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Press review EX - 17 March

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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China publishes white paper on the rule of law in cyberspace | Thousands of customer records stolen from lender Latitude in cyber-attack | TikTok’s bigger danger could be disinformation, not data | CISA to examine cybersecurity risks of Chinese consumer drones

  • China publishes white paper on the rule of law in cyberspace. Extrema Ratio

  • Consumer lender Latitude Financial has been hit by a “sophisticated and malicious cyber-attack” that has resulted in the theft of more than 100,000 identification documents and 225,000 customer records. The Guardian

  • The Chinese government could use TikTok as a powerful and dangerous propaganda tool after installing Communist Party figures in senior positions at the social media giant’s parent company. A detailed submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference on social media warns TikTok’s greatest risk to Australia is that the Chinese Communist Party could use it to influence public discourse to suit its interests, on top of the application’s controversial data-gathering technology. The Sydney Morning Herald

  • A bipartisan group of senators is asking the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to examine consumer drones made by a company with “deep ties” to the Chinese Communist Party, warning that they could be used to spy on U.S. critical infrastructure. The Record by Recorded Future

Extrema Ratio

G Iuvinale

China's State Council Information Office released a white paper on the rule of law in cyberspace today, March 16. The document, entitled "China's Law-Based Cyberspace Governance in the New Era," contains six chapters, including maintaining the rule of law in cyberspace, consolidating the legal system, defending fairness and justice in cyberspace, and 'increasing international exchanges and cooperation in the rule-based governance of cyberspace.

G Iuvinale

China: after the institutional changes, a new form of absolute power is born. The result of centralization of power is today's Xi Jinping is directly involved in all phases of the political cycle.

China

Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22 at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announced on Friday.

  • Chinese companies, including one connected to the government, have sent Russian entities 1,000 assault rifles, drone parts, and body armor, according to trade and customs data obtained by POLITICO. The data reveal that China is supplying Russian companies with previously unreported “dual-use” equipment — commercial items that could be used on the battlefield. Providing Russia with dual-use items could be a way for China to increase its assistance to the country while avoiding backlash from the U.S. and Europe. Erin Banco and Sarah Anne Aarup report for POLITICO.

China's answer to ChatGPT? Baidu shares tumble as Ernie Bot disappoints Reuters Eduardo Baptista, Josh Ye China's Baidu unveiled its much-awaited artificial intelligence-powered chatbot known as Ernie Bot on Thursday, but disappointed investors with its use of pre-recorded videos and the lack of a public launch, sending its shares tumbling.

China cultivates thousands of ‘Little Giants’ in aerospace, telecom to outdo U.S. The Wall Street Journal Karen Hao China has an answer to intensifying competition with the U.S. for dominance of technology supply chains. It calls them “little giants,” and there are thousands of them.

  • Iran-Saudi Arabia deal: Chinese officials and state media promoted Iran and Saudi Arabia’s decision to resume diplomatic relations under Beijing’s auspices. While most of the messaging focused on China’s diplomatic prowess, state media also compared Beijing’s efforts to Washington’s record in the Middle East, and both state media and diplomats complained that Western media was deliberately underplaying this development.

  • AUKUS anger: News that the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia are moving forward on nuclear submarine cooperation drew angry condemnations from Chinese diplomats and state media. China’s Mission to the UN warned about nuclear proliferation, other diplomats deplored the deal’s “cold war mentality”, and state media argued that Australia was being overcharged by its partners.

  • Silicon Valley Bank crash: The few diplomats who commented on Silicon Valley Bank’s insolvency highlighted China and Chinese investors’ insulation from the risks brought on by the collapse. The consul in Osaka and several state media outlets argued the United States was heading for a major financial crisis. CGTN’s Russian branch used a clip from Tucker Carlson’s show to make that point.

