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Press review EX - 20 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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Wave of stealthy China cyberattacks hits U.S., private networks | Huawei replaced more than 13,000 parts to overcome US tech sanctions | Russia-aligned hackers spotted targeting Ukraine, Europe, India

  • State-sponsored hackers from China have developed techniques that evade common cybersecurity tools and enable them to burrow into government and business networks and spy on victims for years without detection, researchers with Google found. The Wall Street Journal

  • Huawei has replaced more than 13,000 components in its range of products with local substitutes and redesigned over 4,000 circuit boards in the past three years, founder Ren Zhengfei said, offering a glimpse of its efforts to overcome years of US sanctions. South China Morning Post

  • A new espionage campaign by a hacking group with suspected ties to Moscow targeted government agencies and telecom operators in Ukraine, India and Europe, researchers said Thursday. The Record by Recorded Future

Extrema Ratio

Beijing releases plan on reforming Party and state institutions

Xi's visit to Russia to navigate bilateral ties and increase global autocratic power. How to stop the rise of totalitarianism? With realism, like the one proposed by some American conservatives


Huawei has replaced more than 13,000 parts, redesigned 4,000 circuit boards to overcome US tech sanctions, founder says South China Morning Post Tracy Qu Huawei has replaced more than 13,000 components in its range of products with local substitutes and redesigned over 4,000 circuit boards in the past three years, founder Ren Zhengfei said, offering a glimpse of its efforts to overcome years of US sanctions.

Suspected China-linked hackers exploit Fortinet zero-day in spying campaign The Record by Recorded Future Daryna Antoniuk A suspected state-sponsored hacking group based in China has exploited zero-day vulnerabilities and deployed custom malware to spy on defense, government, tech, and telecom organizations, according to a new report.

China appeals for fair treatment after latest TikTok bans Associated Press China appealed Friday to other governments to treat its companies fairly after Britain and New Zealand joined the United States in restricting use of TikTok due to fears the Chinese-owned short video service might be a security risk.

China’s AI chatbots clam up when asked about Xi Jinping’s leadership The Wall Street Journal Shen Lu A question asking whether Xi Jinping is a good leader prompted a response that the input “couldn't pass a safety review.”

China's tech giant Baidu unveils "Ernie," the Chinese answer to AI chatbot technology like ChatGPT and GPT4 CBS News Shuai Zhang and Tucker Reals Days after popular artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT's developer OpenAI released its latest version, GPT4, Chinese tech giant Baidu, best known for its search engine and map services in the country, revealed its AI answer to the world. In a prerecorded video presentation, Baidu's celebrity founder Robin Li showcased the "Ernie" (Enhanced Representation of Knowledge Integration) chatbot, which he said could comprehend human intentions and deliver responses approaching human level.

  • The great fear of Xi Jinping and Putin when it comes to the US is not something like NATO expansion. It’s so-called “color revolution.” It’s so-called “democracy,” “Western values,” “rule of law,” “universal human rights” penetrating the Chinese public sphere, penetrating the consciousness of the people, and spreading and therefore giving rise to calls for opening up the political system. Kotkin on China: Communism’s Achilles’ Heel, Deterrence, and Learning from the USSR

  • Chinese leader Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow today to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders will hold a closed meeting to discuss sensitive issues including international affairs, according to Russian officials. Tomorrow Xi will attend a meeting with Russia’s prime minister, participate in talks and attend a state dinner. Carly Olson reports for the New York Times.


Wave of stealthy China cyberattacks hits U.S., private networks, Google says The Wall Street Journal Robert McMillan and Dustin Volz State-sponsored hackers from China have developed techniques that evade common cybersecurity tools and enable them to burrow into government and business networks and spy on victims for years without detection, researchers with Alphabet Inc.’s Google found.

TikTok under more U.S. pressure ahead of CEO's congressional testimony Nikkei Asia Rintaro Tobita TikTok is under growing pressure in the U.S., with reports of investigations by the Justice Department and FBI emerging before the CEO is scheduled to answer questions in Congress.

