Category Archives: china

Chinese cyberhackers ‘blurring line between state power and crime’

Cybersecurity firm FireEye says ‘aggressive’ APT41 group working for Beijing is also hacking video games to make money

A group of state-sponsored hackers in China ran activities for personal gain at the same time as undertaking spying operations for the Chinese government in 14 different countries, the cybersecurity firm FireEye has said.

In a report released on Thursday, the company said the hacking group APT41 was different to other China-based groups tracked by security firms in that it used non-public malware typically reserved for espionage to make money through attacks on video game companies.

Related: Australia joins condemnation of 'huge, audacious' Chinese hacking plot

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How Chinese spy app allows officials to harvest personal data

Intrusive software collects emails and texts and could be used to track movement

The tourists travelling into China were never supposed to know their phones had been compromised.

The surveillance app being installed on their devices should have been removed by the border officers tasked with the job. But their apparent carelessness has provided a rare insight into the techniques used by China to snoop on visitors and the kind of information being harvested from their phones.

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Australian National University hit by huge data breach

Vice-chancellor says hack involved personal and payroll details going back 19 years

The Australian National University is in damage control after discovering a major data breach a fortnight ago in which a “significant” amount of staff and student information was accessed by a “sophisticated operator”.

The university has confirmed an estimated 200,000 people have been affected by the hack, based on student numbers each year and staff turnover.

Related: Australian security services investigate attempted cyber attack on parliament

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Fallout from Gavin Williamson sacking | Letters

Readers respond to the sacking of the defence secretary Gavin Williamson over accusations of leaking

While I am delighted that Gavin Williamson (May tells defence secretary: ‘You leaked, you are fired’, 2 May) has been removed from the government – remember he said that all British jihadists should be hunted down and killed in the Middle East rather than returned for trial here – I am sorry that as a result Rory Stewart no longer has responsibility for prisons. His is a deserved promotion, but as prisons minister he was the first member of the government to make any attempt to get to grips with the problems of our criminal justice system and offered to resign if things did not improve. How sad that there are not more of that ilk in public life these days.
Maureen Panton
Malvern, Worcestershire

• Is the Gavin Williamson who has just been sacked as defence secretary for allegedly leaking plans discussed in the National Security Council to allow Huawei to be involved in building the UK’s 5G network the same Gavin Williamson who told us last year that it’s Jeremy Corbyn that “cannot be trusted”?
Sasha Simic
London

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Amnesty International Hong Kong Office hit by state-sponsored attack

The Hong Kong office of Amnesty International has been hit by a long-running cyberattack carried out by China-linked hackers.

Amnesty International’s Hong Kong office has been hit with a cyberattack launched by China-linked hackers.

“This sophisticated cyber-attack underscores the dangers posed by state-sponsored hacking and the need to be ever vigilant to the risk of such attacks. We refuse to be intimidated by this outrageous attempt to harvest information and obstruct our human rights work,” said Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.

An Amnesty International’s spokesperson told the South China Morning Post that supporters’ names, Hong Kong identity card numbers and personal contact information were accessed by the hackers, no financial data was compromised.

In response to the cyber attack, the organization set up a “global task force composed of cyber security professionals. 

The organizations discovered the security breach on March 15 during a scheduled migration of the Hong Kong office IT infrastructure to its international network.

“The initial findings reveal the attacks were perpetrated using tools and techniques associated with specific advanced persistent threat groups (APTs).” reads the announcement published by Amnesty International. “Cyber forensic experts were able to establish links between the infrastructure used in this attack and previously reported APT campaigns associated with the Chinese government.”

amnesty international

The organization has notified of the incident to all people that might have been impacted by the attack, it is also providing additional guidance to further ensure their data is secure. Amnesty also reported the attack to the Hong Kong’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data.

According to Amnesty International, Chinese authorities are hindering cooperation between international and domestic NGOs,

The group attributed the attack to “a known APT group” that used “tactics, techniques and procedures consistent with a well developed adversary”.