  • Trade with China provides Russia with dual-use technology: Russian semiconductor imports almost returned to prewar levels by late 2022, with over half of this supply coming from China, while other countries like Turkey and Armenia markedly increased the amount of electrical machinery they traded with Russia in 2022, providing Russia’s military with necessary supplies for its invasion of Ukraine. Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies Lindsay Gorman told the Dispatch, “The reality is that the export control system used to stave off the flow of high tech devices and tools to Russia’s war-making effort has gaps and is a work in progress. The United States and its allies are building the plane as they fly it. Creating this international and global consensus around countering [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war in Ukraine has been a key priority across diplomacy, military aid, economic sanctions, and also technology sales. But China’s increasing coziness with Russia presents a real loophole at a time when the Chinese government’s interests are increasingly diverging from those of liberal democracies.”

  • Russia outlined plan to destabilize Moldova, document reveals: Russia aims to destabilize Moldova’s internal politics to reorient the country toward its sphere of influence by promoting pro-Russian agents in politics and civil society and weakening Moldova’s tilt toward Euro-Atlantic institutions, according to a 2021 Kremlin document obtained by Yahoo News. Research Analyst Joseph Bodnar said, “This document reveals what many already knew: Russia wants to steer Moldova away from the West and into Moscow’s control. This is an immediate challenge—as last week’s protest indicates—but it’s also a long term challenge. The document that surfaced shows Russia’s plans to manipulate Moldova extend to 2030. The Kremlin’s ultimate goal is to assert unchecked influence over Moldovan elites. Moldovans should keep working to ensure that their politicians are accountable to them—not people sitting in the Kremlin.”

USA

The American Conservative

The drive from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, to the Dirksen Senate Office Building is about five and a half hours. J.D. Vance has come a lot further than that. But at least one part of the freshman senator from Ohio’s road to Capitol Hill began in Cherry Point. As the base’s media relations officer for the final nine months of his Marine Corps service (2003–2007), Vance, as he wrote in his bestselling memoir, learned that “I could work twenty-hour days when I had to. I could speak clearly and confidently with TV cameras shoved in my face. I could stand in a room with majors, colonels, and generals and hold my own.”

FDD

The Ukraine war has filled the world with graphic images of a surprisingly capable underdog resisting the advances of a lumbering aggressor. But while the pictures are far less compelling, the story is the same in cyberspace: Ukrainian defenders have thwarted an onslaught of Russian cyberattacks. While credit for this success goes to the resilience, persistence, and professionalism of the Ukrainians, America’s efforts to improve their cyber capacity played a key role, and offer lessons for defending Taiwan from Chinese cyberattacks.

On March 21, the Maine State Legislature will hold a hearing on a bill to ban the purchase of risky Chinese technology from manufacturers in the Pine Tree state. Introduced by Senator Lisa Keim, An Act to Prohibit State Contracts with Companies Owned or Operated by the Government of the People’s Republic of China (LD877) comes as new research reveals that Maine has spent more than $5 million on risky Chinese technology from Lenovo, which has already been restricted by the federal government.

Senators call on CISA to examine cybersecurity risks of Chinese consumer drones The Record by Recorded Future Jonathan Greig A bipartisan group of senators is asking the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to examine consumer drones made by a company with “deep ties” to the Chinese Communist Party, warning that they could be used to spy on U.S. critical infrastructure.

The FBI and DOJ are investigating ByteDance’s use of TikTok to spy on journalists Forbes Emily Baker-White The FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating the events that led TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to use the app to surveil American journalists, including this reporter, according to sources familiar with the departments’ actions.

Biden’s TikTok plan faces the same challenges that doomed Trump’s ban The Wall Street Journal Drew Harwell, Cat Zakrzewski Three years after the Trump administration failed to force the sale of TikTok to an American buyer, the Biden administration is trying again, charging forward into the same legal and constitutional minefield with just as little evidence that the short-video app poses an actual threat.

VOA

Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and lead author of the Trump administration’s 2018 National Defense Strategy Report, Elbridge Colby (Elbridge Colby) said in an interview with Voice of America that the U.S. and China are currently in a “zero-sum situation.”

