liberation Army said U.S. indictments accusing four of its members of stealing information amounted to “legal bullying.”

The New York Times
Date: Feb. 13, 2020
By: Paul Mozur

An F.B.I. poster listing accusations against four members of the Chinese military.Credit…Federal Bureau of Investigation
An F.B.I. poster listing accusations against four members of the Chinese military.Credit…Federal Bureau of Investigation[/caption]
.SHANGHAI — China’s military on Thursday denied accusations that it hacked Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting companies in the United States.

In a harshly worded release, Wu Qian, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said the American charges against four of its members were “without a basis in fact.”

“This behavior is completely hegemonic and amounts to legal bullying,” Mr. Wu said.

On Monday, American officials issued indictments that accused hackers in China’s military of stealing trade secrets and the personal data of about 145 million Americans in 2017 from Equifax. The Department of Justice suggested that the data theft was part of an organized effort by China’s military and intelligence services to assemble caches of personal information on Americans to better target intelligence officers and other officials.

Hacking has re-emerged as a sore point between Washington and Beijing amid a broader worsening of relations. The two countries reached an interim pact in January that cooled but did not end their trade war. The United States has increasingly stopped Chinese investors from taking stakes in companies in sensitive industries, and it has warned American allies not to use equipment made by Huawei, the Chinese maker of telecommunications gear.

Threat Post
Date: January 2, 2020
By: Lindsey O'Donnell

The U.S. Army this week has banned TikTok from government-owned devices as scrutiny over the platform’s relationship with China grows.

With backlash swelling around TikTok’s relationship with China, the United States Army this week announced that U.S. soldiers can no longer have the social media app on government-owned phones.

TikTok, a social media app used to create and share short form videos, is owned by Beijing-based parent company ByteDance. Despite its popularity with users and celebrities – the app touts over 1.3 billion installs worldwide – several incidents over the past year have caused privacy experts to question how data from TikTok is being collected, used and whether it is being censored by China’s government.

On Monday, the U.S. Army, which previously used TikTok as a recruiting tool for reaching younger users, announced it is issuing a ban on the app, according to, a website that provides news regarding military members and veterans.

The U.S. Army’s ban of TikTok comes after a similar ban was issued by the U.S. Navy earlier this year. The ban follows guidance issued Dec. 16 by the U.S. Department of Defense, which identifies TikTok as having potential security risks associated with its use, a U.S. Army spokesperson told Threatpost.

“The message directs appropriate action for employees to take in order to safeguard their personal information,” the U.S. Army spokesperson said in an email. “The guidance is to be wary of applications you download, monitor your phones for unusual and unsolicited texts etc., and delete them immediately and uninstall TikTok to circumvent any exposure of personal information.”

Focus Taiwan
Date: 2019/11/24
By: Chai,Sze-chia and Elizabeth Hsu

Shanghai, Nov. 24 (CNA) China's public security authorities have identified a Chinese national who

Image from The Age web pages at
was reported by Australian media to be a defector involved in spying operations in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia, as a fugitive being pursued for fraud.

The Sydney Morning Herald and other Australian media outlets reported Saturday that a Chinese defector named Wang "William" Liqiang went to Australia's counter-espionage agency in October with intelligence on how China's senior military intelligence officers funded and conducted spying operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia.

However, in a Saturday post on its official Weibo web page, the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau's Jingan Branch said that after investigating the matter, it found that the so-called "special agent of China" is Wang Liqiang (王立強), 26, from Nanping in Fuijan Province.

"Jobless, Wang is a fugitive involved in cases," the post reads.    [FULL  STORY]

Firmware inspections of 558 Huawei products found over 100 vulnerabilities easily exploitable by those with knowledge of source code

Taiwan News
Date: 2019/07/06
By: Duncan DeAeth, Taiwan News, Staff Writer

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Cyber security analysts have discovered over a hundred common

(By Associated Press)
“backdoors” hidden in Huawei products by analyzing firmware code for vulnerabilities.

The potential to hack Huawei products and use them as a tool for espionage by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), or by any hacker for that matter, is now better understood thanks to an investigation carried out by specialists with Finite State and ReFirm Labs.

According to a report published by Breaking Defense entitled “Hacker’s Heaven: Huawei’s Hidden Back Doors Found” investigators analyzed over 1.5 million firmware files embedded within 558 Huawei products.

In a 36 hour run of testing using cutting edge methods to analyze firmware files, researchers led by Matt Wyckhouse and Terry Dunlap found 102 vulnerabilities that would allow an outside actor with knowledge of the back door to access a device or network’s data.

Around 25 of the vulnerabilities were designated as “severe” enough to provide unrestricted access to an outside party. In addition to Huawei, Terry Dunlap’s team of researchers, some of them former U.S. National Security Agency employees, have discovered similar vulnerabilities in products manufactured by Dahua Technology Company which produces surveillance equipment.