“This sophisticated cyberattack underscores the dangers posed by state-sponsored hacking and the need to be ever vigilant to the risk of such attacks,” said Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.

“We refuse to be intimidated by this outrageous attempt to harvest information and obstruct our human rights work,” he said.

The investigation is still ongoing to determine the extent of the hack and the time window of exposure, but experts fear the attack has been happening already for a few years.

Amnesty is a privileged target for state-sponsored hackers because of its activity with other NGOs, journalists, activists, and civil rights movements worldwide. 

In August 2018, Amnesty International revealed that one of its employees was targeted with a surveillance malware developed by an Israeli firm.

The human rights group published a report that provides details on the attack against its employee. 

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – APT, Amnesty International)

The post Amnesty International Hong Kong Office hit by state-sponsored attack appeared first on Security Affairs.

Britain ‘Approves’ Huawei role in building ‘non-core’ parts for 5G Network

British Government has approved a limited role for Huawei in the building of a national 5G network in the country, ignoring security concerns from senior ministers

According to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, British Prime Minister Theresa May decided to assign a limited role to Chinese telco giant Huawei in the building of a 5G network in the UK.

The approval continues to raise concerns because the Government ignored security warnings from senior ministers and the US Government.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt raised serious concerns on the decision.

Britain’s National Security Council approved a limited role for Huawei to help build a “non-core” infrastructure such as antennas”

“Theresa May has given the green light to a Chinese telecoms giant to help build Britain’s new 5G network despite warnings from the US and some of her most senior ministers that it poses a risk to national security.” reads the post published by The Daily Telegraph.

“The National Security Council, which is chaired by the Prime Minister, agreed on Tuesday to allow Huawei limited access to help build parts of the network such as antennas and other “noncore” infrastructure.”

The decision comes as the chancellor Philip Hammond prepares to travel to China to promote the participation of his government in the Belt and Road Initiative.

“According to one person briefed on the discussions, Mrs May approved “in principle” the recent assessment by the National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ, that the risk from Huawei to future 5G telecoms networks could be mitigated.” reported The Financial Times.

At the time of writing, Digital Minister Margot James denied the news reported by the media.

“In spite of cabinet leaks to the contrary, final decision yet to be made on managing threats to telecoms infrastructure,” she tweeted.

“The decision has not been finally made yet and the Prime Minister will take advice form all of the relevant agencies and departments,” she
told Sky News.

On the other side, Huawei praised the alleged decision of the UK government,

“Huawei welcomes reports that the UK government is moving towards allowing Huawei to help build the UK’s 5G network,” it said in a brief statement.

“This green light means that UK businesses and consumers will have access to the fastest and most reliable networks thanks to Huawei’s cutting edge technology.”

“While we await a formal government announcement, we are pleased that the UK is continuing to take an evidence-based approach to its work and we will continue work cooperatively with the government, and the industry,” the Chinese company added.

What will happen after this decision?

The UK is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand) and agencies from other countries already expressed their ban on Chinese technology and the decision could raise a heated debate..

Earlier this month Germany also announced that it would not ban Huawei from the auction to build its 5G network.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Huawei, 5G)

The post Britain ‘Approves’ Huawei role in building ‘non-core’ parts for 5G Network appeared first on Security Affairs.

The Giant Awakens – China’s Cybersecurity Law (CSL) and Data Protection Obligations

While many of us were focused on the European Union’s GDPR and California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the giant on the other side of the world implemented China’s Cybersecurity Law (CSL) in June 2017. While CSL laid out broad data protection principles, there were noticeable gaps related to implementation and overall scope. To operationalize and further clarify CSL scope, the Chinese government instituted six systems: the Internet Information Content Management System; the Cybersecurity Multi-Level Protection System (MLPS); the Critical Information Infrastructure Security Protection System; the Network Products and Services Management System; the Cybersecurity Incident Management System; and the Personal Information … Continue reading The Giant Awakens – China’s Cybersecurity Law (CSL) and Data Protection Obligations

The post The Giant Awakens – China’s Cybersecurity Law (CSL) and Data Protection Obligations appeared first on TrustArc Blog.