  • “Hyper-partisan” politicians outflanked moderates in media cycle, study finds: The seven most “hyper-partisan” members of Congress generated four times more media coverage than their seven most bipartisan colleagues in the 2022 election cycle, according to a study from George Mason University and Starts With Us, a nonprofit. Managing Director Rachael Dean Wilson said, “The media is one part of an information ecosystem that thrives on controversy. The 2022 Midterm Monitor found similar candidate trends on Twitter. It showed that the most retweeted secretary of state candidate accounts were either affiliated with candidates who spread false narratives about the 2020 election or their opponents. The presence of controversy was a boon for both candidates. The media, social media companies, candidates, and information consumers must seek and reward less polarizing content if we want to change the incentive structure.”

by John H. Cochrane The Hill

Silicon Valley Bank’s failure, and the ongoing turmoil in the banking system, provide a deep lesson. Our current bank regulation system, vastly expanded under the Dodd-Frank Act after the 2008 financial crisis, is fundamentally broken.

The Washington Post

When Ronald Reagan addressed a brand new organization of upstart conservatives nearly five decades ago, he cast U.S. entanglements abroad as part of the nation’s destiny to take on “leadership of the free world” and to serve as a shining “city on the hill” that inspired other countries, sparking thunderous applause.

At a dinner named after the former president at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) gathering earlier this month, failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake pushed a very different message to the party’s activists.

National Rerwiew

A few weeks before talking to Noah, I took part in a similar conversation with Elbridge Colby, whose opinions on this differ from Noah’s dramatically. Inter alia, Colby’s earnestly held view is that the United States currently faces “a very real choice between Asia and Europe,” and that our ability to contain China — which, in his statement to Tucker, DeSantis identified as posing the biggest threat to us — is being limited by our focus on the “the Ukraine war,” which “looks likely to be protracted, attritional, and therefore very expensive.”

Taiwan

Janes

Taiwan has announced plans to upgrade the US-made M60A3 main battle tanks (MBTs) in service with the Republic of China Army (RoCA). Ministry of National Defense (MND) of Taiwan has awarded a contract worth USD241 million to US-based engine manufacturer Renk America (RA) for supplying its AVDS 750 hp engines to modernise the M60A3 fleet in service with RoCA, RA told Janes. RA said that the AVDS engines are 12-cylinder, turbocharged, air-cooled diesel engines. The mechanical configuration of the engines is 90° between two cylinders, which is also called V configuration. The power of the engine ranges from 750 to 1,200 hp.

North Asia

Japan lifts chipmaking export controls on South Korea Nikkei Asia Kim Jaewon Japan lifted export controls it had imposed on South Korea in regard to three materials needed to produce semiconductors and displays, responding to Seoul's gesture to improve soured ties.

Southeast Asia

TSMC in advanced talks with Germany for new chip plant supported by government subsidies after Europe eased rules South China Morning Post Taiwan chip maker TSMC’s talks with the German state of Saxony about building a new factory are at an advanced stage and are now focused on government subsidies to support the investment, two people familiar with the matter said.

Ukraine - Russia

This is the new leader of Russia’s infamous Sandworm hacking unit WIRED Andy Greenberg The commander of Sandworm, the notorious division of the agency's hacking forces responsible for many of the GRU's most aggressive campaigns of cyberwar and sabotage, is now an official named Evgenii Serebriakov, according to sources from a Western intelligence service who spoke to WIRED on the condition of anonymity.

  • US drone takedown: After Russian fighter jets forced down a US Air Force drone over the Black Sea, Kremlin-linked accounts insisted that the drone had simply crashed while “moving deliberately and provocatively towards Russian territory”. Propagandists added that US drones are used to collect intelligence that Ukraine uses to strike inside of Russia.

  • Georgian unrest: Russian messengers took an increasingly aggressive line around the protests in Tbilisi last week that forced Georgia’s ruling party to revoke its proposed “foreign agents” law. Kremlin-backed accounts warned that Georgia today looks like Ukraine before Russia invaded in 2014, and some Russian state media suggested that the United States orchestrated the protests in Tbilisi.

  • Silicon Valley Bank crash: After Silicon Valley Bank collapsed, Russian state media said US capitalism was “facing an existential crisis” and highlighted the financial fallout in regions around the world. Propagandists also argued that the bank crash was an “engineered” scheme to enrich executives and questioned whether the bank’s commitment to diversity was a “fatal distraction”.

  • At least three Russian diplomats accused of espionage and expelled by European Union member states have resurfaced as newly accredited diplomats in Serbia, according to a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty investigation.

