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Press review EX - 6 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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Offensives and espionage in cyberspace: which rules to apply | We’ve been pursuing a Ukraine policy that’s ‘detached from reality’: Elbridge Colby | TikTok a potential target in upcoming US bill to ban some foreign tech | UK and Australia urge Washington to ease secrecy rules in security pact | Polish mayor targeted by Pegasus spyware-media


  • Offensives and espionage in cyberspace: which rules to apply Agenda Digitale

  • Elbridge Colby: There’s a huge conflict brewing with China, and it’s not tenable that we can do that and Ukraine FOX NEWS

  • Two U.S. senators plan to introduce legislation this week aimed at letting the government "ban or prohibit" foreign technology products such as Chinese-owned TikTok, Senator Mark Warner said on Sunday. Reuters

  • Australia and the UK are urging the Biden administration to relax restrictions on the sharing of technology and information that they say risk undercutting the trilateral Aukus security pact. Financial Times

  • An opposition-linked Polish mayor had his phone hacked using Pegasus spyware, Gazeta Wyborcza daily reported on Friday, amid allegations that the country's special services have used the technology against government opponents. Reuters

Reserch

Agenda Digitale . Quaderni scientifici

Gabriele e Nicola Iuvinale

Over the past decade, authoritarian states such as China and Russia have engaged in a massive buildup of cyber capabilities that pose a staggering threat to governments and businesses around the world today.

In the new and competitive computing domain, the problem of hostile operations has taken on a global endemic nature. The discussion of how international law should govern "virtual space" has progressed considerably. However, important differences in the interpretation of some universal provisions continue to exist between States. In particular, Washington and Beijing have conflicting views on the applicability of international law to cyberspace and the legitimacy of cyber-enabled industrial espionage.

China

Elbridge Colby: There’s a huge conflict brewing with China, and it’s not tenable that we can do that and Ukraine. Elbridge Colby is co-founder and principal of The Marathon Initiative, a policy initiative focused on developing strategies to prepare the United States for an era of sustained great power competition.

  • Two Sessions: China looks at reforms to deepen Xi Jinping control, 5% growth target set. Xi Jinping is set to deepen his control of China's government and economy, as lawmakers meet in Beijing this week to pass far-reaching reforms. The National People's Congress (NPC), a rubber-stamp parliament, will confirm Mr Xi's third term as president, and the appointments of his top team. China has set a modest growth target of “around 5%” for 2023, according to the government work report released on Sunday. BBC, 5 March

  • China to increase defence spending by 7.2%, science and technology by 2%. CNBC, 4 March

  • China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, set to retire. The Economist, 3 March

  • International schools shift to new markets after China boom stalls. In 2019 education consultancy Cairneagle recorded that 80 per cent of schools set to be opened by British institutions were in China. In January, that had fallen to 15 per cent. FT, 5 March

  • Hong Kong elite pressed to give up western passports. Beijing is pressing Hong Kong’s elite to give up their western passports in order to be selected for the Chinese parliament as it tries to stamp out foreign influence and tighten control of the territory. FT, 6 March

  • Hong Kong Tiananmen vigil organisers convicted under national security law. The Guardian, 4 March

  • Chinese company BGI Group rejects rights accusation after US sanctions. One of the world’s biggest genetics analysis companies was added to an ‘entity list’ last week after the US government said there was a danger some of its units might contribute to Chinese surveillance. Bloomberg, 6 March

  • China approves $1.3bn loan rollover for Pakistan: finance minister. Nikkei Asia, 3 March

  • Billionaire investor Mark Mobius says he cannot take money out of China. Reuters, 5 March

  • Muddled engagement with China leaves Xinjiang in the lurch. Toothless sanctions and empty agreements with Beijing fail to improve human rights in the region. Yuan Yang. FT, 5 March

  • World out of balance is not yet China's to set right. Abishur Prakash. Nikkei Asia, 6 March

  • World out of balance is not yet China's to set right. Abishur Prakash. Nikkei Asia, 6 March

  • Inside the Chinese war machine plotting to transform Putin’s invasion. Support for Russia would boost the invading armies in Ukraine - and allow China to test weapons systems. The Sunday Telegraph, 5 March

  • What the ChatGPT moment means for tech competition. Rishi Iyengar and Liam Scott. Foreign Policy, 3 March

  • Here and Now: portraits of British-Chinese identity – in pictures. The Guardian, 3 March

ChatGPT-like artificial intelligence is ‘difficult to achieve’, China’s tech minister says South China Morning Post Xinmei Shen China has some work to do in catching up to the hit artificial intelligence product ChatGPT, developed by San Francisco-based start-up OpenAI, the head of the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology said, as technological self-reliance remains a top priority for the central government amid heated trade tensions with the US.

