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International press review Extrema Ratio - 21 April

Extrema Ratio focuses on the topics we work on, including geopolitcs, cybersecurity, critical technologies, foreign interference, disinformation, international law & national security.


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Extrema Ratio

G e N Iuvinale

Chinese companies banned or restricted by the US military and national security networks continue to enter into contracts with state governments and various government agencies such as offices, schools and law enforcement agencies.

Research & long reads

  • China's 'free money' comes at a cost in the great game to control the Pacific. Analysis of China’s diplomatic engagement in the Pacific Islands, and what it means for the West. Nicola Smith and Charley Piringi.The Telegraph

  • As China fixes its property mess, can foreign capitalists benefit? A look at the restructuring proposals received by Evergrande’s foreign creditors.The Economist

  • Behind the buzzwords: what China’s priorities mean for Europe. The slogans and policies referenced by Xi Jinping at the recent National People’s Congress, and what they mean in practice. Alicja Bachulska. European Council on Foreign Relations

  • Why China’s police state has a precinct near you.Phelim Kine, Christina Gallardo and Joseph Gedeon.Politico

Asia power snapshot: China and the United States in Southeast Asia The Lowy Institute Susannah Patton and Jack Sato The United States has lost influence to China in Southeast Asia over the past five years in all four categories measured by the Asia Power Index: economic relationships, defence networks, diplomatic influence and cultural influence. Compared to China, the United States still has much stronger defence relationships with countries in Southeast Asia. But China increased its lead over the United States in terms of economic relationships with Southeast Asia.

Yesterday China Tech Threat released a new paper detailing the dangers a looming Chinese legacy chip monopoly poses to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness. In essence, With the U.S. government exclusively targeting China’s advanced chip manufacturing sector, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) – led by SMIC, its national champion working with the Chinese military – is exploiting the U.S. government’s tunnel vision and spending billions to dominate legacy chip manufacturing.

China

  • China is building sophisticated cyber weapons to “seize control” of enemy satellites, rendering them useless for data signals or surveillance during wartime, according to leaked intelligence reports. A CIA-marked document assesses that China’s push to develop capabilities to “deny, exploit or hijack” enemy satellites is a core part of its goal to control information, which China considers a key “war-fighting domain.” Mehul Srivastava, Felicia Schwartz, and Demetri Sevastopulo report for the Financial Times.

  • Beijing did not respond to Wagner arms request. Classified document in US intelligence leak suggests that China snubbed Russian paramilitary group’s request for weapons in early 2023. Mehul Srivastava, Max Seddon and Felicia Schwartz. Financial Times

  • US briefs G7 partners on planned investment curbs for high-tech industries, hoping for endorsement. Biden Administration reportedly plans to sign executive order limiting investment around the time of the G7 summit in May. Jenny Leonard.Bloomberg

  • Chinese regulator delays publication of US books. Chinese book publishers are releasing far fewer US-related titles as the central propaganda department suspends approval of popular American authors. Sun Yu and Nian Liu.Financial Times

  • China mobilises investment into state-owned firms. Shares of SOEs have outperformed investors’ expectations since November, when top securities regulator called for a new pricing model. More than ten mutual fund companies have applied to launch SOE-dedicated funds since March. Jason Xue and Summer Zhen.Reuters

  • China’s biggest fund manager bets on regulatory easing and AI boom. Guangzhou-based E Fund Management has increased stakes in online delivery platform Meituan and Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC. Zhang Shidong.South China Morning Post

  • Concerns electric vehicle boom may force China to burn more coal. Expanding coal-fired power is said to be China’s only real option in the short term to meet rising electricity demand. Bloomberg

Breitbart

China’s state-run Global Times propaganda newspaper published an editorial on Wednesday dismissing calls by American Secretary of State Antony Blinken for Beijing to return to communications with Washington, stating the Communist Party has “no time” for “insincere people” like Blinken.