Pro-Russia hackers are increasingly targeting hospitals, researchers warns The Record by Recorded Future Jonathan Greig Cybersecurity researchers said this week that they have observed the pro-Russia hacking group known as Killnet increasingly launch distributed denial of service attacks targeting healthcare organizations since November.

The US cybersecurity strategy won’t address today’s threats with regulation alone CyberScoop Jason Oxman President Biden just released the administration’s national cyber strategy. Coupled with industry collaboration, it’s an effective approach that represents a new hope for a safer and more economically prosperous future. Furthermore, the strategy is a much-needed step toward a clear roadmap for collaboration between agencies and industry partners, particularly in the technology sector. Prior federal cybersecurity strategic documents have lacked specificity, materially undermining their successful implementation and inhibiting stakeholder engagement.

Trump returns to Facebook Reuters Sheila Dang Former U.S. President Donald Trump posted to Facebook on Friday, marking his return to the social media platform two years after he was banned.

  • The Justice Department is investigating the surveillance of U.S. citizens by the Chinese company that owns TikTok, according to three people familiar with the matter. The investigation, which began last year, appears to be tied to the admission in December by the Beijing-based company, ByteDance, that its employees had inappropriately obtained the data of American TikTok users, including that of two reporters who cover the tech industry and a few of their associates. Emily Baker-White reports for Forbes.


Deepfake ‘news’ videos ramp up misinformation in Venezuela Financial Times Joe Daniels and Madhumita Murgia Last week, YouTube suspended five accounts, including House of News, that had shared government-aligned misinformation. But the emergence of deepfakes and AI-generated media represents a new frontier in Venezuela’s campaign of propaganda and misinformation, raising concerns about the potential influence on a population that has scant access to trustworthy news because of widespread censorship both on and offline.


  • Putin visited the occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Saturday, in his first trip to territory seized in the past year. Putin drove through the streets of Mariupol, which was captured by his forces in May, after arriving there by helicopter, the Kremlin said in a statement. The city holds special significance for Russia as a symbol of its goal to control eastern Ukraine and for Kyiv as an illustration of Russian atrocities. Matthew Luxmoore reports for the Wall Street Journal.

North Asia

South Korea begins process to normalize GSOMIA intel pact with Japan The Japan Times Jesse Johnson South Korea’s Defense Ministry has initiated a process to normalize a key military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan following an agreement between Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol during their breakthrough summit on Thursday.

Ukraine’s cyber defense offers lessons for Taiwan Defense One James Hesson and Annie Fixler 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.


Top EU judge expects a wave of litigation from tech giants against new tech law Reuters Foo Yun Chee Tech giants will likely challenge a new European Union law aimed at reining in their power with the first cases in a potential wave of litigation expected by year-end, one of the EU's top judges said on Friday.

Netherlands to tighten export controls of chip equipment: minister Nikkei Asia Shoichiro Taguchi and Maya Shimizu The Netherlands aims to respond to U.S. semiconductor restrictions on China by expanding the list of chip manufacturing equipment subject to export controls to prevent military use, the Dutch trade minister said.


TikTok: Scottish Parliament 'strongly advises' MSPs to remove app for security reasons Sky News Jenness Mitchell In an email on Friday, MSPs and staff at Holyrood were "strongly" advised to remove TikTok, including from personal devices used to access the Scottish Parliament's IT systems.

Pacific Forum

On Monday, His Majesty’s (HM) Government released the refresh of the Integrated Review (IRR), the re-appraisal of the wide-ranging foreign and defense policy appraisal ordered by Boris Johnson when he became prime minister. His successor, Liz Truss, commissioned the refresh during her brief stint in 10 Downing Street, and incumbent Rishi Sunak continued it. The worsening geopolitical situation, especially Russia’s attempt to seize Ukraine by force but also the People’s Republic of China’s attempts to change the international order, motivated the refresh.

BBC urges staff to delete TikTok from company mobile phones The Guardian Matthew Weaver and Dan Milmo The BBC has urged its staff to delete the Chinese-own social media app TikTok from corporate mobile phones.

