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Press review EX - 22 February

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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Are America and China Headed for Military Conflict? | US close to losing leadership in Asia and the Pacific | Russian news channels downed by ‘DDoS attack’ during Putin’s speech | The firm pitching Orwellian social media to militaries | New book: Xi Jinping's China | New report: Countering China's Coercive Diplomacy


  • Are America and China Headed for Military Conflict? Two experts discuss whether a U.S. conflict with China is inevitable, or if it can be headed off through strategic cooperation.

  • China is one step away from regional supremacy in Asia.

  • Russian news channels were knocked offline by what is being reported as a distributed denial of service cyberattack during President Vladimir Putin’s annual state of the nation speech earlier today. The IT Army of Ukraine has claimed responsibility for the attack, alongside a gang with reported connections to anti-Russian government protestor Alexei Navalny. Tech Monitor

  • The OSINT system integrates facial recognition, artificial intelligence and natural language processing. The tool can, for example, use artificial intelligence to identify a face from a video, such as CCTV camera footage or videos on social media, or map the opinions or sentiments around a term or figure. Also concerning, according to Poulson, is the tool’s ability to influence the public. Forbidden Stories

  • The People’s Republic of China is increasingly using a range of economic and non-economic tools to punish, influence and deter foreign governments in its foreign relations. Coercive actions have become a key part of the PRC’s toolkit as it takes a more assertive position in international disputes and seeks to reshape the global order in its favour. ASPI

China

The National Interest

Two experts discuss whether a U.S. conflict with China is inevitable, or if it can be headed off through strategic cooperation.


Elbridge A. Colby is cofounder and principal of The Marathon Initiative and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. He is the author of The Strategy of Denial.

China’s newest weapon to nab Western technology—its courts The Wall Street Journal Stu Woo and Daniel Michaels The growing conflict between China and the U.S. extends from computer-chip factories to a suspected spy balloon over American skies. Running through it all is a struggle for technological superiority. China has striven for years to develop cutting-edge technologies, in part through heavy spending on research. Now, according to Western officials and executives, it also has mobilized its legal system to pry technology from other nations.

Extrema Ratio

China is one step away from regional supremacy in Asia. This is what the latest Asia Power Index from the Australian think tank Lowy Institute tells us. The report, published on February 5, analyzes the effective power of 26 countries in the region by economic capacity, military capacity, resilience, future resources, economic relations, defense networks, diplomatic influence and cultural influence.

New book: Xi Jinping's China

Gabriele Iuvinale and Nicola Iuvinale

Where to buy:


Antonio Stango Editore:


China pushes back on hacking allegations with its own research Bloomberg Sarah Zheng The latest allegations come from Pangu Lab, a Chinese cybersecurity outfit that’s earned respect among industry peers by identifying vulnerabilities in Apple Inc. devices. It’s now also identified a politically motivated group targeting China, its researchers say, with hackers from North America and Europe.

How did China come to dominate the world of electric cars? MIT Technology Review Zeyi Yangarchive Before most people could realize the extent of what was happening, China became a world leader in making and buying EVs. And the momentum hasn’t slowed: In just the past two years, the number of EVs sold annually in the country grew from 1.3 million to a whopping 6.8 million, making 2022 the eighth consecutive year in which China was the world’s largest market for EVs.

The Asia-Pacific region has several major defense companies that are publicly listed on stock exchanges. Here are some examples:

  1. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011 JP - US$13 billion) - a diversified company that has business segments in aerospace, defense, energy, and more.

  2. Kawasaki Heavy Industries (7012 JP - US$3.7 billion) - a company that specializes in aerospace, defense, and transportation equipment.

  3. Ishikawa Seisakusho (6208 JP - US$68 million) - a company that manufactures equipment for the defense, aerospace, and medical industries.

  4. Hyundai Rotem (064350 KS - US$2.2 billion) - a company that produces defense equipment, including tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery.