Huawei launches in-house software system after being cut off from US services Reuters David Kirton China's Huawei Technologies said on Thursday it is replacing internal software management systems it once sourced from U.S. vendors with its own in-house version, hailing it as a victory over U.S. curbs that once threatened its survival. The in-house enterprise resource planning system has been rolled out across 80% of the company's business. While it is uncertain if Huawei intended to commercialise its ERP system and compete with the likes of Oracle and SAP, it provides a potential new business line for the company which has been expanding into areas in a bid to survive under U.S. pressure.

Chery taps Tesla supplier for sodium-ion battery tech The Courier Jade Credentino The company responsible for supplying electric vehicle batteries to the likes of Tesla, Geely and SAIC Motor has announced Chery, a Chinese state-owned automobile manufacturer, will be the first automaker to use its new sodium-ion technology in EVs. While official details are scarce at the moment, Car News China reports mass production for the sodium-ion battery is scheduled to go ahead this year.

USA

  • U.S. Treasury Secretary: Decoupling From China Would Be ‘Disastrous’. In a speech yesterday on U.S.-China economic ties, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said (FT) that “a full separation of [the countries’] economies would be disastrous.” While the speech offered a shift in tone from months of heightened tension between the countries, Yellen said that Washington would still prioritize security concerns over economic policies. However, the United States wouldn’t aim to “stifle” China’s development, she said. She also announced plans to visit China, but did not give a timeline.

  • Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that Taiwanese officials have asked Washington to tone down its warnings against relying on Taiwan’s world-leading chip sector; some U.S. officials have warned against overdependence on Taiwanese chips given the possibility that China could invade the island.

  • Senate and House lawmakers introduced the Taiwan Cybersecurity Resiliency Act yesterday, which would boost cybersecurity collaboration between the U.S. and Taiwan to counter cyberattacks from China. The bill would require the Department of Defense to broaden and strengthen cybersecurity cooperation with Taiwan by conducting cyber training exercises, defending the country’s military networks, infrastructure and systems, and leveraging U.S. cybersecurity technologies to help defend Taiwan. Ines Kagubare reports for The Hill.

  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen yesterday said protecting national security would be the U.S. priority in its relationship with China even if it slows economic growth. “The United States will assert ourselves when our vital interests are at stake. But we do not seek to decouple our economy from China’s,” Yellen said at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Andrew Duehren reports for the Wall Street Journal.

  • The Pentagon is moving more troops to the African nation of Djibouti to prepare for a possible evacuation of U.S. Embassy staff in Sudan. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said yesterday that because of the fighting at the capitol’s airport, “it is currently not safe to undertake a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens.” An estimated 19,000 American citizens are believed to be in Sudan. Helene Cooper, Elian Peltier and Farnaz Fassihi report for the New York Times.

  • The U.S. military repatriated a prisoner, Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush, 52, to Algeria yesterday after being held at Guantánamo without charge for over two decades. Bakush was among about 20 suspected low-level fighters rounded up by Pakistani security services in a 2002 raid in Faisalabad on dwellings believed to be Al Qaeda safe houses. Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.

  • Iran’s navy forced a U.S. submarine to the surface as it “violated” Iranian borders, Iranian navy commander Shahram Irani told state television yesterday. However, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet denied the incident and called it “disinformation.” Reuters reports.

  • US must ‘publicly and consistently’ press China to release political prisoners, says House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Committee heard witness testimonials during a hearing titled ‘Where is Gao Zhisheng?’ in reference to detained human rights lawyer. South China Morning Post

Janes

Ongoing development of the US Army's Integrated Tactical Network (ITN) capability is reaching an inflection point in terms of advanced technology integration and the policy implications of these integration efforts, and could dramatically change how the US armed forces and their allies wage future wars.

Janes

The US Navy (USN) needs to do a better job of harnessing its lessons learned to prevent fires on vessels that are being worked on, according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Navy organisations collect and analyse lessons learned from fires through a number of processes,” the GAO said in its report, Navy Ship Fires: Ongoing Efforts to Improve Safety Should Be Enhanced, released on 20 April.