Can TikTok convince the world it is not a tool for China? Financial Times Cristina Criddle, Hannah Murphy and Demetri Sevastopulo TikTok and its Chinese owner, ByteDance, are again at the centre of a gathering geopolitical storm as governments in North America and Europe launch fresh restrictions and consider outright prohibitions on its use over fears it could be used to gather data on behalf of the Chinese state.

How China is attempting to control the ‘information pipes’ The Diplomat Joshua Kurlantzick In the past decade, China’s government has stepped up its efforts to wield powerful tools of information around the globe – in its near neighborhood and, increasingly in more distant places including North America, Africa, Latin America, and Europe.

China’s chip ambitions remain strong in the mature technology arena South China Morning Post Lilian Zhang Unisoc, a Shanghai-based fabless chip firm that is expanding its market share in low-end smartphone chips, is one example of how Chinese semiconductor companies can survive and perhaps even thrive under US trade sanctions.

What the ChatGPT moment means for U.S.-China tech competition Foreign Policy Rishi Iyengar and Liam Scott The furor around ChatGPT and similar alternatives has prompted a scramble in China’s tech sector to join the party. Baidu, China’s leading search engine, said it plans to roll out its “Ernie Bot” in March while other Chinese tech giants, such as Alibaba and JD.com, announced chatbots of their own.

Why are China’s tech leaders still disappearing if the crackdown is over? The Washington Post Meaghan Tobin Many of the country’s top business executives and influencers — bankers, property developers, movie stars like Fan Bingbing and e-commerce superseller Austin Li — have gone missing without explanation as their power and influence have grown. Some were later hit with fines and accused of offenses like tax evasion or fraud. Despite top leader Xi Jinping’s stated goal to boost the economy after a stifling three years under the strict “zero-covid” policy, China’s tech entrepreneurs and business leaders continue to find themselves under the microscope.

USA

The Free Press

Many on the right are not so much anti-war as they are China-focused. This includes Elbridge Colby, a deputy assistant secretary of defense under Trump and a leading advocate of channeling dollars and military assets away from the Middle East and Eastern Europe and toward East Asia. Colby suggested we need to abandon the post–Cold War policy that held that the United States should be able to wage two wars simultaneously: “Is confronting the first peer superpower in our history walking or chewing gum? How about wrestling a dragon and sprinting a marathon?”

TikTok a potential target in upcoming US bill to ban some foreign tech - Senator Reuters Brad Heath Two U.S. senators plan to introduce legislation this week aimed at letting the government "ban or prohibit" foreign technology products such as Chinese-owned TikTok, Senator Mark Warner said on Sunday.

  • US prepares new rules on investment in China. The Treasury and Commerce departments said they were considering a new regulatory system to address US investment in advanced technologies abroad that could pose national security risks, according to The Wall Street Journal. While the reports didn’t identify specific sectors the Biden administration views as risky, it said sectors that could advance rivals’ military capabilities would be a focus of the programme. WSJ, 3 March

  • Chinese surveillance cameras discovered at royal Sandringham estate and at least give Government departments. The Mail on Sunday has established that CCTV cameras made by Hikvision are being used at one of the King's main residences and at least five Government departments – months after Ministers ordered their removal from sensitive sites on national security grounds. The Mail On Sunday, 5 March

  • Blinken says US ‘not distracted’ by Ukraine war, Quad offers ‘choice’ from China. SCMP, 3 March

U.S. government warns of Royal ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure The Record by Recorded Future Daryna Antoniuk The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued an advisory Thursday warning vulnerable organizations of an increased threat posed by Royal ransomware.

Nvidia's plans for sales to Huawei imperiled if U.S. tightens Huawei curbs-draft Reuters Alexandra Alper U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp's plans to sell technology to China's Huawei would be thwarted if the U.S. government proceeds with a proposal to further restrict shipments to the blacklisted company, a draft report by a government contractor shows.

Biden administration announces plan to stop water plant hacks Reuters Suzanne Smalley The Biden administration announced on Friday a new plan to improve the digital defenses of public water systems.

As A.I. booms, lawmakers struggle to understand the technology The New York Times Cecilia Kang and Adam Satariano Even as lawmakers put a spotlight on the technology, few are taking action on it. No bill has been proposed to protect individuals or thwart the development of A.I.’s potentially dangerous aspects. And legislation introduced in recent years to curb A.I. applications like facial recognition have withered in Congress.