China Spying on Undersea Internet Cables

Supply chain security is an insurmountably hard problem. The recent focus is on Chinese 5G equipment, but the problem is much broader. This opinion piece looks at undersea communications cables:

But now the Chinese conglomerate Huawei Technologies, the leading firm working to deliver 5G telephony networks globally, has gone to sea. Under its Huawei Marine Networks component, it is constructing or improving nearly 100 submarine cables around the world. Last year it completed a cable stretching nearly 4,000 miles from Brazil to Cameroon. (The cable is partly owned by China Unicom, a state-controlled telecom operator.) Rivals claim that Chinese firms are able to lowball the bidding because they receive subsidies from Beijing.

Just as the experts are justifiably concerned about the inclusion of espionage "back doors" in Huawei's 5G technology, Western intelligence professionals oppose the company's engagement in the undersea version, which provides a much bigger bang for the buck because so much data rides on so few cables.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. For years, the US and the Five Eyes have had a monopoly on spying on the Internet around the globe. Other countries want in.

As I have repeatedly said, we need to decide if we are going to build our future Internet systems for security or surveillance. Either everyone gets to spy, or no one gets to spy. And I believe we must choose security over surveillance, and implement a defense-dominant strategy.

Forcing the Adversary to Pursue Insider Theft

Jack Crook pointed me toward a story by Christopher Burgess about intellectual property theft by "Hongjin Tan, a 35 year old Chinese national and U.S. legal permanent resident... [who] was arrested on December 20 and charged with theft of trade secrets. Tan is alleged to have stolen the trade secrets from his employer, a U.S. petroleum company," according to the criminal complaint filed by the US DoJ.

Tan's former employer and the FBI allege that Tan "downloaded restricted files to a personal thumb drive." I could not tell from the complaint if Tan downloaded the files at work or at home, but the thumb drive ended up at Tan's home. His employer asked Tan to bring it to their office, which Tan did. However, he had deleted all the files from the drive. Tan's employer recovered the files using commercially available forensic software.

This incident, by definition, involves an "insider threat." Tan was an employee who appears to have copied information that was outside the scope of his work responsibilities, resigned from his employer, and was planning to return to China to work for a competitor, having delivered his former employer's intellectual property.

When I started GE-CIRT in 2008 (officially "initial operating capability" on 1 January 2009), one of the strategies we pursued involved insider threats. I've written about insiders on this blog before but I couldn't find a description of the strategy we implemented via GE-CIRT.

We sought to make digital intrusions more expensive than physical intrusions.

In other words, we wanted to make it easier for the adversary to accomplish his mission using insiders. We wanted to make it more difficult for the adversary to accomplish his mission using our network.

In a cynical sense, this makes security someone else's problem. Suddenly the physical security team is dealing with the worst of the worst!

This is a win for everyone, however. Consider the many advantages the physical security team has over the digital security team.

The physical security team can work with human resources during the hiring process. HR can run background checks and identify suspicious job applicants prior to granting employment and access.

Employees are far more exposed than remote intruders. Employees, even under cover, expose their appearance, likely residence, and personalities to the company and its workers.

Employees can be subject to far more intensive monitoring than remote intruders. Employee endpoints can be instrumented. Employee workspaces are instrumented via access cards, cameras at entry and exit points, and other measures.

Employers can cooperate with law enforcement to investigate and prosecute employees. They can control and deter theft and other activities.

In brief, insider theft, like all "close access" activities, is incredibly risky for the adversary. It is a win for everyone when the adversary must resort to using insiders to accomplish their mission. Digital and physical security must cooperate to leverage these advantages, while collaborating with human resources, legal, information technology, and business lines to wring the maximum results from this advantage.