Tech bosses are letting dictators censor what Americans see The Daily Beast Sarah McLaughlin Twitter and other U.S. tech companies are allowing authoritarians like China’s Xi Jinping and India’s Narenda Modi to determine what people can say—all over the world. Twitter’s international application of local law is worrying enough on its own. But it looks as if Twitter’s global block may not just be a concerning isolated incident, it may instead be part of a deeply troubling trend of tech companies willingly choosing to allow the most authoritarian diktats to guide content moderation.

A tech industry pioneer sees a way for the US to lead in advanced chips The Economic Times John Markoff Ivan Sutherland believes the United States is failing at a crucial time to consider alternative chipmaking technologies that would allow the country to reclaim the lead in building the most advanced computers. By relying on supercooled electronic circuits that switch without electrical resistance and as a consequence generate no excess heat at higher speeds, computer designers will be able to circumvent the greatest technological barrier to faster machines, he claims.

Lawmakers demand accountability for DC Health Link breach The Hill Ines Kagubare House lawmakers on Wednesday urged DC Health Link to explain how a human error led to a data breach that impacted hundreds of House members and their staff in early March. Mila Kofman, executive director of DC Health Link, told lawmakers that her organization is still investigating how the breach happened and who was responsible for the cloud server misconfiguration that allowed the hackers​ to gain access to the data.

BuzzFeed News, which dragged media into the digital age, shuts down The New York Times Benjamin Mullin and Katie Robertson In a move that brings to a close a pioneering era of online journalism, BuzzFeed is shutting down its namesake news division. After beginning as a quirky digital upstart and rising to a Pulitzer Prize-winning operation, it ultimately fell prey to the punishing economics of digital publishing that has laid low many of its peers. It’s a sobering end for a publication once seen as a serious challenger to legacy media outlets that had been slow to adapt to the internet.

The expected delivery date of the lead ship US Coast Guard (USCG) Polar Security Cutter (PSC) appears to be unknown, according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Contract delivery date for the lead ship is May 2025, which is one year later than initially planned,” the GAO noted in a 20 April report on acquisitions made by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is the parent department for the USCG.

Americas

  • Chilean President Unveils Plan to Nationalize Lithium Sector. The plan, which is awaiting congressional approval, would require (FT) any company that wants to extract lithium to partner with the state. Chile is the world’s second-largest producer of the critical mineral, which is used in electric car batteries.

  • U.S./Brazil: U.S. President Joe Biden said he will seek congressional approval (NYT) for a $500 million pledge to a fund that fights deforestation in Brazil. The contribution would make the United States one of the largest donors to the fund.

Asia

  • Taiwan foreign minister warns of China conflict in 2027. Joseph Wu spoke on LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr in an attempt to bolster western support. Amy Hawkins.The Guardian

  • Vietnam opposes China’s unilateral South China Sea fishing ban. China imposes an annual ban between 1 May - 16 August each year to promote sustainable fishing and improve marine ecology. Vietnam routinely opposes the ban, which has been in place since 1999, as a violation of its sovereignty. Reuters

  • North Korea Says Its Nukes Are ‘Undeniable and Stark Reality’. North Korea’s foreign minister made the comments (AP) after Group of Seven (G7) nations jointly called for the country’s full denuclearization during their recent meeting in Japan.

  • Pakistan: The country placed its first order (Reuters) for discounted Russian crude oil as part of a new bilateral agreement. Shipments could reach up to one hundred thousand barrels a day, Pakistan’s petroleum minister said.

How North Korea’s hackers bankroll its quest for the bomb Foreign Policy Robbie Gramer and Rishi Iyengar For at least five years, a shadowy group of hackers has been waging a quiet campaign to harvest sensitive data from government agencies, academics, and think tanks in the United States and South Korea, all while stealing and laundering cryptocurrency on the side. That group, dubbed APT43, was outed as a likely proxy for North Korean intelligence services late last month by cybersecurity firm Mandiant, a revelation that unnerved, but didn’t surprise, policymakers in Washington and allied capitals in Asia.