  5. Hanwha Defense (272210 KS - US$1.9 billion) - a company that produces a range of defense equipment, including artillery systems, combat vehicles, and unmanned systems.

  6. ST Engineering (STE SP - US$8.3 billion) - a company that offers a range of defense and engineering services, including aerospace, electronics, land systems, and more.

  7. Austal (ASB AU - US$458 million) - a company that specializes in the design and construction of defense and commercial ships.

  8. Electro Optic Systems (EOS AU - US$65 million) - a company that produces electro-optic systems and other defense-related equipment, including weapon systems and space systems.

USA

Supreme Court considers if Google is liable for recommending ISIS videos The Washington Post Robert Barnes, Gerrit De Vynck, Cristiano Lima, Will Oremus & Amy B Wang The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in Gonzalez v. Google, a lawsuit that could shift the foundations of internet law. It argues tech companies should be legally liable for harmful content their algorithms promote. The Gonzalez family contends that by recommending Islamic State-related content, YouTube — which is owned by Google — acted as a recruiting platform for the group in violation of U.S. laws against aiding and abetting terrorists.

  • Supreme Court seems likely to move cautiously in Gonzalez v. Google The Washington Post Robert Barnes Supreme Court justices suggested Tuesday that they might move cautiously in their first examination of the federal law that protects internet companies from lawsuits concerning the platforms’ posting of content from third parties. Justice Amy Coney Barrett said during oral arguments that the outcome of that case might be relevant to the Google lawsuit, and could dictate even whether the court has to settle the issues argued Tuesday

Ransomware attacks decline as new defenses, countermeasures thwart hackers The Washington Post Robert McMillan, Dustin Volz & Aruna Viswanatha U.S. government sanctions against ransomware operators have been a deterrent, according to officials and companies involved in responding to ransomware infections. The FBI has managed to recover ransomware payments, including $2.3 million paid during a 2021 incident that shut down the Colonial Pipeline, a major fuel pipeline to the U.S. East Coast. And the FBI said last month that it disrupted $130 million in potential ransomware profits last year by gaining access to servers run by the Hive ransomware group and giving away the group’s decryption keys—used to undo the effects of ransomware—for free.

Sensitive US military emails spill online TechCrunch Zack Whittaker The U.S. Department of Defense secured an exposed server on Monday that was spilling internal U.S. military emails to the open internet for the past two weeks. The exposed server was part of an internal mailbox system storing about three terabytes of internal military emails, many pertaining to U.S. Special Operations Command, the U.S. military unit tasked with conducting special military operations.

Supreme Court turns away challenge to warrantless surveillance program The Wall Street Journal Jan Wolfe & Dustin Volz The Supreme Court declined to hear a constitutional challenge to a secretive government surveillance program, dealing a setback to privacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union ahead of a looming debate in Congress over whether to renew the law that authorizes the intelligence tool. In a brief order issued on Tuesday, the high court said it wouldn’t hear arguments challenging the legality of the National Security Agency program known as “Upstream,” in which the intelligence agency collects and monitors internet communications without obtaining search warrants.

US Treasury warns Chinese companies on tech supplies to Russia Bloomberg Daniel Flatley & Christopher Condon A top Treasury Department official warned companies in China and around the world that they will be punished if they keep doing business with Russia in violation of US sanctions, as the Biden administration looks to sever President Vladimir Putin’s financial lifeline with the conflict heading into its second year.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plays a vital role in protecting the United States from threats to its critical infrastructures. To achieve this mission, its own systems must be protected from the threat of cybercrime. The global trend of cybercrime has increased in the past few years, and its impact is evident in the implementation of policy and federal regulations. This paper explores liabilities associated with DHS, how it protects its resources from cybercrime through federal and agency-specific rules, and the effects of policy on attribution.