State Actor Cyber Reports Overshadow the Extensive Threat of Cyber Crime

There has been recent focus on alleged Iran cyber activity the past few weeks, spurned on by the publication of a vendor report on Iranian operations.  Per the vendor’s findings, not only was Iran likely behind the activity that was targeting government and private sector in the Middle East, it was implementing National Security Agency exploits that were stolen and dumped into the public domain by the Shadow Brokers group in April 2017.  As recently as late August 2018, Iran is suspected of trying to launch influence operations ahead of the midterm elections.  The conclusion is that Iran is increasingly using asymmetric attacks, particularly via cyberspace, as part of its tool box to conduct retaliatory attacks.

The new reporting comes at a time when Russia’s cyber malfeasance has largely dominated the press, due to its influence operations efforts and election shenanigans, not just in the United States but in other countries as well.  Prior to the Russia focus, North Korea was the focal point with its suspected cyber activities targeting cryptocurrency, and the SWIFT banking transactions before that.  Iran was propelled onto the scene with Operation Ababil

DDoS attacks against U.S. banks, as well as its suspected involvement in the wiper malware incident against Saudi AramcoSome consider Iran a powerful cyber nation on par or close to it to China and Russia.  Others, maintain that Iranian actors are much less sophisticated, preferring to implement “tried-and true tactics while targeting many individuals.”  China initially led the state-led cyber espionage activity, which largely was curbed against the United States once the “no hack” pact was agreed to in 2015.

There seems to be a perpetual “revolving door” of news-cycle focus on suspected state activity, with new reports reporting on hostile espionage and exploitation occurring against global targets.  The purpose of these appears to track the latest and greatest escapades of these governments using – in most cases – publicly available tools and exploits that are publicly accessible (see Shadow Brokers above) and using vectors that for the most part are routine for any hostile cyber actor (certainly, if a state actor is “sophisticated”, the intimation is that the activity hasn’t been detected as of yet, or the sophisticated tools/exploits haven’t been implemented yet).

Between the ongoing stories of adversarial state activity as aforementioned above and news of smaller nations looking to acquire offensive cyber capabilities, all indications are that media and vendor reporting will continue to push the “hostile state actor as monolith” narrative into the public eye.  Yet, like the saying goes, “if everything is important, nothing is important,” which rings with authenticity with regards to state cyber activity.  Actual activity or incidents that threaten to disrupt, destroy, degrade, deny, or manipulate data systems or the data resident on them deserve to be pushed to the forefront as they potentially impact everyone at all levels.

But theft of intellectual property and state secrets affect a minority, and rarely if ever will impact everyday citizens.  Such vigorous scrutiny and analysis of suspected state activity should apply to the cyber crime ecosystem whose nefarious endeavors directly impact the global population.  And while there are isolated incidents of law enforcement efforts arresting groups and individuals or taking down marketplaces, this has failed to put a dent into a global industry that was cited as the second most reported economic crime, according to a 2017 report by the same vendor.

This needs to change and it would be welcome to see such vendors with a wide and deep visibility into the cyber threat space to uncover some of the more “sophisticated” state actors, to apply that precision against a threat intent on exploiting everyone on the planet.  Some of the more notable breaches have exposed a high volume of individual data:

2013/14         Yahoo                                                 3 Billion Accounts

2016               Adult Friend Finder                          412 Million Accounts

2014               eBay                                                    145 Million Users

2017               Equifax                                               143 Million User

2008               Heartland Payment Systems            134 Million credit cards

One thing is clear – cyber criminals have proven to be as sophisticated and resourceful as state actors, often times using the same tools and techniques.  The fact that this category of cyber actor is not as robustly tracked, and information shared directly to the appropriate authorities is disappointing.

 

This is a guest post by Emilio Iasiello

The post State Actor Cyber Reports Overshadow the Extensive Threat of Cyber Crime appeared first on CyberDB.

A Suggestion for President Trump regarding Dealing with North Korea


Dear President Trump,

Hello. As President of Paramount Defenses, I pen this letter most respectfully to you, the President of our United States.

Sir, almost all reasonable people would agree that a bellicose and now nuclear North Korea likely poses a threat not just to the United States but to the whole world, and that this threat must be dealt with. While there are several options, including military options, that you may be considering, I just wanted to say that you may want to give a peaceful resolution to this situation a reasonable chance (because wars are gruesomely destructive), and perhaps there may be still something that could be done.