8 former Navy officers imprisoned by Qatar accused of spying on emirate’s super-secret submarine programme ThePrint Praveen Swami Eight former Indian Navy personnel being tried in Qatar have been accused of spying on the oil-rich kingdom’s secretive programme to obtain Italian-made, high-tech submarines coated with metamaterials that make their detection by adversaries difficult, intelligence sources have told ThePrint. The Qatar State Security, the state intelligence agency, claimed to have intercepted electronic communications establishing that the naval officers were spying on the submarine programme, the officer further said. The purported evidence, he added, has not been shared with India.

IP theft, cyber security & accidents top 3 threats for Indian industry: Survey The Economic Times Intellectual property theft, information and cyber security threats and accidents have been ranked as the top three threats in India by the industry in a risk survey, according to a FICCI report. According to respondents, the lowest risk is associated with terrorism and insurgency, the report released on Wednesday said.

Australia

Australian researchers plant false memories in chatbots iTnews Richard Chirgwin Chatbots have become ubiquitous in customer service in sectors as diverse as banking, retail, financial services and telecommunications – but an Australian research team has learned an emerging class of chatbots, “chit-chat bots”, can be trained to learn and regurgitate misinformation. The idea is with that long-term memory, the chatbot could mimic more natural conversations, for example with small talk at the beginning of an interaction.

Cyber strategy enters next phase after 280 submissions to discussion paper Riotact Chris Johnson More than 280 groups, individuals and businesses have so far contributed to the development of the nation’s cyber security strategy. Submissions to the government’s discussion paper have now closed, launching the Department of Home Affairs into a phase of scrutiny to find suggested initiatives that could prove to be valuable. Home Affairs and Cyber Security Minister Clare O’Neil said she was happy with the number of responses to the discussion paper, and that the next phase of developing the strategy is now well underway.

No time to lose in the race against scammers NAB News Chris Sheehan Three point one billion dollars. That’s the amount the ACCC reported that Australians lost to scammers in 2022. Australians of every age, gender and demographic are being flooded with scam lures via text messages, phone calls, emails and on social media and gaming platforms. It’s a devastating number but it doesn’t tell the full story. What it doesn’t capture is the emotional and psychological harm these predatory criminals leave in their wake – the businesses destroyed, homes lost, and relationships broken.

RBA lacks C-level tech skills, review finds iTnews Richard Chirgwin The Reserve Bank of Australia needs to better integrate technology skills at the board level, the government’s review into the institution found. The review noted “technology and related cyber risks are increasingly important in the RBA’s operations,” adding that IT staff had doubled in the past decade “to around 420 staff members.

The Japan Times

Gabriel Dominguez

Beijing’s drive for technological supremacy doesn’t stop with AI. China is beating Western democracies in research output in 37 out of 44 technological areas deemed critical for economic growth and military power, such as space, robotics, energy, the environment, advanced materials and key quantum technology areas, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said in a recent report.

New shadow home affairs minister James Paterson issues warning about China's attempts to 'shape Australia's information system' Sky News Australia Patrick Hannaford Early on Thursday, a senate committee on foreign interference through social media, chaired by Senator Paterson, heard evidence about the hijacking of Scott Morrison’s WeChat account during the 2022 election. According to Fergus Ryan from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, this occurred because “the CCP wanted to embarrass the prime minister.” “Their decisions when it comes to matters like this, are political,” Mr Ryan said.

‘Worse than TikTok’: Calls for WeChat to be banned despite cost The Sydney Morning Herald Matthew Knott Fergus Ryan, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, said he essentially agreed with Kaplan’s view that a ban may be necessary. “I don’t think that a ban of WeChat or TikTok should ever be taken off the table,” he told the committee. “It doesn’t make sense to me that you would willingly remove that leverage that you have over a tech company.” Ryan said there would be a “huge cost” for Chinese-Australian if the app was banned but the blame would ultimately lie with the CCP.