  • Russian troops have committed a “wide range” of violations in Ukraine, including war crimes, according to the latest report from the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. The violations include attacks with explosive weapons in populated areas, wilful killings of civilians, unlawful confinement, torture, rape and other sexual violence, and unlawful transfers and deportations of children. The report highlights the “deep loss and trauma” of survivors and recommends that all perpetrators of violations and crimes are held accountable through judicial proceedings under international human rights standards, “either at the national or the international level.” U.N. News reports.

  • At least one person died in a fire at a building used by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, FSB’s public relations office said. The FSB is Russia’s internal security service responsible for counter-intelligence, border security, and counter-terrorism. The governor of Rostov said a short circuit appeared to have caused the fire, which ignited fuel tanks. This incident follows a spate of arson attacks on government buildings in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine. Robert Greenall reports for BBC News.

UK

  • The British government launched a new body dedicated to offering businesses advice on how to defend against state-directed security threats, including the theft of intellectual property and other sensitive information.

  • The U.K. and New Zealand both prohibited the use of TikTok on government devices this week, citing security fears linked to the app’s ownership by a Chinese company. The U.S., the European Commission, Canada, and India have taken similar steps. Stephen Castle reports for the New York Times.

Iran

  • Iran has agreed to halt covert weapons shipments to its Houthi allies in Yemen as part of a China-brokered deal to re-establish diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials have said. The agreement to resume Saudi-Iran relations “gives a boost to the prospect of a [Yemen] deal in the near future,” while Iran’s approach to the conflict will be “a litmus test” for the success of last week’s diplomatic deal, one U.S. official said. Saudi Arabia and Iran have backed opposing sides in the Yemen conflict, one of the region’s longest-running civil wars. Dion Nissenbaum, Summer Said, and Benoit Faucon report for the Wall Street Journal.

Libia

  • Military forces in eastern Libya said yesterday that they have recovered the stockpile of uranium declared missing by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Roughly 2.5 tons of natural uranium were found several miles from the warehouse where they were previously stored by the Libyan National Army (LNA), a military group led by renegade Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter. An armed group from neighboring Chad may have raided the warehouse and taken the barrels hoping to find weapons or ammunition, said the head of the LNA’s media unit, Khaled Mahjoub. Victoria Bisset reports for the Washington Post.

Israel

  • Israeli forces have shot dead four Palestinians during an undercover raid in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian officials say. Israel’s military said troops killed two Hamas-affiliated militants wanted for “terrorist activities” and a person who tried to attack them with a crowbar. The Palestinian health ministry said a 16-year-old boy was also killed. The raid comes days before officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan, and the U.S. will hold talks in Egypt to de-escalate tensions. David Gritten reports for BBC News.

Australia

Hundreds of thousands of customer records stolen from lender Latitude in cyber-attack The Guardian Jonathan Barrett Consumer lender Latitude Financial has been hit by a “sophisticated and malicious cyber-attack” that has resulted in the theft of more than 100,000 identification documents and 225,000 customer records.

  • The State Department has approved the sale of 220 cruise missiles to Australia in a deal valued at $895m. The deal will now require a sign-off from Congress. The missiles would be used by the Virginia-class submarines that Australia will acquire from the U.S. under the AUKUS defense pact. Tom Housden reports for BBC News.

AI can fool voice recognition used to verify identity by Centrelink and Australian tax office The Guardian Nick Evershed, Josh Taylor A voice identification system used by the Australian government for millions of people has a serious security flaw, a Guardian Australia investigation has found.

TikTok’s bigger danger could be disinformation, not data The Sydney Morning Herald Nick McKenzie The Chinese government could use TikTok as a powerful and dangerous propaganda tool after installing Communist Party figures in senior positions at the social media giant’s parent company. A detailed submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into foreign interference on social media warns TikTok’s greatest risk to Australia is that the Chinese Communist Party could use it to influence public discourse to suit its interests, on top of the application’s controversial data-gathering technology.


Photo: La Cina di Xi Jinping - Verso un nuovo ordine mondiale sinocentrico? Gabriele e Nicola Iuvinale 2023 Stango Editore



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