Ukraine - Russia

Russian news channels downed by ‘DDoS attack’ during Vladimir Putin’s state of the nation speech Tech Monitor Claudia Glover Russian news channels were knocked offline by what is being reported as a distributed denial of service cyberattack during President Vladimir Putin’s annual state of the nation speech earlier today. The IT Army of Ukraine has claimed responsibility for the attack, alongside a gang with reported connections to anti-Russian government protestor Alexei Navalny.

Leaked Russian document shows how Putin plans to annex ally Belarus by 2030 Business Insider Sinéad Baker Russia plans to take over ally and neighbor Belarus by 2030, according to a leaked document from President Vladimir Putin's executive office, obtained by a group of European journalists from outlets across the continent. The internal strategy document lays out how Russia plans to get rid of what remains of Belarus' independence over a years-long plan.

In wake of Ukraine war, U.S. and allies are hunting down Russian spies The Washington Post Greg Miller, Souad Mekhennet, Emily Rauhala & Shane Harris The Jan. 21 arrest of Arthur Eller — based largely on evidence that the FBI had assembled during the suspect’s stay in Florida — was the latest salvo in a shadow war against Russia’s intelligence services.

In a lengthy speech that left many of his supporters nodding off, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Monday that his country would “suspend” participation in the New START Treaty, the last arms control agreement between Russia and the United States.

Europe

ChatGPT shows just how far Europe lags in tech The Washington Post Lionel Laurent Europe is where ChatGPT gets regulated, not invented. That’s something to regret. As unhinged as the initial results of the artificial-intelligence arms race may be, they’re also another reminder of how far the European Union lags behind the US and China when it comes to tech.

How ASML became Europe’s most valuable tech firm BBC Carmel O'Grady & Matthew Kenyon ASML machines make the most advanced computer chips and it's the only company in the world with that kind of technology. This effective monopoly means that exactly how ASML's machines work is subject to some of the most stringent corporate security in the world.

UK

$3.7 billion UK mass action against Facebook over market dominance rejected - for now Financial Post Sam Tobin Facebook on Monday temporarily fought off a collective lawsuit valued at up to 3 billion pounds over allegations the social media giant abused its dominant position to monetise users’ personal data. However, a London tribunal gave the proposed claimants’ lawyers up to six months to “have another go” at establishing any alleged losses by users.

Africa

Zimbabwe's cyber city: Urban utopia or surveillance menace? Reuters Farai Shawn Matiashe In a fertile stretch of fields and farms dubbed New Harare, Zimbabwe is building a high-tech “cyber city” a world away from the traffic-clogged streets and overcrowded slums of the country’s nearby capital. Rights groups fear any data gathered in Zim Cyber City could be misused by authorities in a country where security forces have been accused of violence and arbitrary arrests targeting protesters and opposition activists.

Middle East

Rights group: Mideast governments target LGBTQ people online ABC News Kareem Chehayeb Security agencies and government officials in several countries in the Middle East and North Africa have been using social media platforms and mobile dating apps to crack down on LGBTQ people, a rights group said Tuesday. The findings of a new report by Human Rights Watch exposed digital methods of clamping down on the LGBTQ community in the region.

Gender & Women in Tech

How women in tech are transforming social impact Forbes Allyson Kapin A growing number of tech leaders are answering the call to address some of the most pressing issues facing the world, change systems, and help communities by taking their experience into the social impact sector. Smart, savvy, and innovative women, in particular, have made this transition. What inspired these powerful people to move out of the tech sector to focus on social impact?

Big Tech

When your "friends" spy on you: the firm pitching Orwellian social media surveillance to militaries Forbidden Stories Phineas Rueckert The OSINT system integrates facial recognition, artificial intelligence and natural language processing. The tool can, for example, use artificial intelligence to identify a face from a video, such as CCTV camera footage or videos on social media, or map the opinions or sentiments around a term or figure. Also concerning, according to Poulson, is the tool’s ability to influence the public.