There’s no technical fix to a problem driven by ideology The Strategist Fergus Ryan There are three main national security risks with the PRC-owned video-sharing app, TikTok, that Australians should be concerned about. Two of them—data and content manipulation—are applicable to most other major social media apps regardless of their country of origin. The third risk, that a single political party, the Chinese Communist Party, has decisive leverage over TikTok, exacerbates the other two risks and is unique to TikTok as a major mainstream social media app.

Ukraine - Russia

  • A Russian fighter jet accidentally bombed the Russian city of Belgorod near Ukraine’s border yesterday, Moscow’s defense ministry said. Regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said that three people were injured and several buildings were damaged. There was no explanation for the bombing other than what is described as an “abnormal descent of aviation ammunition.” George Wright reports for BBC News.

  • NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, during his first visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion, said yesterday that Ukraine’s “rightful place” was in the alliance. Despite these comments, accession remains a “long-term project.” There is division among NATO countries about whether Ukraine should be offered any kind of detailed “road map” toward membership at the Vilnius summit this summer. Enjoli Liston reports for the New York Times.

  • Pro-Russian hackers carried out a cyberattack on the website of the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, the air-traffic control agency said yesterday. A senior agency official familiar with the situation said that the agency had ringfenced its operational systems and that air-traffic safety was not at risk. However, there are growing fears that Moscow could interfere with the region’s critical infrastructure as its confrontation with the West escalates. Killnet, a Russian hacking group, announced their attack on the agency on their Telegram channel on Wednesday. Bojan Pancevski reports for the Wall Street Journal.

  • Russia is attempting to build an antiwar coalition in Germany comprising both far-left and far-right elements, according to a trove of sensitive Russian documents that were obtained by a European intelligence service. The documents record meetings between Kremlin officials and Russian political strategists. The Kremlin ordered the strategists to focus on Germany to build antiwar sentiment in Europe and dampen support for Ukraine. Catherine Belton, Souad Mekhennet, and Shane Harris report for the Washington Post.

  • Eight new storm brigades totaling 40,000 soldiers are being trained by Ukraine to be used during a counter-offensive against Russian occupiers in the coming weeks or months. The units have benefited from an aggressive recruiting campaign on social media and billboards to attract highly motivated volunteers. The success of the counter-offensive is crucial for Kyiv, as a failed attempt to seize back territory from Russian forces could dim optimism among key Western backers and push them to encourage Kyiv to seek negotiations with Moscow. Sergiy Karazy and Anna Dabrowska report for Reuters.

Russia’s digital warriors adapt to support the war effort in Ukraine, Google threat researchers say CyberScoop AJ Vicens Russian and pro-Russian operatives continue to modify their hacking and influence operations aimed at Ukraine to extract intelligence and sway public opinion in favor of the war, Google researchers said in a report released Wednesday. The latest tactics include promoting highly produced YouTube videos as well as more traditional phishing campaigns.

Meet the hacker armies on Ukraine's cyber front line BBC Joe Tidy When Russia initiated its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a second, less visible battle in cyberspace got under way. The BBC's cyber correspondent Joe Tidy travelled to Ukraine to speak to those fighting the cyber war, and found the conflict has blurred the lines between those working for the military and the unofficial activist hackers.

Ukraine’s social media stars rethink how they wield their influence The New York Times Matthew Mpoke Bigg Moscow’s invasion last year has caused a cultural upheaval in Ukrainian society that has run parallel to the fighting. At the heart of that transformation is language, with more Ukrainians — most of whom understand both languages — switching to use Ukrainian. For social media influencers, switching languages had significant consequences for the size of influencers’ audiences. That matters since, for many of the most popular stars, audience ratings are a key to brand deals, and in the case of YouTube, influencers can be paid based on the size of their viewership.

Europe

Janes

Madrid-based Alpha Unmanned Systems (AUS) has established a licensed manufacturing partnership with Indonesian company PT Indadi Venyro in a bid to expand the former's footprint across Southeast Asia. The partnership agreement was established in April 2023 after PT Indadi Venyro agreed to invest in AUS as a minority equity partner, said the companies in a joint statement provided to Janes on 20 April.