Of course, North Korea must make no mistake about one fact - it must unequivocally understand that if it attacks the U.S. or its territories or allies, the U.S. will have no choice but to act to defend itself, and if it does, it will likely be the end of North Korea.




Speaking of Nuclear Weapons and North Korea

I likely speak on behalf of not just millions of American citizens, but billions of people worldwide when I say that this dangerous "sabre rattling" needs to please stop; we just cannot have a(ny) country threatening the world with the use of Nuclear Weapons.

Nuclear Weapons

We should also make NO mistake about this - This must please stop, and yet we must try and do all we can do to resolve this PEACEFULLY, because wars are gruesomely destructive. It is estimated that should this situation result in a war on the Korean peninsula, millions of people in numerous countries may lose their lives and/or be severely impacted.

If I might add, in today's civilized world, no one person in the world, whether it be the leader of any country (whether it be North Korea, Iran, China, Russia, USA, etc.) or entity should be able to endanger the lives of all 7,000,000,000+ people on Earth.

Speaking of peaceful efforts, allow me to voice one unsolicited suggestion, which involves a country that may likely have, over the years, whether unintentionally or otherwise, played^ a (not so small) role in helping North Korea get where it is today, and they now ought to do everything they can to help resolve this situation peacefully, and that one country is China.

 [ ^ Watch this 6 min video - "China is North Korea's largest trading partner and has pushed hard for the livelihood exemptions" , "Sanctions will only be as effective as Beijing wants them to be" , "Regime survival is exactly what China actually wants to see"]




Where Does China Stand on This?

Sir, as of Aug 11, 17, you've certainly tried to have China resolve this problem. However, it does not seem to (yet) have worked.


As of this morning, according to the Global Times newspaper, which although is not an official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, does according to experts most likely reflect government policy, China is likely okay with an armed conflict in the region.

I quote from here -
"Beijing is not able to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time. It needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China's interests, China will respond with a firm hand."
"China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so."

In other words, by not being against it, China is apparently tacitly okay with an armed conflict in the region. That's concerning.

Today, no country in the world should be okay with any such conflict, especially one involving countries with Nuclear Weapons.

China needs to realize that now is the time to respond to North Korea with a firm hand (; lest it might be too late & cost a 100x.)

China may need to unequivocally understand that this isn't just about a regional conflict or stability in one specific region of the world, but that this could result in the use of Nuclear Weapons and that could potentially dangerously impact the entire world.





The Suggestion - Having China Do More

In reality, as its largest trading partner, China does likely have a substantial amount of influence on North Korea, which is also why most sanctions imposed on North Korea by the U.N. thus far may have only been as effective as China wanted them to be.

Thus, perhaps, all countries in the world that desire peace, led by the U.S., should earnestly communicate to China that unless China does more to help, the world may have no choice left but to begin to look into potentially unfair Chinese trade practices and consider* (even if temporarily) substantially reducing their imports from China (i.e. the import of goods Made in China).


Perhaps, as a consequence, if China realizes that the world may seriously no longer be interested in importing its inexpensive goods, and that it may stand to lose up to a Trillion $ in trade each year, unless it "reins in" North Korea, perhaps it will do more.

(As such, China should be quite concerned about the possibility of any armed conflict in its region as it could impact its people. If concern for the safety of its billion+ people doesn't motivate China, perhaps the potential of a Trillion $ a year of loss, may.)

China may very well understand this today, so they need to flex some serious muscle to help resolve this dangerous situation.





[ A small digression...

An Unintended Impact

Incidentally, this could help kick-start your Made in USA initiative, and perhaps help reduce the trade imbalance with China, and although products for the U.S. consumer may no longer be dirt cheap, it could start bringing back American manufacturing jobs, thus helping your #MAGA slogan.