Doctors to sue the Government over plans that could hand NHS patients medical records to a secretive US tech giant This is Money Luke Barr Doctors are preparing to sue the Government over plans that could hand the confidential medical records of millions of NHS patients to a secretive US tech giant, the Mail can reveal.

Middle East

How fake media accounts in Afghanistan are used to push Taliban propaganda The Observers Pariesa Brody Since the Taliban took over control of Afghanistan in August 2021, numerous accounts mimicking or trying to present themselves as media outlets have popped up online. These fake accounts share content that appears to be authentic, often using the same graphic signature and style as the real media outlet. But on closer inspection, researchers from the NGO Afghan Witness found that their posts have no basis in reality and serve to undermine opposition groups in Afghanistan and clamp down on independent media.

NZ & Pacific Islands

Parliamentary Service bans TikTok on its devices RNZ New Zealand is following other countries in banning the popular video-sharing app TikTok from Parliament-issued devices.

Nikkei Asia

Taiwan has outlined key legislative proposals on how its government will govern during a potential wartime emergency as China steps up its threats toward the democratic island. President Tsai Ing-wen's administration last month put forward draft changes to the General Mobilization Act, which details measures to be taken during wartime to coordinate Taiwan's information, security and chain of command. It argues that any responsible government must set up a set of laws governing emergencies in advance. The old law, promulgated in 2011, hasn't had major revisions in years.

  • Taiwan’s former President Ma Ying-jeou will visit mainland China next week, the first such trip by a former Taiwanese leader since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. He will pay respects to his ancestors in southwestern Hunan province and lead a delegation of Taiwanese students to interact with counterparts from mainland China in a number of cities, according to the foundation. While the trip is ostensibly a private one it is filled with historic symbolism and comes at a time of deepening tensions over the future of Taiwan. Eric Cheung and Kathleen Magramo report for CNN.


Russia-aligned ‘Winter Vivern’ hackers spotted targeting Ukraine, Europe, India The Record by Recorded Future Daryna Antoniuk A new espionage campaign by a hacking group with suspected ties to Moscow targeted government agencies and telecom operators in Ukraine, India and Europe, researchers said Thursday.

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğanannounced on Friday that the country would move to ratify Finland’s application to join NATO, adding that he hoped the vote would take place before elections in mid-May. Finland’s president, Sauli Niinisto, who met in Ankara with Erdoğan, thanked him for the move to ratify but told reporters that Finland’s membership would not be “complete without Sweden.” Turkey has so far not agreed to approve Sweden’s membership bid, claiming that the country has become a haven for Kurdish separatists and other dissidents it considers terrorists. Steven Erlanger reports for the New York Times.

  • The U.N. brokered deal allowing Ukraine to export grain through its Black Sea ports despite Russia’s blockage has been extended. Ukraine said the agreement has been extended for 120 days. However, Moscow indicated that it had only agreed to a 60-day extension, adding that it was only willing to extend beyond the 60 days if there was “tangible progress” in unblocking flows of Russian food and fertilizer to world markets. The U.N. confirmed the deal had been rolled over but did not specify for how long, as did Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Ben Hall reports for the Financial Times.


Pentagon chooses Australian firm to build hypersonic test aircraft C4ISRNET Courtney Albon The U.S. Department of Defense selected Hypersonix Launch Systems, an Australian aerospace company, to develop a high-speed aircraft that can test hypersonic technologies.

Federal government expected to ban TikTok on its devices The Sydney Morning Herald Nick Bonyhady and Anthony Galloway The Australian government is expected to ban the popular short form video app TikTok from its devices once a seven-month-long review of security risks posed by social media platforms is completed.

Soldiers of hate: Army investigates neo-Nazis in its ranks The Sydney Morning Herald Nick McKenzie The Australian Army has launched an urgent investigation after discovering serving soldiers have links to neo-Nazi groups. The inquiry was triggered by an investigation by this masthead into white supremacist groups which features leaked recordings and conversations from encrypted forums that reveal an emerging cohort of Australian extremist leaders seeking to access firearms and ridiculing law enforcement.

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

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