Cyberwar descends on an unprepared Moldova Bloomberg Ryan Gallagher As Russian troops were gathering for their invasion of Ukraine early last year, the computer systems that neighboring Moldova used to manage its security operations along its 760-mile border with Ukraine came under attack. As the war progressed, pro-Russian social media accounts spread false claims designed to discredit the Moldovan government, and trolls bombarded Moldovan authorities with thousands of fake bomb threats.

EU seeks to bridge cyber-skills gap with new ‘academy’ Euractiv Alina Clasen The European Commission launched Cybersecurity Skills Academy on 18 April to close the cybersecurity sector’s ongoing skills shortage and develop the EU’s cyber resilience. The academy is part of the 2023 European Year of Skills, an initiative to promote the upskilling and reskilling of the workforce with the view of helping workers and companies keep up with the green and digital transitions.

  • Russia Halts Arms Sales to India Over Sanctions Concerns. Payments and deliveries for at least $12 billion in weapons and other military supplies have stalled as the countries search for a payment method that is acceptable to Russia and allays India’s concerns about violating U.S. sanctions, Bloomberg reported.

  • Top NATO Official Says Ukraine’s ‘Rightful Place’ Is in the Alliance. During a visit to Kyiv, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance will announce new military support (AP) for Ukraine, but he did not lay out a timeline for the country to join NATO.

  • France: Government price controls that reduce the price of electricity for consumers could last until the start of 2025 (Bloomberg), France’s finance minister said.

UK

UK cyber-argency warns of a new ‘class’ of Russian hackers Bleeping Computer Bill Toulas The United Kingdom's NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) is warning of a heightened risk from attacks by state-aligned Russian hacktivists, urging all organizations in the country to apply recommended security measures. Typically, those hacktivist groups focus their malicious cyber-activity on performing DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks that cause service disruption on critical entities such as airports, parliament, and government sites.

UK cyber security chief to warn of China’s rise as a technology superpower The Guardian PA Media Lindy Cameron, who is the director of the GCHQ arm, will use a speech in Belfast this week to warn the UK and allies of the “dramatic rise of China as a technology superpower”. The remarks, to be delivered this week at the CyberUK annual conference, come as the US, the UK and western nations attempt to navigate the growing economic and political reach of China amid concerns about the threat the country poses to security. Concerns about China have already led to the UK government banning ministers from using video-sharing app TikTok on their work phones after a security review.

Cyber-attacks target UK universities ‘weekly’, survey reveals Times Higher Education Patrick Jack Cyber-security continues to be a problem for UK higher education, with new figures suggesting that the vast majority of institutions suffered attacks in the last year. A survey of 52 higher education providers conducted by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology between September and January shows that 44 (85 per cent) identified breaches or attacks within the last 12 months.

Africa

  • Diplomatic pressure is being stepped up to end the fighting in Sudan, which has left more than 300 people dead in the last week. The U.N., U.S., and other countries have been pushing for a three-day truce to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Two previous attempted ceasefires failed to take effect. George Wright and Paul Adams report for BBC News.

  • The Russian paramilitary organization Wagner group has been supplying Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces with missiles to aid their fight against the country’s army, Sudanese and regional diplomatic sources have told CNN. Nima Elbagir, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Tamara Qiblawi and Barbara Arvanitidis report for CNN.

  • UN: Up to Twenty Thousand People Have Fled Sudan’s Violence to Neighboring Chad. The United Nations said many of those fleeing the internecine clashes between Sudanese military forces have lacked food, water, and shelter (AFP). Fighting in Sudan, a majority Muslim country, continued today as festivities to mark the end of Ramadan approached.

  • Equatorial Guinea: Health authorities have confirmed sixteen cases (Reuters) of the hemorrhagic disease caused by the Marburg virus in an ongoing outbreak. The disease can have a fatality rate of up to 88 percent.