Speaking of #MAGA, while America is already a great country, its greatness may likely indeed have diminished a bit in light of globalization, and speaking of jobs, perhaps it may help to let the American people know that it is our own companies, i.e. the major companies whose products the American populace consumes, that whether driven by fierce competition and/or a desire to "maximize shareholder value", may have over the years substantially outsourced manufacturing, so and it may be up to the people to consider having (and if they decide, could have) these companies put country/security ahead of maximizing profits.

(It is difficult to walk into a Walmart or a Home Depot anywhere in the U.S. and find any products that are not "Made in China." Obviously, since you Sir, are (supposedly) a Billionaire, I do not expect you to have personally walked into a Walmart or a Home Depot, but in all likelihood a majority all hard-working people living in the U.S. may likely know what I'm talking about.)

Lastly, perhaps we, the American people may also need to realize that it may not likely be possible to simultaneously have both, "dirt-cheap (i.e. super inexpensive) products" and "American manufacturing jobs." Perhaps, if there is a strong desire to bring back manufacturing jobs to the U.S., it may require, even if for a bit, some adjustments as consumers - perhaps consume a little less, but buy quality products that are Made in USA as well as made in all such countries that adhere to fair trade practices.

Here, I should mention that it is also certainly possibly for (a more responsible and fairly competing) China to continue to be a major exporter of goods to the U.S., just as long as the Chinese too engage in manufacturing under fair trade practices, fair employment, regard for the environment, and for human rights, thus making the manufacturing playing-field level for all nations.

Alternatively, in lieu of having thousands of companies bring back manufacturing jobs to America, perhaps we could make solid results-driven investments towards helping our workforce acquire skills in those fields and industries that play a substantial role in contributing to America's exports, in effect helping millions of our people find suitable, respectable and gainful employment, as well as contributing to an increase in American exports, which too will have the effect of improving uneven trade deficits.

Speaking of Made in USA, perhaps the best way for you Sir, to demonstrate your commitment and seriousness of purpose to #MAGA, may likely be to lead by example and have all products made by the Trump Organization be made here in USA.

... end of digression.]





In Summary

The World should stand united on one front - regarding threats involving use of Nuclear Weapons, there must be zero tolerance.


As for North Korea, it must make no mistake about one fact - it must unequivocally understand that if it attacks the U.S. or its territories or allies, the U.S. will have no choice but to act to defend itself, and if it does, it will likely be the end of North Korea.

The Chinese too must understand that any military conflict in their region, especially one potentially involving the use of even a single nuclear weapon, and its fallout, could endanger not just all the countries in the Korean Peninsula, but also likely threaten and perhaps possibly jeopardize the very existence of Earth, and the last I checked, a billion Chinese people too, live on Earth.

If a millennia of history haven't taught us about the horrors and savagery that military conflicts and wars entail, and if a millennia of progress hasn't made us all realize that we all need to peacefully co-exist, then while we may have made material progress, what have we truly learnt?

Instead of predominantly pursuing profits, world-domination and egos, we should (all) instead be first pursuing peace, love and harmony, improving life for everyone, and cherishing and saving our precious planet (because in the Universe, its all we have.)

Most respectfully,
Sanjay


PS: I write neither as a Republican nor a Democrat, merely as a caring citizen, and not just as a U.S. citizen, but as a peace-loving global citizen, i.e. just one of 7,000,000,000+ people that live in 150+ countries worldwide who believe in living in Peace.


*A Note to China: We respect almost everyone, including your great nation, we mean no disrespect whatsoever, and like you we believe in fair trade, including with your nation, but far more importantly, we also value and believe in peaceful co-existence (as should you), so if the suggestion made above seems a tad extreme, please consider that it is only made in light of far more extreme circumstances i.e. a belligerent North Korea threatening (in effect, not only) the U.S. (but global security) with WMDs.

You ought to ask yourselves if you're really doing everything you can to diffuse this incredibly reckless and dangerous situation; should this result in an armed conflict in your region, your great country and its people may very likely be substantially impacted.

This is not the time for any party to play "Chess." This is the time for all countries to help prevent a potentially nuclear conflict.