Facebook and Instagram could have 12 million paying subscribers by early 2024 CNBC Meta’s new Verified subscription service could land nearly 12 million subscribers by 2024, according to a Bank of America research note published Tuesday. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the subscription service in an Instagram post over the weekend, pitching it as a way to increase “authenticity and security across our services.” It is currently being tested in Australia and New Zealand.

ChatGPT launches boom in AI-written e-books on Amazon Reuters Greg Bensinger Until recently, Brett Schickler never imagined he could be a published author, though he had dreamed about it. But after learning about the ChatGPT artificial intelligence program, Schickler figured an opportunity had landed in his lap. Using the AI software, which can generate blocks of text from simple prompts, Schickler created a 30-page illustrated children’s e-book in a matter of hours, offering it for sale in January through Amazon.com Inc's self-publishing unit.

World

MyloBot botnet spreading rapidly worldwide: infecting over 50,000 devices daily The Hacker News Ravie Lakshmanan A sophisticated botnet known as MyloBot has compromised thousands of systems, with most of them located in India, the U.S., Indonesia, and Iran. That's according to new findings from BitSight, which said it's "currently seeing more than 50,000 unique infected systems every day," down from a high of 250,000 unique hosts in 2020.

Australia

Victoria prepares for potential purge of Chinese-made CCTV cameras The Age Broede Carmody The Andrews government is conducting an audit of all security cameras at government-owned sites in Victoria to determine if any have links to Chinese state-owned companies and need to be replaced. Analysis of data from tracking website Shodan.io shows there are more than 9000 internet-enabled Hikvision cameras in metropolitan Melbourne, far more than the 133 located in Geelong and 117 in Ballarat.

AUKUS is about the future': Anthony Albanese to outline state of Australia's national security in key speech SBS News Finn McHugh In a wide-ranging address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Mr Albanese will describe action on climate change as the "entry ticket" to building deeper ties with Australia's Pacific neighbours. After major data breaches at Medibank and Optus toward the end of last year, Labor will convene a cyber security roundtable, to be attended by private sector representatives and Australia's security agencies.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma visits old friends in Australia Financial Review Michael Smith Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and one of China’s richest men, has made a personal visit to Australia to see the family that befriended him before he founded his multibillion dollar e-commerce empire. Images of Mr Ma in Melbourne have been widely distributed on Chinese social media this week amid talk that he is no longer out of favour with Xi Jinping’s regime after disappearing for three months in late 2020.

Turnbull calls for overhaul of ‘box-ticking’ foreign influence laws The Sydney Morning Herald Matthew Knott Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull will tell a powerful parliamentary committee his government’s landmark foreign interference laws suffer major flaws and need to be overhauled so serious attempts to undermine Australian democracy can be rooted out.

ASPI

Countering China’s coercive diplomacy Australian Strategic Policy Institute Fergus Hunter, Daria Impiombato, Yvonne Lau, Dr. Adam Triggs, Albert Zhang & Urmika Deb The People’s Republic of China is increasingly using a range of economic and non-economic tools to punish, influence and deter foreign governments in its foreign relations. Coercive actions have become a key part of the PRC’s toolkit as it takes a more assertive position in international disputes and seeks to reshape the global order in its favour.

  • Economic coercion is China's favorite new foreign policy tool Axios Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian Since 2020, Beijing has increasingly used trade restrictions and threats to defend its geopolitical interests around the globe, making economic coercion an "established and favoured part" of China's foreign policy, according to a new report. The new report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, called "Countering China's Coercive Diplomacy," found that between 2020 and 2022, China targeted 19 countries plus the European Union with various forms of economic pressure

  • Australia was China’s ‘biggest target’ for coercion Financial Review Andrew Tillett Australia was China’s biggest target globally for economic and diplomatic coercion over the past three years but the financial effect was relatively muted, according to a new analysis by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. A third of China’s “coercive actions” since 2020 have been directed at Australia, including the effective sanctions on $20 billion of trade and state-issued threats by Beijing’s so-called “wolf warrior” diplomats and Communist Party mouthpieces.

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