Nigeria: disinformation reflects a demonetization of institutions Africanews The wave of misinformation currently targeting the Electoral Commission and Supreme Court judges in Nigeria, who are called upon to rule on the presidential election, reveals a vast discredit of institutions in Africa's most populous country, according to experts. While elections in Nigeria are often characterized by vote-buying and violence, technical failures and delays in the transmission of results observed during the February 25 vote are fueling rampant misinformation this time around.

Breitbart

The government of China denied on Tuesday details in a report accusing its companies of bribing Nigerian terrorists in exchange for safe access to mineral-rich territories in the African country. The original report, published last week by the U.K. newspaper The Times, claimed that “militant leaders” in the embattled country are openly bragging on social media about how much money they make from Chinese bribes. The videos, allegedly obtained through the firm SBM Intelligence, show Nigerian terrorists claiming that Chinese companies are comfortable paying “rent” and have become a lucrative income source for them.

Middle East

  • Israel Opens Embassy in Turkmenistan. The embassy in Turkmenistan, which borders Iran, opens amid rising tensions between Iran and Israel. Turkmenistan had long resisted hosting an Israeli embassy (Al-Monitor) due to pressure from Iran.

  • U.S./Iran: The U.S. Navy denied Tehran’s claim (Al-Monitor) that the Iranian navy forced an American missile submarine to surface in the Strait of Hormuz, saying that no U.S. subs have been in the area recently.

Indonesian hackers vow to continue cyberattacks on Israel Arab News Sheany Yasuko Lai Indonesian hackers are going to continue to breach the websites of Israeli government institutions, a group claiming a wave of cyberattacks that made headlines this week told Arab News. The attacks by hackers from the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation came amid a series of similar breaches targeting Israeli agencies this month, which have been claimed by hacker groups from other countries, amid assaults by Israel’s security forces on Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.

Israeli spyware maker QuaDream closes, fires all employees Haaretz Omer Benjakob The cyberoffensive company QuaDream, which operates from Israel and specializes in hacking iPhones on behalf of government clients, called its employees in for a pre-termination hearing on Sunday. For several months, the company has been undergoing significant downsizing, even losing entire teams to competitors, as Israel continues to curtail the sale of local spyware in wake of U.S. pressure.

Israeli firm NSO’s spyware again hacking iPhones: Report Al Jazeera Citizen Lab released its findings on Tuesday into NSO’s global reach after its software infected the phones of at least two human rights defenders in Mexico in 2022. NSO’s Pegasus spyware can infiltrate a mobile device either through a text message that users click or more recently through “zero-click attacks”. Those intrusions compromise devices without any action by the user. Messages, chats, phone calls, contacts and emails can be monitored.

World

Commonwealth joins forces with global tech organisations to empower Commonwealth citizens in AI The Commonwealth The Commonwealth Secretariat, together with a consortium of global firms, start-ups, universities and non-profits, have come together to bridge the digital divide, including the artificial intelligence gap, to help empower Commonwealth citizens, with a particular focus on the association’s 33 small states.

Global finance firms take part in NATO cyber attack simulation Computer Weekly Karl Flinders A total of 29 financial services organisations, including Barclays, Santander and Mastercard, have been brought together by the not-for-profit member organisation, the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center to participate in the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, known as Locked Shields.

Big Tech

Facebook parent Meta to sack another 4000 workers news.com.au Frank Chung Facebook parent company Meta has started sacking 4000 employees in technical roles as part of the tech giant’s latest round of job cuts announced last month. CNBC reported on Wednesday that employees with technical backgrounds such as user experience, software engineering, graphics programming, as well as gameplay engineers working on MetaVerse virtual reality products, had been posting on social media about being laid off.

  • Meta lays off tech teams, battering employee morale Reuters Katie Paul and Yuvraj Malik Meta Platforms Inc on Wednesday carried out another round of job cuts, this time hitting engineers and adjacent tech teams, as Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg further moved to streamline the business in a bid to make 2023 a "year of efficiency." Meta in March became the first Big Tech company to announce a second round of mass layoffs, which it said would take place in three main batches over several months and impact 10,000 employees.