Highlights from the new U.S. Cybersecurity Strategy Krebs on Security Chris Krebs The Biden administration today issued its vision for beefing up the nation’s collective cybersecurity posture, including calls for legislation establishing liability for software products and services that are sold with little regard for security. The White House’s new national cybersecurity strategy also envisions a more active role by cloud providers and the U.S. military in disrupting cybercriminal infrastructure, and it names China as the single biggest cyber threat to U.S. interests.

South & Central Asia

Top Apple supplier Foxconn plans major India expansion The Wall Street Journal Rajesh Roy, Yoko Kubota and Philip Wen Apple’s main manufacturer, Foxconn Technology Group, is considering a major expansion in India, including possibly assembling millions more iPhones and setting up new production sites as it seeks to further diversify beyond China.

Europe

Polish mayor targeted by Pegasus spyware-media Reuters An opposition-linked Polish mayor had his phone hacked using Pegasus spyware, Gazeta Wyborcza daily reported on Friday, amid allegations that the country's special services have used the technology against government opponents. Reports in 2021 by the Associated Press that the software, developed by Israel-based NSO Group was used to hack the phones of government critics, including a senator for the largest opposition party, have drawn accusations that security services are eroding democratic norms.

How the biggest fraud in German history unravelled The New Yorker Ben Taub The tech company Wirecard was embraced by the German élite. But a reporter discovered that behind the façade of innovation were lies and links to Russian intelligence.

  • EU official warns of sanctions if China crosses 'red line' and arms Russia. It would be an absolute "red line" if China provided weapons to Russia, an anonymous senior European Union official said on Friday, adding that the EU would respond with sanctions. Reuters, 3 March

  • Germany bans officials from downloading TikTok. Germany has become the latest western state to restrict its officials’ use of TikTok, the Chinese video-sharing app, as pressure builds in the US for a nationwide ban. The Times, 3 March

UK

Huawei ‘abandons’ plans for £1bn Cambridge research campus The Telegraph Matt Oliver Huawei has quietly shelved plans for a £1bn Cambridge research campus as the embattled Chinese telecoms giant winds down its UK presence.

  • UK and Australia urge Washington to ease secrecy rules in security pact. Australia and the UK are urging the Biden administration to relax restrictions on the sharing of technology and information that they say risk undercutting the trilateral AUKUS security pact. There is concern that the second pillar of AUKUS, which includes undersea capabilities and electronic warfare, faces obstacles that have slowed its momentum. FT, 5 March

  • British chipmakers hold talks with White House amid Biden charm offensive. Some of Britain’s top microchip companies have held talks with the White House after a $53bn (£44bn) subsidy scheme launched by Joe Biden triggered a scramble to shift operations to the US. The companies involved included IQE, Paragraf and Pragmatic Semiconductor, all vocal critics of Britain's failure to develop a credible chip strategy. The Telegraph, 3 March

  • Huawei ‘abandons’ plans for £1bn Cambridge research campus. Huawei has quietly shelved plans for a Cambridge research campus as the embattled Chinese telecoms giant winds down its UK presence. Huawei had planned to build cutting-edge facilities that would have been used to develop broadband technologies, microchips and artificial intelligence software. The Sunday Telegraph, 5 March

Snapchat kicks few children off app in Britain, data given to regulator shows Reuters Martin Coulter Snapchat is kicking dozens of children in Britain off its platform each month compared with tens of thousands blocked by rival TikTok, according to internal data the companies shared with Britain's media regulator Ofcom and which Reuters has seen.

AI apps such as ChatGPT could play a role in Whitehall, says science secretary The Guardian Nadeem Badshah Artificial intelligence systems such as ChatGPT could play a role in Whitehall and represent a “massive opportunity”, the new science secretary has suggested.

Police cautioned about companies that supply their surveillance equipment The Canberra Times Peter Brewer In a cautionary tale for law enforcement around the world, UK police have been warned about using cameras integrated with biometric technology, such as facial recognition, as the concern over the use of Chinese-made surveillance cameras potentially infected with spyware grows.

Middle East

Israel risks turning into a shut-down nation Financial Times John Thornhill Over the past three decades, the tiny country of 9mn people, located in a hostile neighbourhood, has shrugged off wars, uprisings and financial crises to create one of the world’s most extraordinary technology hotspots. But the recent lurch away from democracy by Israel’s rightwing coalition government is alarming the country’s celebrated tech entrepreneurs with some now threatening to leave. Is the world’s original start-up nation in danger of turning into a shut-down nation?