According to the Breaking Defense report, Dahua products were used to spy on a Fortune 500 company in the U.S. With the help of Dunlap’s team, the company discovered their security system was sending the data to an unknown IP address in China.

Several of the vulnerabilities found on Huawei devices reportedly operate in the same manner as those of Dahua. The Chinese companies have also claimed such vulnerabilities are just bugs or simple errors that are fixed with updates.

However, after installing updates, both companies’ products were found to have simply relocated the same backdoors to different areas of the firmware code.    [FULL  STORY]

Date: May 29, 2019
By: Brian Naylor

A DJI Technology drone flies during a demonstration in Shenzhen, China, in 2014. DJI sells the majority of Chinese-made drones bought in the United States.
Kin Cheung/AP

Drones have become an increasingly popular tool for industry and government.

Electric utilities use them to inspect transmission lines. Oil companies fly them over pipelines. The Interior Department even deployed them to track lava flows at Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.

But the Department of Homeland Security is warning that drones manufactured by Chinese companies could pose security risks, including that the data they gather could be stolen.

The department sent out an alert on the subject on May 20, and a video on its websitenotes that drones in general pose multiple threats, including “their potential use for terrorism, mass casualty incidents, interference with air traffic, as well as corporate espionage and invasions of privacy.”

We could pull information down and upload information on a flying drone. You could also hijack the drone.”

Most drones bought in the U.S. are manufactured in China, with most of those drones made by one company, DJI Technology. Lanier Watkins, a cyber-research scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Information Security Institute, said his team discovered vulnerabilities in DJI’s drones.

“We could pull information down and upload information on a flying drone,” Watkins said. “You could also hijack the drone.”

The vulnerabilities meant that “someone who was interested in, you know, where a certain pipeline network was or maybe the vulnerabilities in a power utilities’ wiring might be able to access that information,” he noted.    [FULL  STORY]

Taipei Times
Date: May 21, 2019
By: Reuters, NEW YORK

Alphabet’s Google has suspended business with Huawei Technologies Co (華為) that requires the

A Huawei Technologies Co logo is displayed at a shop in Beijing yesterday.  Photo: AFP

transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Sunday, in a blow to the Chinese technology company that the US government has sought to blacklist around the world.

However, holders of current Huawei smartphones with Google apps would continue to be able to use and download app updates provided by Google, a Google spokesperson said, confirming earlier reporting by Reuters.

“We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” the Google spokesperson said.

“For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices,” the spokesperson said, without giving further details.    [FULL   STORY]

Xi Jinping’s foresight that the future is digital helped China push ahead in the race to harness the power of the internet, much of it in covert operations, to sharpen its military edge and economic competitiveness

South China Morning Post 
By: Daniel Wagner  
Date: 7 Mar, 2019

Illustration: Craig Stephens

From the time he assumed power in 2012, President Xi Jinping made it clear how important a role he believed the internet would play in China’s future.

To his credit, he recognised that the future is digital, and that those countries that can get ahead and stay ahead in the race for digital supremacy would hold a natural advantage in global economic competition. He set China on a path that would help ensure its future economic competitiveness by harnessing the power of the internet.

Based on the manner in which he has unleashed China’s participation in that race, the Xi era will be remembered for putting an end to the West’s naive optimism about the potential of the internet to liberalise global polities.

Chinese military doctrine has long articulated the use of a wide spectrum of warfare against its adversaries. Much of what is known outside of China about its approach to asymmetric warfare is contained in a book first published in Chinese in 1999 and translated
10 years later with the title Unrestricted Warfare.    [FULL  STORY]

Since President Xi took power in 2012, China has launched an unprecedented crackdown on online freedom.

Date: 25 Apr 2019
By: Madeline Roache

Thirty years ago, Beijing’s Tiananmen Square became a symbol of pro-democracy protests the

Under President Xi, China has blocked around 26,000 Google search terms and 880 Wikipedia pages [Getty Images]
world over as the site of several important events in Chinese history witnessed a deadly military crackdown. It crushed the protests led by students, eventually costing more than 10,000 lives.

The crackdown became one of the most censored topics on the Chinese internet. Around this time of the year, certain websites, including Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and some Google services, are either fully blocked or temporarily “blacked out”.

The government aims to prevent discussion of the crackdown and also to erase the event from Chinese history, particularly among the younger generation, according to journalist and author James Griffiths.

“Chinese authorities are afraid of collective action against the government,” said Griffiths, the author of The Great Firewall of China: How to Build and Control an Alternate Version of the Internet.

Since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012, China has launched an unprecedented crackdown on online freedom, submerging the internet in propaganda and punishing journalists who post the “wrong” content.

Under Xi, China has blocked about 26,000 Google search terms and 880 Wikipedia pages.