Twitter begins removing check marks from accounts The New York Times Kate Conger Twitter began removing check mark icons from the profiles of thousands of celebrities, politicians and journalists on Thursday, in one of the most visible indicators of how Elon Musk is changing the company. A check mark had for years meant that Twitter had verified the identity of the user behind an account, and the icon was considered something of a status symbol. But under Mr. Musk, the social media service has begun to charge individuals $8 per month to maintain their verification status.

Crime agencies condemn Facebook and Instagram encryption plans The Guardian Alex Hern An alliance of the world’s most powerful law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Interpol and Britain’s National Crime Agency have condemned Meta’s plans to encrypt direct messages on Facebook Messenger and Instagram, saying that doing so will weaken the ability to keep child users safe.

Elon Musk threatens to sue Microsoft over Twitter data BBC Annabelle Liang Twitter boss Elon Musk has threatened to sue Microsoft as he accused the technology giant of using data from his social media company without permission. "They trained illegally using Twitter data. Lawsuit time," the multi-billionaire said in a tweet. Mr Musk was responding to Microsoft's plan to remove Twitter from its corporate advertising platform. He did not provide further details or evidence to support the claim.

Medusa threat actor boasts about spreading Microsoft’s Bing source code Cyber Security Connect David Hollingworth The Medusa ransomware outfit is sharing what it claims to be the leaked source code of two of Microsoft’s Bing products — Bing Maps and Cortana. The post, from Medusa’s own website and shared on Twitter by Emisoft’s Brett Callow, claims that the data totals 12 gigabytes. “There are many digital signatures of Microsoft products in the leak. Many of them have not been recalled,” the post, from a Medusa member, read.

Hackers breach Microsoft SQL servers to deploy Trigona ransomware Cyber Security Connect Daniel Croft Hackers are distributing Trigona ransomware via internet-exposed Microsoft SQL servers to collect system information and gain additional system control. The attacks were using brute-force or dictionary attacks with obtained or guessed credentials to infiltrate externally accessible MS-SQL servers. The attacker then uses CLR Shell malware to collect system info, alter the configuration of the compromised account, or gain additional privileges using a vulnerability in the Windows Secondary Logon Service. The Trigona malware is then installed.

Artificial Intelligence

AI has social consequences, but who pays the price? Tech companies’ problem with ‘ethical debt’ The Conversation Casey Fiesler In software development, the term “technical debt” refers to the implied cost of making future fixes as a consequence of choosing faster, less careful solutions now. However, negative news stories about generative AI tend not to be about these kinds of bugs. Instead, much of the concern is about AI systems amplifying harmful biases and stereotypes and students using AI deceptively. Realizing that a technology reinforces oppression or bias is very different from learning that a button on a website doesn’t work.

Schumacher family planning legal action over AI 'interview' Reuters Michael Schumacher's family are planning legal action against a German weekly magazine over an 'interview' with the seven times Formula One champion that was generated by artificial intelligence. The latest edition of Die Aktuelle ran a front cover with a picture of a smiling Schumacher and the headline promising 'Michael Schumacher, the first interview'. The strapline added: "it sounded deceptively real". Inside, it emerged that the supposed quotes had been produced by AI.

An A.I. hit of fake ‘Drake’ and ‘The Weeknd’ rattles the music world The New York Times Joe Coscarelli For Drake and the Weeknd, two of the most popular musicians on the planet, the existence of “Heart on My Sleeve,” a track that claimed to use A.I. versions of their voices to create a passable mimicry, may have qualified as a minor nuisance. But for others in the industry, the song represented something more serious: a harbinger of the headaches that can occur when a new technology crosses over into the mainstream consciousness of creators and consumers before the necessary rules are in place.


Photo: La Cina di Xi Jinping - Verso un nuovo ordine mondiale sinocentrico? (Italian)

Gabriele and Nicola Iuvinale

ASE 2023

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