Australia

UK and Australia urge Washington to ease secrecy rules in security pact Financial Times Demetri Sevastopulo Australia and the UK are urging the Biden administration to relax restrictions on the sharing of technology and information that they say risk undercutting the trilateral Aukus security pact.

Paid accounts on Facebook and Instagram arrive in Australia The New York Times Yan Zhuang Users had mixed feelings about the new subscription service, which bestows exclusive features and a verification check mark.

TikTok banned by 25 government departments and agencies Australian Financial Review Max Mason Chinese-owned viral video app TikTok has been banned from work-issued devices by 25 federal agencies and departments, including Foreign Affairs and Trade, Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Finance, as an investigation by Home Affairs into social media and what action the government should take nears completion.

ASPI

China beating West in race for critical technologies, report says Al Jazeera China leads the world in 37 out of 44 critical technologies, with Western democracies falling behind in the race for scientific and research breakthroughs, a report by an Australian think tank has found.

Gender & Women in Tech

Women powering global transformation with technology Australian Financial Review Tess Bennett To coincide with International Women’s Day, March 8, the Australian Financial Review celebrates the achievements of Australian women in key sectors of the economy, nominating five women as the Women to Watch from each of five sectors – fashion and retail; education; sustainability and energy; technology; and banking.

Big Tech

Google releases civil rights review, caving to years of pressure The Washington Post Cristiano Lima and Gerrit De Vynck Google released an audit Friday examining how its services and policies impact civil rights and racial equity, following years of pressure from advocates and Democratic lawmakers for such a review.

Artificial Intelligence

Using A.I. to detect breast cancer that doctors miss The New York Times Adam Satariano and Cade Metz Hungary has become a major testing ground for A.I. software to spot cancer, as doctors debate whether the technology will replace them in medical jobs.

The inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who made it MIT Technology Review Will Douglas Heaven When OpenAI launched ChatGPT, with zero fanfare, in late November 2022, the San Francisco–based artificial-intelligence company had few expectations. Certainly, nobody inside OpenAI was prepared for a viral mega-hit. The firm has been scrambling to catch up—and capitalize on its success—ever since.

ChatGPT broke the EU plan to regulate AI POLITICO Gian Volpicelli The chatbot dazzled the internet in past months with its rapid-fire production of human-like prose. It declared its love for a New York Times journalist. It wrote a haiku about monkeys breaking free from a laboratory. It even got to the floor of the European Parliament, where two German members gave speeches drafted by ChatGPT to highlight the need to rein in AI technology. But after months of internet lolz — and doomsaying from critics — the technology is now confronting European Union regulators with a puzzling question: How do we bring this thing under control?

A fake news frenzy: why ChatGPT could be disastrous for truth in journalism The Guardian Emily Bell It has taken a very short time for artificial intelligence application ChatGPT to have a disruptive effect on journalism. A technology columnist for the New York Times wrote that a chatbot expressed feelings (which is impossible). Other media outlets filled with examples of “Sydney” the Microsoft-owned Bing AI search experiment being “rude” and “bullying” (also impossible). Ben Thompson, who writes the Stratechery newsletter, declared that Sydney had provided him with the “most mind-blowing computer experience of my life” and he deduced that the AI was trained to elicit emotional reactions – and it seemed to have succeeded.

Musk: 'AI stresses me out' Reuters Joseph White Elon Musk has clashed often with securities regulators and highway safety authorities, but there's one area the Tesla and Twitter chief says the government should regulate now: Artificial Intelligence.

Misc

Does technology win wars? Foreign Affairs Jacquelyn Schneider It is ironic that, despite two decades of U.S.-led conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, it took just a few months of Russia’s war in Ukraine to finally draw attention to the depleted state of U.S. weapons stocks and the vulnerabilities in U.S. military supply chains.

Humanity is sleepwalking into a neurotech disaster Financial Times Camilla Cavendish Many of us have a vague, creeping feeling that our devices might work against us. In 2016 a man was accused of burning down his home in Ohio after his heart pacemaker shed doubt on his insurance claim of an accidental fire. Two years later, US military personnel were found to be inadvertently divulging secret army base locations via their Strava fitness apps. Such stories, however, have not deterred us from giving our data away. We blithely allow apps to access our location, call records and other information because we are impatient to get to whatever fleeting new function we desire. But we need to wise up, because a new challenge is coming: how to protect our brain data.

They shared erotic images in a group chat. The fine: $17,000 The New York Times Sui-Lee Wee A couple in Singapore created a Telegram account where they posted risqué content for subscribers. They were convicted of violating nudity and obscenity laws.

EXTREMA RATIO

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

Gabriele e Nicola Iuvinale

2023

Stango Editore

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